November 24, 2020

The Council

Proclaiming the truth to the world.


I wish to collect the ideas of John Cranman and the critiques of him that I find most successful. We have had some extensive dialogue with him and his friend and I think we can codify some of these refutations.

1. Causation implies moral responsibility. This is to say that if one is the cause of something, then they must be morally responsible in some way. 

There are problems with this line of thinking. Firstly, it doesn’t seem to be a true principle. For example, if you were to cause your children to exists, then you are the indirect cause of their choices. It would be hard to find someone that thinks you are morally responsible for every action of your children. This is simply an attempt not to admit the obvious truth that causation isn’t sufficient to discern whether one was responsible or not.  You could be drugged and raise quite a bit of havoc in a small town, but it may follow that you weren’t responsible because you were drugged. In Cranman’s view, it would entail that the agent is completely guilty.

Secondly, if he modifies his position to state that it is under certain circumstances in which one causes something, then the agent is morally culpable this would allow wiggle room for positions of Reformed theology and undermine his entire motivation for taking such a position.

Thirdly, even on his own position, God causes evil:

“If A did not obtain, then B would not have obtain”.

“If God had not created the world, then the evils of history would not have obtained”

This view is the counterfactual theory of causation. It would mean on John’s view that God is culpable for every evil deed to ever happen.

2. Humans create facts about their choices.

This seems to mean a bit odd. Humans don’t create anything, they usually make things. Here they think the human has the ability from nothing to bring facts into being. This seems to be a radical position. Firstly, the Bible attributes and distinguishes God only with this ability:

Secondly, they try to appeal to a form of conceptualism to get around the issue. “Truths don’t self-exist. Propositions don’t exist in themselves. They don’t even exist in the same sense as say, a chair. They exist only as properties of beliefs, i.e., beliefs.” This would entail polytheism. You have thoughts that exist apart from God and apart from anything he has created. This just implies another transcendent mind (or minds). The alternative is an antirealist or platonist scheme. As Jimmy stated:

P1. For any truth of LFW choice x, God is a sufficient truthmaker of x or not. P2. If so, compatibilism.
P3. If not, there exist non-God self-existent truthmakers.
P4. Non-God self-existent truthmakers are deities or Platonic objects.
C: If God is not a sufficient truthmaker of x, polytheism or Platonism.

I wish to also point out that there cannot be two things that possess aseity. The idea that something has aseity means that it is the ultimate grounding of reality. If something else was a se, it would imply a more ultimate reality that explains both of them and how they relate.

Thirdly, it still seems to conflict with the idea that God possesses aseity. God’s knowledge of these truths doesn’t derive from himself, but rather from the choice of the creature at some particular time. This just entails God doesn’t know the future choices of men, because the truths regarding human choices don’t exist till the agents make the choice.

3. Human choices are uncaused.

This is to say that human choices have no explanation. The problem is that human choices on this scheme are they seem irrational. If no explanation exists for a choice, then it seems to randomly occur. The choices of humans reduced to the whims of chance. He may try to state that the agents cause his choices. This also means that the original thesis has changed. The agents are, in fact, something and the choice is caused. That almost sounds convincing, but the problem is what that means? Does it mean those human choices are the result of the agent’s volition? That is to say, do humans choices result from something in the agents that is volitional? If so, then it has the problem of reducing to an infinite regress of choices. If the agent doesn’t choose the cause of his choices, then they are caused by something outside the agent’s control.

4. There are many events in the course of human history that weren’t intended to occur.

This is rather a strange position that he is forced to believe because he takes Jeremiah 19:5 (and 32:35) to be a defeater for Calvinism.

and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter My mind

There are problems with Cranman’s appeal. The idea this has never even crossed God’s mind in his interpretation shows too much. It shows God wasn’t even aware it was even a possibility. How does he square the surprised God with omniscience?

If God is also omniscient, then he knows when he created this world what creatures would do. So, everyone agrees God does not participate nor command child sacrifice. That doesn’t mean he never intended(i.e., plan) it to occur.

They would contest my argument by stating that God doesn’t intend the sinful events that occur. He merely intends to allow these evil events to occur. That is to say, to intend to allow an event to occur is different than intending that event.

This seems rather a pointless distinction. Suppose for example you were a terrorist apart of a sleeper cell in your city. You and your group prepare an attack on a sporting event. You end up not going through with it, but do nothing to stop it and merely intend to let it happen. How is that significantly different than intending the terrorist event itself?

Secondly, often while discussing the problem of evil we mention the fact that evil is not without a purpose, but rather God has intended these evils to occur with a good to arise out of the evil. On this view, God never intended these things to occur, but rather have simply allowed them to occur. That is like having a map with only the place of departure and the destination. This is just to say, if God has morally sufficient reasons for event to occur, then he must have them prior to the event. God couldn’t retroactively have the reason after the fact. That would entail Divine accidents are possible and the only fit on a scheme where God does intend human history to occur in a certain way. That is known as Open Theism.

Thirdly, Chris Matthew points out that there is a distinction between an intention and a desire. He states “Intention is purely volitional, whereas desire is indicative of approbation or disapprobation.”
Of course, this should be understood through a rigid Creator/creature distinction. God isn’t in the same epistemic and providential circumstances humans(such as the terrorist) are in. His intentions aren’t human intentions.

Fourthly, certain arguments can be formulated to show God does intend the entire history of the world.

(1) God knows all that will come to pass
(2) God either intends for them to pass or resists them
(3) God cannot resist what he himself creates and permits
(4) Therefore, he intends what he knows.

Famous formulations of the problem of evil pick up on this issue: When Evil occurs was God willing to stop it or unable? If he was unwilling, then he intended it to occur. If he was willing, then he must have been unable and therefore not omnipotent. So, we end up stating that God intended these evil things for good(morally sufficient purpose).