Saturday, May 31, 2008

With God nothing else shall be possible?

Turretinfan argued for determinism (here) to which I responded (here) and he has again responded (here).

I had argued: "The first verse in scripture claims that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1) We either understand this by faith, or we do not. (Hebrews 11:3) Consider God’s first action. By definition, no act of God preceded that first act. So no causes preceded that action. Rather, God self-determined that action, by performing it. Thus, contrary to Calvinism, self-determining power exists."

TF responded: This argument is obviously fallacious, because it conflates "cause" with "action." Although there was no action before Creation, nevertheless God's nature and counsel, being eternal, preceded the first action. Scripture explicitly speaks of God's counsel existing "before the foundation of the Earth." (Ephesians 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:) Thus, elsewhere we read, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made." (John 1:1-3) Thus, there is a cause and explanation for Creation: the Triune God.

Seems like TF is saying God’s first act emanates from His nature a) without something external acting on Him and b) without something internal to God acting first. If that’s the case, then God truly self-determines. On this much we can agree! Hurray!!! I am aware TF can argue that man can’t self-determine or that God can only self-determine 1 thing. Please just let me enjoy the moment.

Not only that, TF called the agent (i.e. God) a cause. That is to say the agent, without a preceding action (either external or internal to the agent) is the cause of its action. This is nothing short of an affirmation of agent causation and denial of event causation on Tfan’s part.
Normally, determinists wouldn’t say call something inactive a cause. But if TF is willing to call agents causes, then the answer to TF’s 2nd question is the agent.

Now then, let’s get to the controversial part. It rained this afternoon. Was it absolutely impossible for God to create a world which didn’t include rain this afternoon? Seems to me that unless Tfan says yes, God has LFW. Again, unless God was unable to have the slightest detail in the universe be any different that it was, is or will be, God had LFW.

There doesn’t seem like much of a point in getting into the rest of Tfan’s post without resolving this.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Commands and Invitations for the Impossible - Arguments against the link between LFW and Responsibility

Outline of Edwards’ Arguments in Part III.IV

Commands inconsistent with LFW

  1. God commands the acts of the will, not the acts of body executing the will’s commands.

  2. If there’s a sequence of acts of the will, the first act that drives the train is the one God’s commands pertain to.

  3. Whatever comes before that first act of the will isn’t the subject of the command.

  4. But some Arminians say the act of the soul determines the act of the will. So that act of the soul isn’t subject to divine commands.

  5. Other Arminians say nothing causes the acts of the will, but then they happen by accident and pure chance. And if they happen by pure chance, there’s no point to God regulating them with a law.

Inability and Responsibility

  1. Disobedience implies a moral inability to obey, because some moral cause must have determined the sin’s occurrence
  2. Natural inability is incompatible with responsibility

  3. if the will complies with a command, but the body is hindered, the man is excused

  4. Natural inability consists of either lack of strength, lack of understanding or an obstacle

Commands and invitations are the same thing, except commands arise from authority and invitation from goodness, so if commanding the impossible isn’t insincere, inviting someone to do the impossible isn’t insincere either.

My Response

Clearly Edwards is leveraging some of his arguments discussed here, so regarding the whole determinism vs. indeterminism discussion I see no need to rehash things. Also, the moral/natural distinction needs attention, but since it's a theme in Part IV, I will wait till we get there.


Sincerity of Invitations

I will make a comment about invitations. Invitations are not commands, but that's not that important because the invitation to believe is joined with a command. (1 John 3:23) But invitations do imply a desire on the part of the innovator that the invitee accept the invitation. Otherwise the offer is insincere.

If Bob invites Sue to a party, secretly hoping she doesn't come, Bob is being insincere. Bob's outward action of inviting Sue, doesn't match his inward desire for her not to come.

Calvinists are quick to point out that God's offer is true. Anyone who believes will be saved. Even this is debatable, but granting it for the moment, it's actually besides the point. Let's say Sue accepts and shows up for the party. Bob says aw rats, but let's her in. Bob did come through, so his offer was true. But it still mislead Sue. What might Sue think of Bob if she found out he didn't want her there? Wouldn't she be upset and offended? She would, because Bob mislead her into thinking he wanted her to accept.

In the same way God's offer to the reprobate is insincere, if he doesn't want them to accept.

Commanding the Impossible

God cannot issue a command the impossible, as such would violate His justice. On the other hand, man can't force God to rescind a command, by incapacitating themselves.

Let's say Captain Kirk tells Spock, don't blow up the Enterprise. But Spock starts an unstoppable self-destruct mechanism with a 1 hour timer. A half hour latter Kirk tells Spock, "since you can no longer obey my command, I am forced to take it back." Spock would say "but Captain, that would be illogical".


Similarly, when mankind fell in Adam, God wasn't forced to take His commands back. So God does not unjustly command the impossible, but He does not rescind His commands from mankind after the fall. This is the difference between Edwards' position and my own. Edwards thinks God can issue for a command to someone who can't obey, I don't, even thought we agree that fallen mankind can't obey God's commands.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Edwards' on Impeccability and Hardening - Arguments against the link between LFW and Responsibility

In part 3, scections III.I, III.II, and III.III, Edwards argues against the link between LFW and responsibility by appealing to divine impeccability as well as judicial hardening. He argues if God cannot sin, and a hardened man cannot do good, neither has freewill. But God is still worthy of praise and the hardened sinner is still to blame. So praise and blame to not require freewill.

The response is fairly straight forward. We agree that God cannot sin, and that sinners, without grace, cannot choose good. But does this mean that neither has LFW? No. Recall that LFW does not mean the ability to choose between good and evil. (link) God chooses between good alternatives and sinners, without softening grace, choose between evil options.

Divine Impeccability
Imagine you dig $20 out of your couch cushion. With that $20 you could A) give it to church, or B) buy your mom flowers If you were impeccable, you could not C) buy drugs to get high. But you could still choose between the good options: A & B. In the same way God chooses between good options, even thought He cannot sin.

Divine impeccability does not conflict with divine freedom, but some Calvinists hold to a concept with might conflict with divine freedom. Some Calvinists say God always chooses the greater good, and when He decreed all things, He created the best of all possible worlds.

I agree that it would be impossible for God to choose a bad world, because He's good. But why assume there's one "best world"? Why not many equally good worlds to pick from? Why can’t there be two or more equivalently good options for God? Seems to me if there’s one greatest good out there, and God’s nature predetermines Him to act on it, A) God is not free and B) that greatest good determines God and C) the greatest good is in some sense greater than God.

But in any case, the problem with Edwards' argument isn't divine impeccability; its his assumption that God only has one good option.

If anyone is concerned that the view that God cannot do evil is not Arminian, here's Arminius' thoughts: Arminius on God being necessarily good. (see Article 22) Here's another interesting article on the subject by Freddoso. Maximal Power

Hardening
God hardens sinners as a punishment for prior sins. Hardening is described as "adding iniquity to iniquity" (Psalms 69:27) and God "giving people up to their uncleanness, vile passions and debased mind" (Romans 1:18-32) and taking away what a person has (Mathew 13:12).

This hardening is a removal of "softening" grace. Oddly, it's the exception that proves the rule. The hardened sinner is left in his totally depraved state, because prevenient grace is removed. But this makes no sense without prevenient grace. So hardening is evidence for prevenient grace.

Edwards argues that since hardened sinners cannot do good, they don't have LFW. Since they don't have LFW, and they still are responsible for their sin, LFW and responsibility are unrelated.

While hardening removes the option of doing good, it still leaves the sinner to choose between evil options. So they still have LFW. This is the flip side of divine impeccability. With the $20 they could A) buy drugs or B) buy porn, but not C) give the money to Church out of a heart filled with love for God.

Generally hardening leaves man with multiple sinful options. But in some cases God providentially uses the hardened sinner to accomplish some greater purpose. In these cases, God may desire one specific action to be performed. God uses His knowledge of how a person would freely perform under certain circumstances, to arrange for those circumstances to obtain the outcome He desires. God knows that the person can, but would not do otherwise than perform the action He wants. So they still have LFW, because they still can do otherwise, even thought they will not.

God permits the sin, even though He hates it (Psalms 45:7), because He wants to use the persons action to accomplish some greater purpose. (Genesis 50:20) In these cases, we must keep in mind the twofold impact of sinful choices. In the heart of the sinners, their is an evil transgression of the law. Externally, the sin might initiate a chain of events which change the course of history. It's this second effect that God desires, not the first, because God hates sin.

Audio of a Summary of Arminius' theology in his words

Here's an audio file of a summary of Arminius' theology, in his own words. It's taken from his letter to Hippolytus A Collibus, but I omitted certain parts and paraphrased a few things. It covers the topics of Christ’s divinity, providence, predestination, grace & freewill and justification.

Gabcast! Dan's blog #4



I. THE DIVINITY OF THE SON OF GOD.

Concerning the divinity of the Son of God, I have taught, and still teach, that the Father has never been without his Word and his Spirit, but that the Word and the Spirit are not to be considered in the Father under the notion of properties, as wisdom, goodness, justice, or power, but under that of really existing persons, to whom it belongs to be, to live, to understand, to will, to be capable, and to do or act, all of which, when united, are indications and proofs of a person, but that they are so in the Father as to be also from the Father, in a certain order of origin, not through [co-laterality], to be referred to the Father, and that they are from the Father neither by creation nor by decision but by a most wonderful and inexplicable internal emanation, which, with respect to the Son, the ancient church called generation, but with respect to the Holy Spirit, was denominated breathing, a term required by the very word spirit. But about this breathing, I do not interpose my judgment -- whether it is from the Father and the Son, as the Latin fathers express themselves, or from the Father through the Son, as the Greek fathers prefer to define it, because this matter, I confess, far surpasses my capacity.

II PROVIDENCE

My sentiments respecting the providence of God are these: It is present with, and presides over, all things; and all things, according to their essences, quantities, qualities, relations, actions, passions, places, times, stations and habits, are subject to its governance, conservation, and direction. I except neither particular, [worldly], vile, nor contingent things, not even the free wills of men or of angels, either good or evil: And, what is still more, I do not take away from the government of the divine providence even sins themselves, whether we take into our consideration their commencement, their progress, or their termination.

1. With respect to the Beginning of Sin, I attribute the following acts to the providence of God:

First. Permission, and that not idle, but which has united in it four positive acts: (1.) The preservation of the creature according to essence, life and capability. (2.) Care lest a greater or an equal power be placed in opposition. (3.) The offering of an object against which sin will be committed. (4.) The destined concession of its concurrence, which, on account of the dependence of a second on the first cause, is a necessary concurrence.

Secondly. The administration of arguments and occasions, soliciting to the perpetration of sin.

Thirdly. The determination of place, time, manner, and of similar circumstances.

Fourthly. The immediate concurrence itself of God with the act of sin.

2. With respect to the Progress of sin, I attribute also the following four acts to the divine government:

The First is the direction of sin that is already begun, to a certain object, at which the offending creature either has not aimed, or has not absolutely aimed.
The Second act is the direction of sin to the end which God himself wills, whether the creature [intended or did not intend] that end, nay, though he [intended] another and quite opposite end.

The Third act is the prescribing and determination of the time during which he wills or permits sin to endure.

The Fourth act is the defining of its magnitude, by which limits are placed on sin, that it may not increase and assume greater strength.

The whole of these acts, both concerning the commencement and the progress of sin, I consider distinctly in reference to the act itself, and to the transgression of the law, a course which, according to my judgment, is necessary and useful.

3. Lastly, with respect to the END and COMPLETION of sin, I attribute to divine providence either punishment through severity, or remission through grace; which are occupied about sin, in reference to its being sin and to its being a transgression, of the law.

But I most eagerly avoid two causes of offense -- that God be not proposed as the author of sin, and that [the human will’s liberty is not taken away]. These are two points which, if any one knows how to avoid, he will [not think about an] act which I will not gladly allow to be ascribed to the providence of God, provided [he justly regards divine pre-eminence].

III. DIVINE PREDESTINATION

My sentiments [about] the article of predestination are the following: It is an eternal and gracious decree of God in Christ, by which he determines to justify and adopt believers, and to endow them with life eternal, but to condemn unbelievers, and impenitent persons.

… [This decree is] the foundation of Christianity, of our salvation, and of the assurance of salvation, and upon which the apostle treats in the eighth and ninth chapters of the epistle to the Romans, and in the first chapter of that to the Ephesians.

But such a decree as I have described is not that by which God resolves to save some particular persons, or resolves to endow them with faith, but to condemn others and not to endow them with faith. Yet many people declare, that this is the kind of predestination on which the apostle treats in the passages just cited. But I deny what they assert.

IV. GRACE AND FREE WILL

Concerning grace and free will, this is what I teach according to the Scriptures and orthodox consent: Free will is unable to begin or to perfect any true and spiritual good, without grace.

That I may not be said, like Pelagius, to practice delusion with regard to the word "grace," I mean by it that which is the grace of Christ and which belongs to regeneration. I affirm, therefore, that this grace is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the due ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good. It is this grace which operates on the mind, the affections, and the will; which infuses good thoughts into the mind, inspires good desires into the actions, and bends the will to carry into execution good thoughts and good desires. This grace goes before, accompanies, and follows; it excites, assists, operates that we will, and co-operates lest we will in vain. It averts temptations, assists and grants succour in the midst of temptations, sustains man against the flesh, the world and Satan, and in this great contest grants to man the enjoyment of the victory. It raises up again those who are conquered and have fallen, establishes and supplies them with new strength, and renders them more cautious. This grace commences salvation, promotes it, and perfects and consummates it.

I confess that the mind of a natural and carnal man is obscure and dark, that his affections are corrupt and inordinate, that his will is stubborn and disobedient, and that the man himself is dead in sins. And I add to this -- that teacher obtains my highest [approval] who ascribes as much as possible to divine grace, provided he so pleads the cause of grace, as not to inflict an injury on the justice of God, and not to take away the free will to that which is evil.

V. JUSTIFICATION

The last article is on justification, about which these are my sentiments: Faith, and faith only, (though there is no faith alone without works,) is imputed for righteousness. By this alone are we justified before God, absolved from our sins, and are accounted, pronounced and declared righteous by God, who delivers his judgment from the throne of grace.

I do not enter into the question between the active and the passive righteousness of Christ, or that of his death and of his life. On this subject, I walk at liberty: I say "Christ has been made of God to me righteousness" -- "he has been made sin for me, that through faith, I may be the righteousness of God in him."

Here's a link to the full letter.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Bible and Self-determination

One of the many problems with the Calvinist arguments that LFW doesn’t exist is that if LFW doesn’t exist, God doesn’t have LFW. But scripture grants no quarter to those who claim that God doesn’t have LFW. The first verse in scripture claims that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1) We either understand this by faith, or we do not. (Hebrews 11:3)

Consider God’s first action. By definition, no act of God preceded that first act. So no causes preceded that action. Rather, God self-determined that action, by performing it. Thus, contrary to Calvinism, self-determining power exists.

Now the Calvinist might object – how is this to be explained? Does it even make sense? But wait. The scripture says in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Atheists might doubt the existence of a first cause, but it is contrary to the faith to doubt that God created the world in the beginning.

Perhaps the Calvinist might backpedal and say, yes God has self-determining power, but man does not. That’s worth discussing, but that statement grants that self-determination can and does exist. Self-determination is logical and all arguments that claim self-determination is illogical are false.

With that in mind, let’s look at Turretinfan’s 4 questions about LFW (link).

1) Is it the LFW position that the sum (or product) of all preceding causes(including the state of man's heart) does not determine the choice, but that
given that same exact set of preceding causes (both external and internal) man
could have chosen otherwise? This question is important, because otherwise the
argument is just so much straw-man-defeating, in which we shouldn't be investing
any time.


Yes. Again – look at God’s creation. If causal forces preceded and necessitated His creative act, then creation wasn’t in the beginning, was it?

2) Can we meaningfully speak of reasons for choices, reasons that explain the choices?


Yes. Let’s look at the choosing process as Paul describes it in Philippians 1.

21For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.
23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ,
for that is far better. 24But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your
account.


Paul 1) considered both alternatives, 2) projected the consequences of the alternatives, 3) saw the good aspects of both alternatives and 4) was pressed by both alternatives. Paul identified good reasons to choose either alternative, and both alternatives were influencing him to choose them. So after the choice, we can identify one as the indeterminate cause or more commonly: “the reason”. Our self-determining ability required the indeterminate cause and acted in favor of it. Looking for the reason we choose something is looking for the indeterminate cause our self-determining ability required and acted upon.

3) If we can, how can we do so consistently with the concept of libertarian free will?


By admitting that something doesn’t have to determine a choice to be a reason for the choice.

4) So why not just define Free Will as Calvinists typically do, as man choosing in accordance with his desires?


We do not object to the idea that we choose according to our desire – when that notion is properly understood. What we object to is the idea of determinism.

Let’s look briefly at the relation between desire and choice. The Greek term thelo is used for both desire and choice in the New Testament. They seem scarcely distinct, but it’s easiest to see the difference between them when you want something but don’t choose it. Jonathan Edwards saw them both as “willingness”, but desire is “indirect willingness” and has a remote goal and choice is just “willingness” and has a proximate goal. Desire is indirect in that a drunk doesn’t want to avoid drinking, he wants to avoid the bad consequences of drinking. Desire is remote, in that the drunk’s desire is with respect to a future time. “Some day I will stop drinking.”

Understood in this way, saying we choose according to our desire, is really just saying we choose what we choose. The expression really isn’t helpful, as it doesn’t add anything to our understanding. But it’s true, so we don’t object to the expression, even if it’s impractical to use it. What we object to is determinism.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Edwards’ arguments based on divine foreknowledge

In part 2 section 12, Edwards attempts three demonstrations of the incompatibility of LFW and God’s foreknowledge: 1) based on the connection between foreknowledge and the event, 2) based on the impossibility of knowing things without evidence and 3) based on knowing a contingent event with certainty.

The Connection between Foreknowledge and the Event
Edwards' Argument:
P1: Things in the past are now necessary
P2: In the past, God infallibly foreknew our future choices
C1: therefore, God's foreknowledge of our future choices is now necessary
P3: if something necessary is infallibly connected with something else, that something else is also necessary
P4: God's necessary foreknowledge is infallibly connected with our future choices
C2: therefore, our future choices are necessary

My Response
P3 is equivical. "Connection" could mean either a logical connection or a causal one. Additionally, "is" can mean either a logical or a temporal moment.

If connection is understood as a causal connection, we grant P3, but C2 doesn't follow, because foreknowledge is connected logically (not causally) with events. Edwards admits foreknowledge doesn't cause events. Nor do events cause foreknowledge. God's knowledge of events is immediate; there isn't a moment in time that an event happens and God doesn't know about it. This implies that God's knowledge isn't caused, becauces effects temporally follow causes. God's knowldge is unique in this regard.

If "connection" is understood as a logical connection, we must distinguish logicial necessity into simple and compound. Something is simply logically necessary if the opposite contradicts itself. (i.e. square circles) Something is compoundly logically necessary if the opposite contradicts another truth. (i.e. X = 1 contradicts X =2) Undersood as simple logical necessity, we deny P3. The event isn't necessary such that propositions about the event not happening contradict themself. Rather they contradict statements about God's foreknowledge.

If the connection is understood as logical and the necessity is understood as compound necessisty, we must distinguish between logical and temporal moments. If "is" relates to a logical sequence, we grant P3. But the logical sequence is: the event -> true propositions about the event -> foreknowledge. That is to say, the event is the logical basis of truth of propositions about the event, which is the logical basis of foreknowledge. Understanding this, the conclusion is inverted. C2 should be: given the logical connection between the event and foreknowledge, at the logical moment of the event and the connection between the event and foreknowledge, foreknowledge is necessary. One can conclude foreknowledge is necessary based on the event, but not the other way around.

But if the sequence is understood temporally, we deny P3. Truths are omni-temporal. The proposition "on May 17th 2008 Dan is typing a post" is true at all points in time. Thus, temporally sequencing a logical connection is inappropriate.

Impossibility of Knowing Things without Evidence
Edwards argues that nothing can be know without evidence. Evidence consists of either 1) "self-evidence" or 2) "the necessity of it's nature". Edwards denies future contingents give self-evidence, because they have not "present existence". Regarding option 2, Edwards also points out that if something is necessary, it isn't contingent.

My Response
The future event is the evidence by which God foreknows the future event. Thus the event is "self-evident", using Edwards terms. What is required to be self-evident isn't present existence, but future existence. Otherwise God would know the event, not foreknow it. To require present existence as evidence collapse time. What God knows would no longer be the future, if it has present existence.

Even thought we can say the future is the evidence supporting God's knowledge of the future, we do not know how God knows the future. Some say it's because God is outside of time, but I am not sure about that. But Calvinism doesn't explain how God knows the future either (if God knows the future in Calvinism). For more, see this post, and my exchange with Steve.

Knowing Something Certainly which is Contingent
Edwards argues that God's knowledge would be inconsistent with itself, if He knew something contingent with certainty. To Edwards, this is like saying: "he now knows a proposition to be of certain infallible truth, which he knows to be of contingent uncertain truth".

My Response
Edwards conflates "can" and "will". Saying an event can happen, isn't the same as saying it will happen. Can relates to possibility, will relates to future occurrence. God knows, out of the many things that can happen, what will happen. His knowledge is certain, which means His knowledge is correct, not that the event is necessary. Only by switching "can" and "will" does Edwards get to his conclusion God knows something both certainly and uncertainly; a move that that cannot be made without relying on the two flawed arguments above.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Edwards' Arguments against LFW

Brief Outline of Edwards' Arguments in Part II of Freedom of the Will
Edwards attacks LFW in two broad categories: causation and divine foreknowledge. Under causation, Edwards argues that LFW either leads to an infinite regression of causes or is an action without a cause. Edwards then argues that actions without causes are absurd because: 1) they would violate the common sense idea that nothing ever comes to pass without a cause, 2) then we wouldn’t be able to reason from cause to effect, 3) all proof of God’s existence is taken away, and 4) actions produced by a causeless cause would be both random and irrational, and therefore not a basis of moral accountability.

Infinite Regression of Causes or Causeless
Edwards first argues under LFW choices can't have causes. Asserting they do "brings us directly to a contradiction: for it supposes an act of the Will preceding the first act in the whole train, determining the rest; or a free act of the Will, before the first free act of the Will." If our choices have causes, either whatever causes our choices was causeless or it had a cause. And this argument repeats till we either reach something causeless or we continue with an infinite regression of causes.

My Response
The way Edwards defines causes our choices don't have causes, but the way I define causes, they do. I don't think Edwards defines cause correctly or consistently. In part II.III Edwards defines cause as : I sometimes use the word Cause, in this inquiry, to signify any antecedent, either natural or moral, positive or negative, on which an Event, either a thing, or the manner and circumstance of a thing, so depends, that it is the ground and reason, either in whole, or in part, why it is, rather than not; or why it is as it is, rather than otherwise. In this sense our choices have causes. But in part II.VIII Edwards says: If there are some events which are not necessarily connected with their causes, then it will follow, that there are some things which come to pass without any cause and also, if the effect be not necessarily connected with the cause... this instance is a proof, in fact, that the influence of the cause is not sufficient to produce the effect. For if it had been sufficient, it would have done it.

On the one hand Edwards defines cause broadly as anything on which effects have complete or partial dependence, but on the other hand Edwards defines cause narrowly as having a necessary connection with the effect and being sufficient to produce the effect. That's the problem. Under the first definition, our choices have causes, under the second they don't.

Choices have indeterministic causes, not sufficient causes. Indeterministic causation is a tricky subject, but there are a few things we can say about it. First off, indeterministic causes do not predetermine the effects. The effect may or may not happen given the presence of the indeterministic cause. So that's what indeterministic causes aren't, but what are they?Indeterministic causes:
  1. are necessary to produce effects - without the indeterministic cause the effect cannot happen
  2. produce desires within us. We desire more than one thing: I want to eat the cake and I want to lose weight. An indeterministic cause can give us the desire for something, without actually forcing the choice
  3. eliminate the "no choice" option - an indeterministic cause can force us to choose between two paths, as opposed to waiting at the Y intersection
  4. At times, a special subcategory of indeterministic causation can be sufficient to produce a choice, without opposition. That is to say, given the presence of the indeterministic cause and without our will specifically opposing that indeterministic cause, the choice will be produced.

#4 is rather abstract, so perhaps an example or two will help. One example of this is prevenient grace. If we do nothing, prevenient grace causes us to choose God. If we resist, we block prevenient grace. Think of two sumo wrestlers. If one stops pushing, the other causes him to go flying out of the ring. But if he continues pushing, he holds his ground. In the same way, this subcategory of indeterministic causation is sufficient without resistance and insufficient with resistance.

Another example, for guys, is looking at a beautiful woman. Christ says if we look for the purpose of lusting after her, we are committing adultery. So it's look and lust. But don't think that if a beautiful woman catches your eye you can continue looking without lusting. She's not just beautiful, she's attractive. If you don't quickly choose to look away, you will be caused to lust after her.

Of course, indeterministic causes don't predetermine outcomes. Our choices do not have sufficient causes. The agent is the source of his actions and his act of choosing is the first cause in a sufficient causation (rather than indeterminisic causation) sense. Edwards argues that everything has a sufficient cause, but we disagree.

It's true that most of what we observe in nature has a sufficient cause. For example, the strike of the cue ball is sufficient to sink the eight ball. This works in the physical world, although perhaps exceptions exist at the quantum level. But remember, the will isn't physical, it's part of your immaterial soul. If a mad scientist were to dissect me, he wouldn't find my will. The will can't be moved with respect to location, because it's not spatially extended. So LFW is not really an exception to physical causation.

The short answer to Edwards argument is that his equivocation of the word "cause" leads to a false dichotomy. This response also refutes Edwards' points #1 & 2.

All proof of God’s existence is taken away
In part II.III Edwards argues: If this grand principle of common sense [nothing ever comes to pass without a cause] be taken away, all arguing from effects to causes ceaseth, and so all knowledge of any existence, besides what we have by the most direct and immediate intuition, particularly all our proof of the being of God, ceases: we argue His being from our own being, and the being of other things, which we are sensible once were not, but have begun to be; and from the being of the world, with all its constituent parts, and the manner of their existence; all which we see plainly are not necessary in their own nature, and so not self-existent, and therefore must have a Cause. But if things, not in themselves necessary, may begin to be without a Cause, all this arguing is vain.

My Response
In the first place, the cosmological argument isn't the only argument for the existence of God. In my opinion, Anselm's ontological argument is stronger. In the second place, Edwards' idea that everything that came to pass has a cause actually disproves the biblical account of God. Consider God's first act, creation, as recorded in Genesis 1:1. Did creation have a preceding sufficient cause? If it did, it wasn't in the beginning. The cosmological argument relies on agent causation, which falsifies Edwards' premise that everything that comes to pass must have a sufficient cause. In the third place, Edwards' equivocation over the word "cause" reveals that every action of creation does in fact have a cause. And in the fourth place, God's providential concurrence reconciles the cosmological argument with LFW.

Actions produced by a causeless cause would be random and irrational, and therefore not a basis of moral accountability
In part II.XIII Edwards argues that if our choices don't have a cause, then reason isn't a cause of our choices. If reason isn't the cause of our choices, then we are choosing irrationally.

My Response
If we choose to act without considering the consequences, we are choosing irrationally. If we consider an action and our reason tells us that action is altogether bad, our reason eliminated that action as a possible option for us, and we can't choose it. If our reason either identifies some aspect of an action as good, or is uncertain as to the outcome, that action remains an option to us. In which case our reason tells us that multiple options have good aspects, or at least they could have good aspects. In which case, choosing either option would be rational.

Let's take the example of a milk shake and a diet. Our reason projects the milk shake will taste good and also that not having the milk shake help with weight loss. They both have some good aspects, so they remain options. If we choose either, we are acting in accordance with a plan, and our actions are rational.

If we change the example to let's say eating or not eating a slug. Let's also ignore extreme cases, like starvation or winning a bet. Your reason isn't going to tell you eating the slug is good, so after you've thought about it, it's not an option for you to eat the slug. Could you not even think about it at all and haphazardly pop the slug in your mouth? I suppose, but that would be irrational. So again, as long as you have thought about your options, projected the consequences of your possible choices and your reason is telling you there is (or could be) some good aspects of the choice, both choices are rational.

God willing, we will address Edwards' arguments on divine foreknowledge in a separate post.