Determinism and Skepticism

It is sometimes stated that Determinism entails skepticism. That is presented by certain libertarians to undermine one’s confidence in Calvinism. It seems that they have a problem with accidental beliefs. Here was the response of Hays to Spencer Toy on this problem:

Spencer Toy said:
As William Lane Craig has stated, once a person embraces determinism of any sort a strange vertigo sets in. One very well may believe true things, but only because they’ve already been determined to believe those things just as much as their opponents have been determined to believe false things. In such a system, nothing can be rationally affirmed.

Steve Hays responded:
That’s a popular philosophical blunder. Determinism doesn’t make beliefs ipso facto irrational. If beliefs are determined by an unreliable belief-forming process, that would make them irrational–but if beliefs are determined by a reliable belief-forming process, that would make them rational. Determinism alone is neutral on the rationality of beliefs. Even an eminent freewill theist like Swinburne concedes that fact:

It has been argued that any argument for determinism would be self-defeating. For suppose a scientist discovers an apparently cogent argument for determinism. He will conclude that he has been caused to believe that his argument is cogent. But when we discover of people that they are caused to hold beliefs—e.g. as a result of the way they were educated, or of subjection to drugs—we do not regard them as having a rationally justified belief. To be rational in adopting a belief we have to do so freely, i.e. uncaused, the argument goes. So no one can ever be justified in believing determinism to be true. For one who believes determinism to be true must believe his belief to be caused and so unjustified. (There is a statement of this argument, subsequently retracted, by J. B. S. Haldane in his Possible Worlds, Chatto and Windus, London, 1930, p. 209. For references to other statements of it, including one by Epicurus, and discussion thereof, see K. R. Popper and J. C. Eccles, The Self and its Brain, Springer, New York, 1977, pp. 75 ff.) This argument has, I believe, no force at all. The mere fact that our beliefs are caused is no grounds for holding them unjustified. Exactly the reverse. I argued in Chapter 7 [“Beliefs”] that to the extent that we regarded them as uncaused or self-chosen, we could not regard our beliefs as moulded by the facts and so likely to be true. The point is rather that if we see some belief to be caused by a totally irrelevant factor (e.g. a belief that I now am being persecuted being caused by something irrelevant in my upbringing) then we rightly regard it as unjustified. But a belief that determinism is true could be both caused and justified, if caused by relevant factors, e.g. hearing relevant arguments. Richard Swinburne, The Evolution of the Soul (revised edition) (OUP, 1997), p. 233, fn. 2.

Necessitarian discusses Calvinism

In this discussion, our friend Necessitarian discusses Libertarian Freewill, Molinism, and objections presented by Leighton Flowers. Enjoy the conversation:
Part 2 :

Part 1 :

Ye are gods

I wasn’t going to comment on the Leighton Flowers free will debate but I didn’t expect him to say the things he did. Overall the debate was a train wreck; both sides were trying to preach rather than debate. I wanted, however, to comment on two things I noticed in the debate.

First, Dr. Flowers said the following in his closing statements:

We say people make determinations in the same mysterious way God chose to create “ex nihlio [sic]”: he created something from nothing. We can’t explain exactly how he does that; nobody can explain how God creates something from nothing. But so, too, we are given, by God, the ability to create our own choices. God is creative and we are made in his image as creative beings and therefore we’re given a level of creative ability: the ability to make choices. So the mystery of libertarian freedom is similar to the mystery of creation itself. God created something from nothing. In a similar way, he has given us the ability to create something from nothing: namely, our desires and our choices.

This is problematic because:

i) The Bible teaches that God is the creator of all things. That is a specific function and role for God alone (Nehemiah 9:6, Psalm 96:5, Isaiah 45:18, John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:16, Revelation 5:13). In Leighton’s view, we share in that function. This view is similar to the Word of Faith movement in which we are a “little God”.

ii) Leighton misunderstands what creation ex nihilo is supposed to imply. The point of creation ex nihilo is to imply that nothing externally constrains God to create and that he doesn’t create from preexisting material. Leighton mistakes this for the libertarian notion that we act independently of intentionality, desires, or any other causal or explanatory notion. However, the analogy cuts both ways: if we, like God, can create ex nihilo and, in doing so, can choose contrary to our nature, then God must be able to act contrary to his nature. That could mean that God commands the good, not because of his nature, but by chance.

Dr. Flowers should abandon the creation ex nihilo analogy because of its consequences. Leighton, because he endorses a view of the will that is purely uncaused, reduces a man’s actions to the byproducts of chance and randomness. He reduces the will to mere schizophrenic activity, acting independently of one’s desires, intentions, neurology, etc. Why should a person be responsible for that?

iii) If a man chooses to create a choice, he requires a prior creative act (choosing to choose). If he seeks to influence the causes of his future choices, he still does not escape choosing to choose. Therefore, he creates an infinite regress of choices and creative acts. Leighton must therefore reject his view of free will, or allow for a man to exist for an infinite amount of time. He would have creative agents that have existed for an infinite amount of time with the ability to bring things into existence.

I find it theologically incoherent to make man a se and a creator. Draw your own conclusions.

The second thing I want to comment on in the debate: Leighton stated that even if God determines one event, that doesn’t prove he has necessarily determined all events. The flaw in this reasoning is that the Bible doesn’t state God only (or merely) determines one event. In Genesis 50:20, the acts that Joseph’s brothers meant for evil were a one-time event, but Joseph says God meant them for good “to bring about this present result”, which included events that happened between their evil acts and “this present result”. Leighton seems to ignore the fact that events do not occur in a vacuum, but in a timeline. There is not a single unique event where God “poked” the timeline and made everything else fall into place. Temporally, some events are dependent upon other events much like how a chapter in a novel plays a part in the chapter that follows. Leighton’s view is analogous to saying God determined the shooting of Franz Ferdinand and that the allies would win WW2 without regard for any of the intermediary events.

Richard Pritchett seemed to espouse the privation theory of evil. I don’t think that is an answer to the issue of evil. I discussed that here.

Multi-Valued Logic, Liar Paradox and Presuppositional Apologetics


It is the 500th anniversary of the day Martin Luther is credited with accidentally starting the Reformation by producing his 95 theses.


Reformation 500 Celebration

Alpha and Omega Ministries:

The Reformation Today, and Then

The Lollards

More Reformation history

Reformation Conference:

Dr. Michael Kruger: Sola Scriptura: The Foundation for the Reformation, the Church, and All of Life

Kevin DeYoung: Sola Fide: Why the World Desperately Wants the Doctrine of Justification (But Doesn’t Realize It Yet)

Dr. James Anderson: Sola Gratia: The Glorious Offense of God’s Gospel Grace

Blair Smith: Solus Christus: Against the Idol Making Factory

Dr. Derek Thomas: Soli Deo Gloria: Worshiping the God Who is Worthy