Saturday, July 19, 2014

John Calvin is a dialetheist.

In Chapter 18, section 3, of his Institutes, John Calvin addresses the following objection: “…that if nothing happens without the will of God, he must have two contrary wills, decreeing by a secret counsel what he has openly forbidden in his law…” (p. 148).  That is, in Calvin’s view, God wills that men sin, and also wills that men not sin—but that’s bananas.  Calvin’s response:
Still, however, the will of God is not at variance with itself. It undergoes no change. He makes no pretence of not willing what he wills, but while in himself the will is one and undivided, to us it appears manifold, because, from the feebleness of our intellect, we cannot comprehend how, though after a different manner, he wills and wills not the very same thing. (ibid.)
One way of understanding the “…though after a different manner” part here is to say that the way in which God forbids us to sin, and therefore wills us not to sin, is different than the way in which God wills us to sin by his decree.  Thus one could affirm
(1) God wills us to sin,
(2) God wills us not to sin,
without contradiction because ‘wills’ in (1) means decrees, and ‘wills’ in (2) means commands.  Thus, Calvin affirms
(1’) God decrees us to sin. 
(2’) God commands us not to sin.
It may be, of course, that we are not able to comprehend how one and the same act is both decreed and forbidden, but it doesn't follow from our inability to comprehend it that there’s a contradiction here. (I cannot comprehend a pure phenomenal color that is neither red, nor blue, nor yellow, yet there’s no contradiction in saying “there is a pure phenomenal color C such that C is neither red nor blue nor yellow”).  Thus, I cannot comprehend the conjunction of (1’) and (2’), but there is no contradiction in their conjunction. 
Fair enough, I say.  But it seems to me that if (1’) God decrees us to sin, then it follows that (5) God wants us to sin—for God does not decree that which he does not want.  Further, if (2’) God commands us not to sin, then it’s not the case that (5) God wants us to sin—for God does not command that which he does not want. Somewhat formally:  
A. (1’) ^ (2’)
B. ((1) ⊃ (5)) ^ ((2’) ⊃ ~(5))
∴ C.  (5) ^ ~(5)
Either there are true contradictions, or C is false. I say that there are no true contradictions. So C is false. If C is false, A is false, and if A is false, either both (1’) and (2’) are false, or only one of them is true.  Scripture unequivocally affirms (2’).  Therefore, pace Calvin, God does not decree us to sin.


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