Libertarian Calvinism – 1

In chapter 3 of Deviant Calvinism (Fortress, 2014) Oliver Crisp argues that “in what the [Westminster] Confession does say [about God's decree, human freedom, etc], there is the conceptual space, so to speak, to prescind from determinism touching all human choices and to affirm some limited version of libertarianism” (74-75). I am going to begin a series of posts interacting with chapter 3, which is titled “Libertarian Calvinism.” I think this will be better than to write one (really) lengthy post. Here’s a map to what’s forthcoming: (more…)

Deviant Calvinism

Today I picked up Oliver Crisp’s newest book, Deviant Calvinism. There’s a lot to say about the various deviances he floats. As will come as no surprise to most readers, I’ll have a lot to say about his chapter “Libertarian Calvinism.” I’m not sure when I’ll engage with this particular deviance, but hopefully soon. To lay my cards on the table, I find this chapter to be misguided at best, incoherent at worst. But we’ll get to all of that in due time. At present, I merely want to highlight Crisp’s concluding thought in the chapter, as it made me smile wryly.

But first here’s a quick backdrop: libertarian Calvinism assumes that some of our actions—namely, those directly related to salvation—are determined, while many or most of our other, “mundane” actions are libertarian free. Crisp says libertarian Calvinism is incompatibilist, and thus, on this view, compatibilism is necessarily false (but Crisp also says that the Confession may be consistent with libertarianism and compatibilism, but I’ll refrain from pointing out the problem here—though it should be obvious). Anyway, Crisp concludes that embracing libertarian compatibilism “might offer an ecumenical olive branch in theological discussions on a matter long mired in unproductive, and often vituperative, disputation” (96).

Now, I agree with Crisp that the discussion can get vituperative. This isn’t too hard when rock-ribbed Arminians tell us theological determinists that we worship the devil, or that our God is worse than Hitler. However, I strongly disagree that the discussion is “unproductive.” But I’ll not bother to defend that claim here. In any case, the parties to this discussion are compatibilists and libertarians. To embrace libertarianism is to affirm that compatibilism is necessarily false. So what did I find funny? That Crisp says that the (ahem) majority view would be offering an olive branch by affirming Calvinist libertarianism. But to affirm Calvinist libertarianism is to affirm that we’ve been wrong all along. On the contrary, then, this isn’t to offer an olive branch; it is to raise the white flag!

Testing Mill’s Maxim

Arminians often cite a claim from John Stuart Mill as a sort of test we can apply to see whether the God of Calvinism is “good”. I’ll call this claim, Mill’s Maxim (MM):

MM:”I will call no being good who is not what I mean when I apply that epithet to my fellow creatures; and if such a creature can sentence me to hell for not so calling him, to hell I will go.”

MM is popularly used in something like this fashion:

RAPE: The God of Calvinism determines that a rapist rape a woman. If any human were to do the same, we would not call them good. Hence, by MM, God is not good.

The general idea behind RAPE (and similar cases) seems to be this:

PRINCIPLE: if S does an action A that, if human H were to do A then we would not call H good, then S is not good.

I think the way PRINCIPLE is phrased goes wrong in all sorts of ways. It stands in need of many qualifications that, once made, in my judgement render its use in calling the God of Calvinism “not good” of dubious merit. However, I do not have the time to do that work at present.

I will, though, make one point about PRINCIPAL. As it stands, PRINCIPAL is about actions. It is common to distinguish between acts and omissions. But, it is clear that what we fail to do can be just as morally weighty for judging the quality of another’s will as what we do. Thus, I will divide PRINCIPLE into its action and omission forms: (more…)

Akrasia and Compatibilism

Akrasia, or weakness of will, is a complicated phenomenon. It may be best to describe it with an example than to offer a philosophical definition of it, which is sure to be controversial.

(WW) Merrie is convinced that is it, all things considered, better for her to study than to go to the party. Merrie freely goes to the party.

Some people have argued that, in light of the actuality of akrasia, compatibilism is false. “Compatibilists can’t handle cases like (WW),” it is said, “therefore, compatibilism is false.” I’m not sure these typical arguments succeed. The reason is simply due to a technical matter. Let me make that point first, then I’ll table it and address a contemporary expression of the argument against compatibilism from akrasia.

Here’s the problem with the above form of reasoning: (more…)

Greg Welty’s blog

Creating a Calvinist T-Shirt


My friend James Anderson recently wrote two nice posts on theological determinism and compatibilism. I direct the reader to those posts for all the nitty-gritty details. The purposes of his two posts were to chop up the conceptual space surrounding the theses of divine determinism and compatibilism. In this post I want to add to his work of conceptual carving. I will add to the distinction between hard and soft determinism that James drew, the further distinction between hard and soft compatibilism. Before continuing, I want to add a caveat up front: I don’t take it that I’m offering any substantive criticism of James’ posts. I merely hope to add to his project of carving conceptual space. However, as you’ll (hopefully) come to agree in the end, I think my t-shirt will be both conceptually and aesthetically superior to James’! (more…)

The use of 1 Corinthians 10:13 as an Argument for LFW: Caught between a rock and a hard place


I’ll make this quick. I won’t document my claims, though I can document them with ease. Consider:

1 Corinthians 10:13

13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Some Christians have suggested that this text teaches that we have libertarian free will. Given a certain flat-footedness, this is plausible. The idea is that, for every temptation you may face, God provides a way of escape such that you do not have to give into the temptation. You can endure it or not. This is supposed to suggest that the principle of alternate possibilities is true. It is then argued that this would be false given theological determinism. Then, on the assumption we either resist or succumb to the temptation freely, and the text entails the falsity of determinism, then the text implies the freedom we have is libertarian. (more…)


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