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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Libertarianism by any other name...

... is libertarianism. But non-libertarianism by the same name is of course something different. Confusion abounds...

Most libertarians hold to the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP). Yet a growing number of libertarians are abandoning their libertarian roots and embracing a Frankfurt version of libertarianism, which is no libertarianism at all. These “libertarians” don’t think they need to hold to PAP. These Frankfurt-libertarians hold to Frankfurt Counterexamples (FCE), which are aimed at bringing to naught the view that a moral agent is responsible for an action only if he could have acted contrary. The aim is to bring reconciliation between responsibility and determinism by arguing that responsibility does not require the freedom to do otherwise. The counterexamples can get quite creative, involving demons and chemicals and all sorts of will-altering stimuli.

With regard to all these scenarios that posit chips in brains and the like (certain FCE's), they can be refuted thusly with respect to their usefulness: Either determinism is true or it isn’t. There is no third option. If determinism is true, then these illustrations of demons, drugs and chips are all moot; for all would be determined and responsibility would become a non-entity for the libertarian incompatibilist. Accordingly, if determinism is true, then these silly scenarios (FCE’s) do not achieve their intended usefulness, which is to show that responsibility need not be accompanied by alternative possibilities. Without responsibility (due to the assumption of determinism), one cannot show that responsibility can be upheld at all, let alone apart from alternative possibilities (AP). In other words, FCE’s don’t save the day by providing an alternative source of responsibility if determinism is indeed true. There simply would be no responsibility to be found (anywhere) in the face of determinism given a commitment to LFW as a necessary condition for responsibility.

A Reformed “grounding objection” refutation:

Now if determinism is false, then of course the demon who would operate the chip could not know whether he actually would need to operate the chip in order to achieve his desired end until after the critical point of choice; there would be no grounding of the truth value of what the agent with the implanted chip would do under any set of circumstances. (Obviously such an argument should not be palatable to Molinists but strangely enough it’s employed by more than just Open Theists and Calvinists.) If the demon wants the agent to choose X, then the only way in which he could ensure that he does choose X is to externally cause him to choose X necessarily, which of course does not protect moral responsibility (in such cases) from a libertarian perspective. If the demon sees that it is very probable that the agent will choose X, then the demon might roll the dice and leave the agent alone in order that he choose X “freely”. Obviously in such cases given the contingent nature of LFW the desired end might not obtain, but the choice would be free and in accordance with libertarianism. Consequently, given libertarian freedom as a necessary condition for moral accountability, AP must therefore always apply in such instances of choosing with moral relevance since the demon, in order to ensure his desired outcome, would always have to preempt the unknowable choice with a short-sharp-shock. Pure contingency defies truth values that can be foreknown, therefore, the only way that AP can be taken away is to eliminate them entirely by external causality (simultaneously undermining libertarian moral accountability). It is impossible to ensure a desired outcome in this hands-off Frankfurter manner given radical free agency.

Desperation even more - will formation:

In a last ditch effort a wannabe libertarian might posit that the foreknowledge required to pull off this mad-scientist routine is bound up in the insights into an agent’s will-forming, which is to say that the a future creaturely choice can be known with certainty due to the predictability of a will that has been formed over time. The problem with such an idea is that will forming theorists don’t explain the sufficient condition(s) that must be met in order for a choice to no longer be purely contingent. Why do certain constraints upon the will that are brought to bear from prior (alleged) libertarian choices have more determining power over future choices, to the point of making those future choices metaphysically necessary (i.e. having no feasible alternative possibility), than other types of constraints? And if there can be no distinction made, then why should we believe that there are any?

An internal critique using Molinistic premises:

Finally, there is a subtle equivocation with these scenarios that utilize FCE’s. By addressing the equivocation we can attack the absurdity of the position more powerfully (on Molinistic terms!), while granting exhaustive omniscience for the demon and also allowing for the pure contingency of choice that libertarian freedom requires. In those cases where the agent chooses without outside chip-influence, he must do so (for the libertarian) from a metaphysical posture that is free. Accordingly, metaphysically speaking he in fact could choose contrary in no less a sense than if he was not wired to an implanted chip. It is only in those cases that he is actually externally prevented from choosing what he would that he could not choose contrary to how he would. What is relevant is that when he chooses freely he does so in a metaphysical sense, which presupposes true alternative possibilities of the metaphysical kind. The impossibility of choosing otherwise is only a logical one, constrained by the fact that it is true that the action will be physically prevented if it would occur: If the agent would choose ~X feely, then he’d be externally caused to choose X necessarily. Yet notwithstanding, when he would choose X freely, he indeed could (metaphysically speaking) choose ~X, otherwise he would not be able to choose X freely! {It boggles the mind why Molinists would undermine their own hard-fought distinctions between would-counterfactuals and might-counterfactuals by employing such novel attempts to move toward certain deterministic tendencies.}

This all reminds me of certain movements within Romanism. At one time (before 1994 and certainly 1965) it meant something to be a Romanist. Now one thinks he can deny Trent and still be Romanist.

Happy Christmas!

Ron


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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Molinism & The "Five Points" - Reconcilable?


I said many years ago that one of the biggest threats to Reformed theology is the high-Arminianism of Molinism. Many have been taken captive by its subtle charm, but in the final analyses it is nothing more than dressed-up (rank) Arminianism. There is really nothing new under the sun.

Below I have tried to address, although briefly, Libertarian free will (LFW) and its implications with respect to what is commonly called the "Five Points". LFW is the pillar upon which Molinism stands or falls; so if LFW is not compatible with the Five Points, then neither is Molinism.

To affirm libertarian freedom and all its implications is to deny the intentions of the “Five Points”. Yet, strangely enough, it is my experience that a growing number of Christians think that Molinism is compatible with Reformed thought in general and the "Five Points" in particular.

I found it easier to discuss LFW as it comes to bear upon the Five Points in an unusual order of ITPUL, which sounds more middle eastern than Dutch, I know. But do keep in mind that tulips, although associated with Holland, originated in the Persian Empire!

I
For libertarians, men can choose between alternatives with equal ease - according to their own agent-causation, from a posture of neutrality. Accordingly, to affirm LFW is to deny that irresistible grace is necessary for a dead man to repent and believe.

Moreover, libertarians affirm that the only choices men can be held morally responsible for are choices that are libertarian in nature. The reason being, it is held by libertarians that choices that are caused by something other than the agent (such as in the case of irresistible grace) are deemed as robotic puppetry and consequently not morally relevant with respect to human responsibility. However, when man chooses according to irresistible grace, the choice made is indeed morally relevant with respect to human responsibility, which is contrary to the libertarian tenet that only agent-caused choices are relevant in this way. Coming to Christ by irresistible grace is in fact the most morally relevant choice a man will ever make and one for which he will be held accountable to have made. Consequently, one may not affirm irresistible grace on the suppositions peculiar to LFW.

T
If man can come to Christ apart from irresistible grace then he cannot be totally depraved by definition.

P
Sophisticated libertarians may affirm “eternal security” but NOT the grace required for the perseverance of the saints, which is nothing other than God’s preservation of the saints. This is a bit nuanced (but not too bad) so bear with me. The bottom line is this: Perseverance of the saints entails God’s keeping of the saints throughout the Christian life by the sovereign and will-invading power of the Holy Spirit. The doctrine of perseverance, therefore, presupposes that our persevering faith is not according to a will that is so free as to be able to reject Christ, but rather our perseverance is according to a faith that is sovereignly sustained by the Holy Spirit.

The way in which some libertarians may hold onto "eternal security", which is not the same thing has upholding perseverance of the saints, is thusly:

For the libertarian, the reason God’s elect will not deny the faith is not because God will complete the work he has begun in men by causing them to truly believe until the end. Rather, the reason one will not lose his salvation is merely because God has chosen to actualize a world in which those that come to Christ according to their LFW will also choose by that same LFW not to depart from Christ. Although tricky-Molinists can “consistently” affirm eternal security in this way, they cannot do justice to the distinctly Calvinistic teaching that it is God who by his sovereign grace causes men to persevere. What must be grasped is that perseverance is not only concerned with the final result of bringing many saints to glory, but rather it is concerned with God’s part in how that end is achieved. Perseverance plainly teaches that man is kept by God. Whereas the tenets of LFW suggest that it is man - not God - who ultimately causes himself (through agent-causation) to (a) differ from another, (b) come to Christ and (c) remain in Christ. In sum, for the libertarian who affirms eternal security (not all do), it is accomplished this way: God chose to actualize a world in which those who come to Christ will cooperate according to their LFW and choose to remain in Christ, but it is possible that they won’t (due to their LFW) even though they will (by their LFW). They do not persevere by the Calvinistic notion of sovereign grace, but rather they persevere by cooperating with the quality of grace that God offers all men.

U
Unconditional election entails that God chooses men without any consideration for foreseen faith. For the libertarian, the proposition, “Ron would believe in such a circumstance if presented the gospel” is not grounded in God’s determination but in man’s free agency. For the libertarian, whether one is elect-able unto salvation is dependent upon whether the man would believe (according to the non-gift of LFW) if presented the gospel, which is conditional election. The doctrine of unconditional election presupposes that God could have elected unto salvation any fallen man had we wanted. Given LFW, it was only feasible that God could have chosen in Christ those who would cooperate with resistible grace.

L
The eternal design was that Christ's substitutionary and vicarious death was on behalf of only those who were (a) unconditionally elected in Christ, (b) totally depraved and (c & d) needed irresistible and persevering grace both to come to Christ and remain in him. Accordingly, a philosophy that damages any of the other four points also undermines particular redemption.


Ron

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