Libertarian Calvinism – 4 Wrapping Up

This will complete my series on Libertarian Calvinism. Part one is here part two is here, and part 3 is here. I tried to argue that the case for libertarian Calvinism has not yet been made, and that it’s not clear that it can be made. Now, that’s not to say that one couldn’t severely limit one’s scope, and by ‘Calvinism’ mean, say, “the five points.” Then, supposing the some suitable, libertarian friendly, definition of ‘irresistible’ could be given, one could say that LC is the conjunction of LFW and TULIP. Yet, I do think that LC is incompatible with a sufficiently robust Calvinism, where this is defined as confessional (which can be understood broadly as including various dogmatic/systematic theologies). In this post I simply want to make some brief closing remarks. (more…)

Libertarian Calvinism – 3

This is the third installment of a series on Oliver Crisp’s “Libertarian Calvinism,” a chapter in his new book, Deviant Calvinism. Part one is here and part two is here. In this post I’ll engage directly with libertarian Calvinism. I hope to show that even if the issues I raised in the first two posts could be addressed—which, I think, is by no means an easy task—libertarian Calvinism faces problems that not even Hal Jordan (a.k.a the Green Lantern) could overcome.1 (more…)

Libertarian Calvinism – 2

This is part 2 of a series I’m doing on chapter 3 of Oliver Crisp’s new book, Deviant Calvinism (part one here). First, to summarize the main point of the previous post: Crisp wants to argue that libertarian freedom is consistent with Reformed Theology, specifically as elucidated in the Westminster Confession of Faith. I argued that Crisp’s argument is incomplete, choosing to focus only on chapters 3 and 9 of the Confession. However, there are other chapters that confess propositions that arguably don’t support libertarian free will. Specifically, I cited the Confession’s teaching about the nature of God and his knowledge, and made the case that these claims are prima facie inconsistent with libertarian free will. I then argued that several standard ways of resolving these troubles may not be open to the libertarian Calvinist, since the Confession plausibly rules them out. There are other portions of the Confession that will be shown to spell trouble for Crisp’s case, and they will make an appearance in the next post. In that post (part 3 of the series), I will interact directly with Crisp’s case for libertarian Calvinism. But before I do that, I want to discuss two terms Crisp employs in the chapter but doesn’t elaborate on. These terms show up in debates over free will and the kind of necessity theological determinists have wanted to say attaches to free human actions. (more…)

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…)


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