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Re: Van Til+Plantinga



Paul Martin wrote in response to the suggestion that Plantinga's free-will
defense presupposes a libertarian conception of human freedom:

> This is incorrect; Plantinga's free-will defense is perfectly
> consistent with no one's being, in fact, libertarian free. This is
> just to misunderstand the nature of a defense here.

While Plantinga's free-will defense does not depend on the truth of
libertarian freedom in this world, it *does* depend on the mere possibility
of libertarian freedom.  Hence, I think it is fair to say that Plantinga's
free-will defense presupposes the *concept* of libertarian freedom.  It
doesn't presuppose the actuality of libertarian freedom; it merely
presupposes that it is a logically coherent idea.

But, of course, given that God's nature is the same in all possible worlds,
He could not fail to be the ultimate controller of all created things
(including human actions) that come to pass - regardless of what possible
world he might have chosen to create.  Thus libertarian freedom cannot be
made consistent with the existence of the sort of God the Bible presents.
At best, Plantinga's free-will defense serves only to defend a god who is
(at least in some possible world) less than omnipotent and sovereign,
allowing creatures to be their own ultimate authority with regard to their
own actions.

How does this relate to Van Til?  Even possibility must be defined by
Christian-theistic presuppositions.  Plantinga makes a grave mistake when he
claims that there is a possibility that in some world God might have existed
in such a way that He is not sovereign over all of His creation at all
times.  The presupposition of even the coherence of the concept of
libertarian freedom turns out to be fatally anti-Christian - contradicting
the Biblical doctrine of God, and even Plantinga's own belief that God is
the maximally great Being.  Thankfully, Plantinga is inconsistent with this
deadly presupposition and assumes a Christian worldview in much of his work.

One other note:  I find it odd that in his free-will defense Plantinga
claims that libertarian freedom is only possible.  For it seems that if he
were a Calvinist on this point, he would see that libertarian freedom is
utterly impossible (as I've argued above) and give a different sort of
defense.  But then it seems that if he were an Arminian on this point, he
would be forced to claim that libertarian freedom is as necessary to created
beings in all possible worlds as God's own attributes and existence.

This is because any doctrine of human freedom is a doctrine concerning man
which is directly related to the doctrine of God's essential being.  At
least it ought to be clear that what God is like determines how creaturely
actions relate to Him.  If God's nature is such that He is always Lord over
all aspects of everything He creates, then libertarian freedom is an idea as
incoherent as a spherical cube - but if God's nature is "loving" in the
sense that he gives ultimate authority to creatures with regard to their
actions, then libertarian freedom is just as necessary in all possible
worlds as God's own "loving" nature.

So even "for the sake of argument"* supposing that God's nature requires Him
to be "great" and "loving" enough to relinquish control over human actions,
it makes no sense that Plantinga argues for the mere possibility of
libertarian freedom.  If libertarian freedom turns out to exist in some
possible worlds while God controls all human actions in other possible
worlds, then God cannot have an unchangeable nature; His character differs
essentially and is reflected in how he loves/has authority over created
beings.

So for his free-will defense to really be successful, Plantinga would have
to show that the God he is referring to and defending is not an absurd idea
only in the mind - which He certainly would be if libertarian freedom is
simply a contingently true state of affairs (I'm assuming that the reader
believes that a mutable greatest possible being is logically absurd).

Therefore Plantinga must establish the necessity of libertarian freedom for
his argument to work - so why didn't he see this and scrap the more modest
claim?  Was he trying to appeal to those who might support his defense if it
didn't look exclusively Arminian, perhaps?  At any rate, the modest claim
will not defend Whom Plantinga wishes to defend.  Of course, if Plantinga
realizes that the stronger claim (the necessity of libertarian freedom) is a
blind alley also, then maybe he would be willing to run to the only position
which can make sense out of reality (including the problem of evil) --
namely the Reformed Christian position, which defines even logical
possibility in terms of consistency with God's character.  As God is
incapable of committing moral sin, so He is likewise incapable of producing
a created being with ultimate authority in any realm.

Thoughts?

-Jim Mitchell

*Note that my mini-evaluation given here of Plantinga's free will defense
assumption of libertarian freedom is (I assert) from a basically Van Tillian
perspective; although I take Plantinga to be a Christian, I argue against
what I see to be his fundamentally anti-Christian assumption in the same way
as I would argue against the assumptions of an unbeliever.  One may recall
how Van Til often did likewise, critiquing positions other Christians held
in terms of extreme antithesis while maintaining that such people may well
be true Christians and that such dead-wrong positions are not necessarily
where one's heart ultimately lies.



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