If you can’t point to at least one verse/fact that runs contrary to your doctrinal position that makes you at least a little bit uncomfortable, or if you can’t cite at least one good argument against your position you might just be a bit too dogmatic and probably haven’t read widely enough. While I think we can be confident in what we believe, very few matters of intellectual dispute are so cut and dry that there aren’t decent arguments for contrary positions. If you are not aware of those other arguments, and if you are not made at least a bit uncomfortable by any of them, this should be a sign that your confidence in your doctrinal position might be a bit premature.
January 19, 2016
January 3, 2016
Some people claim the existence of God cannot be falsified. As I have argued elsewhere, this is not true. One way to falsify God’s existence is to show that the concept of God is logically incoherent. This can be done by demonstrating that two or more supposed divine attributes are logically incompatible. For example, it has been argued that omnipotence and omnibenevolence are logically incompatible.
The argument is set forth along these lines: Omnipotence entails the power to actualize any state of affairs that is logically possible to actualize. There is nothing logically incoherent about an omnipotent being committing evil, so omnipotence must include the power to actualize a world in which the omnipotent being commits evil. As an omnibenevolent being, however, God is incapable of committing evil. Therefore, God cannot be omnipotent. While a being can be either omnibenevolent or omnipotent, no being can be both omnibenevolent and omnipotent. Since the theistic concept of God entails both, the God of theism cannot exist.
Areas of agreement
How might the theist respond to this objection? Let us start with some points of agreement. First, we agree that God must be both omnipotent and omnibenevolent. Theistic philosophers have long held that the concept of God is that of the greatest conceivable being (GCB). God is a being of which a greater cannot be conceived. If we can conceive of some being Y who is greater than the being we call God, then being Y is the true God. Since it is greater to be all-powerful than partially powerful, the GCB must possess the property of being all-powerful. Likewise, since it is greater to be all-good than partially good, the GCB must possess the property of being all-good.
November 20, 2015
Trying to make Christian morality palatable to those in moral rebellion against God is like trying to make civil law palpable to criminals. They will never like God’s laws no matter how reasonable we demonstrate those laws to be. Defiant children do not care that eating too much candy will make them throw up or give them diabetes. They simply want candy. Likewise, those who want their sexual sin, their abortion, and a myriad of other sins do not care about the wisdom in God’s laws. They want what they want, and they will ridicule and deride those who say otherwise. This is not to say that we should not attempt to explain the reason for and benefits of God’s law. It’s just to say that we shouldn’t be surprised when this fails to change their behavior.
October 8, 2015
Steven Cowan and Greg Welty argue contra Jerry Walls that compatibilism is consistent with Christianity. What they question is the value of libertarian free will (the freedom to do other than what one, in fact, chooses to do, including evil). Why would God create human beings with the ability to choose evil? Libertarians typically argue that such is necessary in order to have genuine freedom, including the freedom to enter into a loving relationship with God. After all, if one could only choose A the good), and could never choose B (the evil), then their “choice” of A is meaningless. The possibility of truly and freely choosing A requires at least the possibility of choosing B. The possibility of evil, then, is necessary for a free, loving relationship with God. It is logically impossible for God to create free creatures who are unable to choose anything other than A.
Cowan and Wells ask, however, what would be wrong with God creating us in a way that made it impossible for us to desire or choose evil, and yet our choice would still be free. All that would be required is the presence of more than one good to choose from (A, C, D, E, F…). No matter what we choose, we could have chosen some other good, but never evil. This avoids the logical contradiction and preserves real freedom of choice. Cowan and Wells argue that such a world would be superior to our world since this possible world preserves libertarian free will, but lacks evil. In their assessment, there is no reason for the actual world if the value of libertarian free will (relationship with God, gives us freedom to choose the good, gives us the freedom to do otherwise) could be obtained without the possibility of evil. For the libertarian who wants to maintain that the actual world is superior to this possible world, they must maintain that the greatest value of libertarian freedom is that it gives us the opportunity to do evil. Why would God value our ability to do evil if He is good and hates evil? Why would God create a world in which libertarian freedom results in evil if He could have achieved all of the goals of libertarian freedom without evil?
September 21, 2015
Compatibilists are those who believe that freedom and determinism are compatible with each other. On their view, one is free so long as they make actual choices. And they maintain that people do make actual choices: They choose what they desire. Of course, the problem comes when you ask where those desires come from. The desires are determined by God or physics. So what if physics or God determined for you to desire to kill your roommate? Then you will “choose” to kill your roommate.
In my estimation, this is not a very robust sense of freedom. Indeed, I would argue that it is not freedom at all. If desires cause actions, but the desires are determined by something other than the self, then the actions are determined as well, even if only in a secondary or intermediate sense. More could be said in the way of critique, but I have done so elsewhere.
For this post, I just want to pose a simple question to compatibilists: If our choices are caused by our desires, are our desires are determined by God/physics, then why is “choosing” so hard? Why do we struggle with deliberation? The only reason we experience deliberation is because we possess conflicting desires and we need to weigh them to decide which desire to act on. If our desires are determined, does that mean God (or physics) determined for us to have conflicting desires? If so, what would the purpose be other than to give us the false appearance of having libertarian free will?