Archive for December, 2010

December 30th, 2010

Loving God and People

by Max Andrews

I found this picture at PostSecret.  PostSecret is a website where anyone can submit an anonymous confession.  If you could place yourself in the shoes of this person, you may be able to understand it’s profound meaning and what you need to do.  Don’t love God any less, but love people more than you already do.

December 30th, 2010

Proving a Universal Negative

by Max Andrews

The question of whether or not one can prove a universal negative usually comes into question for the atheist in proving that God does not exist.  (I’m using atheism in the sense that an atheist believes that God does not exist).  The question is can an atheist prove the non-existence of a being (a universal negative)?  Yes, he can.  Usually you’ll hear arguments against atheism that suggest it’s untenable because it’s impossible to prove a universal negative (that’s really a bad argument, no one should ever use it).

What if I say that there are no tyrannosaurus rex living on earth today?  There are certainly some questions like, “Are there any polka-dotted geese that exist?”  Well, if that may be difficult to disprove universally since I would need exhaustive knowledge of the universe.  So, okay, I cannot disprove that universal claim.  So what now?

It’s actually quite simple to prove a universal negative or the non-existence of anything.  All you would need to do is demonstrate a logical contradiction within the universal claim.  So, for the atheist, I believe his best argument is to demonstrate the logical impossibility of God (to prove a universal negative).  How would he do this?  I don’t know, as a theist I don’t believe any atheist can prove an inherent contradiction in the existence of God, that’s his task, not mine.

December 30th, 2010

Determinism vs. Fatalism

by Max Andrews

It’s easy to confuse these two concepts so I wanted to give a brief differentiation.  I’ve noticed the confusion on the blog here, and I’ve had two students attempt to construct an argument for determinism when they were actually arguing for fatalism.  Determinism entails that an event is necessarily constrained to actualization by causal relations.  Fatalism entails that an event is necessarily constrained to actualization, but it is not by causal relations.  This becomes an issue with simple foreknowledge (i.e. If God foreknows any state of affairs then those state of affairs happen necessarily.  So, if God foreknows I will be sitting down at t1 do I have the freedom to stand up at t1?).

Determinism (let S be a state of affairs)

S1 → S2 → S3 → S4

Let this represent a causal relationship between each state of affairs.  So if I were to ask the question, “If God foreknows that I will be sitting down at S4 do I have the freedom to stand up at S4?”  The answer is no.  I don’t have the freedom to stand up because in each I was determined to sit down by the prior causes and God foreknows what will happen because the causes logically precede God’s foreknowledge (in the case of natural knowledge) or are concurrent within God’s foreknowledge (though this would deny all possible worlds except for one, the actual world).

Fatalism

S1ʹ → S2ʹ → S3ʹ → S4ʹ

In the above states of affairs, there doesn’t need to be any direct causal relationship (so let’s use prime to differentiate).  Now let’s ask the above question concerning God’s foreknowledge and the necessary actualization of any state of affairs.

God foreknows S4ʹ will happen:  Because S4ʹ will happen (by virtue of God knowing that it will happen), S1ʹ → S2ʹ → S3ʹ must necessarily happen to bring about S4ʹ.  Remember, any prior states of affairs happen necessarily as well by virtue of God’s simple foreknowledge.  This is different from determinism because the states of affairs are not [necessarily] causally determined or related to each other.

Determinism and fatalism both have their problems.  I find determinism to be problematic because of the problem of evil and human freedom.  Fatalism confuses the logical moments of God’s knowledge.  So the question I’ve been asking is simply just a bad question.  I’m taking God’s free knowledge and putting that logically prior to God’s natural knowledge or middle knowledge (depending on what I’m objecting to).  So if I’m going to ask if I can (natural knowledge) do anything other than what God foreknows (free knowledge), then I’m making the third moment precede the first moment.  It’s simply incoherent and inconsistent.

December 29th, 2010

Overpower – Is God Ultimately Responsible for Everything?

by Max Andrews

This is in response to Rick’s comment regarding middle knowledge.  I’ll quote the section of his comment below for context and I’ll give a brief summation of the issue here.  The question is whether everything that happens in the actual world is ultimately determined by God and if so, is God thus responsible for everything including [Rick's examples of] reprobation, evil, making libertarian freedom illusory, etc.

This question is incredibly vague and it depends on how one defines responsibility in the question.  I’ll just get to the real question like Rick gave, is God ultimately responsible for evil knowing what will happen?  No.  In Rick’s question he excludes the use of middle knowledge in God’s knowledge. It wouldn’t be determinism either, it would be fatalism.  The difference between fatalism and determinism is that fatalism suggests that events happen necessarily but are not causally bound whereas determinism is causally restricted.  The events in this world happen logically prior to God’s creative decree.  So, what will happen since God’s decision to create has already been factored into every state of affairs based on human free decisions for how they would respond to the circumstances they find themselves in.

God’s responsibility for creation is a governing responsibility.  Consider creation as an open system within a closed system.  God could have created a world in which everyone never sinned, but that world may not have been feasible.  God is responsible in causal sustaining sense as well, but that’s different from an actualizing sense.  God weakly and strongly actualizes every state of affairs.  As Plantinga defines the terms:  God weakly actualizes S iff there is an S* such that God strongly actualizes [direct causation] S* and S* → S, where → is “counterfactual implication” (Let S be a state of affairs).

So am I free to break the predicted pattern?  Well, the future is going to happen necessarily, but only because it will be a result of what we would do.  Remember, God’s foreknowledge is a reflection of what we would do.  In order to have an answer to that question, it depends on what I would do in whatever circumstance, that free choice will determine what will happen.  In the words of William Lane Craig, “If God simply foreknows that man will sin, then it’s too late, so to speak, to do anything about it, since it’s logically impossible to change the future.”  That’s why simple foreknowledge and Arminianism fails in my opinion.  For further elaboration see why I’m not an Arminian.  So is God responsible for everything in creation? Yes, but that does not include God determining everything in creation.

In the words of C.S. Lewis, “If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will…then we may take it it is worth paying.” (Mere Christianity)

Question reference:

Calvinism—Arminians object that, if God determines everything, He is to blame for everything; we don’t really have a choice in what we do, and thus we aren’t responsible ultimately for our actions. Molinists want to protect our (libertarian) freedom. But since God is the one who chose the possible world He wanted, and there is some way He could know that libertarianly free people will choose one thing over another, then He is ultimately responsible for all that happens after all. He could have chosen a possible world where Bill Smith would accept Christ rather than reject Him.Molinism seems to entail determinism after all. If God knows for certain (without possibility of being proved wrong) that I will act in certain ways given certain circumstances, a particular history, certain background beliefs, etc., then that implies that in that situation I can only act in one way, the way God foresaw. I am not truly free to break from the predicted pattern. If God can somehow know the future without in some way determining it, then I don’t see what Molinism gives that Arminianism doesn’t.

December 28th, 2010

The Definition of Atheism

by Max Andrews

The range of definitions for atheism used today:

A:  The belief that God (or gods) do not exist.

A':  The lack of belief in the existence of God (or gods).

I find most atheists to purport A’.  They have their reasons but I find it to be the case as to shift the burden of proof to the theist.  I don’t want to generalize this to all atheists but many will hold to A’ in definition but dialogue as if A is true.  I dialogued with a few atheists from the Lynchburg Area Secular Humanists about two years ago who conceded this point once I caught them trying to do this.

There’s an obvious logical distinction.  I believe atheism asserts that it is a belief that there is no God (A), though, historically it has been referred to as a lack of belief (A’).  To say it is lack of belief, I believe, is to commit the fallacy of semantic obsolescence (assigning a meaning that the word in question used to have in earlier times; but that is no longer found within the live, semantic range of the word).

If one holds to a “lack of belief in God” they have an existential quantifying statement (there is such a God that I don’t believe in).  If the atheist claims “I believe there is no God” (A), they apply a universal quantifier.  I find A’ to be more consistent with an agnostic (mostly soft agnostics) and not an atheist.  If the atheist holds to A’ then God could really exist and he just not believe in him in the atheist’s own paradigm.  That’s fine, it’s just whether or not he is consistent in his claims and his arguments.  I think a lot of time is wasted on squabbling over this definition when engaging in dialogue because once you start talking you’ll know where the atheist really stands anyways.  It’s not a hill to die on, the dialogue is more important.

December 27th, 2010

Is Gambling a Sin?

by Max Andrews

This morning I came across one of Stand to Reason’s tweets with Greg Koukl answering the question “Is Gambling a Sin?”  I don’t want to repeat anything he said (so watch the video) but I completely agree with him, gambling is not a sin.  I’ve never heard a good argument for why gambling is considered a sin.  I was taking an undergraduate sociology course online and I got into a debate with another student on the issue.

One must be very careful in condemning gambling lest that assertion backfire on them.  What about investing in the stock market?  One may buy and invest in lottery tickets just as one may buy and invest in shares.  The market could crash, or value decrease, and lose money just as you can never win in a lottery or other chance game and lose money.  It is a fine line for one to discern.  Koukl points out that if your skill is a factor involved in whether or not money is made then what’s the question?

In Matthew 6.19-20 Jesus teaches everyone to store his or her riches in heaven rather than in this world on earth.  Christians should beware of the love of money and be content with what they have (Heb. 13.5). “Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it.  When you set your eyes on it, it is gone.  For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens” (Prov. 23.4-5 NASB).  As long as the Christian understands that money is not evil and that it can be used for good and is a blessing from God, this should not be a problem.  Without this understanding we will always want more and never be satisfied (cf. Ecc. 5.10). The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, not mere money (1 Tim. 6.10).  Gambling can be a catalyst to sinful behavior like the excess spending of money you don’t have or if it becomes an addiction but I have yet to find a convincing argument for why gambling is a sin.

December 26th, 2010

Romance and Philosophy

by Max Andrews

One of my professors mentioned this concept in class and I wanted to expound on it.  When you say “I love you” to your boyfriend or girlfriend, fiancé[e], or spouse the profundity behind that declaration is incredible.  So, if my beautiful wife asks, “Why do you love me?” what do I say?  Well, I give her my reasons of course… but at what point do I originate my reasons?  Yes, God has orchestrated the world that it be this way but what factors are involved in God’s providential molding?

I believe the question of love ultimately comes down to the individual’s agency, their free desire and choice to love.  If all my reasons to love are external then that would seem to imply that there could be external reasons for me to stop loving.  Here’s a few examples. I love my fiancée because:

  • She has a beautiful smile.
  • She is fun.
  • She has gorgeous eyes.
  • Her personality complements mine.
  • She is kind and gentle.
  • We had memorable moments.
  • Etc.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but I chose features and examples that a lot of people will say up front.  All of these are external features and reasons.  What if these change and

  • She is in a car accident and loses all of her teeth and half of a jaw.
  • She stops enjoying the same things as you.
  • She has glass eyes or loses her eyes due to a medical condition or accident.
  • She gets diagnosed with a condition that affects her personality and becomes violent or emotionally absent.
  • She becomes violent.
  • The recent bad times outweigh the good times.

If all my reasons for loving are countered would I still love?  You may be able to see the issue here.  I imagine everyone is saying, “Yes, of course I would still love!” But the question is, “Why?”  I love my fiancée because I choose to love her.  I may be completely content with adding external reasons (which normally are what attracts in the first place), but I love her because I choose to love her.  So, if Leah were to ask me, “Why do you love me?” it would come down to, “Because I do.”  Resting a series of cause and effect relationships (reasons for love) within a personal and free agency is a perfectly adequate explanation and stopping point.  An agent is the only point at which a series of cause and effect relationships can begin.  Yes, I could refrain from choosing to love, but being consistent, it wouldn’t be because of her.  It’s my love for her and that’s what makes it so valuable.

Perhaps this may assist you in understanding God’s love for us.  There’s nothing that we do to warrant God’s love because if there ever could be a reason, we messed it up.  God loves us because he chooses to love us.  God isn’t self-determined to love us, it’s an expression of his own freedom and desire to love.  God is under no obligation to love us.  He doesn’t owe us anything.  Remember, he did not have to create anything at all.  This also follows that there’s nothing that we can do to change God’s love for us.  We can never be too dirty or evil that will cease the divine flow of love over us.  So next time you say “I love you” to someone keep this in mind.

December 24th, 2010

A Molinist’s Soteriology

by Max Andrews

I wanted to give a brief outline of my position concerning soteriology.  You’ll be able to find a lot of this in Ken Keathley’s Salvation and Sovereignty with much greater detail.  Just like the Calvinist has his TULIP so does the Molinist have his ROSES. (My views aren’t necessarily the same as Keathley’s so please don’t equate).

RADICAL DEPRAVITY

  • Our depravity has effected us in every aspect of who we are.  Consider a glass of water and a drop of ink.  If you drop the ink into the glass the ink will spread throughout the glass in its totality but the water is still water, it did not turn into ink.  Man has not relinquished his cognitive ability to choose.  (For more see pages 4-8).

OVERCOMING GRACE

  • The keystone for this doctrine is that God is the sole author and worker of salvation and damnation is only because of the sinner’s free rejection of God.  In this model, the only act the sinner can do is resist God due to his depraved nature.  God overcomes the sinner’s rebellion and the moment the sinner refrains from resisting the draw of the Spirit is the moment of regeneration.  There is no cooperative effort or work the sinner does.  The Holy Spirit brings the spiritually dead man to salvation not by anything the man did, but only by God’s grace that overcame the resistance while still rendering damnation solely because of man’s free rebellion and sin.  This model is monergistic while still affirming soft libertarianism.

SOVEREIGN ELECTION

  • God elects all individuals who would freely cease to resist his saving grace.  God will so arrange the world, via strong and weak actualizations, to bring about a person’s experiences and circumstances in which they would freely refrain from rejecting him.  God is both sovereign in actualizing salvation and permissive in allowing the reprobates to go their own way.

ETERNAL LIFE

  • It’s possible to lose your salvation but you won’t.  There is a possible world in which the elect individual freely ceases to persevere in the faith and apostatizes.  God’s elect freely persevere by his preserving grace.  His grace enables us to persevere.  It is infeasible that the elect apostatize given Scriptural warnings and God’s preserving grace.

SINGULAR REDEMPTION

  • This holds to a penal substitutionary view of the atonement.  Salvation is provided for all but only efficacious for those who believe.  This is in contrast to limited atonement where salvation is only provided for an efficacious to the elect.  This isn’t general atonement either where salvation is provided for all but secured for none.  Atonement is provided for the non-elect, but because of their unbelief the atonement serves as condemnation and testifies against them.

Again, please don’t generalize my position with every other Molinist either.  So much more can be added to each point, so I recommend Keathley’s book for more details.

December 19th, 2010

Middle Knowledge in a Nutshell

by Max Andrews

I understand middle knowledge and Molinism can be a little confusing.  To be honest, it took me about two years to really get it down.  Here’s a cheat sheet that I’ve developed for you outlining what it is and the difference between it and other aspects of omniscience.  I hope it helps.™

A Working Definition of Omniscience

  • ™For any proposition p, if p is true, then x knows that p and does not believe that not-p.
  • ™i.e.:  If Alex is sitting is true, then God knows that Alex is sitting and does not believe that Alex is not-sitting.
The Logical Moments to God’s Knowledge

Scientia Naturalis (Natural Knowledge)
  • First Logical Moment
  • ™God’s knowledge of all logical possibilities.
  • ™Possible Worlds:  “can,” “could”
™Scientia Media (Middle Knowledge)
  • ™God’s knowledge of all true counterfactual propositions, or more precisely, conditional propositions in the subjunctive mood.
  • Statements like:  “If something were the case, when in fact it may or may not be the case, then something else would be the case.”
  • Feasible Worlds:  “would,” “were”
™Scientia Libera (Free Knowledge)
  • Third Logical Moment
  • ™God’s knowledge of all true propositions in the actual world.
  • ™Actual World:  “was,” “is,” “will”

A Biblical Witness to Middle Knowledge

  • ™1 Sam. 23.6-10
  • ™Jer. 38.17-18
  • ™Amos 7.1-6
  • ™Jonah 3
  • ™Is 38.1-5
  • ™Mt. 26.24
  • ™Jn. 15.22, 24; 16.36
  • It should be noted that no amount of exegesis will explicate the logical moments of God’s knowledge, rather theological/philosophical reflection.
Foreknowledge vs. Middle Knowledge
  • Foreknowledge exists within the third moment of God’s knowledge–free knowledge.
  • Foreknowledge is a reflection of what will happen in the future.  It is like a divine barometer, as Craig likes to illustrate.  The barometer is a reflection of the atmospheric pressure but it does not determine the pressure (exit fatalism).
  • ™προγινώσκω, foreknow (Rom. 8.29; 11.2)
  • ™πρόγνωσις, foreknowledge (Acts 2.23; 1 Pt. 1.2)
  • ™προοράω, foresee (Acts 2.31; Gal. 3.8)
  • ™προορίζω, foreordain (1 Pt. 1.20)
  • ™προµαρτυροµαι, foretell (Mk. 14.23; Acts 3.24; 2 Cor. 13.2)
  • ™קחר, [to know] from afar (Ps. 139.1-6)
  • The Gk/Heb are from the citations and may not necessarily appear in the English versions as the cited word.

December 19th, 2010

Why I’m Not an Arminian

by Max Andrews

Arminianism is an attractive school of thought.  I find the tenets of Arminianism not to be as repulsive as many Calvinist attempt to make them out to be.  I agree with the Calvinist on many things; the converse is also true.  Likewise, I agree with the Arminian on many things, yet I disagree with them on a few as well.

My objection with Arminianism is that it does not account for a robust understanding of sovereignty.[1] If God has merely two logical moments of knowledge (natural and free) then logically prior to God’s decree of creation he did not know what the world would be like.  He could know all possible worlds prior to the decree but he would not know the actual world until logically-post his creative decree (via simple foreknowledge).  William Lane Craig comments:

On such a view [no middle knowledge] of God [he has], logically prior to the divine decree, only natural knowledge of all possible scenarios but no knowledge of what would happen under any circumstances.  Thus, logically posterior to the divine decree, God must consider himself extraordinarily lucky to find that this world happened to exist.  “What a break!” we can imagine God’s saying to himself, “Herod and Pilate and all those people each reacted just perfectly!”  Actually, the situation is much worse than that, for God had no idea whether Herod or Pilate or the Israelite nation or the Roman Empire would even exist posterior to the divine decree.  Indeed, God must be astonished to find himself existing in a world, out of all the possible worlds he could have created, in which mankind falls into sin and God himself enters human history as a substitionary sacrificial offering! [Anthropomorphically speaking] [2]

The Calvinist recognizes the problem as well—his solution, though, is to implement determinism.  However, the events in history are not by mere happenstance (Is. 46.9-10; Eph. 1.10; 3.9, 11; 2 Tim. 1.9-10).  Yes, God will be interacting by means of providing grace and revelation to control his creation, but I don’t find this to be as robust of an understanding of sovereignty as the Molinist’s understanding.  Determinism doesn’t work for theological and philosophical reasons I’ve previously discussed.  If God does have exhaustive knowledge, including a second [of three] moment, middle knowledge, then God knows all possible and feasible worlds (and the actual world).[3]


[1] I know Arminius attempts to use middle knowledge but it’s not the same understanding that Molina implements.  Unfortunately, I don’t have my library with me at the time to elaborate and cite the issue.

[2] William Lane Craig, What Does God Know?  Reconciling Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom (Norcross, GA:  RZIM, 2002), 50.

[3] I want to note that simple foreknowledge lies within the third moment of God’s knowledge, not his middle knowledge.