Hasker on Theological Determinism

The Triumph of God Over Evil: Theodicy for a World of SufferingIn his book The Triumph of God Over Evil (2008) William Hasker writes:

If theological determinism is true, then everything whatsoever that takes place, including all the evil, suffering, degradation and injustice the world contains, is exactly as God wants it to be in every respect. This contradicts a great deal of what is said in the Bible, which repeatedly and emphatically insists that many things are not as God wishes them to be [see Matthew 23:37; Hosea]. (Pg. 93)

This implies, of course, that theological determinism is false. By “theological determinism” Hasker means “the view according to which everything that transpires is necessarily determined by a unilateral, efficacious divine decree” (Pg. 80). In  support of the first claim, Hasker has us imagine God’s pre-creation scenario where every possible world is before the divine mind. The one selected has to be the most satisfying and most in tune with God’s creative purposes, otherwise God wouldn’t create it. The inescapable conclusion, says Hasker, is that “God is entirely pleased with the world exactly as it is; there is no single fact he would wish to alter in any respect” (Pg. 151). With respect to the those events in creation that are evil, God takes whatever steps are necessary to ensure that they occur.

Objection: we must distinguish between all the of events, taken as a whole, that make up creation, and the individual events, which in of and themselves, make up creation. It does not follow from the fact that God is pleased with the whole of creation, that he is pleased with each individual part of creation. That is, God is not pleased by an evil event taken by itself in isolation from the others, and God would not desire to create the conditions necessary for its existence just for its own sake.

Hasker’s reply: “It remains true, nevertheless, that every event that occurs, no matter how evil or tragic, is exactly what God intended to occur, and God has taken whatever steps are necessary to guarantee its occurrence” (Pg. 152 n4). It is, thus, very cold comfort to suppose that, all things being equal, God does not desire evil events to occur, though, all things considered, he most certainly does.

As far as I can tell this argument is sound, but it should be noted that the belief in its soundness depends more on judgments formed more by intuition than a method of reasoning (though, I think this always happens at some point). It just doesn’t seem right to me that the actual world is the best or one of the best possible worlds, meaning it is most satisfying and most in tune with God’s creational purposes. Interestingly, Hasker agrees when he says he is not hopeful that those who are committed to theological determinism will be persuaded by this argument. If a method of reasoning is needed, it should start from Scripture to show that, all things considered, God is not pleased with people rejecting his overtures of grace.

Must Love Be Chosen?

Love must always be chosen. Love never forces itself on someone. So says Benjamin Corey, who echos popular beliefs about the nature of love. But is it true? I think not, because in both cases there are clear counterexamples.

It is not the case that love must always be chosen. Suppose it is: then every mother had to will herself to love her newborn child when it was placed in her arms. If not, she failed to love her baby. That is very hard to believe, for in many cases such love naturally arises without a second-thought, and remains in place without interruption. Only malformed parents have to will themselves to love their child at birth. This is not the say that there are not cases where exemplary love is chosen–enemy love for example. In that case, love is not naturally determined by the nature of the beloved, and takes conscious effort of the will to bring about. Such love is admirable in its own way, but not all forms of love require such willing. From a theological point of view (a view Corey speaks from), it does not appear that the Trinitarian Persons must choose to love one another. Indeed, there would be something defective or imperfect about a love that requires such a choice, for if the beloved is worthy of love, claiming that it is up to us to bestow love on the beloved disrespects the beloved.

It is not the case that love never forces itself on someone. No doubt this is plausible, but think of a couple who adopts an orphaned infant who lives in dire poverty. It is not up to the beloved in this case to accept or reject the love of the adoptive parents: the love of the parents is related to the infant without the infant’s consent, and it would not be wrong to remain so related to the infant who might grow up and reject the love of the adoptive parents.

To be fair, Corey is talking about romantic love, the kind a man expresses to a woman in a marriage proposal: it would be unloving to override her autonomy, and that surely seems correct. It would be too much to spell out what exactly “autonomy” entails, but with respect to love, I think the intuition Corey is trying to explain is this: the beloved must not be manipulated into loving the lover. This explains why the “love” that comes from the beloved who is under the influence of a love potion concocted by the lover is a farce (see the video below). And this plausible belief underlies Corey’s objection to the Calvinist’s doctrine of irresistible grace, which implies that the love that comes from the beloved to the lover is such that it is produced by the lover. Presumably, God is interested in there being a genuine love relationship between him and his creatures, and the kind that results from irresistible grace is not it.




Causing Death and Saving Lives


In Causing Deaths and Saving Lives Jonathan Glover offers a broadly utilitarian analysis of killing. It is, however, not purely utilitarian; Glover makes room for respecting the autonomy of those who wish to go on living even if we cannot determine what it is that makes their lives worth living (perhaps, though, this grounded in some kind of rule utilitarianism). Indeed, Glover thinks that the wrongness of killing (considered apart from its side-effects on others) is explained by either the overriding of another’s autonomy or by reducing the total amount of worthwhile life that would otherwise exist if no life-thwarting action were taken. While this classic volume is easy to read, non-technical, honest, and fair, the foundational assumptions seem to me to be drastically flawed.

Continue reading

There Are No Fertilized Eggs

A quick and dirty argument:

  1. For all humans, if there are fertilized eggs, then humans are such that they hatch from them.
  2. Humans don’t hatch from eggs.
  3. Therefore, there are no fertilized eggs.

On Jonathan Glover’s Definition of Death

513308Jonathan Glover defines death as the irreversible loss of consciousness. This, he thinks avoids a problem posed by a thought experiment: imagine a man’s heart stops and a doctor is poised to revive him fully expecting to get his heart going again. But the man’s heir plunges a knife into his chest before the doctor can do anything. Does the heir violate a corpse or take the life of an innocent human being? He violates a corpse only if death is defined by the cessation of pulmonary circulation. But that is very counterintuitive; what really matters is the irreversible loss of consciousness, something that could have been regained if the doctor had revived the patient.

Objection: suppose the heir doesn’t interfere and the doctor gets the man’s heart going again, but unfortunately the man never regains consciousness. After the doctor determines that the man’s consciousness has been irreversibly lost, the man’s heir plunges the knife into the man’s chest. Does he violate a corpse or kill an innocent human being? It seems clear that he doesn’t violate a corpse; therefore he kills an innocent human being, which means the definition of death has nothing to do with the irreversible loss of consciousness.

Is “Might” the Opposite of “Will Not”? Some Rough Thoughts

Rachel Held Evans has a nice Q & A with Greg Boyd where he is asked to explain features of his Open Theism. Among the parts that interested me is this excerpt.

Philosophers and theologians have often defined “divine omniscience” as “God’s knowledge of the truth value of all meaningful propositions.” I completely agree with this. Unfortunately, they typically assumed that propositions about what “will” and “will not” occur exhaust the field of meaningful propositions about the future.  They thus concluded that God eternal knows all that will and will not take place and that there is nothing else for God to know.  

This is a mistake, however, because propositions about what “might and might not” take place are also meaningful, and God must therefore know the truth value of these. Moreover, the opposite of “might” is “will not,” and the opposite of “might not” is “will.”  So, if a “might and might not” proposition is true, then the corresponding propositions about what “will” and “will not” take place are both false. For example, if its true that “Greg might and might not buy a blue Honda in 2016,” then its false that “Greg will (certainly) buy a blue Honda in 2016” and false that “Greg will (certainly) not buy a blue Honda in 2016.” So too, if it ever becomes true that “Greg will (certainly) buy a blue Honda in 2016” or true that “Greg will (certainly) not buy a blue Honda in 2016,” then it will be false that “Greg might and might not buy a blue Honda in 2016.”  And since God knows the truth value of all propositions, God would know precisely when it is true that I “might and might not” buy this car and when it becomes true that I either “will” or “will not.”  God thus faces a partly open future.

This is controversial. Why assume that statements about what “might” happen contradict those about “will not”?  It seems this sort of statement is meaningful too: “I could run through the streets naked in the next 5 minutes, but I will not. The “could” here expresses the possibility of those (terrible) states of affairs, and the “will not” expresses that they shall not come to pass, owing to my rational choice. There is nothing contradictory about saying this sort of thing, but the semantic analysis Boyd gives of “might” would make it so. Thus, we have reason to doubt his analysis. Continue reading

On Counting (countable) Infinite Sets

Computability and LogicThis is an especially vivid illustration from the third edition of Boolos and Jeffrey’s Computability and Logic:

If a set is enumerable, Zeus can enumerate it in one second by writing out an infinite list faster and faster. He spends 1/2 second writing the first entry in the list; 1/4 second writing the second entry; 1/8 second writing the third; and in general, he writes each entry in half the time he spent on its predecessor. At no point during the one second interval has he written out the whole list, but when one second has passed, the list is compete!

Pg. 14.