Michael Horton’s Systematic Theology: Initial Thoughts, Pt. 2

Posted by David Gadbois

As one considers where Horton’s The Christian Faith falls in relation to other systematic theologies, one likely thinks of the primary and secondary intended audiences of the work.  Is it meant to address academics, seminary professors and students, approaching the traditional topics of systematic theology at the level of a theological journal such as the Westminster Theological Journal, JETS, and others?  Or is it more accessible in its approach, akin to the very basic yet helpful, clear, non-technical works of populizers such as R.C. Sproul, Packer, or indeed some of Horton’s own previous works?  Is it more useful for pastors and elders, informed laymen in the pew, those new to the Christian faith, those considering the Christian faith, or our relatively young covenant children?  The reality is that Horton had the challenging task of crafting his systematic theology so that all of these categories of people could find it useful.  The matter is one of emphasis when one considers his work in relation to other systematic theologies.  The center of the crosshairs, however, would probably be pointed at the first-year seminary student, if I had to make a guess.  This is not surprising, considering that this is the same space that most of the classic systematic theologies inhabit.  But Horton is using a shotgun, not a sniper’s rifle.  So I doubt that any of this work would go over the head of a normal high school-aged student.  It does not read like a collection of journal articles (for that, see Horton’s 4-volume dogmatics), and his writing is not bogged down by unexplained technical theological jargon.  On the other hand, it is hard to imagine that pastors and even seminary professors wouldn’t regularly turn to this work regularly for insights and fresh, clear explanations of the topics he covers.  Those in the theological-wonk layman category (as I count myself) certainly won’t be disappointed, either.

I still remember vividly being in between my third and fourth year of college as an aerospace engineering major and stumbling across Berkhof’s ST while on summer project with (ironically) Campus Crusade for Christ, in the small library of the project house in Ocean City, NJ.  Having grown up in broadly-evangelical and baptistic churches, and without the benefit of having the categories instilled by any sort of catechism training, Berkhof’s work was a revelation to me.  It seemed that light bulbs went off on every page that I read.  I was amazed by how Berkhof effortlessly brought together all of the relevant biblical passages on a given topic and was able to harmonize those verses while defining and defending orthodox doctrine.  The structure of the topics was so clear, orderly, and comprehensive; the doctrines and terms were so rigorously and carefully defined.  I remember thinking “this is like God and Christianity…for engineers!”  One might say that this was true to a fault.  The old joke is that you can leave Berkhof’s systematic theology out in the rain for two days, bring it inside, and it will still be dry.  It does at time read like a scientific textbook, and his concise style of writing can sometimes be a detriment (although it is sometimes welcome, too).  Horton’s work avoids these deficiencies, as his writing follows a more organic and conversational narrative. So I certainly have no complaint pertaining to his tone and writing style, it is very warm and pastoral.

I think that is fitting, given that any systematic theology that is going to take its place next to the classic works of systematic theology is going to have to be a pastoral and churchly work, not primarily an academic one.  Horton himself conveys this very sense in the subtitle of the work – it is a systematic theology “for Pilgrims On the Way.”  It is not just for pastors or professors on the way.

One also considers how deeply a work of systematic theology is involved with other theological disciplines, such as historical theology, symbolic theology, exegetical theology, biblical theology, and philosophy.  If one considers the task of systematic theology to be primarily in harvesting the insights of exegetical and biblical theology, then one would expect a work like this to focus on primarily using the text of Scripture to establish and defend the doctrines and systematic relations it enumerates.  The exegesis of individual texts, as well as the exposition of the broad themes of Scripture and the unfolding history of redemption must be paramount.  That is because these are the things that are normative to the sola scriptura Christian and to the church.  Historical theology, on the other hand, is only descriptive.  It is often convenient to couch doctrines in a sort of narrative that historical theology provides, as a framing device, but it would be a mistake for a systematic theology text to get too bogged down in historical minutiae when explaining or defending various doctrines.  As for philosophy, theologians have often seen this discipline as the “handmaiden” to theology.  That is, it gives us tools and categories to elucidate and organize revealed truth in the Scriptures.  While one would not expect a systematic theology to talk about philosophy for its own sake, one would expect it to make liberal use of it, where appropriate, in its exposition and defense of various doctrines.  Epistemology can help us talk about the nature of revelation (general and special), ontology can help us understand the Trinity, metaphysics can help us understand the decrees, predestination, secondary causes, and so forth.  As with historical theology, I wouldn’t want an ST to be weighed down too heavily by detailed philosophical discussions.  I think Horton’s work pretty much hits the right balance in employing and addressing these various fields of study.  This might disappoint some church history wonks and philosophy buffs out there.  I know I am probably not as sensitive to these issues as others – perhaps I should be.  But I’m pretty sure most middle-of-the-road readers will be quite satisfied with Horton’s approach.  If I had to venture a criticism (or, perhaps just a preference), I would have liked to have seen Horton dig deeper on the exegetical end in many of his discussions.  I found many of Reymond’s treatments more satisfying in this regard.

In the next post I want to discuss the place of theological creativity in systematic theology, and whether or not Horton’s book offers positive insights and original contributions to modern Reformed theology, that is, it is a work that develops Reformed theology rather than simply summarizes and defends what has preceded it.  Also, I would like to start digging into some of the specific topics covered in Horton’s ST.  Many of the discussions I thought were excellent, others I would have liked to have seen covered in more depth and more forcefully (e.g. the filioque, eternal generation of the Son, analogical knowledge, and others), and there were also topics and issues that I was surprised he omitted.  I also think that the “sparring partners”, the various representatives of divergent theologies or varying opinions within Reformed orthodoxy, Horton chose to interact with in the work will cause a reasonable amount of debate.  He spent time dealing with some figures I couldn’t possibly care less about (Schleiermacher, Bultmann, and Barth), but more helpfully interacted with New Perspectivists (like Wright) while essentially ignoring Shepherdites and Federal Visionists.  What should we make of all this?

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39 Comments

  1. Kenneth Osbourne said,

    June 13, 2011 at 5:19 am

    This doesn’t seem like a very positive review. Gadbois seems to want as great a cushion as possible to soften the negative blow.

  2. David Gadbois said,

    June 13, 2011 at 10:55 am

    Don’t try to read too much between the lines. I want to cover the pluses as well as the minuses of the book, even though there are way more pluses than minuses.

  3. David Gadbois said,

    June 13, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Kevin Davis, I have unapproved your comment. If you want to make the case for the importance of giving liberal and neo-orthodox theologians a “respectful” hearing then you are welcome to do so, on the condition that you extend the same courtesy of a respectful hearing to people at this blog, rather than lobbing an insult directed at me right out of the gate.

    I’ll never quite understand why people think they can be jerks on other people’s blogs, as if their comments can’t be deleted with a few mouse clicks.

  4. Paul M. said,

    June 13, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    As with historical theology, I wouldn’t want an ST to be weighed down too heavily by detailed philosophical discussions. I think Horton’s work pretty much hits the right balance in employing and addressing these various fields of study. This might disappoint some church history wonks and philosophy buffs out there. I know I am probably not as sensitive to these issues as others – perhaps I should be. But I’m pretty sure most middle-of-the-road readers will be quite satisfied with Horton’s approach.

    Hi David,

    So, you asked for some feedback. Okay, let’s take a test case here: man’s freedom and moral responsibility as it relates to God’s determining decrees.

    This is an issue that covers and involves and requires a ton of philosophical—both metaphysical and ethical—muscle to do the heavy lifting required to make the Reformed case a cogent one, one that doesn’t collapse into absurdity or entail falsehoods.

    Moreover, this is THE watershed issue over the plausibility, acceptability, intelligibility of the Reformed issue for non-Reformed. Since Reformed theology demands compatibilism about freedom/responsibility and determinism such that if compatibilism is false then Reformed theology is false, it frankly doesn’t matter much what else Reformed theology teaches. If it’s false here, it’s dead in the water. Moreover, for any other Reformed “distinctive” D, if D is *entailed* by Reformed theology, and Reformed theology is necessarily false because compatibilism is (for all the varied reasons incompatibilists give) necessarily false, then D is false. So, if one thinks that, say, paedobaptism is *entailed* by Reformed theology, then if compatibilism is necessarily false, paedobaptism is (now, I don’t think paedobaptism is entailed by Reformed theology, it’s just an example). However, if some D is not *entailed* by Reformed theology, such that is could be had without it, then there’s no need for Reformed theology to bring this “light” to the Christian peoples. So clearly, this issue of compatibilism is vital.

    Now, if I am a pilgrim, who am I like? Am I like the naive, unarmed, untrained, do-gooder who walks up to the Indian and gets an arrow through the heart; or, am I more like Caine from King Fu, wise, learned, “irenic”, but also prepared to defend what I believe? I’d say the latter. So at a minimum, a modern Reformed ST should prepare its readers for combat with those outside the camp.

    If I’m right, the issue of freedom and responsibility will become more and more prevalent in discussions between Reformed laymen and their laymen Christian neighbors. The “Arminian” philosophers are hitting this area big-time and distilling the complicated arguments for incompatibilism—both theological and philosophical—into bite size pieces for their laymen. A Reformed layman (and even a trained theologian, because as a whole, the Reformed community, layman, pastor, scholar, are woefully unprepared to have this discussion) will try to speak about Reformed theology to his non-Reformed layman neighbor, perhaps try to talk to him about election or predestination, and he’ll be met with some incompatibilist challenge. Asked on what basis God can be good if he determines whatsoever comes to pass, and how man can rightly be held morally responsible for their actions. They’ll say that since Reformed theology entails a falsehood, so whatever is unique or essential to Reformed theology is likewise false.

    Now, as I said, the vast majority of Reformed-minded people just don’t know enough to know how much they don’t know about this topic. And then you get someone who is supposed to “know” about these things, and you read him and think, “Okay, I can deal with questions and challenges to out confessional statements on this matter.” But clearly, to those who even half-way familiar with this issue, Horton’s discussion of the matter is totally underwhelming. He doesn’t seem to show any familiarity with what the real issues and problems people have with the Reformed views on the decree are. The section here didn’t really prepare pilgrims on the way. It was just another example of how out of touch Reformed theologians are with topics that heavily cross-over into philosophy. My “rant” here isn’t over some obscure philosophical point, it’s on a matter that is *vital* to Reformed theology, and one which non-Reformed do and will be hitting. Just as the problem of evil is Christianity’s number one challenge, so is the problem of evil as given in its Reformed form.

    Anyway, I tried to be really brief here and I jumped and brushed over a lot, but it’s just an example of why a modern day ST needs to engage more analytic philosophy—that’s who’s doing the work on metaphysics of freedom. I mean, look at Turretin’s works or other Reformed scholastics and Edwards. They were well-versed in this issue given the knowledge of their day. They clearly made more use of the philosophical work available to them in their day than does Horton. Things have advanced since then, and many of their philosophical answers are in dire need of updating. Why didn’t Horton do that?

    Oh, and one more thing briefly, you say that he struck a good balance for you. But while Horton did engage *continental* philosophers, the interaction with and implementation of the findings, arguments, distinctions, etc., of the *analytic* tradition was basically absent. This brings up the question of why Horton had no problem engaging with *continental* philosophy (so we can’t say that he just wanted to avoid being overly philosophical *per se*) while the avoidance of engagement with analytic philosophy was conspicuous by its absence. One discussion today is why are theologians so leery or hesitant to engage or interact with the analytic tradition (and the knife cuts both ways, with analytics being leery of theology and theologians). This is an interesting discussion, garnering some interesting theories and papers, and I find that Horton’s is an example of this, and maybe there was something more to the absence of the work of analytics than just mundane or harmless absence. Does Horton, like many other theologians, have a problem with the analytic school? Was his ignoring them a statement, whether conscious or subconscious?

    I dunno, these are just some of my brief thoughts, though no doubt need elaboration, but it’s just a blog comment, so . . .

  5. June 14, 2011 at 3:29 am

    David, I can feel your frustration in your last paragraph. The problem in a one-volume ST (no matter how thick it is) – as I know you realize, of course – is that one can’t include everything. I suppose Horton had to include a discussion of Schleiermacher because he’s considered to be more or less foundational for the classic liberal POV, which 20th century conservative Reformed thought reacted against. I think he could have skipped Bultmann, who isn’t nearly as influential now as he was a couple of generations ago. As for Barth, well, he’s still the 800-pound gorilla in the theological room, for better or worse (mostly worse, in my opinion). (I suppose you remember that other old joke: people *say* they read Barth, but they actually read Brunner because life is just too short.)

    Again, I feel your pain (as Bubba used to say) – but one can only do so much when restricting oneself to a single volume.

  6. David Gadbois said,

    June 14, 2011 at 11:40 am

    Richard, I did not imply criticism in mentioning Horton’s interaction with liberals and neo-orthodox. I suppose it is somewhat obligatory for an ST author to deal with them in some fashion. It’s just what you’ve gotta do. I’m just saying that I simply don’t care about them. If the task of systematic theology is to ask “what does the Bible, taken as a whole, teach about X?”, what do they have to offer? The very question to them would be ridiculous, since the Bible for them is not the coherent product of a single divine Author, its a pastiche of various fallible human authors, redactors, and interpolations. The philosophies and hermeneutics driving their theologies are not just hostile to Christianity, but hostile to the very idea of systematic theology.

  7. David Gadbois said,

    June 14, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Paul, thanks for your comments.

    I do agree with you, that if, for instance, compatibalism is false then Reformed theology is false. But the problem is even bigger than that, the problem is that if Reformed theology is false then the Scriptures are false, because the Bible teaches Reformed theology. I think you see what I’m getting at.

    Systematic theology should insist on predestination and the decrees because it can demonstrate that the Bible teaches it. That is why Arminians and other ostensibly Bible-believing folks should believe it. Now it is quite possible that some might be brought to doubt or reject the Bible on the basis of not being able to square their philosophical objections to predestination with the Bible’s teachings on the matter. We should no doubt provide an answer for such a man, but at this point we are really talking more about apologetics, not systematic theology proper.

    That isn’t to say that a systematic theology text can’t engage in apologetics, many STs provide various arguments for God’s existence, and cover various canonical and textual issues relating to the Bible, and so forth. And, yes, many do provide summary answers to philosophical objections to predestination. But you really have to turn to the multi-volume dogmatics texts (Frame’s Doctrine of God comes to mind) for treatments that are in-depth or sophisticated.

  8. Paul M. said,

    June 14, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Hi David,

    You need to thank God for his mercies. I had just finished a fairly lengthy response when my computer froze. I don’t have the stomach to write the entire thing again, I’ll highlight the points I made a much greater length and with arguments:

    1. Since the Bible does in fact teach Reformed theology, then in one sense it’s true that if RT is false then the Scriptures are. However, I can imagine just massively missing the boat and finding out that Jacob Arminius was (mostly) right. Thus it’s possible that the Scriptures could be true and RT false. Of course, it’s epistemically possible I mean, if RT = Scriptures, then in an obvious sense if the former is false the latter is. Also, a lot of this would depend on just what is meant by RT etc., but I take it that this is a tangent.

    2. ST’s put things together in a coherent, logical fashion. They don’t just take some topic T and then simply “list” what the Bible says about T. Most of the scholastic Reformers noted that philosophy and logic helped in this task.

    3. By their very nature, ST’s commit the author to taking stances on several metaphysical, epistemological, ethical (etc) issues that arise from implications of what the author thinks the Bible is saying about T. Older ST writers seemed fairly learned regarding to the philosophical concepts of their day, why can’t modern ones? Moreover, to make my point again, it wasn’t that philosophy *per se* was ignored, it was that *analytic* philosophy was. Why? Anyway, since the topics commit the authors to various philosophical positions, then they should at least be familiar with the philosophical presuppositions they are holding as wel as something about the current state of the debate.

    4. It’s not that Horton said *nothing* about the topic, or that he *didn’t* make use of philosophical concepts, he did. If anything, he simply rested on the old Humean/Edwardsian notion of hypothetical compatibilism, HC. Now, HC may well be true, but you can’t get its truth *from the Bible*. The Bible is underdetermining on the various models of compatibilism. Aside from that, there’s severe problems with HC, and it might very well be false. If so, Horton presented a false theory of compatibilism and didn’t even introduce readers to the field or explain that he was putting for HC but there are other viable options. What happens next is that “pilgrims” go out and try to “defend” RT by appeal to HC. The trained laymen Arminians ind of chuckle and then offer the standard rebuttals. Seems to me if Horton is going to take a stance on a disputed topic like that he should at least say so, not simply throw it out there as if HC is “the” answer to indeterminist objections.

    5. For a 2Ker, Horton should afford more respect to the philosophical arguments against certain views. Supposedly he has great respect for natural law and right reason. Respect for the “two books” of nature. I mean, he’ll let scientific insights partially determine his reading of Genesis. So it seems odd to get all “Godsaiditthatsettlesit!” when he doesn’t want to engage a topic, esp. when those kind of appeals by YECers are frowned upon.

    6. It gets worse, at times it wasn’t clear that Horton consistently denied libertarianism.

    7. I’m not looking for a treatise on the metaphysics of free will—(a) because Horton couldn’t do it and (b) because it’s beyond the scope—but he could have done an admirable job in a couple pages, esp. if footnotes for further reading were used. But this topic is a pretty big one and it is one that non-Reformed will turn straight to. If they read the kind of stuff we see Horton do, they’ll just toss the book down and say, “So much the worse for Reformed Theology.” This doesn’t seem to fit with Horton’s desire to get others to listen to him and engage RT in a conversation. Reformed who turn to this to give answers to their friends will be left holding the bag. Why is it that older STs were up-to-speed with the issues *as they were presented in their day* and Horton’s isn’t? I’m not asking for something unique to Reformed STs.

    8. Unfortunately, Frame’s DoG is very inadequate on this matter, so that won’t help.

  9. Ron said,

    June 14, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    Paul,

    For the Edwardsian, as you know, any talk of alternatives is strictly hypothetical. When the compatibilist says “I might or might not go” he is not making a metaphysical claim about future contingencies but rather expressing uncertainty. With that in mind and I’m not following this too closely, did MH try to settle the incompatibilist’s objection by appealing to hypothetical alternatives? Not sure I follow.

    Thanks,

    Ron

  10. Paul M. said,

    June 14, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    Ron, yes, Edwardsian compatibilism is just Humean compatibilism which just is “hypothetical” compatibilism. Your claim about “might/might not” isn’t properly indexed to what is known as “hypothetical compatibilism,” your remark is properly indexed to decision or choice theory, that is, how can a determinist use language suggestive of a garden of forking paths when they believe there’s only one possible future (given the prior determining condition). I’m attracted to the the resolution that attaches epistemic uncertainty to expressions seemingly suggestive of forking path futures (i.e., alternative futures). So, I’m with you there.

    However, as I suggested, that’s not what people mean when they speak of hypothetical or classical compatibilism, of which Edwards was representative of. In this sense, “hypothetical” compatibilism is the compatibilist answer to Consequence-style Arguments (CA), that is, arguments that suggest that if determinism is true no one “can do otherwise.” In this debate much focus is on the word “can.” ‘Can’ speaks to some sort of “ability” or “power” or “control.” This is metaphysical now, not epistemological, as should be plain. It’s talking about a kind of “power” or “ability” agents would not have if determinism were true (I won’t rehearse CA arguments here).

    Now, this is obviously a challenge to freedom or moral responsibility, because *all sides* agree that in order to be free or responsible we have to have the relevant kind of control of our actions (right? which is one reason an agent being controlled by a puppet master wouldn’t be free, he’s not in control of his actions in the relevant way). So to respond to these kinds of arguments, classical compatibilists (or, hypothetical compatibilists) pointed out that ‘can’ was ambiguous. They pointed out that there is a sense of can that is compatibile with determinism, and that determined agents ‘can’ indeed do otherwise. This reading was the “hypothetical” reading, that is: “I ‘can’ do otherwise in the sense that, if I had wanted to do otherwise, then I could (or would) have done otherwise. Thus, on determinism, we do have a power or control to do otherwise, it’s the power we have such that if we wanted (or desired, or ______) to do otherwise, then we could have. I trust you’ll not the relevant modalities involved here, as well as the metaphysical (and not epistemological) nature or this aspect of the discussion.

    Classical compatibilism, armed with this analysis, typically says that the kind of relevant control needed is that we do what we want to do. We choose according to our wants and desires. And we can do otherwise if we want to (because if we had wanted to do otherwise the prior determining conditions would have been different). This view is compatibilism with determinism and, as Daniel Dennet says, it’s the only freedom worth wanting or having (as opposed to some odd unconstrained agent-causal power to create actions ex nihilo and choose from among a garden of forking paths).

    This is the majority report in the Reformed world (’cause it’s the one the early Reformers held to, ’cause that was the best philosophical answer on hand at the time), and I trust I’ve represented it strongly and appropriately.

    I am saying that Horton assumes this view (though not as strongly as I presented it above, and he doesn’t present the motivation and history of it, as I did). Now, I find this view to be fraught with difficulties and the vast majority of those who think deeply about freedom and responsibility don’t hold this view anymore. Moreover, those who still hold to classical compatibilism put forth a much stronger version that the “we choose according to our natures” version, and Horton doesn’t give any indication that this view exists or that he’s aware of it—or with the problems for his own naive form of classical compatibilism. Moreover, he makes the basic confusion many Reformed theologians make that it is total depravity that rules out libertarian freedom, but of course this is obviously false for one can have a garden of forking paths of all bad paths. One may only choose sinfully, but that doesn’t imply that there’s only one possible future, it could be multiple sinful futures. His view here is fully consistent with libertarianism, for he claims on p.567 that it’s not our power to do and will that is affected, but the moral determining of those willings and doings are enslaved to sin. In any event, his statements here and on the decree would need much work to clarify and make explicitly consistent with determinism.

    Does that answer it?

  11. Paul M. said,

    June 14, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    David,

    Let me add this. My worry isn’t simply or primarily that Horton doesn’t delve into as much philosophy as I would like (actually, I don’t even think that, not in an unqualified way at least), it’s that when he broaches philosophical issues he’s often just philosophically wrong, logically confused, unaware of relevant literature, and often obscurantist and idiosyncratic. For example, he presents man as what philosophers of mind would call a dualism. But Horton seems to think that dualism is only Platonic or something. So he wants to impress that he’s give a “Christian” view of mind/body and claims that his view on the matter isn’t “dualistic.” But it clearly and obviously is. Just because something isn’t “Platonic dualism” doesn’t mean it’s dualism. So he gives a misleading impression of his view. I can imagine a young “pilgrim” going off to college after having read Horton’s ST, sitting in his phil 101 class and presenting the dualist approach to mind/body he imbibed from Horton, and when the teacher says, “Oh, so you’re a dualist,” he gets all indignant and says, “I most certainly am not. Dualism about the mind/body is the Platonic kind!” So, it’s stuff like this. When Horton does wax philosophical (or broach matters that is usually the concern of philosophy) he often shows that he really doesn’t have a clue of the literature, positions, arguments, terminology, etc. It’s these kinds of things that are more my criticism. N.B. when he speaks about mind/body he doesn’t use your apology for him, i.e., “I’m just telling you what the Bible says and staying out of philosophy,” he uses extrabiblical terms (e.g., ‘dualism’ ‘Platonism’ etc) and tries to situate the Bible’s position in the various taxonmies. Moreover, after saying his view isn’t dualist he references John Cooper’s book Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting as presenting a proper biblical view. But Cooper claims in that book that his view is dualistic!. Do you feel what I’m laying down?

  12. Ron said,

    June 14, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    I’m attracted to the resolution that attaches epistemic uncertainty to expressions seemingly suggestive of forking path futures (i.e., alternative futures). So, I’m with you there.

    Paul

    Yes, and the uncertainty is only with the creature and not with God, which Molinists affirm (and Socinians deny); yet not withstanding certainty of the outcome, which presupposes a truth value of the outcome, does not prove determinism. Foreknowledge is receptive, not determinative. God foreknows because he determines. Even I know things yet future, like Christ will return. The premise determinists must establish is that God cannot foreknow the outcome of a purely contingent choice, which gets into the grounding objection. So, I’m with you too and most definitely, “can” is purely a metaphysical consideration. (Also, foreknowledge can be taken out of the equation because foreknowledge presupposes truth. Accordingly, the question is whether there are future tense truth propositions that are yet purely contingent, not necessary.)

    Now, this is obviously a challenge to freedom or moral responsibility, because *all sides* agree that in order to be free or responsible we have to have the relevant kind of control of our actions (right? which is one reason an agent being controlled by a puppet master wouldn’t be free, he’s not in control of his actions in the relevant way).

    Indeed, that which precedes the action must be volitional (engage the mind) and not purely physical.

    So to respond to these kinds of arguments, classical compatibilists (or, hypothetical compatibilists) pointed out that ‘can’ was ambiguous. They pointed out that there is a sense of can that is compatibile with determinism, and that determined agents ‘can’ indeed do otherwise. This reading was the “hypothetical” reading, that is: “I ‘can’ do otherwise in the sense that, if I had wanted to do otherwise, then I could (or would) have done otherwise.

    I follow, but I do think that such an approach has its place in that it at least differentiates between what has been called soft and hard determinism. In other words, such an approach underscores that choices are not apart from intention, which at least addresses the puppet / robot objection – which was a popular objection in the day that such hypotheticals were offered. We must remember that the Reformed polemics of old were only addressing the objections of the day.

    Thus, on determinism, we do have a power or control to do otherwise, it’s the power we have such that if we wanted (or desired, or ______) to do otherwise, then we could have. I trust you’ll not the relevant modalities involved here, as well as the metaphysical (and not epistemological) nature or this aspect of the discussion.

    I think you left out a word between “not” and “the relevant” and I can’t seem to fill in the gap.

    I am saying that Horton assumes this view (though not as strongly as I presented it above, and he doesn’t present the motivation and history of it, as I did).

    Although I think you must be right, I do not believe he’d affirm that view as pertaining to the prelapsarian era, which is a lament I have and one Frame has as well. My impression over MH’s view on that matter is first hand.

    Now, I find this view to be fraught with difficulties and the vast majority of those who think deeply about freedom and responsibility don’t hold this view anymore. Moreover, those who still hold to classical compatibilism put forth a much stronger version that the “we choose according to our natures” version…

    That we choose according to our “nature” is to paint with too broad a brush, as I often point out to Calvinists. That we choose consistently with our nature does not speak to the metaphysical type questions regarding chocolate over vanilla, the crux of the matter, which you fleshed out in your post. Edwards and Dabney were more current than what we hear today.

    Moreover, he makes the basic confusion many Reformed theologians make that it is total depravity that rules out libertarian freedom, but of course this is obviously false for one can have a garden of forking paths of all bad paths. One may only choose sinfully, but that doesn’t imply that there’s only one possible future, it could be multiple sinful futures.

    That sort of thing has saddened me deeply for years. MH has stated to me that Adam could have chosen contrary to how he did prior to the fall yet we can’t since the fall. And other Reformed pastors will say that we no free will until conversion. A well known professor at one renowned Reformed seminary has argued in his Doctrine of Man syllabus that LFW is refuted by the axiom regeneration precedes faith. Things are bad, no doubt. Frame laments in a paper on line that so many he has examined for the ministry think that Adam was free from the decree prior to the fall and lost that freedom after the fall.

    Yet I part ways with Frame for when DoG was released his chapter on Metaphysics deeply disturbed me in a particular area. He denies that God has LFW (and I agree) yet he posits that God must have something that is between LFW and pure contingency lest creation had a hold on him. My simple response to him was that God’s own eternal desire to create had a hold on him, and that if there can be something between necessity and pure contingency that God has, then why not man? No reply.

    His view here is fully consistent with libertarianism, for he claims on p.567 that it’s not our power to do and will that is affected, but the moral determining of those willings and doings are enslaved to sin. In any event, his statements here and on the decree would need much work to clarify and make explicitly consistent with determinism.

    Even Oliphint I’m afraid makes statements that any rank Arminian would embrace. link here

    Does that answer it?

    Most definitely

    Thanks for the elaboration…

  13. Paul M. said,

    June 14, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    Ron,

    “That sort of thing has saddened me deeply for years. MH has stated to me that Adam could have chosen contrary to how he did prior to the fall yet we can’t since the fall. And other Reformed pastors will say that we no free will until conversion. A well known professor at one renowned Reformed seminary has argued in his Doctrine of Man syllabus that LFW is refuted by the axiom regeneration precedes faith. Things are bad, no doubt. Frame laments in a paper on line that so many he has examined for the ministry think that Adam was free from the decree prior to the fall and lost that freedom after the fall.”

    This is correct, and it seems to be heading in a more unfortunate direction. The recent book Reformed Thought on Freedom had several authors openly affirm LFW (Carl Trueman positively blurbed the book and made no warning, I assume he’s not aware of the relevant issues at hand). Richard Muller has recently affirmed LFW and claimed it was held by Reformers, and many big names in the confessional Reformed world take his say-so’s as authoritative. Several “Neo-Reformed” (or whatever they’re called) also seem confused on the matter. They seem to think compatibilism means LFW is compatible with determinism. And, yes, I am aware of Oliphint’s confusions in this regard. His book on Reasons for Faith sounded libertarian in many places.

    But as far as God, I hold that his freedom is sui generis. I don’t think it’s libertarian or compatibilist, but there’s elements of both. God’s freedom is a neglected topic ripe for philosophical and theological study, and as of yet no one has mined this area as it should/could be. So I don’t really have much to say about it other than it’s sui generis, like many other properties God has in an analogous way.

    As far as addressing soft/hard determinism, I’m all for that. I just think classical compatibilsm is faulty. I locate myself as a semi-compatibilist (a la John Martin Fischer).

    Anywho, glad to have some agreement.

  14. David Gadbois said,

    June 15, 2011 at 1:32 am

    Paul, it sounds like I may not know what I don’t know. Could you provide some sources (dead tree or web are both fine) that address the topic using insights from analytic theology, that someone without a familiarity with analytic theology could understand?

    I take it your position would understand human responsibility and determinism to be compatible, as opposed to seeing human freedom (which would underwrite responsibility) to be both true and compatible with determinism? And you would see the fact that we act according to our natures to be an insufficient basis for establishing “freedom”? I could find this very agreeable, inasmuch as the Bible has much to say about human responsibility and God’s exhaustive control, but little to nothing to say about “freedom” in any sense. It also seems to be a more modest claim than traditional compatibalism. We can say that man is not forced to do something against his will, but this does not imply that the will is “free”.

    I do connect with your criticisms of Horton’s lack of clarity on the subject. On p. 311 he wants to distinguish between God’s permission and His “positive determination”, and then says “God does not cause people to sin.” That is flatly false. If God has decreed the future exhaustively (p. 309) then it follows that He caused even the sinful actions of people, unless one wants to create a causal chasm between the decree and the choices of man. And, indeed, that sounds like something a Molinist could sign up to. Weirdly, Horton only mentions Molinism as a bibliographic note on p. 315, without any real description or argument.

  15. Ron said,

    June 15, 2011 at 6:40 am

    If God has decreed the future exhaustively (p. 309) then it follows that He caused even the sinful actions of people, unless one wants to create a causal chasm between the decree and the choices of man. Molinists and Calvinists agree over the soundness of the following argument, where x is a creaturely choice.

    David,

    I agree, but Reformed folk need to argue the point in light of the “genius” of Molinism.

    Molinists and Calvinists agree over the soundness of the following argument, where x is a creaturely choice.

    1. Necessarily, if God foreknows x, then x will happen
    2. God foreknows x
    3. Therefore, x will happen

    Molinists and Calvinists even agree that the following argument is fallacious as written:

    1. Necessarily, if God foreknows x, then x will happen
    2. God foreknows x
    3. Therefore, x will necessarily happen

    Point 3 in the second argument, the “Therefore, x will necessarily happen” is key to Reformed thought, but it’s fallacious to argue the point that way, from God’s foreknowledge, and to say that God decreed the x is to beg the question. The fallacy in view is that of transferring the necessity of the inference to the conclusion. The necessity of x happening is not implied in the truth of x happening, for we must establish that x cannot fall out metaphysically-contingently, which we don’t find in Reformed polemics too often.

    The Molinist will not accept that the fallacy can be made to disappear a number of different ways. One way is by establishing that a necessary condition for God’s foreknowledge of x is the necessity of x. In other words, Molinists assert that x will occur, not necessarily but contingently. Of course a contingent x, by definition, truly might not occur. Accordingly, Molinists are left with God knowing that x might not occur while knowing it will occur – but these are contrary truths and, therefore, impossible for God to know. Accordingly, God’s foreknowledge of x presupposes the necessity of x for the simple reason that might and will are semantically antithetical and it is true that x will occur. Consequently, if x will occur, then it is false that it might occur. Even Open Theists argue against Molinists better than Calvinists. Open Theists agree with us, that a purely contingent x-choice that is still yet future is not yet true (and therefore not yet knowable); yet rather than side with us on God’s exhaustive omniscience of x, they deny it because their governing axiom is pure contingency, LFW. They would argue that it false that x will occur contingently, and they are limit themselves to saying that it is true that x might occur contingently.

    Another way of making the fallacy disappear is to argue successfully that necessarily, God foreknows x, which many Calvinists are more reluctant to do (but not this one). Molinists agree in the validity but not the soundness of the following argument (in other words, they agree with the form of argument but not with all the premises):

    1. Necessarily, if God foreknows x, then x will happen
    2. Necessarily, God foreknows x
    3. Therefore, x will necessarily happen

    I embrace point 2 of that argument, as did Edwards and I would argue Bahnsen, but many Calvinists won’t go that far. But with Edwards I index the necessity of the decree to the necessity of God’s wisdom.

  16. paigebritton said,

    June 15, 2011 at 7:23 am

    Ron / Paul,

    I know better than to trust Wikipedia in all things, but is this a fair blurb on Molinism?

    Molinism, named after 16th Century Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina, is a religious doctrine which attempts to reconcile the providence of God with human free will. William Lane Craig is probably its best known advocate today, though other important Molinists include Alfred Freddoso, Alvin Plantinga and Thomas Flint. In basic terms, Molinists hold that in addition to knowing everything that does or will happen, God also knows what His creature would freely choose if placed in any circumstance.

    Any intro readings on these topics that you’d like to recommend to those of us following by the skin of our teeth? :)

  17. Joshua Butcher said,

    June 15, 2011 at 8:53 am

    I don’t know how helpful they are on this issue (Paul may be able to comment), but the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy articles are usually very helpful and have good bibliographies for further inquiry.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/

  18. Paul M. said,

    June 15, 2011 at 9:48 am

    Guys, unfortunately, there’s not much contemporary work on compatibilism/determinism by Reformed Christians. I’d say probably the most sophisticated guy who has published on the matter (in books and journals) is Steven B. Cowan, he’s a Reformed Baptist. Anyway, there’s not much by Reformed Christians in this area that is published in scholarly journals or books. As I said, most Reformed guys are just assuming Classical Compatibilism and resting on what guys like Edwards (or some others) have said. Good news is that there’s some young Reformed Christians who either recently received PhD or are getting them, and they’re aware of this lacuna, so expect some things to be coming down the pike.

    However, to get an excellent introduction to the topic of free will and some of the issues involved (and this may be all most people need), there is no better place to turn than Robert Kane’s, A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will

    And you know this recommendation must mean something since Kane is a libertarian. However, his presentation of compatibilism is very fair and forceful. The book is very accessible to the non-philosopher, so no worries on that end.

  19. Paul M. said,

    June 15, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Paige

    That definition is okay, however I’d say the one glaring problem is when it says Molinism “attempts to reconcile the providence of God with human free will.” It should add the term libertarian before “free will.” Compatibilism reconciles God’s providence with human free will too, so the distinguishing feature of Molinism is that it tries to reconcile God’s providence and decree with human libertarian free will.

  20. Paul M. said,

    June 15, 2011 at 10:04 am

    David,

    The guy who’s doing the best work in Analytic Theology from a broadly Reformed tradition is Oliver Crisp. A good intro to the kind of stuff AT does is the book Retrieving Doctrine, it’s fairly inexpensive and shows more by example how an analytic theologian operates, i.e., bringing the tools of analytic philosophy to bear on theological topics. There’s not much on the web on AT, but here’s an interview with Crisp

    http://blog.epsociety.org/2010/01/analytic-theology-interview-with.asp

    As far as resources on the metaphysics of free will, I gave a link above. Another one is Four Views on Free Will (Blackwell).

    I take it your position would understand human responsibility and determinism to be compatible, as opposed to seeing human freedom (which would underwrite responsibility) to be both true and compatible with determinism?

    Yeah, a semi-compatibilist is more interested in the compatibility between determinism and moral responsibility. They leave open the question of “freedom,” since if it is analyzed as requiring the ability to do otherwise, then it’s not compatible with determinism, but semi-compatibilists argue that this ability is not required for moral responsibility. Currently I hold freedom and responsibility to be two sides of the same coin, such that if you’re one than you’re the other. But “freedom” isn’t as important to me since the Bible doesn’t have much to say about it while it has a ton to say about moral responsibility, which you rightly note. So i don’t deny that we are “free”, but if philosophical analysis shows that the concept requires ability to do otherwise, I can drop it and not have my compatibilism affected.

  21. paigebritton said,

    June 15, 2011 at 10:09 am

    Thanks, Joshua!

    And thanks, Paul, for that distinction. This would mean, I think, that Molinism is a system of thought that is opposed to determinism, whereas compatibilism recognizes determinism (whether soft or hard) to be our reality.

    Am I correct to understand you to be saying that classical compatibilism, with its emphasis on the metaphysical bit (the will or desire of the human agent) is helpful insofar as moral (or Godward) choices are concerned, but is not sufficient to describe the entire human experience? (IOW, that there are other choices that classical compatibilism does not explain so well?)

  22. Paul M. said,

    June 15, 2011 at 10:31 am

    Paige,

    Compatibilism only fits with “soft” determinism. Hard determinism is a form of incompatibilism.

    Taxonomy

    Compatibilism:

    i. _Classical Compatibilism_: Determinism is true (or may be) and man is free and morally responsible. There is a sense in which determinism is compatible with ability to do otherwise.

    ii. _Semi-Compatibilism_: Determinism is true (or may be) and is not compatible with ability to do otherwise, but man is morally responsible (and free if freedom doesn’t mean ability to do otherwise and ultimate source of your actions).

    Incompatibilism

    iii. _Hard Determinism_: Determinism is true and consequently man is neither free nor morally responsible.

    iv. _Libertarianism_: Determinism is false and man is free and morally responsible (if determinism were true, man would not be free and responsible).

    This is obviously brief and simplified, and there’s some who try to forge third-ways, but that would unnecessarily complicate things, the above is a good basic conceptual map.

    “Am I correct to understand you to be saying that classical compatibilism, with its emphasis on the metaphysical bit (the will or desire of the human agent) is helpful insofar as moral (or Godward) choices are concerned, but is not sufficient to describe the entire human experience?”

    The “choosing what we desire” is insufficient to demarcate views of free will. freedom requires a relevant kind of control over your actions. It seems to me that it can be said that some mentally insane people “choose what they desire,” and yet we wouldn’t want to call them free or morally responsible (yet they can be before God but this would take us too far afield to address). It’s also insufficient for other reasons that are covered in the literature (like in that Robert Kane book I recommended above). One problem is that the Classical Compatibilist’s position is involved in an infinite regress (again, an argument covered in that book), for you have to be able to want to do otherwise, but since ‘ability’ on classical compatibilism is given a hypothetical reading (i.e., you could do otherwise if you had wanted to) then when you say you are able to want to do otherwise for if you had wanted to do otherwise you could have, and then we introduced another “ability” claim which must be read hypothetically, ad infinitum. That was short and messy, but the detailed (and clearer) arguments are out there and so don’t need to take up a lot of space in a combox laying it out. And the people said, “Amen!” :-)

  23. Ron said,

    June 15, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    This must be brief…We need to be careful in lumping Edwards in with classical compatibilism. There is nothing in his writings that suggest that he spoke in terms of what “could” have happened under different circumstances. If anything, he would have said that if John was in another circumstance, then (God would have decreed that) John would have acted differently than how he did. There would be no infinite regress in such counterfactual thinking. Therefore, with respect to an Edwardsian views, man would do differently if man intended to do differently. But that is not to say he meant that man is ever able to do differently. Edwards, I’d argue, only dealt with a one-way source model of control and didn’t get into the 2-way discussion, but given a discussion on two way it’s not hard to figure what he would have said. He would not have said “could” but rather “would” for the simple reason that he denied the ability to do otherwise, which

    More later…

  24. Paul M. said,

    June 15, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Ron, every single person who has every written on the topic and knows what they are talking (e.g., scholars, not meant to be a slam) about has called Edwards a Classical Compatibilst. I don’t use that word for a slur. It’s like Newtonian physics, people back then did the best with what they could. It looked like the best, most correct view at the time. I also never said Classical Compatibilism was about “what could happen under different circumstances.”

    “Therefore, with respect to an Edwardsian views, man would do differently if man intended to do differently.

    That’s classic Classical Compatibilism :-)

    “But that is not to say he meant that man is ever able to do differently.”

    Not in the sense of actual ability, but ‘able’ is subjected to different analyses, as the Classical Compatibilists point out. You’re being overly narrow in your meaning of ‘ability.’

    It is true that Edwards had his own unique views (which just shows that CC isn’t monolithic), like his occasionalism, which is problematic enough on its own. But I’m not here to get into this debate (and I know your affinity for Edwards’ position). My main point was that even granting CC ad arguendo, Horton approached the subject in a naive way and also didn’t give anyone the history or motivation for the view (even briefly as I did) and point out its competitors (if even in a footnote)/ It seemed he thought CC was just “obviously” the only and rightest answer to the question of how the decree and freedom fit together. So the aim here is Horton’s discussion and not the merits of CC, of which Edwards is a token of the type :-)

    Also, for everyone else this article in JETS is fairly good, I’d suggest it at least for acquainting oneself with some of the relevant issues:

    http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/51/51-3/JETS%2051-3%20573-590%20Ciocchi.pdf

    And note the footnote ;-)

    Classical compatibilism has a history that stretches from ancient times (the Stoics were classical compatibilists) right into the 20th century. For an important representative of classical compatibilism among Christian thinkers, see Jonathan Edwards, Freedom of the Will (repr. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957).

  25. David Gadbois said,

    June 15, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    Paul said like [Edwards'] occasionalism, which is problematic enough on its own

    Bingo.

  26. paigebritton said,

    June 15, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Thanks, Paul, appreciated the taxonomy!
    pb

  27. Ron said,

    June 15, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    It is true that Edwards had his own unique views (which just shows that CC isn’t monolithic)

    That’s an understatement, Paul.

    All quotes taken from here: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/compatibilism/#3.3

    “The two-way classical compatibilists responded [to an incompatibilist objection] by arguing that determinism is compatible with the ability to do otherwise.” In othe words, classical compatiblism, as it’s widely understood, has several components, one of which is an explanation of how a morally responsible agent is free to act contrary to what is determined. It is maintained that the two-way classical compatibilist took up the challenge of the incompatibilists and in doing so blundered; otherwise they were misrepresented. If the blunder as articulated by most is valid, then I’ll show how it did not apply to Edwards. If it is not valid and is a caricature, then of course Edwards may be considered a classical compatibilist. Again though, I prefer use the assigned label, as do you, since it’s held by most that it adequately describes the classical compatibilist, but I’ll show that Edwards does not fall in that camp as described by the label.

    “The classical compatibilists wanted to show their incompatibilist interlocutors that when one asserted that a freely willing agent had alternatives available to her—that is, when it was asserted that she could have done otherwise—that assertion could be analyzed as a conditional statement, a statement that is perspicuously compatible with determinism. But as it turned out, the analysis was refuted when it was shown that the conditional statements sometimes yielded the improper result that a person was able to do otherwise even though it was clear that at the time the person acted, she had no such alternative and therefore was not able to do otherwise in the pertinent sense (Chisholm, 1964, in Watson, ed., 1982, pp.26–7; or van Inwagen, 1983, pp.114–9).”

    That objection does not apply to Edwards. Edwards never fell into that trap of trying to argue that determinism is compatible with “the ability to do otherwise”, which is nothing other than the power of contrary choice. Indeed, and as you know, “freedom” to Edwards is not a freedom of the will but rather a liberty to act, and that was sufficient to save moral accountability for Edwards. There are other things he also shared with classical compatibilists, but for our purposes, all I’m aiming to show is that Edwards did not argue that men could do otherwise – in such a way that would logically contradict his view on determinism. That’s key to this discussion. The way that the classicial compatibilist rejoinder is described, it actually contradicts the position of determinism by setting out to argue that man actually could do otherwise. It’s an inconsistency not found in Edwards.

    Now then, what classical compatibilits are impugned with is this: “According to the classical compatibilist conditional analysis, to say that, at the time of acting, she could have done Y and not X is just to say that, had she wanted (chosen, willed, or decided) to do Y and not X at that time, then she would have done Y and not done X. Her ability to have done otherwise at the time at which she acted consisted in some such counterfactual truth.“Despite the classical compatibilists’ ingenuity, their analysis of could have done otherwise failed decisively.”

    Indeed it did fail decisively. It failed because there is no possible world wherein God determines all things and man “could” do otherwise, but does Edwards argue this way? Does Edwards try to reconcile determinism with the ability to act otherwise, and should an Edwardsian argument that would employ counterfactuals be taken that way?

    First off, Edwards to my knowledge never dealt in counterfactuals, possibly due to his commitment to the necessity of the divine will. So, we might consider him “one-way” on his view of freedom, which at least would be consistent with Dabney’s critique of what he believed to be an Hobbesian tendency in Edwards. (The Dabney complaint had to do with what Dabney believed to be a want of self-determination in Edwards’ thought, thinking Edwards metaphysic was too mechanistic, placing the accent on efficient cause that seemed to Dabney void of self-determination. Dabney was wrong about Edwards’ emphasis, for something does need to be repeated over and over again in order for it to be part of a man’s position. (I’m sorry but Edwards obviously needs some defending here.)

    “What the classical compatibilists attempted to do by way of their conditional analysis was deny the truth of the second premise: If determinism is true, no one can do otherwise.”

    Is that what Edwards tries to do? Does Edwards set out to deny that no one can do otherwise? Of course not, yet that seems to be the crux of what classical compatibilists set out to do. Accordingly, if Edwards doesn’t set out to deny necessity of choice in response to the indeterminist’s claim that necessity undermines moral accountability (ignoring will-formation), then we ought to interpret arguments by Edwardsian folks as different, and indeed they are both in their objection of what they wish to accomplish and the arguments themselves. First their objection or goal…

    When an Edwardsian philosopher says that Jones would have done x if he willed to do x, his goal is merely to argue that the outcome of choices is not void of a causal antecedent. It’s an argument against fatalism, no more, no less. That’s not what is at the crux of the classical compatibilist’s goal, as noted above. NOTE: It is not an attempt to reconcile by the use of counterfactuals, determinism with the ability to choose otherwise. Again, “The two-way classical compatibilists responded [to an incompatibilist objection] by arguing that determinism is compatible with the ability to do otherwise.” The GOAL that classical compatibilists are alleged to have wanted to achieve is that of reconciling determinism with a metaphysical freedom of the will, which is nowhere to be found in Edwards. Accordingly, when an Edwardsian says that man would have done x if he wanted to do x, there is no implication given the context of the goal of the argument that the same thing is being implied as that which the classical compatibilist is trying to say. The classical compatibilist is not saying with Edwardsian thought that if man was determined to antecedently desire x, then he would have chosen x necessarily. The classical compatibilist is not saying that because the classical compatibilist sets out to do the very opposite! He sets out to reconcile determinism with the ability to choose otherwise – he does not set out to bolster necessity of choice. Nor is he with Edwards trying to vindicate moral accountability in this regard, or arguing against effects without causes. No, he’s trying to accommodate determinism with the incompatibilist’s view of what is necessary for moral accountability, namely the ability to choose otherwise. That’s something Edwards never intends to do, nor may be interpreted as doing.

    Paul, as you noted above, CC is not monolithic. My lament is that at its crux, Edwards doesn’t fit into the model.

    Finally, should I happen to give a four hour lecture at the University of Wisconsin; write an article for a Chemical Engineering journal; or write a paper for Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology, I need not address every aspect of the topic for the information to be sound and useful. In the like manner, the basics of what we’re discussing here is very accessible to all; yet I think that some of these discussions are counterproductive in that they could very well discourage more than edify in the truth. One need not know all the objections to the Reformed view of the will and how it relates to God’s decree, yet sometimes I think people might doubt their ability to internalize the truth because they confuse not knowing everything about all the opposing views with having a working knowledge of their own view.

  28. Ron said,

    June 15, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Paul,

    I should probably add that if it is argued that what is said above regarding what the CC has been impugned with is not based upon what you believe the CC position has historically conveyed, then that would in turn would make Edwards a “classical compatibilist”, and given those terms, I would agree. BUT, that would also make the incompatiblist’s internal critique a misrepresentation of the CC position and consequently a misrepresentation of Edwards. Yet I thought you found the indeterminist critique valid, which if you did would presuppose that the CC was indeed arguing what the indeterminist claims he argues in the above post – and that must be distinguished from Edwards’s views. In other words, If CC entails that blunder, then I too, with the indeterminist(!) would perform the same internal critique, as would have Edwards.

    My sole point in all of this – allowing for the indeterminist’s charge as stated above, is that the charge as stated does not apply to Edwards. Whether it applies to CC is another matter.

  29. Paul M. said,

    June 15, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    Ron,

    As this is a discussion on Horton’s ST and not compatibilism, and because of my stated goals in responding here, I will not be interacting further with you about this as it detracts from David’s post. I will say a few things briefly:

    Again, every single philosopher or theologian who has written on this topic in scholarly journals and is familiar with the field has located Edwards as a Classical Compatibilist. Those who know the field, like Robert Kane, the most respected philosopher on free will living today, have not only cited Edwards as CC, but noted his conditional analysis. Perhaps more importantly, Edwardsian scholar Hugh McCann notes this in his chapter in Jonathan Edwards: Philosophical theologian, eds Helm and Crisp. OTOH, you only started looking into this issue just today, and so I would think some more study appropriate before taking a stand against every single person who has thought deeply about the matter—and I’ll note this is a valid appeal to authority. I also note much of your case is anachronistic, claiming that since the language used today isn’t found in his work, that he didn’t affirm the *concepts* of CC. The source you use doesn’t discuss this matter and also is a few paragraphs long on discussing CC, hardly the appropriate source to go to for *this* discussion. I also find some of your statements regarding Edwards mistaken. Just because Edwards doesn’t set out to answer the questions a 20th or 21st century philosopher of action asks doesn’t mean his position is the CC position. Anyway, it’s clear to this reader of Edwards that his does discuss those things you say he doesn’t, for instance Edwards says,

    *****************

    Philosophical necessity has sometimes been defined as
    ‘That by which a thing cannot not be’ or ‘That whereby
    a thing cannot be otherwise’. But neither of these is a
    proper definition, for two reasons. (a) ·Neither definition
    could be helpful, even if it were correct·, because the words
    ‘can’ and ‘cannot’ need explanation as much as does the
    word ‘necessity’; so that explaining ‘necessary’ through ‘can’
    is no better than explaining ‘can’ through ‘necessary’. . . .
    (b) Anyway, neither definition is correct, because ‘can’ etc.
    belong to the ordinary-language ‘necessity’ cluster, and are
    thus relative terms, whose meaning involves the thought of
    some power that is or might be exerted. . . etc., whereas the
    word ‘necessity’ as used by philosophers is, as I have pointed
    out, not relative in this way.

    On be able to do otherwise if you wanted to. Having a *power* to do what you want, so *able* to do otherwise

    In strictly correct speech, a man has a thing ‘in his power’ if
    it is up to him whether it occurs or not: a man can’t be truly
    said to be unable to do x when he can do it if he wills to do
    it. It is •wrong to say that a person can’t perform external
    actions that depend on acts of the will and that would be
    easily performed if the act of the will occurred. And it is in a
    way even more wrong to say that he can’t perform the act
    of the will itself; because it is more obviously false to say ‘He
    can’t do x, even if he wills to’ where x is itself an act of the
    will, for that amounts to saying that he can’t will ·to do y·
    even if he does will ·to do y·. This is a kind of case where
    not only is it easy for the man to do the thing if he wills to
    do it, but the willing is itself the doing—once he has willed
    to do y, the thing x is performed. In these cases, therefore,
    it is simply wrong to explain someone’s not doing x to his
    lacking the power or ability to do it—wrong because what he
    lacks is not being able but being willing. He has the required
    faculties of mind and natural capacities and everything else
    except a disposition: the only thing lacking is a will.

    ********************
    These quotes can be multiplied, and it’s precisely for reasons such as these that Edwards is classical Classical Compatibilist.

    At this point I’ll bow out and give David back his thread :-). The point is that we find all the essential ingredients in Edwards that we know how he’d answer the questions of 20th and 21st century peoples. In other words, if Edwards doesn’t put things put things the way modern thinkers do, give me an hour to talk to him and he would ;-). So if I were sitting with Edwards and I asked,

    “Johnny, you don’t mind of I call you Johnny, do you?, does God determine whatsoever comes to pass?”

    “Yes.”

    “Are you able to leave the room right now?”

    “Yes, if I wanted to.”

    “Are you able to drink that coffee right now?”

    “Yes, if I wanted to.”

    “This morning, were you able to go to the Michael Horton lecture instead of talk to me?”

    “Of course, terms like ‘able’ need to be disambiguated, but the short answer is, yes, if I had wanted to.”

    If that’s not classical compatibilism, nothing is. The only thing false is that Edwards would probably go to the Horton lecture instead of talk to me!

  30. Paul M. said,

    June 15, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    “BUT, that would also make the incompatiblist’s internal critique a misrepresentation of the CC position and consequently a misrepresentation of Edwards. Yet I thought you found the indeterminist critique valid, which if you did would presuppose that the CC was indeed arguing what the indeterminist claims he argues in the above post – and that must be distinguished from Edwards’s views.”

    Just saw this and thought it warranted a reply, after this I really will bow out, we can discuss it in another venue.

    First, you don’t know what the “critique” is since I haven’t presented the *argument* for it, I’ve just listed what it involves, i.e., an infinite regress. Second, it’s not an “indeterminist” critique, though some indeterminists may use it. In fact, I first heard it from a compatibilist, John Martin Fischer—the most elegant defender of compatibilism today—employed it, as well as several other criticisms, when he laid waste the Classical Compatibilist position :-)

  31. David Gadbois said,

    June 15, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    Guys, my book “review” posts are just a pretense to get y’all discussing the book, and related issues, in the combox :) I’ll even allow everyone to go off on tangents more than we would normally permit here at Green Baggins.

    I admit that the final paragraph was something of a teaser trailer for coming attractions. What this response means is that I just need to get on with it and provide posts to springboard more combox discussion on topics like compatibalism.

  32. Ron said,

    June 15, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    Again, every single philosopher or theologian who has written on this topic in scholarly journals and is familiar with the field has located Edwards as a Classical Compatibilist. Those who know the field, like Robert Kane, the most respected philosopher on free will living today, have not only cited Edwards as CC, but noted his conditional analysis. Perhaps more importantly, Edwardsian scholar Hugh McCann notes this in his chapter in Jonathan Edwards: Philosophical theologian, eds Helm and Crisp.

    Paul,

    Any conditional analyses that can be indexed to Edwards’ thought looks nothing like the conditional analyses that is aimed at reconciling determinism with the ability to choose otherwise. That’s the material point. If you think that conditional analyses of any sort is sufficient to call one a classical compatiblist, then it bears repeating that Edwards should not be lumped into the classical compatibilist grouping, my original point. Yes, my initial post had to do with being “careful” about “lumping” Edwards in with classical compatiblists, which would be like lumping Calvin in with Arminius, then refuting Arminius and suggesting that Christianity was refuted. The point being, the shortcomings of classical compatibilists have nothing to do with Edwards, just like the shortcomings of Arminius have nothing to do with Calvin. So when you bang on the passé classical compatibilists, I’m saying the lament does not apply to Edwards. On this matter, I’d even join you in the banging.

    OTOH, you only started looking into this issue just today, and so I would think some more study appropriate before taking a stand against every single person who has thought deeply about the matter—and I’ll note this is a valid appeal to authority.

    Please Paul, give up on the rhetoric. You’re off to the races without even internalizing what I’m talking about, or if you have, you don’t seem to care to deal with it. I drove seven hours today, saw the post at a rest stop and posted back. I then finished it tonight. I haven’t had time to study the subject as if it were my first encounter. What’s coming forth is a matter of memory. I’ve forgotten more than I know anymore.

    I also note much of your case is anachronistic, claiming that since the language used today isn’t found in his work, that he didn’t affirm the *concepts* of CC.

    Actually, I did no such thing. In fact, I did the very opposite. I noted that the concepts of counterfactuals are not typical in Edwardsian thought, but more to the point, I addressed Edwardisan folks who do speak in counterfactual terms, and showed that those arguments do not resemble the classical compatibilism that is criticized for undermining its own thesis. In other words, I went so far as to address concepts that are implications of Edwards but not voiced by Edwards and then addressed the difference between Edwards and a view of the classical position.

    Just because Edwards doesn’t set out to answer the questions a 20th or 21st century philosopher of action asks doesn’t mean his position is the CC position.

    Did I say his position was the CC position?

    At this point I’ll bow out and give David back his thread :-)

    That was a promise, right? :)

    ————–

    Not to Paul but to anyone…

    Philosophy may take hard work, but in my opinion it does not take exceptional brain power. I think people get intimidated by all the nuances and unfamiliar terms, but if one can excel in other certain subjects, I am confident that he can excel in philosophy. I don’t believe that the reverse is true. I say that to encourage those who feel lost but have had success in other areas.

  33. Ron said,

    June 15, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    David re: 31, I thank you for the liberty, but I’m not terribly inclined to take advantage of it too much longer. :)

  34. Paul M. said,

    June 15, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    Ron,

    No “rhetoric” intended, just sincere advice. I do care what you say and have internalized it, which I why I met your criticism head on and exactly where it is at.

    Your basic argument is this:

    Therefore, with respect to an Edwardsian views, man would do differently if man intended to do differently. But that is not to say he meant that man is ever able to do differently.

    As I argued, “able to” is, according to classical compatibilists, subject to ambiguity. I then cited Edwards making exactly this point, and then disambiguating.

    Then I further quoted him saying exactly the opposite from you regarding man’s ability to do other than he does.

    At this point there’s really nothing left to say.

  35. Ron said,

    June 16, 2011 at 12:13 am

    In the interest of peace, I’ll refrain from comment.

    Let me comment though on something you said earlier, but this comment will be innocuous with respect to anything critical to this discussion. Re: Kane’s clumping of Edwards into a certain camp. You might appreciate this in some sense. Plantinga said to me at the University of Delaware that Van Til did not believe that unbelievers could know anything. The context was that I went with a dear brother to hear AP, and after the lecture this brother said that AP was Van TIllian; the friend based that assertion on AP’s use of reductios. I couldn’t have disagreed more with this brother so I asked AP in front of my friend, “hey, are you Van Tillian” – and he said, “No, Van Til thought that unbelievers can’t know anything.” So much for carefully reading people you have little regard for. :-)

    Aside from that observation (and I’m not suggesting that Kane might be unfamiliar with Edwards), I don’t think that this brother picked up on the fact that the statement did not prove my point. Though the statement probably showed two points: AP was not thoroughly familiar with CVT, and AP had the same view of an unbeliever’s knowledge as did CVT – he just didn’t believe it.

    Peace,

    Ron

  36. Paul M. said,

    June 16, 2011 at 1:13 am

    Ron, your story doesn’t account for (1) the Edwardsian scholar I cited in the Ashgate published Jonathan Edwards: Philosophical Theologian, or (2) Edwards’ own words to the contrary, but other than that, it’s a cool story :-)

    You’ll be interested to know that I’m currently working on that little project we talked about, when I finish a draft I’ll let you read it.

  37. Ron said,

    June 16, 2011 at 8:04 am

    Paul,

    With the Edwards quotes, I thought you were trying to show that these discussions use terms that must be defined carefully. Now I’m wondering whether you think that I don’t embrace the same metaphysic as Edwards.

    Regarding the sources you produced regarding Edwards being classified as a CC, as I’ve noted several times now, no, I’ll just refer you to post 32 regarding why the label is misleading, and 27 to show in detail the substantial disagreement Edwardsian thought has with what can be label CC.

    Paul, you keep intending to bow out but…

  38. Paul M. said,

    June 16, 2011 at 9:00 am

    “Paul, you keep intending to bow out but…”

    Ron, the intention was conditional upon the assumption that we were taking over David’s combox. But then David came in and told us that we weren’t doing that.

    However, I understand the motivation in wanting me to bow out, so I will . . .

  39. June 29, 2011 at 2:06 am

    [...] Michael Horton’s Systematic Theology: Initial Thoughts, Pt. 2 (greenbaggins.wordpress.com) [...]


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