Jun 23, 2014

My upcoming EPS paper on whether determinism follows from compatibilism

Here is the abstract of the paper I will read at the 2014 annual meeting of the Evangelical Philosophical Society.

Does Compatibilism Entail Determinism?
A Pragmatic Argument From Purpose in Evil

The debate on the nature of free will and divine providence, which has been showcased for centuries in the theological world between so-called ‘Arminians’ and ‘Calvinists’, is often (and appropriately) seen in the philosophical world to be between ‘libertarians’ and ‘compatibilists’. But while the thesis of libertarianism straightforwardly entails indeterminism as affirmed by all Arminians, compatibilism on the other hand does not commit its Calvinist proponents to the truth of theological determinism, only to its compatibility with human moral responsibility. Given this, even if Calvinist philosophers were to successfully establish compatibilism, the question of determinism would remain. Supposing the compatibilist arguments are successful, God could determine human choices without doing violence to human moral responsibility, but has He? Typically, Calvinists find support for this stronger contention in biblical exegesis, or in the traditional philosophical arguments against indeterminism. The present paper aims to offer an alternative philosophical route, based upon the purposelessness of evil in an indeterministic world. It argues that God, as a maximally great being would only permit (or risk) evil with morally sufficient reasons in the form of compensating goods, and that if indeterminism is true, at least some evil results from the misuse of libertarian free will alone, serving no other good purpose. It entails that unless libertarian free will is itself a necessary safeguard of moral responsibility or something very much like it, God would not commit to it with its attached price tag of otherwise purposeless evil. From these premises, it is argued that determinism does follow from a robust compatibilism: if God could determine human choices thereby securing purpose in evil while preserving human moral responsibility, then He probably has.

Jun 10, 2014

My upcoming ETS paper on whether God "permits" evil

Here is the abstract of the paper I will be presenting in a session on Molinism at the 2014 annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, alongside William Lane Craig, John Laing, and Kirk McGregor, and moderated by Kenneth Keathley.

‘Lord Willing and God Forbid’
Divine Permission, Asymmetry, and Counterfactuals
by Guillaume Bignon

In the literature on divine providence, an important argument against Calvinism and its determinist view of free will is the claim that determinism prevents Calvinists from employing about God a language of ‘permission’ for sin. Determinism allegedly requires one to say that God ‘intends’ or ‘causes’ sin, and thereby forbids saying God ‘permits’ it.
This paper first argues that contrary to what is often assumed, indeterminism alone is insufficient to rescue the meaningfulness of divine permission of evil: asymmetry in divine providence is a problem for everyone, and indeterminism alone cannot justify this asymmetry.
Accordingly, this paper turns to a conceptual analysis of ‘permission’ in the sense that is relevant to divine providence over evil, and offers a (Calvinist-friendly) criterion that does suffice to anchor such language. It is argued that permission language is in fact predicated upon the truth (and hence divine knowledge) of certain active/passive pairs of counterfactuals, about what would not happen in the absence of special divine intervention, and would happen if said divine intervention occurred. That is, counterfactuals about what would happen just in case God intervened specially at the moment of choice, such as the pair: 1-If God refrained from a special intervention on his heart at the moment of choice, the sinner would sin; and 2-If God did intervene specially on his heart at the moment of choice, the sinner would refrain from sin.

Since the truth and divine knowledge of such counterfactuals is affirmed by both Calvinists and Molinists alike, it will follow that even though these two teams disagree on the nature of free will, the foundation of a language of divine permission should be a point of happy agreement between them (over against simple-foreknowledge Arminianism and open theism).

Jun 8, 2014

Association Axiome: My blogging in French

"Parlez-vous Fran├žais?" Magnifique! With the creation of this blog, I was asked whether or not I would write in French as well. As a matter of fact, I already do. I am one of the contributors on the blog of the Association Axiome (www.associationaxiome.ca), an association of French-speaking scholars, founded by Canadian philosopher David Haines. For posts "en Fran├žais" pertaining to loosely the same topics as will be addressed on the present blog, you can follow the blog of Association Axiome, then. We are working on making this a solid entry point for bringing serious apologetics to the French-speaking world.

As to the present blog, I created it precisely because I didn't have an outlet for my writings in English, so it shall be just that: English with only a French accent.

Jun 7, 2014

Of course, she was right.

Well, of course, she was right. She's always right. At any rate, my lovely wife Katherine has been telling me for a while now that I really, really should get my act together and start posting material that's a bit more substantial than can be expressed in packets of 140 characters.
In other words, I need to blog. Ah, that dirty word. Not without its stigma. Having something substantial to say can be a sufficient condition for one to create a blog, but to state the obvious, it's not at all a necessary condition for such. And so it is, that the unflattering title 'a blogger' now properly refers to yours truly.
Without a doubt, some who disagree with me in the future (people do that, sometimes, I don't know why), will see as a live option the possibility of referring to me, their ideological opponent, as 'a blogger' rather than a philosopher, a scholar, or whatever  lofty title makes me feel pretty good about my life. Well, let it be so, and face the inevitable: here I blog.

So, what sort of material should you expect to find here if you ever come back? Pretty much the same things you get from my twitter account @theoloGUI: a few thoughts about theology, philosophy, Christian apologetics, and hey, whatever else I feel like writing about, this is my blog, it says so on the top of that page.
Come visit some time.