Thursday, December 12, 2013

Craig, Providence, and Calvinism

Dr. William Lane Craig lists five objections against a Calvinistic conception of providence in the book above. Craig's five objections can be summarized as follows:
1. Calvinism is exegetically unfaithful to the Scriptures (indications of a robust doctrine of human freedom).
2. Calvinism is self-refuting.
3. Calvinism makes God the author of sin.
4. Calvinism destroys human freedom.
5. Calvinism entails human thought and experience is illusory.

1. Calvinism is exegetically unfaithful to the Scriptures.

Craig merely asserts Calvinism is contrary to the plain teachings of Scripture. He does not exegete any text to argue the supposed exegetical shortcomings of Calvinism. Craig claims Calvinism undermines all scriptural texts that affirm "genuine indeterminacy and contingency."I fail to see how Calvinism cannot affirm "genuine indeterminacy and contingency," if God (analogically) determines them.

2. Calvinism is self-refuting.

Simply to say one believes Calvinism given the truth of Calvinism seems trivial. But Craig sees this as self-refuting. Since a person is determined to believe in determinism, (somehow) this determined belief is not acquired rationally, but why not? Craig is assuming latently by this objection Calvinism entails causal determinism. But there is no obvious reason why it must. In fact, many Calvinists would adopt an analogical understanding of determinism whereby God determines C by X and man determines C by Y. On such a view divine causation is not taken as univocal, but, rather analogical.

3. Calvinism makes God the author of sin. 

“…God is the first efficient cause of everything, but evil has come, not from His first act, but by a second act, an act of creatures.

God is the author of the author of sin, He cannot be the author of sin itself, for sin is the result of a rebellion against God. 

If God is not the author of sin, at least He must be charged with being responsible for sin…A little reflection on the subject will show the contradiction involved in charging God with responsibility. Let us ask one question: Responsible to whom, or to what?...Obviously  if we are talking about the Almighty, He already is the highest power there is. Therefore, when God decreed this type of universe where Christ was to die for the sins of all who believe, God was responsible to none but Himself.” [1]

“God is neither responsible nor sinful, even though He is the only ultimate cause of everything. He is not sinful because in the first place whatever God does is just and right. It is just and right simply in virtue of the fact that He does it. Justice or righteousness is not a standard external to God to which God is obligated to submit. Righteousness is what God does…God’s causing a man to sin is not sin. There is no law, superior to God, which forbids Him to decree sinful acts. Sin presupposes a law, for sin is lawlessness. Sin is any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God. But God is “Ex-lex.” [2]

“(1) Necessarily, if God exists he is all-good.
 (2) God exists and ordains whatsoever comes to pass.
 (3) Necessarily, if A is a human action then A is causally determined.
 (4) There are morally evil human actions.
 (5) Either God is the morally culpable author of the morally evil actions or human beings are   their sole morally culpable authors.
 (6) (1) and the first disjunct of (5) are formally inconsistent.
 (7)(1),(3) and the second disjunct of (5) are not formally inconsistent.
 (8)Any agent who freely and knowingly sets up a deterministic process with a certain outcome must be responsible for that outcome.
 (9) Wherever one person X causes another person Y to do moral evil X does moral evil.
 (10) Wherever one person X upholds another person Y and knowingly that Y will do evil does not prevent Y from doing evil, X does moral evil.
…moreover, it is by no means clear that even if X does moral evil he is doing the same moral evil as Y. Moreover, whether or not X is guilty of moral evil is presumably a matter of what rule or law X has broken or whether his upholding and permitting of X to act in an evil manner is in furtherance of some greater good for which X’s evil act is a logically necessary condition. It is not obvious that either a law has been broken in such a case, or that X’s evil act in not a logically necessary condition for the achieving of certain further goods.”[3]

“Since our moral duties are grounded in the divine commands, they are not independent of God nor, plausibly, is God bound by moral duties, since he does not issue commands to himself.

If God does not fulfill moral duties then what content can be given to the claim he is good? Here Kant’s distinction between following a rule and acting in accordance with a rule has proved helpful. God may act naturally in ways which for us would be rule following and so constitutive of goodness in the sense of fulfilling our moral duties, so that God can be said similarly to be good in an analogical way….God is essentially compassionate, fair, kind, impartial, and so forth, and His commandments are reflections of his own character.” [4]


4. Calvinism destroys human freedom.
Instead of rehearsing the, already mentioned, alternative to causal determinism in favor of compatibilism, I'd like to focus on Craig's offered alternative. He would say libertarian freedom is the only view that rightly upholds human freedom. On such view a subject is free if the subject makes a choice without any sufficient or necessary causal conditions. Any given person, with the options of X or Y, to be free should have the ability to choose between the two (independently of any other factors such as genes, dispositions, desires, customs, and practices). But how is such a view any more plausible? Given the fact that a person can choose between X or Y (independently of any other factors such as genes, dispositions, desires, customs, and practices) amounts to the person being indifferent. Why then should an indifferent person chose one thing over another? I think Craig wants to say, simply because the agent reasoned to will one choice over another. It seems to me, then, this freedom of indifference make a person's choice utterly arbitrary. Reason being that any given reason why a person should choose X, an identical reason can be given to choose Y. [5]

5. Calvinism entails human thought and experience are illusory. 

Quite the contrary, if analogical determinism is true. But for the sake of argument, even if causal determinism is true,  it would not entail human experience is illusory given the fact that on such a view there really is secondary causes. And therefore, people are not rightly construed as puppets in the hands of God; instead they're 
agents that possess knowledge, volition, purpose, and deliberation. 

[1] Edward John Carnell. An Introduction to Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1981. pp.302-303.

[2]Gordon H. Clark. Christian Philosophy, vol 4. Unicoi: Trinity Foundation, 2004. p. 269.
[3]Paul Helm. Eternal God: A Study of God without Time. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010.pp.161-162.
[4]Morland, J.P. and William Lane Craig. Philosophical Foundations For A Christian Worldview.Downers Grove: Intervarsity P, 2003.pp.531-532.
[5] I take this point from the insights of Bruce Ware, John Frame, and Ronald Nash. 


wakawakwaka said...

so random theology i take it that you believe might makes right?

R.C. Dozier said...

No, I don't. I believe in "right with might makes right."