The purpose of this post is to clarify the conceptual categories and the finely balanced relationship between necessity and contingency underlying the Reformed doctrine of meticulous providence and human freedom.
I. Distinction between Natural and Free Causes
Reformed Scholaticism frames the relation between God as the Creator and the world as his creation by using ontological concepts like cause and effect. A further distinction is made between subjects with attributes of freedom (free causes) and subjects without that quality (natural causes).
A cause produces an act, and either the act or the state of affairs brought forward by the act is called the effect.
A natural cause is of such a nature that it could produce only one kind of act. Hence, it is called a necessary cause. Example, fire always burns and animals are driven by instincts.
A free cause is able to act variously at different times and structurally at one and the same moment. The effect of free causes are contingent or free. Continue reading “Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom: Supplementary Reading on Necessary and Contingent Cause and Effect. Part 7(a)/7”
I. The purpose of this article is to show that the Open Theist’s argument against divine foreknowledge is flawed because it fails to distinguish between “the necessity of the consequent” and“the necessity of the consequence”.
We begin with some clarifications of the terms that are crucial to our discussion:
Things are contingent of which it is possible that they are or are not.
Things are necessary of which it is impossible that they are not.
A necessary proposition is a proposition that could not possibly have been false, whose negation is impossible as this would entail a contradiction in reality. For example, it is necessary that 2 + 2 = 4. Philosophers describe a necessary proposition as one that true in all possible worlds.
A contingent proposition is a proposition that is not necessarily true or necessarily false (i.e. whose negation does not entail a contradiction in reality). An example of a contingent proposition is the proposition that human beings must be born on earth. A contingent proposition is one that is true in some possible worlds and not in others.
II. We recall the Open Theist argument:
1. An omniscient God knows all true propositions, past present and future. That is he holds no false beliefs (future propositions).
2. If God foreknows John will do X at 9 pm tomorrow, then John must do what God foreknows he will do. Continue reading “Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 6/7 – Distinction Between Necessity of the Consequent and Necessity of the Consequence –”
Bonhoeffer and Nassim Taleb on the Antaeus Myth
Nassim Nicholas Taleb begins his book, Skin in the Game with a broadside directed at political and academic elites who implement public policies without considering carefully their ramifications. He highlights the disasters which follow the recent military interventions in Libya and Syria. The unintended consequences of ‘regime change’ resulted in thousands of innocent victims being kidnapped, enslaved, incarcerated or blown to smithereens. Nevertheless, the policy makers are not held responsible for the misery of the victims; they continue to enjoy security and comfort in their air-conditioned offices thousands of miles away.
Nassim identifies the root problem. These policy makers do not have “skin in the game.” That is to say, they are not exposed to the painful consequences of their idiotic policies. Continue reading “Thinking Theology in Turbulent Times Must be Rooted in the Earth”
The ‘Intellectual-yet-Idiot’ and Other Ideas – Comments on Nassim Nichols Taleb, “Skin in The Game.”
Taleb is an anomaly that a system creates, an asset that has gone rogue. He is a perfect intellectual who has risen to say that the modern intellectual is vastly inferior to your grandmother. “…people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instincts and to listen to their grandmothers who have a better track record than these policymaking goons.” He holds that the transformation of local cultures in the name of modernity, democracy, environment and other virtues is a crime that the “intellectual-yet-idiot” is perpetrating. These are the undercurrents in his latest book, Skin In The Game, which is a brief history of risk, and argues, among other things, that problems occur in a society when influential people do not have to face the consequences of their bad ideas.
This article is good reminder to scholars who fancy they are wiser than ordinary people on the streets, just because they have published a few books. Continue reading “The ‘Intellectual-yet-Idiot’ and Other Ideas.”
Now and then a biblical studies student tells me that he does not believe in biblical inerrancy because we no longer have the original manuscripts (autographs), and there are undeniable copyist errors in the existing manuscripts. But surely, this objection is based on a confusion of categories? After all, the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is based not on “original codex” as on “original text.” I assume that the doubting student is assured that contemporary textual criticism gives us confidence in accepting the restored text represented by Nestle Aland/UBS Greek New Testament to be practically speaking an accurate representation of the original text (not codex). One may likewise extend one’s confidence in the restored Old Testament text Continue reading “Biblical Inerrancy Pertains to “Original text” and NOT “Original Codex.””
Prologue: The next three posts are rather technical (technical rating = 6/10). For readers who may find the reading tough going, just enjoy the jokes on Calvinism vs Arminianism.
Q1: How many Calvinists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None. God has predestined when the lights will be on. Stay seated and trust him.
Q2: How many Arminians does it take to change a light bulb?
A1: Only one. But first the bulb must want to be changed.
A2: All. They need everyone to make sure it stays on. One can never really be sure.
Q3: How many charismatics does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Three, one to cast it out and two to catch it when it falls!
Q4: How many Open Theists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: No one knows the answer. Not even God!
Calvinists have their TULIP! Arminians prefer the daisy. Why? “He loves me, but he loves me not. He loves me, but he loves me not…
Now to the serious stuff:
God’s omnipotence and omniscience and are inseparable correlates of his sovereignty and providence over creation. As Creator, God knows everything. This includes their essential nature and how they interact with other things as “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:13) As the omnipotent Lord, God controls all happenings in the universe and directs them according to his eternal plan. “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” (Eph. 1:11)
The scriptural teaching of God’s predestination contradicts the Arminian view that God’s foreknowledge is “simple”, that is, God knows the future, but not that he predetermines it. Furthermore, the Arminian maintains that God’s foreknowledge is contingent on our prior choices- that God’s knowing isn’t the source of our doing. Rather, our doing is the source of God’s knowing. However, Scripture teaches that God’s knowledge is active rather than passive since he foreordains and directs all things “according to the counsel of his will.” Continue reading “Does Foreknowledge of God Negate Human Freedom? – Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 5/7”
Before proceeding further in our series of posts on divine sovereignty and human freedom, it would be good to clarify some of the contested concepts in the debate.
Let’s begin with two fundamental concepts:
1) Free will. The ability of an agent to make genuine choices that stem from the self. Libertarians argue that free will includes the power to determine the will itself, so that a person with free will can will more than one thing. Compatibilists typically view free will as the power to act in accordance with one’s own will rather than being constrained by some external cause, allowing that the will itself may ultimately be causally determined by something beyond the self. Hard determinists deny the existence of free will altogether. Most Christian theologians agree that humans possess free will in some sense but disagree about what kind of freedom is necessary. The possession of free will does not entail an ability not to sin, since human freedom is shaped and limited by human character. Thus a human person may be free to choose among possibilities in some situations but still be unable to avoid all sin. /1/ Continue reading “Debate on Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom: Fundamental Philosophical Concepts”
Many Malaysians were disappointed when the Federal Court ruled that apostasy matters should be decided by the Shariah Court and not the Civil Court, and dismissed the application by four Sarawakians for a court order to direct the National Registration Department (NRD) to recognize and register them as Christians. [Re: Federal Court defers to Shariah courts in Sarawak apostasy cases]
Several church leaders have called for peaceful acceptance of the Court judgment as the law should be upheld and peace maintained in our society. Hopefully, Parliament will table amendments to ensure that the law is more just and equitable in matters of religious liberty for all citizens.
We should not miss a more fundamental concern in the Court controversy, that is, religious liberty has become a tenuous legacy for Malaysian democracy with the introduction of new shariah-compliant laws which authorize the state bureaucracy to extend its powers to regulate the private morality and religious activities of its citizens. It has become painfully clear that any intervention by the government inevitably restricts the religious liberty of citizens. Continue reading “Religious Liberty and Limited State Bureaucracy: The Logic of Locke”
Dog-Thoughts as we enter into the Year of the Dog: Part 4
If ‘sex’ was the impolite word which should not be raised in Victorian cocktail conversations, ‘heresy’ is the unmentionable word among ‘progressive’ Christians today. [Re: Post on ‘Progressive’ Christianity Beware*] Perhaps this is a reaction to the spirit of dogmatism, authoritarian and legalism found among leaders who are defensive about their faith when they perceive the Christian community to be a besieged and embattled minority. Doctrinal defensiveness is the outcome of a “Christ Against Culture” manifestation of Christianity. It is easy for these leaders to become unnecessarily alarmist as there could be genuine doctrinal disagreements which should not be stigmatized as departures from orthodoxy. Not every doctrinal or theological error is a heresy. Continue reading “The Concept of Heresy Arises from the Fellowship of the Church and not From a Lack of Love (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)”
Dog-Thoughts as we enter into the Year of the Dog: Part 3
I feel a sense of ambivalence whenever I read Roger Olson. His expertise in historical theology is beyond doubt. He is an excellent communicator which is not often found among theologians. But I find him rather intemperate and lacking measured judgment in his polemics against Reformed theology.
Surprisingly, I find myself nodding my head in hearty agreement when I read Roger Olson’s post on the subtle dangers of so-called ‘progressive Christianity.’ Surely, there must be truth when a Calvinist is in agreement with an Arminian! I invite my readers to ponder carefully some of Olson’s observations on ‘progressive Christianity’ given below:
Nine Signals of Liberal Protestantism Disguised as “Progressive Christianity.” Continue reading “Sheep Dog Alert: Beware of ‘Progressive’ Christianity?”