April 14th, 2011
In the chapter titled “A Reformed Tradition Not Quite Right” Baggett and Walls contend that the fundamental divide between Calvinism and [say] Arminianism is how God’s love and goodness are understood. This section is a [ironically] five-point objection to Calvinistic compatibilism. Before the authors make their case they assemble a philosophical justification for their method. Their epistemic framework gives a strong platform for the acceptance of a priori natural revelation going into the biblical hermeneutic. Without further ado they present their case against compatibilism (I once heard Dr. Baggett say that it’s not adieu*, as it was once corrected in the drafts by the editors [*Okay, it wasn’t for this work, but it was funny when he said it. Thank you Dr. Baggett for correcting me!).
- Obligation Objection: Simply put, ought implies can and moral duties make no sense in compatibilism. 1 Cor. 10.13 is cited as an example for libertarian freedom (God gives a way out of sin, yet we still sin). Prevenient grace seems to be a legitimate postulation, that is, the grace that precedes salvation that enables one to repent and turn from sin. Their example: P is “we ought to avoid all sin,” and Q is “we can avoid all sin” (ought implies can). However, it seems that some theologies (mainly Reformed), after the fall, P is true and Q is false (counterexample?). How about: P1, For any x, if x is a sin, then we ought to avoid doing x; Q1 For any x, if x is a sin, then we can avoid x. Here Baggett and Walls show the Calvinist’s fallacy of equivocation. Clearly, P1 and Q2 are true but to understand where P is true and Q is false one would need to equivocate “all” for P as “for each individual sin x, taken on its own” and for Q “for the sum total of all sins added together.” An argument on equivocation seems to break at the seams. Thus, the principle of ought implies can perseveres and libertarian freedom is true.
- Culpability Objection: “If the unregenerate aren’t able to avoid all sin, have we found a counter example to ‘ought implies can?’ For what would seem to suggest that they don’t have enough grace to avoid sin for which they’re culpable.” Compatibilism entails that we cannot do otherwise (where some secular philosophers say we should abandon the category of retribution). When asked, “Could the person have done otherwise?”, the reply would be “Yes, if he had willed to do otherwise (but, he could not have willed otherwise). Sure, let’s let the naturalist play out retribution, but the Calvinist cannot do so since it’s a pertinent part of their theology. They believe sinners are to be held accountable for this life and that some may be “consigned to eternal perdition for lives they could not have possibly lived any differently.”
- Bad God Objection: If compatibilism is true, then God could have saved everyone without violating free will. Some are not saved and are sentenced to eternal perdition, so what’s the deal? If compatibilism is true, why did God not elect all to salvation rather than sentence some to hell? Assuming salvation is a greater good than damnation, something has gone wrong. “If this is true, there is no intelligible sense in which God loves those who are lost, nor is there any recognizable sense in which he is good to them.”
- Love Objection: By the intrinsic nature of love relationships, love must flow in both directions. If God’s grace is irresistible then it necessarily follows that fellowship with God culminates (as the authors put it, a “divine love potion”). However, this creates an eternal infatuation in the beloved, but not genuine love; it seems love requires a more substantial element of volition.
- Virtue Objection: The Calvinists emphasize that “morally responsible actions must reflect one’s character or they aren’t culpable reflections of who one is.” However, It seems to be the case that culpable moral development in virtue ethics starts with thoughts, leads to actions, and then follows with a descriptive character. It seems Calvinists have it backwards. According to Calvinists, our actions are “determined by an already existing character with which we are unavoidably saddled.”
This post isn’t an exhaustive representation; rather, it’s a mere summation of the material. The main point was to demonstrate that the Calvinistic concept of God and morality run afoul in theory ethics. To follow up more see the chapter “A Reformed Tradition Not Quite Right” in Good God: Theistic Foundations of Morality.
April 14th, 2011
Michelangelo's Abraham Sacrificing Isaac
I’ve begun to read through David Baggett and Jerry Wall’s new book Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality and I’m convinced that this will be a prominent resource for future works on basing morality in theism. I’ll be going through and making a few posts here and there on certain aspects of the book. It not only goes up against competing atheistic alternatives but it also takes Calvinism to task. Baggett and Walls are ardent Arminians and their method of theological inquiry and their arguments can’t be ignored nor can they be easily dismissed by the Calvinist. I wrote a paper concerning the arbitrariness horn of the Euthyphro dilemma (an appendix to the book) and now I’m going back through as much as I can. Hopefully I’ll be able to provide some review and insight for those who don’t have the book (and incentive to add it to your library!).