Monday, May 19, 2014

Everything We Think and Do is a Caused Thing?

If you've been following the CathApol Blog you've seen the recent postings regarding predestination and foreknowledge between myself and Barry Hoffstetter.  Well, another has thrown his hat into the ring, a fellow who goes by "Tobiah" - or perhaps Roy Tobias (I've asked for clarification, none has been forthcoming as of this writing), I'll refer to him as "RT."

RT, though he claims to not be a Calvinist, presents a very Calvinist position on predestination. He opened our discussion with this challenge:
Everything we think and do is a caused thing. I'd challenge you to demonstrate otherwise.
Now, before I go much further, let me state - I am not really in disagreement with that statement! However, RT goes on to say:
The apostle Paul said God created man to search for him, and ordered all things towards that purpose. He said we love God because *He first loved us*, and that even when we were dead in our trespasses and sin *He*(God) brought us to life-so that we could respond. And yes, there are grounds for judgement regardless-since we are all children of wrath by nature *until* that awakening comes from God via His mercy.
And again, fundamentally, I would agree with this.  RT goes on to ask:
Explain to me how you make decisions free of influences that push you in certain directions.
I'll get to answering that in a moment here.  In his fourth response on this topic he states:
I asked you from the beginning to demonstrate the mechanisms of free will. Describe it, where does it arise, how is it free-and just what is your definition of 'free will'? How do you make any decisions at all free of all the influences shaping them and the causality that led you to the decision?
Sounding a bit more Calvinist?  I think so!  

First off, to be clear here, "from the beginning" all RT did was make an assertion and issue an open ended challenge.  "From the beginning" he did not ask me to "demonstrate the mechanism of free will," nor did he ask me to "describe it" nor show "where does it arise" and neither did he ask "just what is (my) definition of free will?"  He did not ask, "How do (I) make any decisions at all free of the influences shaping them and the causality that led (me) to the decision?"  All he did was assert "everything we think and do is a caused thing" and then challenged, "I challenge you to demonstrate otherwise."  So, from the beginning of his involvement we began on a false premise.  That being said, I am overlooking the false statement and will deal with his questions.  

If the previous was not enough to convince the semi-unbiased reader that RT holds a Calvinist position on predestination, read this from him:
God has predetermined who will come to Him, as well as the how/why of it. You want to understand my answer, you need to think outside of your box-this is why I've tried to get you to answer about free will. It does not exist. Only causality exists-and the statement you quoted is part of that causality. So is everything else that causes people to come to Christ. What's to fear? Losing your salvation-which is a goad for those chosen to respond to this call of God in a manner that keeps them on the path. I'm showing you the nuts and bolts of how determinism works, Scott. We can go deeper of course-but the same principle is there every step of the way. Every step of the way causality is leading you along your predetermined path by predetermined means to a predetermined end result.
Catholicism and Predestination
Now, before we continue can Catholics believe in predestination?  The answer is yes!  Is it the same way of thinking which Calvinists express and teach?  No!   So what are Catholic teachings on predestination?
To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of "predestination", he includes in it each person's free response to his grace: "In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place." For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness.  
Catechism of the Catholic Church 600

What Catholics Cannot Believe Regarding Predestination
We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema. 
If anyone says that it is not in man's power to make his ways evil, but that the works that are evil as well as those that are good God produces, not permissively only but also propria et per se, so that the treason of Judas is no less His own proper work than the vocation of St. Paul, let him be anathema.
That which God has predestined, He has done so through His foreknowledge of how men will respond to the free gift (grace) He has made available to mankind.  Romans 8:28-30 lays out this "order" quite clearly.  Many Protestants even use the example of the "Golden Chain of Salvation" as seen here:
Predestination does not come before foreknowledge.  Foreknowledge does not affect the free will God has given to man, it just means that God knows what choices man will make and based upon that, He can predestine those whom will be called "the Elect."

Back to RT...   RT states that nothing happens which God did not cause to happen.  Man, in RT's paradigm, is not responsible for his actions - for he makes no act without God.  We have a real problem here, well, "we" don't, but RT does.  In RT's theology, God is justified in the condemnation of all men, for mankind has a fallen nature due to Original Sin and it is only through God's grace that any man is saved.  God, therefore, can choose whom He will save and who will remain condemned - because, again, all men are condemned by Adam's sin and this is due solely to His mercy and grace.   

The problem the Christian Church has with this Calvinistic view is that it really removes all judgment from mankind, for in that view - man is already judged and condemned and it is only by God's grace that man can be pulled from that condemnation - no judgment, just grace.  The Christian Scriptures clearly state that all men (not just the elect) will be judged according to his works (Romans 2:6; 1 Corinthians 3:14-15). 

The Calvinist will argue that only those who are drawn can be saved, and those whom He takes in His hands will not be lost (John 6) but who is drawn?  According to John 12:32 "all men" will be drawn to Him - when He is lifted up.  Was Christ lifted up?  Yes!  On the Cross!  You could even say that lifting happened when He ascended into Heaven - either way, He HAS been "lifted up" and thus "all men" are drawn to Him!  Now the Calvinist knows full well that the true Christian Faith does not believe that all men will be saved - in fact "many are called, but few are chosen," (Matt. 22:14) another implication that more are drawn than will actually make it, so where does this leave us?  It leaves the free gift of grace as freely given to all - but clearly not all will accept the gift.  If all are drawn and/or many are called - but few are chosen - this leaves the Calvinist form of predestination with God failing to accomplish the drawing and/or calling.  The only way this drawing/calling works is if man is given the choice to accept or reject God's free gift. 

Can We Make Decisions Free of Influences?
Getting back to RT again, his position is that God influences all acts of men - no act is then autonomously man's.  He challenges:  "Explain to me how you make decisions free of influences that push you in certain directions."   To be wholly free of influences is not possible, but those influences do not make the decisions.  Influences CAN affect decisions, but that does not mean they always do.  Men are tempted, all the time, to do what is wrong - but men can CHOOSE to do what is right or wrong.  If we choose to do what is wrong, we must be prepared to suffer the consequences.  If I choose to go over the speed limit on the highway, I must be prepared to pay the fine if I'm caught.

Spring-Wound Watch 
You've probably heard the adage that a watch needs a watchmaker to exist, right?  Suppose I found a watch.  I pick it up and look at it, and it does not appear to be running as the second hand is not moving.  I decide to wind it up and it starts ticking!   But it is the spring which is causing the watch to turn, and it's the mechanisms of the watch which allow it to keep time.  The second hand is now moving, the watch is ticking away.  I am not the designer or the creator or even the spring of this watch, but my action has caused it to start working again.  Who is the Prime Mover in this scenario?  Answer:  the Prime Mover would be the Watchmaker - but that watch didn't start "moving" until I wound it up.  The Watchmaker made the watch, but it was my action which enabled it to have its own action (of keeping time).  So, is everything we do a "caused thing?"  Yes, but who does the causing?  Just because there is a "first cause," (the Watchmaker) that does not mean the "first cause" causes every other action (like the watch mechanism actually moving or the winding of the spring - or even the choice to NOT wind the spring).

RT has responded here:



  1. I added RT's response to the blog itself, my response can be found here:

    Since then, RT has falsely stated that he is "unable to respond" here on the blog (untrue, because this is a public blog which does allow for comments). Granted, the combox is not as capable of a long response (without breaking it up into parts) but he could have done, as I have done, and posted a link back to the Catholic Debate Forum.


  2. On Mon, May 26, 2014 at 9:12 AM, Roy Tobias in the wrote:

    > RT: 1. I told you in a previous post you could call me what
    > you wish-Roy, Tobias, Tobiah, or if you feel like all that
    > typing, all three. I'd suggest Roy, since it requires the
    > minimal amount of effort among the options. But suit yourself.

    sw: I'll trust you that you have posted this before and I apologize for missing it. Thank you.

    > RT: 2. I found your original blog post nothing but one long
    > distraction, which in the end never actually addressed what
    > I put to you. I didn't invite you to a discussion of
    > predestination. I challenged you to prove free will exists.
    > That requires that you to, among other things:
    > a. define your definition of free will
    > b. describe what a 'will' is
    > c. describe the mechanism(s) of the will, i.e., the parts of the 'clock'.

    sw: And more specifics! Keep in mind, you entered into a discussion which was about predestination.

    a. Free will is the ability to make choices AND the responsibility for making those choices.
    b. Will is one's desire, wish, plan, etc. Better yet, let's just use
    [ 1. the faculty of conscious and especially of deliberate action; the power of control the mind has over its own actions: the freedom of the will.
    [ 2. power of choosing one's own actions: to have a strong or a weak will.
    [ 3. the act or process of using or asserting one's choice; volition: My hands are obedient to my will.
    [ 4. wish or desire: to submit against one's will.
    [ 5. purpose or determination, often hearty or stubborn determination; willfulness: to have the will to succeed.
    Yes, I'm good with the above definitions.
    c. God is the epitome of Free Will, and we are created in His image. The freedom of the will allows us to love, hate, serve, obey, disobey, etc.

    > RT: 3. If you offered anything of real substance related to
    > this in your blog or your postings, feel free to point it out,
    > because I found nothing. Just statements about what catholics
    > must believe, and a flawed analogy of a clock that's not relevant.

    sw: The discussion is ongoing.

    > RT: 4. Just as an FYI, and not as a point of discussion,
    > my understanding of predestination differs from the Calvinist
    > one beginning at a fundamental point-I don't believe in the
    > doctrine of original sin. I understand God's creation in terms
    > of the process of creation, by which God forms what He intends,
    > and everything else we experience is a part of that process-a
    > process that is ongoing, both in the world and in each of us as
    > individuals. It is not arbitrary or willy nilly. The similarity
    > between this and Calvinism lies in the fact that the Calvinist
    > accepts-as I do-the very plainly stated things in scripture that
    > state it is not a matter of human choices or will. But the
    > context in which they understand that is different, and so leads
    > to different (though similar appearing) conclusions, and so is
    > not the same. IF we ever get through to an examination of the
    > will, you just might begin to understand what I've said here
    > better in terms of predestination.

    sw: As you wish, no discussion at this time.

    > Grace and peace,
    > Tobiah.


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