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McCall on Theological Determinism & Compatibilism part 2a

(This is part two of a series that began here. In this series I am interacting with Tom McCall’s section on theological determinism and compatibilism in his book, An Introduction to Analytic Christian Theology (IVP 2015).)

Key: I will let FW&MR stand for Free Will and Moral Responsibility. I will let TD stand for the Theological Determinism, where God is said to, in some sense, determine all human actions.

In my last post, I made the point that the standard approach to dealing with the claim that FW&MR is compatible with TD is to cite some standard arguments against compatibilism. As I understood it, the standard arguments refer to those arguments that employ the standard definition of determinism as a premise. As I understood it, and as I demonstrated from the definitions McCall enlisted, the standard definition of determinism includes, as an essential component, among other things, the claim that the determining conditions lie in the “remote past.” Call this determinism, D+P. I then argued that many theological determinists—Calvinists, say—would not count as determinists at all on this understanding, since God’s determinative decree is timeless. However, once we allow this feature of classical TD to enter into the picture, the standard arguments are otiose for the purpose of showing that FW&MR is incompatible with TD. One upshot here is that those who argue against Calvinists (of the sort envisioned above) need to restate their argument for it to be relevant.

In the light of this, one might get the impression that I think the standard arguments for the incompatibility of FW&MR with D+P are good (sound and persuasive), while allowing TD to escape out the back door. However, this is false. Even here, I don’t think incompatibilists have made their case. So in this post and the next, I would like to comment on some of the arguments that McCall employed for the incompatibility of FW&MR with D+P. (more…)

The Direct Argument for the Incompatibility of Reformed Orthodoxy and LFW

  1. Necessarily, federalism is incompatible with LFW.
  2. The consensus of Reformed Orthodoxy is federalism.
  3. The consensus of Reformed Orthodoxy is incompatible with LFW.

I may expand on this later, but those familiar with the relevant concepts will see that this spells doom for Muller et al’s thesis that Reformed Orthodoxy wasn’t determinist and compatibilist.

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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