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Determinism and the authorship of sin in Calvinism and Arminianism

Arminians object to determinism because it makes God the “author of evil”—but does their own system avoid it? In this post, I argue that although they disagree with Calvinists about the nature of God’s sovereignty, their own theology commits them to an equally deterministic view.

I’ve been participating in, and witness to, some protracted debates with Arminians of late. These have mostly centered around whether God is the “author of sin”, or in some sense the origin of evil. I won’t recount the sordid details of these discussions—you can read the comment thread of ‘How Calvinism (Determinism) Makes God the Author of Sin’, by Billy Birch, if you want to see the majority of my involvement. What I want to write about here (with some awareness of, and apology for, how little I post my own articles as of late), is the issue of theistic determinism.

As most any Calvinist probably knows, one of the primary objections to Reformed theology from Arminians is that it entails a deterministic relationship between creation and God. That is to say, God meticulously determines everything which transpires in creation, such that man cannot have free will in the libertarian sense (Calvinists argue that he can still have free will, however, in the compatibilist sense). Arminians allege that determinism makes God the “author of sin”—an ill-defined, emotionally-laden term which generally conveys that God, in some sense, is the ultimate origin of evil. Under Arminian lights, this cannot be and amounts to blasphemy against God’s holy character.

Determinism defined

In the comment thread of Steve Hays’ brief article, ‘What is Determinism?’, I posit the following definition of theistic or theological determinism (as opposed to the secular notion of physical determinism):

It seems to me that any definition which tries to impose a stronger element of determination becomes a caricature of the Reformed position. For instance, there is nothing about determination, per se, which requires a specific theory of causation with regard to what the “prior action of God” is. However, this being the case, how does Arminianism differ, functionally, from Calvinism itself? To elaborate—

God’s action under Calvinism

By Reformed lights, the “prior action of God” enjoys the following general sequence: God (1) surveys all the possible worlds he could create, and then chooses to create this one (call it W1)—evil and all. This is his decretive or “planning” action. Then, from eternity, God (2) creates this world by speaking it into being. This is his initial instantiative or “creative” action. Then, again from eternity, God (3) upholds this world moment to moment, thus keeping it in existence by employing his unique power of existential causation (that is, his power of making things exist; as opposed to natural causation like one billiard ball moving another). This is his continual instantiative or “conservational” action.

Because this last action applies meticulously to everything which exists, it stands to reason that there’s a sense in which God causes all things—including evil. It bears repeating that this is a unique kind of causation entirely unlike any other—a point sadly lost on Arminians, who appear to take a perverse delight in equivocating between it and other kinds of causation, such that they take God to himself be evil, to be thinking our thoughts for us, to be pulling the strings of puppets, and so on.

God’s action under Arminianism

However, consider the Arminian alternative. The “prior action of God” is not so different. First, God (1) surveys all the possible worlds he could create, and then chooses to create this one—evil and all. Arminians prefer to avoid the term “decree”, especially when we are specifically focusing on God’s surveying the evil in this world. Instead, they use the term “permit”. But the only distinction appears to be one of semantics. Given that Arminians and Calvinists agree that God has perfect, definite foreknowledge, and that he knew precisely every event which would occur in this world when he chose to create it, whether we characterize God as “permitting” evil by creating this particular world, or as “decreeing” evil by creating this particular world, is neither here nor there.

God then, from eternity, (2) creates this world by speaking it into being. At this point, the entire course of history, down to the nth degree of detail, is meticulously and unchangeably known by God. Every sin ever committed is perfectly foreseen. This being the case, every moment of creation occurs inevitably as God foreknew it would when he set things in motion by creating the world. Every sin occurs inevitably. Every human choice must go the way God has foreseen; it cannot go any other way, since God cannot be wrong. So the principle of alternate possibility, which is frequently taken by Arminians as requisite to libertarian freedom, is plainly false.

Lastly, God, from eternity, (3) upholds creation by the word of his power. Arminians dispute the Calvinistic view that God must meticulously cause each moment of creation (remembering, of course, that this is a sui generis, existential causation). But they agree that he must at least be permitting each moment to occur, for even they will not go so far as to say that things can occur without God’s ‘passive’ involvement.

What’s the difference?

The two views both require at least the following prior action on God’s part before any event in creation can occur—human choices included:

  1. decretive plan → creation → active conservation
  2. permissive plan → creation → passive conservation

And, following this prior action, any given event must take place inevitably. In Calvinism, God’s decree and active causation of W1 (this-world-and-no-other) make any human choice inevitable. And in Arminianism, God’s permission and initial instantiation of W1 also render the outcome of any human choice inevitable. Thus, in terms of theistic determinism, the only functional difference between Calvinism and Arminianism is that Calvinism openly admits its commitment to determinism, while Arminianism openly denies it while inconsistently being committed to it anyway.

Conclusion: if determinism makes God the “author of sin”, then both Calvinism and Arminianism make God the author sin. Arminians may now kindly refrain from leveling this objection against Calvinists any more.

25 comments

  1. Barry Wallace

    Wow. I was a little surprised to see you pop up in Google Reader…thought you’d vanished from the face of the earth. Welcome back.

  2. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Thanks. My theological activities have been reduced to guerrilla commenting on other people’s blogs lately, as I’ve been working on starting a freelance design company. The extra workload on top of my existing full-time job and familial obligations makes it hard to find time to post here.

  3. wrf3

    Arminians object to determinism because it makes God the “author of sin”

    So what? It is not evil for God to create evil.

  4. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    I agree; but that is the precise point of contention with Arminians, so we can’t merely assume it in an argument with them. Hence, it’s useful to offer the sort of reasoning I give above, showing that Arminianism also makes God the author of sin.

  5. Lee Shelton

    Excellent points. I think this deterministic dilemma may explain why some Arminians go so far as to embrace open theism. The reasoning might be that if God cannot know the future, then he cannot be blamed for what happens.

  6. Victor Reppert

    If we go by a Molinist picture, then there are facts about foreseen human free choice that delimit the possible range of what God can do. So, even though God knows what is going to happen, there are a number of possible world-scenarios that are ruled out. If God wants to create the world in such a way that everyone is saved, this may turn out to be impossible, so long as sin has to be repented and the free act of repentance cannot be guaranteed by the creator.

    And I take it you have some reason for ruling open theism out from the beginning, after helping yourself to the arguments used by open theism.

  7. Mark Lamprecht

    I don’t understand why the Molinist can posit so many possible worlds except the one where all are saved.

    DBT, the copywriting site looks good and it sounds interesting.

  8. Paul

    Notice how Victor Reppert never takes an actual position. He simply offers a way around one objection while offering a contradictory way around another. His counters are frequently mutally exclusive with each other and so he can’t use them all the defeat the *cululative* case for Calvinism. Thus he has yet to refute Calvinism; besides offering a philosophically rigorous argument against it.

    For example, Victor prizes PAP and despises Frankfurt Counter Examples (FSCs). He won’t let us use them in response to his objections. However, it is well known that Molinism makes use of FSCs since that’s the best way to get around the deterministic implications of Molinism. So, Craig and Bergmann, for instance, employ FSCs to defend their Molinism. Victor also appeals to Hasker to argue for free will and against Calvinism. But Hasker’s conceptions of free will rule out Molinism. One might also wonder how Victor would respond to Dean Zimmerman’s massive critique of Molinism? http://fas-philosophy.rutgers.edu/zimmerman/Anti-Molinist-Arg-Jan-25.pdf

    It also shouldn’t be the cause for confusion how Bnonn can reject Open Theism while using some of their arguments. First, Open Theism doesn’t own the arguments showing the incompatibility between libertarian freedom and meticulous foreknowledge. Second, it’s probably rather like how Victor Reppert can use the arguments of some physicalists, or some like Searle, or some property dualists, and yet reject those views.

    I should add that Victor has yet to show how his version of god escapes the same conclusion he draws about the Calvinist God. Victor says that we cannot call what God does ‘good’ if it is called evil for a man to do it. That’s Victor’s premise. However, Victor presumably thinks that someone, S, would be immoral if S knew that S’s neighbor, S*, would kill his wife at time t unless S intervened to stop S* and S had the power to stop S*. If S refrained from stopping the murder, S would be morally responsible. However, God is in this position all the time and I isn’t considered immoral. Victor has zero cogent arguments against Calvinism other than to offer pre-argumentative intuitions that he cannot (as of yet) argue for in a philosophcially rigorous way.

  9. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Victor—

    If we go by a Molinist picture, then there are facts about foreseen human free choice that delimit the possible range of what God can do. So, even though God knows what is going to happen, there are a number of possible world-scenarios that are ruled out. If God wants to create the world in such a way that everyone is saved, this may turn out to be impossible, so long as sin has to be repented and the free act of repentance cannot be guaranteed by the creator.

    As you well know, Steve Hays has already refuted this ad hoc restriction.

    And I take it you have some reason for ruling open theism out from the beginning, after helping yourself to the arguments used by open theism.

    Open theism is not a Christian theology. It is a libertarian theistic theology based on Christianity, which came about as a result of prioritizing libertarian action theory over the Bible’s teaching once it was realized that libertarianism cannot be harmonized with Christianity. Something you have demonstrated a great deal of sympathy for yourself—which is why few Christians who’ve interacted with you take your profession of faith seriously any more.

  10. Victor Reppert

    Yes, of course, you can use someone’s arguments and reject their conclusions. That was not my point, of course. What I objected to was accepting a number of arguments that are used and developed by open theists like William Hasker against conservative versions of Arminianism without so much as a pass at criticizing the view that Hasker uses them to defend. And just saying “well, open theists aren’t real Christians” is something that is going to persuade only people committed in advance to a tendentious view of who real Christians are.

    I don’t know of anybody besides yourself who has straightforwardly denied that I am a Christian. Steve Hays has said some pretty harsh things about me, but has not said point blank that I am not a Christian. Neither has Paul Manata. And certainly the Arminians who post at my site don’t raise the questions about my profession of faith.

    Judging the faith of others is dangerous business. I think there are biblical injunctions not to do it. I know plenty of people who are very sincere in their commitment to God, trust Christ alone for their salvation, are profoundly dedicated to Christ and his kingdom, who don’t pass your orthodoxy tests. C. S. Lewis, whom I did not know personally of course since he was dead before I was ten, would not pass your inerrancy test, for example. I sometimes wonder if you think an Arminian can be saved.

    Would you agree with this guy on Lewis? Because that is where your position leads.

    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=103

    Simply saying that someone isn’t Christian is not a substitute for refuting their position. Why is open theism false?

  11. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    What I objected to was accepting a number of arguments that are used and developed by open theists like William Hasker against conservative versions of Arminianism without so much as a pass at criticizing the view that Hasker uses them to defend.

    Well, you’re entitled to your objection—but since open theism wasn’t under discussion, the history of the arguments just seemed irrelevant. If we felt obliged to tip our hats every time we used an argument or idea, and offer a brief commentary on their origins and other uses, we’d never say anything.

    And just saying “well, open theists aren’t real Christians” is something that is going to persuade only people committed in advance to a tendentious view of who real Christians are.

    Again, open theism isn’t under discussion, so I feel no obligation to offer more than a passing remark about its status as a Christian theology. I’ve defended my view on it in the past—as a search of my blog will demonstrate. It’s also ironically tendentious of you to claim that my view of who Christians are is tendentious.

    I don’t know of anybody besides yourself who has straightforwardly denied that I am a Christian.

    I don’t recall straightforwardly denying that you’re a Christian. I’ve certainly straightforwardly stated that I really doubt it. Given everything you’ve said and argued, I’d describe you frankly as a humanist with Christian pretentious. That said, I don’t know the heart. All I can say is that your expressed views make a mockery of your expressed faith—thus it’s extremely hard to take your profession seriously.

    Steve Hays has said some pretty harsh things about me, but has not said point blank that I am not a Christian. Neither has Paul Manata.

    Perhaps they are better men than I.

    And certainly the Arminians who post at my site don’t raise the questions about my profession of faith.

    Well, maybe you haven’t noticed, Victor, but the Arminians who post on your site are not exactly top quality scholars. They are basically trolls who use your blog as a launchpad for their anti-Calvinist rants. They’re using you. They don’t care about your status as a Christian. They just care about ragging on their pet hate: the doctrines of grace. Your blog lends them a convenient aura of respectability, and is unmoderated.

    I sometimes wonder if you think an Arminian can be saved.

    I sometimes wonder the same thing. The more I interact with Arminians, the more my doubts grow. But with God, anything is possible.

    Would you agree with this guy on Lewis? Because that is where your position leads. http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=103

    John Robbins was a bit of a nutjob. I wouldn’t say I agree with him. I’d say that I can see where he’s coming from.

    Simply saying that someone isn’t Christian is not a substitute for refuting their position. Why is open theism false?

    Since that’s totally off topic, and since I’ve covered it here before, I’d invite you to let your fingers do the walking.

  12. Matt Flannagan

    Bnonn

    A couple of points;
    First, you define theistic determinism as

    “TD: theistic determinism is true if, and only if, for an agent (S) choosing whether to act (A) at time t, the outcome A or ¬A is actualized inevitably because of a prior action on the part of God.”

    And then state

    “It seems to me that any definition which tries to impose a stronger element of determination becomes a caricature of the Reformed position. For instance, there is nothing about determination, per se, which requires a specific theory of causation with regard to what the “prior action of God” is.”

    This seems to make theistic determinism compatible with middle knowledge views. Defenders of middle knowledge views for example would agree with TD, they simply utilise a concept of weak actualisation which does not involve efficient causation of a persons choices. But that seems allowed by your position. The difference seems to be whether one adopts a libertarian or compatibilist view of freedom and ones opinion as to which is consistent with God’s foreknowledge. Not the view of providence itself.

    The problem is that compatiblism usually is defined in terms of some form of efficient material causation. Frankfurt counter examples for example involve some form of psychological population where by ones beliefs and desires cause the action. But once this seems to narrow the Calvinist position down to something stronger.

    Second, it couldn’t it be argued that the “authorship of sin” issue depends on the kind of causation envisaged. Take a well known example, a person tells me he will kill himself if I don’t rape his wife. I refuse, he kills himself. In this situation I knew that my refusal to rape would result in him killing himself. On the other hand if I manipulated his desires so as to ensure he killed himself I would be. Hence, what one adds over and above existential freedom seems to be important.

  13. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Hey Matt—thanks for your comment.

    This seems to make theistic determinism compatible with middle knowledge views.

    Heh, I’d phrase it differently. I’d say that Molinism logically entails theistic determinism.

    The difference seems to be whether one adopts a libertarian or compatibilist view of freedom and ones opinion as to which is consistent with God’s foreknowledge

    It’s not entirely clear to me that the Molinist position is more libertarian than compatibilist. Aren’t Molinists committed to acknowledging that freedom does not entail the possibility of doing otherwise? Presumably they still think that this is compatible with indeterminism, but I’m at a loss as to how. Molinism seems to want to have its cake and eat it too. As I said, determinism per se doesn’t seem to commit you to any given theory of causation; but Molinism certainly does seem to commit you to determinism. But maybe I’ve missed something.

    The problem is that compatiblism usually is defined in terms of some form of efficient material causation. Frankfurt counter examples for example involve some form of psychological population where by ones beliefs and desires cause the action. But once this seems to narrow the Calvinist position down to something stronger.

    Well, I’ve admittedly done less reading than I’d like in this area, but I think that compatibilism is in a somewhat shoddy state in Reformed Christianity. As my friend Paul Manata likes to comment, compatibilists seem to have gotten stuck at Edwards. And while Edwards was very good in his day, things have moved on. Defining freedom purely in terms of strongest desire is problematic. Sometimes we seem to choose contrary to our strongest desire; so if we then say, “Well, what we chose actually was our strongest desire,” we seem to be ultimately saying very little at all. Our definition becomes very uninteresting. There is also the problem of holding insane or otherwise psychologically compromised people responsible for their actions. Under a classical compatibilist view, where freedom is merely acting on desire, there isn’t any clear reason for denying the moral responsibility of such people. That also seems problematic. So, while I’m a compatibilist in the sense that I affirm the consistency between theistic determination and human freedom, I’m not a Compatibilist with a capital C.

    Second, it couldn’t it be argued that the “authorship of sin” issue depends on the kind of causation envisaged. Take a well known example, a person tells me he will kill himself if I don’t rape his wife. I refuse, he kills himself. In this situation I knew that my refusal to rape would result in him killing himself.

    I’m not sure how you’d argue that with regard to any view which comes under my definition of theistic determinism. The kind of second-level causation in effect just doesn’t seem relevant given the ultimate action of God in instantiating this world. An analogy isn’t an argument; particularly since it is obviously not very analogous. You didn’t create a world in which there is a suicidal rape-voyeur fetishist. You didn’t create the fellow himself. You didn’t determine definitely and certainly that he would kill himself. You just happened to be there, and what he did was entirely his own doing, apart from any action of yours. But even under a weak actualization view, God instantiates this world, and no other. He determines from eternity what will happen, in every detail. So it doesn’t seem to me that you can merely dismiss the “author of sin” charge on grounds of a causal technicality. It’s the determinism itself which is at issue.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

  14. Victor Reppert

    Then, how would you respond to this argument?

    1. Christian theism is true.
    2. If Christian theism is true, then God is not the author of sin.
    3.If Christian theism is true, then either Calvinism, Classical Arminianism, or Open Theism is true.
    4. If Calvinism is true, the God is the author of sin.
    5. If Classical Arminianism is true, then God is the author of sin.
    6. Therefore, open theism is true.

  15. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Surely you know by now that I would reject premise (2) as vague and emotive.

  16. Brandon Griffin

    Along the same line of thought, Arminians will often accuse me of “praying against God’s will” for someone he has decided before the foundation of the world not to save. Applying the same logic to their system, Arminians fail to realize they are guilty of the very same thing. If God looks down through the corridors of time to see whether or not “Bob” is going to believe, and Bob is not going to believe and God creates him anyway, his destiny is already sealed. So for an Arminian to pray for Bob would be no different than a Calvinist praying for Bob. The only difference is in Calvinistic theology God actually has the ability to save a man, while in Arminian theology all God can do is merely woo.

  17. Skarlet

    Interesting article. I did have a couple thoughts about it.

    Firstly, you say that
    “theistic determinism is true if… the outcome A or ¬A is actualized inevitably BECAUSE of a prior action on the part of God.”

    Then you add that
    “there is nothing about determination, per se, which requires a specific theory of CAUSATION with regard to what the “prior action of God” is. ”

    Finally, after explaining your implausible theory of causality, you amend that
    “It bears repeating that this is a unique kind of CAUSATION entirely unlike any other—a point sadly lost on Arminians, who appear to take a perverse delight in equivocating between it and other kinds of causation,”

    I’d like to take a moment to quote Chesterton, when he responds to the idea that “all chairs are quite different” by saying “if all chairs are quite different, you could not call them all ‘chairs’!” One could not call a pen simply a different kind of chair, for instance, because it lacks the basic similarities and intrinsic qualities of a chair. If you want to use the term “because” or “causality” it must not be a type of “causality” completely unlike any other, because if it lacks the intrinsic qualities of causality, it is not a “different kind” of causality, but is not causality at all!

    Another thing I would like to put forward is the idea that the difference between decreeing and allowing is that in decreeing, the action (A) takes place BECAUSE of the decree, whereas in allowing, the action (A) takes place BECAUSE of the person’s choice. That is not mere semantics, but an essential part of assigning responsibility.

    Finally, God did initiate this world and no other, but that in and of itself does not prove that He decreed everything that was to happen. It is true that” if only” God did not make this world, we would not have sinned. However, His making of the world did not cause us to sin. Similarly, it is true that “if only” you had not written this blog, I would not have commented – however, your writing of the blog did not cause or determine that I would comment. I determined that I would comment. You equivocate creating the world and decreeing everything that would take place due to the “if only” fallacy. Without that fallacy [that “if only” God had created another universe, things would have happened differently, therefore God by creating this one caused everything to happen the way it did ] can you show logically that God decreed, determined, or otherwise caused every action of man?

  18. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Hi Skarlet. I don’t see that Chesterton’s objection, even if it succeeds, succeeds against my view. I am not taking a position so extreme that God’s causation cannot even be thought of as causation. I’m merely pointing out the distinction between existential causation and natural causation. Presumably Chesterton himself would have granted that distinction, since presumably Chesterton did not think that God’s creation of the universe was an instance of natural causation.

    Another thing I would like to put forward is the idea that the difference between decreeing and allowing is that in decreeing, the action (A) takes place BECAUSE of the decree, whereas in allowing, the action (A) takes place BECAUSE of the person’s choice. That is not mere semantics, but an essential part of assigning responsibility.

    Well, actually in both instances there are at least two necessary conditions to A obtaining: God’s choice, and our choice. You’re making out as if, under a decretive view, the decree is a sufficient condition for A; while under a permissive view, the person’s choice is a sufficient condition for A. But that isn’t the case. As I said in the article, there is no meaningful distinction between the views. Under both, the action of God is a necessary condition for A, and the action of the person is a necessary condition for A.

    However, His making of the world did not cause us to sin.

    Where did I suggest that it did? How many times do I have to repeat that causation is not the issue here? What is at issue is determination. By creating this world, God determined that we would sin. I explicitly and repeatedly drew a distinction between determination and causation, so I’m not sure why you would even bring this up.

  19. Dimaz

    Hey Derek,I first off have to say I completely agree with all you say in this post, and toatlly understand where you’re coming from. At the same time, how does one explain to a Calvinist that Arminianism doesn’t equal pelagianism? You might say you aren’t smarter than your friend’s dad, but could he not possibly substitute some other adjective, like faith-filled , or whatever it is that’s part of your nature/character that means you came to Christ and your friend’s dad didn’t.If I were to put myself in the Calvinist’s shoes for a moment, I see there being two possibilities:1.) There is something to your nature/character that allowed you to come to faith in Christ that your friend’s dad didn’t. This means that the ultimate deciding factor about getting into heaven is your character, rather than God’s grace, thus, it is somehow works-based (i.e., you did the work of making the smarter decision, or making the more faith-filled response to God, etc.)2.) Your decision to come to faith did not come from your nature/character, and therefore it either came ex nihilo, or from God, or randomly. If this is true, then you being saved instead of your friend’s dad is just as arbitrary (or possibly more arbitrary) than the Calvinist view.So to take your friend’s comment charitably (and I admit, perhaps more charitably than it deserves), I can still see his point, and even as a non-Calvinist, I’m not 100% sure how to respond to this. What are your thoughts?Jamesb4s last [type] ..

  20. Seth

    Well written post. BTW I found this blog from Wintery Knight’s recent post on Jerry Walls lecture on Calvinism.

    It seems that reformed theology, molinism, and arminianism all have a theory on predestination but only two try to wiggle out of it or put another way try to avoid predestination. Maybe some would disagree with that, some might say that one of the three is determinism which makes God a moral monster or something like that and makes him the author of sin; or at least makes his damning sentence on mankind unjustified. I think all of the mentioned have some form of determinism regardless of whether human beings have libertarian free will.

    Reformed theology seems to say that God is sovereign, makes his plan and that man is morally responsible. God elects some to salvation and passes over the rest.

    Arminianism seems to say that God isn’t fully sovereign because he looks down the corridors of time then makes a plan and that man is morally responsible. God elects some to salvation based on a future response made by mankind and passes over the rest.

    Molinism seems to say that God is sovereign, makes his plan based on all of the possible scenarios that could happen in creation then sovereignly actualizes a world that has an optimal balance between saved and unsaved. Man is morally responsible. God elects a world instead of men.

    In all of these it seems to me that a determining factor is involved: God. God still makes a choice to actualize something, right? Is that not determinism? Is that a problem? Reformed theology isn’t alone in having “determinism” problems.
    http://reformedseth.blogspot.com/2011/12/does-calvinism-produce-god-who-is-moral.html

  21. sheryl rydgren

    http://www.vincentcheung.com/books/The%20Author%20of%20Sin%20(2014).pdf
    Have you read this? If so, what do you think?

  22. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Seth:

    I think all of the mentioned have some form of determinism regardless of whether human beings have libertarian free will.

    Agreed. As I have argued here, and as James Anderson observes also, all three theological traditions are committed to some form of divine determinism.

    Sheryl:

    Have you read this? If so, what do you think?

    I have read it—Cheung was one of the first Christian theologians I happened to read when I was converted. I think he is basically right in his conclusions here. I especially appreciate that he starts by pointing out how foolish it is to let people browbeat us with a metaphor, as if it equates to an argument—rather than making them do the legwork of showing what they mean by “author of sin”, and how that entails the falsehood of our theology. I think the term “author of sin” is an example of Orwellian use of language on the part of some Christians; it is a lazy shortcut to not having to deal with a position they don’t like, just like when leftists call someone a homophobe because they have a principled objection to homosexual behavior; or when pro-abortionists call me a misogynist. I think Christians should be more clear-headed than to be cowed by a nasty-sounding term.

    That said, I think Cheung is overconfident. He talks dismissively of how there is no established connection between culpability and freedom. Depending on what he means by freedom, that is arguably true; but I doubt he is familiar enough with the literature in action theory to really interact thoughtfully with the various positions if he had to. His braggadocio was helpful to me as a young Christian because it made me more confident in turn, but reading it now I just find it tiresome. Cheung has his place, but in my opinion it isn’t at the sophisticated end of the reading spectrum.

  23. Lil' Sheep

    I realize that I’m late, but I would just like to say that I think the way you presented the first of God’s actions under Calvinism sounds a bit Molonistic. The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith says that “God’s decree is not based upon His foreknowledge that, under certain conditions, certain happenings will take place, but is independent of all such foreknowledge.” So I think that it should be worded differently.

  24. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    I think you’re confusing possible worlds semantics with Molinism. The fact that Molinists are the ones who most often use those semantics doesn’t imply that using them is Molinistic. When I say that God surveys all the possible worlds he could create, I don’t mean that he surveys all the possible libertarianly free choices that people could make and decides which set to instantiate. I mean that he surveys all the possible worlds he could make, including the determined free actions of moral agents in those worlds, and then chooses to instantiate one of those worlds.

    I am no friend to Molinism. Indeed, I am tempted to rant just saying that! See http://bnonn.com/thorny-problems-with-molinism-1/

  25. Lil' Sheep

    I believe I understand now. Thanks for clarifying.

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