More Jedi Mind Tricks

August 17, 2009

Steve Hays has taken it upon himself to reply on behalf of my recent criticism of James White and his ascription of libertarian free will to God here and here. I promised Steve I would reply to the rest and I think at least one round of replies would help clarify my position. As of today I am still waiting for any of White’s toadies to defend White’s claim that G0d has libertarian free will and that the Bible teaches it. Steve gives a two pronged response. First, White was being ambiguous, and second with respect to the Fall, I face the same problems Calvinists do in explaining how our first parents could sin being created good. As I am sure you’ll see, especially in the case these are just more Jedi mind tricks.

Jedi Mind Tricks

 William Lane Craig

Craig may have some quirky and erroneous positions, but I think White does as well so noting that fact about Craig really doesn’t move me.  To say that White’s theology is “consistently sound” is to preach to the choir at best. Furthermore, apart from being a serious problem it is actually a sign of genuine scholarship, as odd as it may seem. Professional theologians and philosophers often do hold such views. It’s a sign that White really doesn’t have any professional competence in the philosophical topics he discusses. That was part of the point. White is accusing Craig of gross ignorance regarding Calvinism, when White doesn’t seem to know the terms he is using.

White’s Libertarianism

To say that White didn’t use the term in the “elaborate sense” that I gave it concedes the point, that White doesn’t know what the term means. Second, the content I gave to the term has been spread across the literature for the last thirty years. Anyone familiar with any of it would recognize the sketch I gave as representing the concept. Arminians have been employing it in the sense I gave it, and I know White has read some of that literature.

Steve notes that it is a blog post and not an article in a journal. Fair enough. But I think that Steve misses the salient point. Craig’s comments weren’t in a journal either but a Sunday school podcast. If it is fair for White to criticize Craig’s brief comments, then it is so for my criticism of White’s. 

Craig may have access to a research library, but one doesn’t have to in order to have access to catalogs from Oxford or any academic publisher. I can’t think of any introductory text on the issue in the last twenty years that doesn’t in the main give the gloss I give. So it is irrelevant that Craig has access to a research library.

Doubting that the philosophical literature on Frankfurt counter-examples was in White’s mind is exactly the point. He doesn’t really know of what he speaks. Secondly, even if he weren’t, any Calvinist worth his salt is familiar with Edward’s work on free will or Luther’s Bondage of the Will. If he thinks that God fulfills the libertarian conditions on free will, then the arguments given by Edwards and others that are quite popular that Libertarianism is incoherent are still out the window. I only need one case where an agent has it that White agrees to, to preclude him from using such arguments. And he gave me that one case. Moreover, White claimed that the teaching is Biblical and given his adherence to Sola Scriptura, he owes us some biblical support. So far none has been forthcoming. Why is that I wonder?

The disagreement is again not over whether Libertarianism is a coherent concept or if it is true. To say that there is a difference between White’s comments and a Calvinist with a doctorate in philosophy who specializes in the finer points of action theory does no work. First, this is not a finer point of action theory but a major term.  Second, Steve makes the mistake of thinking that I am engaging Calvinism as a position, but I am not. I am engaging White and so for as White is concerned, Libertarianism is not an incoherent concept. So I am not burning a straw man, unless White is the scare crow.  Moreover, White seems to think that he is competent to take on and correct someone with a doctorate in philosophy who does work in action theory and metaphysics. If that is too much for White then he should refrain from doing so and refrain from taking on persons who have expertise and training that he lacks. Otherwise, he is just as responsible for his comments as anyone else is. If White doesn’t wish to be held to the standards of precision of an expert then perhaps he shouldn’t entry the fray.

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You Spin Me Right Round, Baby, Like A Record

March 10, 2009

Prosblogion is a blog for the philosophy of religion, written by philosophy profs and grad students. The discussion is always sufficient to give the average person a mental nose bleed. Fairly recently, a post engaged Alvin Platninga’s curent endorsement of a Felix Culpa type theodicy/defense after a long personal history of advocating a free will defense. What was interesting about the discussion was that you had all of the basic ingredients of the Origenist dialectic-freedom, foreknowledge, universalism, supralapsarianism, impeccability, Hickian soul making, etc. This I suspect is due to a few major defects in contemporary analytic philosophy of religion.

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Metaethics and Maximus

March 6, 2008

“[G.E.] Moore is as it were the frame of the picture. A great deal has happaned since he wrote, and when we read him again it is startling to see how many of his beliefs are philosophically unstable now. Moore believed that good was a supersensible reality, that it was a mysterious quality, unrepresentable and indefinable, that it was an object of knowledge and (implicitly) that to be able to see it was in some sense to have it.  He thought of the good upon analogy of the beautiful; and he was, in spite of himself, a ‘naturalist’ in that he took goodness to be a real constituent of the world.  We know how severely and in what respects Moore was corrected by his successors. Moore was quite right (it was said) to separate the question ‘What does “good” mean?’ from the question ‘What things are good?’ though he was wrong to answer the second question as well as the first. He was right to say that good was indefinable because of judgments of value depend upon the will and choice of the individual. Moore was wrong (his critics continue) to use the quasi-aesthetic imagery of vision in conceiving of the good.  Such a view, conceiving the good on the analogy of the beautiful, would seem to make possible a contemplative attitude on the part of the moral agent, whereas the point about this person is that he is essentially and inescapably an agent. The image whereby to understand morality, it is argued, is not the image of vision, but the image of movement. Goodness and beauty are not analogous but sharply constrasting ideas. Good must be thought of, not as part of the world, but as a moveable label affixed to the world; for only so can the agent be pictured as responsible and free. And indeed this truth Moore himself half aprpehended when he separated the denotation from the cnotation of ‘good.’ The concept of ‘good’ is not the name of an esoteric object, it is the tool of every rational man. Goodness is not an object of insight or knowledge, it is a function of the will. Thus runs the correction of Moore and let me say with anticipation that on almost every point I agree with Moore and not with his critics.”

Iris Murdoch,  The Sovereignty of the Good, Routledge 1970, 2001, pp. 3-4

Piking Peter

December 10, 2007

Here’s a response to Peter Pike over at Triablogue about Libertarian Free Will.


Per the missed point, too many restrictions would be positing conditions inconsistent with the idea. So far I can’t see how any of the restrictions you posited preclude LFW. I think van Inwagen in his classic essay spelled out quite clearly what those inconsistent conditions are. 

Given that the power to do otherwise is glossed counter-factually, I don’t see how this makes it illusory.  I think a romp through counter factuals would help you here. If you disagree, do you think the fact that God created the world renders it necessary that God created the world? Could God have done otherwise or does that language mean nothing at all? If not, what’s the difference between your conception of deity and that of the Platonists with a necessary world? Doing your devotionals out of Plotinus, are we?

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Reason’s Empty Nest

November 18, 2007

This is a worthwhile read.

Two Sides, Same Coin

October 19, 2007

Andrew Sandlin gets it. Finally. He recognizes that the conception of God workng in the majorities of western theology, whether Calvinistic or that of the Open Theists is the deity of Greek philosophy.

“I agree entirely with my friend Peter Leithart’s thoughtful renunciation of the typical liberal charge that the orthodox construction of the Trinity is a Hellenic profanation of primitive, Biblical Christianity. Peter is right that subordinationism, not Trinitarianism, is the profanation. I would add that the classical conception of God is flawed by the same factor.  Pinnock, Nash et al. have shown beyond doubt that the ideas of an impassible, static, timeless deity are pagan (Hellenic) to the core.  

Whoever this god is (and snatches of him are found no less in the Westminster Confession than in Rome), He is not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ — the God who covenants with His people, risks His love, changes His mind, gets mad, grieves over betrayal, sends lying spirits, tempts Satan to tempt His faithful ones, drowns nearly an entire race, calls things that are not as though they are.

Both Open Theism and classical (pagan) theology proper postulate a false god.”

Of course, the conception of “classical” theology isn’t “classical.” This is just intellectual imperialism. “Classical” means Latin Augustinianism. And I wouldn’t put that much academic weight on the shoulders of Pinnock and Nash. They themselves qua Open Theist and qua Calvinist are still stuck in the Platonic Matrix.

I’d argue that a correct patristic notion of divine impassibility doesn’t posit a static deity. Of course it won’t necessarily be the conception of the Scholastics or the Reformers. Sandlin isn’t fully self conscious about how far down the Hellenism goes since he left out also rejecting the Filioque, personalistic predestinarianism, union with Christ in terms of extrinsic relationships, etc. But hey, baby steps to Jesus.

Sound Familiar?

October 18, 2007

“But we, persuaded by holy and blessed men, affirm that the mystery of Godliness is neither in the dignity of names, nor in the specificity of practices and sacrametnal mysteries, but rather in the exactness of teachings.”

Eunomius, NPNF  v : 238

Compare with this.

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