Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Four views on the fall of man

Somebody asked me recently why God would create man knowing we'd sin, introduce evil into the world, and God would have to send Jesus to die for all that. At the time, I was trying to explain the difference between essential and non-essential Christian doctrines and how Christians disagree with each other over non-essentials but remain Christians. So rather than answer his question in light of my own theology, I explained to him how different people would respond to his question in light of their own theology. Here's what I said to him.

The way a person answers this question will depend on what theology they subscribe to. Rather than push my own view, I'll explain the way four different kinds of Christians might respond.

  • Open theism
  • Arminianism
  • Molinism
  • Calvinism

Open Theism

Open theism is the view that for God, the future is an open question. Some people accuse open theists of denying God's omniscience because God doesn't know all the future free will choices of his creatures. Open theists themselves will deny this accusation on the basis that God can only know what is true, and there are no truths to contingent future free will choices. So, for example, whether you will choose Sprite or Coke tomorrow isn't something God knows today because there's no truth to the matter. As long as you have free will, it could go one way or the other.

It's probably obvious to you by now how an open theists would answer your question. God didn't know what would happen when he created Adam and Eve because they had free will.


Arminians subscribe to simple divine fore-knowledge and libertarian free will. This means that our actions are not determined by antecedent conditions. They are spontaneous events. And God knows what we will do.

Arminians justify the creation of mankind, in spite of his knowledge that they would sin, on the basis of weighing the pros and cons. The good that comes from free will outweighs the bad. Some of the goods that comes from free will include goodness itself (since in their view, morality isn't even possible without free will), love (both love for each other and love for the creator), and rationality. Under this view, life would be meaningless without free will because we'd just be a bunch of pre-programmed robots.


This is the view Craig subscribes to. According to Molinism, people have libertarian free will, but God has what's called middle knowledge. This is knowledge of counterfactuals concerning free will decisions. For example, "If Jim meets Bob on Tuesday, Jim will offer to buy him lunch." So under this view, God knows what each person would do under every circumstance.

Prior to creating the world, God surveyed all the possible worlds with all of their contingencies, and he actualized the world that contains the greatest number of saved people, or the greatest ratio of saved to lost. So whatever evils there are in the world are here because the world where the most people get saved happens to also have a lot of evil in it.

Under Molinism, God can't just actualize any possible world he wants. He's limited by the counter-factuals of human freedom. Consider these two worlds:

  • World 1: Jim meets Bob and offers to buy him lunch.
  • World 2: Jim meets Bob and does not offer to buy him lunch.

Both of these worlds are possible. If Jim has libertarian freedom, he can choose either way. However, prior to creating anything, there is a counter-factual that is true about any world containing Jim. It goes like this:

  • If Jim meets Bob, he will offer to buy him lunch.

This counter-factual tells God what Jim would do if he met Bob. Now, if that counter-factual is true, then God obviously couldn't actualize World 2 because that would lead to a contradiction. Any world in which Jim meets Bob will be a world in which Jim offers him lunch. It's up to Bob what choice he makes, but God has some limited control over what happens because God can actualize states of fairs, and he can do so according to his knowledge of all the counterfactuals of human freedom.

So it may just be that given all the counter-factuals God knows about all the possible people that could come into existence, there just is no world that he could actualize that doesn't contain some evil. And this may be the optimal one that gets the greatest number of people saved.


Under Calvinism, God is absolutely sovereign over everything that happens. That means that for everything that happens, God intended it to happen because God has a purpose it. Most Calvinists are compatibilists. A compatibilist is somebody who thinks that free will and determinism are compatible. They reconcile free will and determinism by defining free will differently than libertarians. Whereas under libertarianism, there are no conditions prior to and up to the moment of choice that are sufficient to determine what that choice will be, under compatibilism, our choices are determined by our antecedent desires, motives, inclinations, biases, preferences, intentions, etc. So under compatibilism, God can have complete control over every choice that every person makes since he has some control over the antecedent conditions that determine those choices.

Not all Calvinists are compatibilists. Some Calvinists subscribe to libertarian freedom under some circumstances and compatibilism is limited to the choice of whether to accept or reject Christ. But in either view, God is sovereign over everything that happens. God has a detailed plan for the whole history of the world that he meticulously brings about, and that includes the fall of Adam and Eve.

Calvinists deal with your question in a number of ways. One way is simply to say that God has an overriding morally good reason for allowing history to unfold the way it did. He has a purpose in everything, though we may not know what that purpose is. But it's a good and holy purpose.

Some Calvinists take it a step further and identify what his purpose is in disposing the world in such a way that evil was inevitable. It's because God's ultimate motive in creating the world was to glorify himself, and God's glory consists of all his holy attributes. God didn't just want to have certain attributes, and leave them dormant. He wanted to express them, exercise them, display them, etc. Since God is the greatest possible being, all of his divine attributes are great, and since his divine attributes are great, then a world in which they are all expressed is better than a world in which many of them lie dormant.

Some of God's attributes can only be expressed in a world containing evil. For example, God is merciful and forgiving, but he is also just, and he hates sin. God can't forgiven unless there's something to forgive, and that entails that there must be sin. Likewise, God can't express his wrath toward sin without the existence of sin.

So under Calvinism, God is glorified both in the judgment against sinners and in the salvation of sinners. That means the greatest possible good can only be fully expressed in a world containing evil.


I think the key to explaining why God created man, knowing he would introduce evil into the world, is to know what God's motive in creation was in the first place. But a person doesn't need to know what God's motive was in order to maintain a reasonable belief in God in spite of the difficulty. Suppose we don't know why God created a world with evil. Our ignorance doesn't tell us anything about whether God actually has a reason or not. If an almighty God who knows everything has some reason for doing things the way he did, there's no reason to expect that creatures as limited as ourselves would necessarily know, or be able to figure out, what that reason is without him revealing it to us. As long as it's possible that God has a morally sufficient reason for creating a world containing evil, the existence of evil shouldn't pose a problem to somebody who is disposed to believe in God. Before one could make a sound argument against God from the problem of evil, they would have to rule out that possibility.

For further reading

"A quick and dirty response to the problem of evil"

Sunday, August 18, 2019

No True Christians (or Scotsmen)

I wanted to make a clarification about the No True Scotsman fallacy because I've seen a lot of people on the internet recklessly accuse people of committing this fallacy whenever they say something that merely resembles a "no true Scotsman" statement. Here's the no true Scotsman fallacy in a nutshell.

Jim: No Scotsman puts pineapple on his pizza.

Bob: Wait a minute. Dan is a Scotsman, and he puts pineapple on his pizza.

Jim: Well, Dan isn't a true Scotsman, though.

Bob: Why do you say that?

Jim: Because he puts pineapple on his pizza. No true Scotsman would do that.

Jim is committing the No True Scotsman fallacy. He makes a claim about all Scotsman, and when presented with a counter-example to his claim, he merely redefines "Scotsman" in such a way as to rule out the counter-example. Unless not putting pineapple on your pizza is part of what it means to be a Scotsman, this is an illegitimate move on Jim's part.

And therein lies the mistake a lot of people make when accusing others of committing this fallacy. Whether it's a fallacy or not depends on whether Jim is making a generalization that may or may not be true, or whether Jim is giving a definition, which would entail that it's true of necessity. Some people have a knee jerk reaction whenever any claim resembling, "No true Scotsman" is made. I've heard people say things like, "You're in No True Scotsman territory," and their use of territory seems to be a way of hedging their accusation in case they've misidentified an occasion of the fallacy.

But let me give you an example of a No True Scotsman-Like statement that does not commit the fallacy so you can see what I'm talking about.

Jim: All archers shoot bows.

Bob: Wait a minute. Dan is an archer and he doesn't shoot a bow.

Jim: Well, Dan isn't a true archer.

Bob: Why do you say that?

Jim: Because Dan doesn't shoot bows. All true archers shoot bows.

Obviously Jim hasn't committed any fallacy because shooting a bow is an essential part of what it means to be an archer. An archer is somebody who shoots bows. It's Bob who has made the mistake here because he thinks somebody is an archer who doesn't shoot bows.

As a side note here, you may quibble with the fact that I said, "all archers" instead of "no archers." But these are horns on the same goat. To say, "All P's are Q" is logically equivalent to saying, "No P's are Not-Q." So if all archers shoot bows, then there are no archers who do not shoot bows.

This confusion about the No True Scotsman fallacy comes up in the context of Christians sometimes. One person will make a claim about all Christians, somebody else will come up with a supposed counter-example, and the first person will dismiss the counter-example on the basis that the person isn't a real Christian. Now, it could be that in a lot of these cases, the No True Scotsman fallacy really is being committed. Here's an example of when the fallacy is being committed.

Jim: All Christians vote Republican.

Bob: Dan doesn't vote Republican.

Jim: Dan isn't a true Christian.

Bob: Why not?

Jim: Because he votes Democrat. No true Christian would vote Democrat.

Jim commits the No True Scotsman fallacy because whether you vote Republican or Democrat (or whatever) isn't part of what it means to be a Christian. Nor does voting for one party or the other exclude one from being a Christian. But consider this conversation:

Jim: All Christians are followers of Christ.

Bob: Dan is a Christian, and he doesn't follow Christ.

Jim: Well, obviously, Dan isn't a real Christian. All real Christians follow Christ because that's what it means to be a Christian.

In this case, Dan is just confused about what it means to be a Christian. That's how he managed to misidentify somebody as being a counter-example to Jim's claim. Jim wasn't telling Bob something that just happened to be true about all Christians. He was telling Bob what it means to be a Christian. He was giving Bob a definition of "Christian."

Now, there is some gray area here. Consider a case in which some property may not be part of the definition of a class of people, but it is nevertheless how we usually identity people of that class. For example, we usually identify Mormon missionaries as people who wear Latter Day Saint Elder name tags while they're out and about doing their missionary work. Now consider this dialogue:

Jim: All Mormon missionaries wear name tags when out witnessing.

Bob: Dan doesn't.

Jim: Well, Dan isn't even a Mormon missionary.

Bob: Why do you say that?

Jim: Because if he was a Mormon missionary, he'd be wearing a name tag. No true Mormon missionary goes door to door without their Latter Day Saint Elder name tag.

Has Jim committed the No True Scotsman fallacy? Maybe and maybe not. Wearing a name tag isn't what makes somebody a Mormon missionary, and it's at least possible for a Mormon missionary to go door to door without their name tag. That would indicate that Jim has committed the No True Scotsman fallacy. On the other hand, the name tag is one of the primary ways we identify Mormon missionaries, and since it's practically unheard of for one of them to go about witnessing without their name tag, the fact that somebody isn't wearing one is a good indication that they're not a Mormon missionary. If Mormon missionaries happen to be really good about remembering their name tags, and if there happen to be imposters out there, then the lack of a name tag is a good indication that somebody isn't actually a Mormon missionary. So maybe Jim isn't committing the No True Scotsman fallacy after all. He's just giving a piece of evidence to indicate that Dan is probably not actually a Mormon missionary.

There can be gray areas in the case of Christians because Christians disagree amongst themselves about what is essential to Christianity and what excludes somebody from being a Christian. For example, most Christians think belief in the resurrection of Jesus is essential to Christianity and that if you don't believe in the resurrection, then you're not a true Christian. Other people disagree. There are what's called "liberal protestants," who consider themselves Christians but who may or may not believe Jesus literally rose from the dead. Here's Jim and Bob again.

Jim: All Christians believe Jesus literally rose from the dead.

Bob: John Shelby Spong doesn't believe in the literal resurrection, and he's a Bishop of an Episcopal church. Obviously, he's a counter-example to your claim.

Jim: Mr. Spong is not a true Christian. He's a fake.

Bob: Why do you say that?

Jim: If he was a true Christian, then he'd believe in the literal resurrection of Jesus.

Some people are going to think Jim committed the No True Scotsman fallacy, and some aren't. It depends on whether you think belief in the literal resurrection of Jesus is essential to being a Christian or not. If it is, then Jim isn't committing a fallacy. If it's not, then he is committing a fallacy. I happened to be one of those who thinks the literal resurrection of Jesus is essential, so I don't think Jim is committing any fallacy. I have no qualms whatsoever in identifying John Shelby Spong as a fake Christian on the basis that he claims to be a Christian but denies the literal resurrection of Jesus. The same thing is true of John Dominic Crossan, though I have a lot of respect for Crossan as an academic. There are a lot of people who claim to be Christians but who aren't. There have been since the earliest days of Christianity.

The resurrection is a case where the definition of "Christian" is the deciding factor, but the case that usually comes up has more to do with identifying people as Christians by looking at their behavior. For example, people sometimes will cast dispersions on Christians in general based on the behavior of some people who called themselves Christians. The defense against these accusations is to say, "Well, those people weren't true Christians, and we know that because of their actions." This is a gray area because, on the one hand, all Christians sin, and being a Christian doesn't mean you'll never sin. But on the other hand, a person who has been regenerated by God will be sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and as a result should exhibit the fruit of the Spirit--love, joy, patience, kindness, self-control, etc. So there is a degree to which one can observe somebody's life to determine whether an actual conversion has taken place or not. And this is important because there have been times in history when claiming to be a Christian was expedient even if one was not actually a Christian.

The case of Adolf Hitler is a good example. He was attempting to become a leader of a predominantly Lutheran country. As a typical politician, we should expect him to say things that are friendly to Lutheranism. But apart from that, when you look at his life, there's no reason in the world to take his Christian claims seriously. He obviously wasn't a Christian because no true Christian would behave the way he did.

But how bad can a person be before it's obvious they're not really a Christian, in spite of their claims? I don't know. I've done things that made me question my own Christianity. I do think that when people doubt other's Christianity on the basis of their behavior, they are in No True Scotsman territory, but whether they've actually committed the fallacy or not is sometimes hard to tell.

Further reading

"Epistemological and ontological assurance of Salvation" This is about how behavior can serve as evidence of whether somebody is really a regenerated Christian or not.

"ad hominem, no true Scotsman, and arguments from authority" This one has a little more on the No True Scotsman fallacy.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Review: Logically Fallacious by Bo Bennett

Logically Fallacious: The Ultimate Collection of Over 300 Logical Fallacies by Bo Bennett

Here is a book I've been recommending to people for a while. I started recommending it to people without having finished it, though. I was initially impressed by the fact that it contained so many fallacies, gave all the various names that each one goes by, and especially by the fact that Bennett explained the exceptions to informal fallacies, which a lot of other authors don't do, and which I think is very important.

I put the book down along time ago, but I picked it up and finished it recently. Now I regret having recommended it so much in the past. I knew Bennett wasn't a Christian and that he occasionally used Christian talking points as examples of logical fallacies, but that little bias didn't bother me that much since I figured as long as he's teaching the fallacies correctly, that's the most important thing. But as I read through the book, I began to realize that the book isn't really about logical fallacies. It is packed so full of straw man versions of typical Christian defenses, that it's actually just a biased straw man attack on Christian defenses masquerading as a collection of logical fallacies. Either Bennett is blinded by his bias against Christianity, or it was an intentional means of manipulating the reader by creating a bias in them.

Here is my Amazon review:

This book was a big disappointment. It was recommended to me by an atheist who assured me that although Bennett did use religious examples that the book was nevertheless fair and that I could learn a lot from it. But the bias in this book was so strong that Bennett committed many fallacies of his own. In many cases, the Christian examples he gives are straw men. Bennett could, of course, defend against that accusation by saying that he's heard somebody give these bad arguments at one time or another, but the impression a person gets from reading this book as a whole is that "Christians consistently make really bad arguments." And you get that impression from the fact that Bennett has cherry picked his examples. Cherry picking is a fallacy.

Bennett could defend against the cherry picking fallacy by claiming that of course he has to use examples of bad reasoning if he's trying to show logical fallacies. But the fact that he uses the book, not so much to teach logical fallacies, but to cast Christianity in a bad light, makes that defense vacuous. If it's not the cherry picking fallacy he's guilty of, then at the very least, it's poisoning the well. Anybody who reads this book who hasn't actually read much literature from Christian academics is going to come away from it with a strong bias against Christian apologetics. I run into atheists all the time who cannot hear what I am saying because they have been so indoctrinated to recognize the straw man version of what I'm saying that they can't help but hear the straw man instead of what I'm actually saying. I'm afraid Bennett's book will only serve to perpetuate that habit.

Bennett should call this book what it actually is. It's a "case against Christianity" book or a "case against Christian apologetics" book disguised as a book on logical fallacies. It's a clever gimmick, and I'm sure a lot of ambitious young atheists, eager to win arguments with Christians, will fall for it. If Bennett was actually trying to improve the critical thinking skills of atheist apologists, maybe he should've used a few examples of the bad arguments atheists make.

Some of the "fallacies" aren't even fallacies. They're just conclusions that Bennett thinks are wrong. A fallacy is a mistake in reasoning, not a wrong conclusion. Toward the end, Bennett even admits that some of the "logical fallacies" he lists are not, strictly speaking, logical fallacies.

One last complaint I have about this book is the lack of organization. He simply lists the logical fallacies in alphabetical order, not in any logical order, and he makes no distinction between formal fallacies and informal fallacies. He should've at least grouped those together. And he should've explained that there are classes of fallacies and examples of each. For example, the red herring fallacy is a broad category of fallacies that include any kind of distraction. The ad hominem fallacy an example of a red herring. At one point, he even lists the "non sequitur" fallacy as if it were a separate and distinct fallacy. But "non sequitur" just means "does not follow." All reasoning fallacies are non sequiturs!

The book isn't all bad, though. There's some really good stuff in there. One of the things I liked about this book is that when it came to informal fallacies, Bennett explained exceptions to them. A lot of books on informal fallacies don't do that, and their failure to do that results in people misidentifying occasions of fallacies. When it comes to formal fallacies, Bennett always says that there are no exceptions, and he's correct. That's one of the key differences with formal fallacies--there are no exceptions to them.