1. Standard memberAmaurote
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    03 Jan '16 17:47
    I'm an agnostic, but I've half-way through Calvin's Institutes, which is very impressive so far. I must admit, though, there are some peculiar passages, like the section where he insists on using women's breasts as an example of the action of Providence (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.iii.vi.html). I also have the impression that while both Catholicism and Protestants in general like to think of themselves (unitarians and possibly Arminians and Jansenists aside) as trinitarians, both of them seem to believe in a de facto tetrad, although they'd deny it strenuously: for Catholics the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and for Protestants the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit and Providence. These fourth concepts almost overwhelm the other Persons.

    I was also quite surprised to see the following tangent in the Institutes, can anyone tell me if it's current Christian doctrine in any of the churches, Catholic, Reformed or otherwise?

    At the same time, that which God has determined, though it must come to pass, is not, however, precisely, or in its own nature, necessary. We have a familiar example in the case of our Saviour’s bones. As he assumed a body similar to ours, no sane man will deny that his bones were capable of being broken and yet it was impossible that they should be broken (John 19:33, 36). Hence, again, we see that there was good ground for the distinction which the Schoolmen made between necessity, secundum quid, and necessity absolute, also between the necessity of consequent and of consequence. God made the bones of his Son frangible, though he exempted them from actual fracture; and thus, in reference to the necessity of his counsel, made that impossible which might have naturally taken place.


    http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.iii.xvii.html
  2. Standard memberDeepThought
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    03 Jan '16 19:40
    There was a discussion in a thread a while back about the necessity of the past. The notion is that if God is precognitively omniscient and infallible and knows that I will make this post then I will make this post, which appears to contradict my free will not to. The first person to look at this was Thomas Aquinas who pointed out that the necessity was just that if God knows I will post then I will post and if God knows I will not post then I will not post - or to put that more clearly, in the actual world God knows from the beginning of time that I will post and because knowledge is factive (this works for any agent, not only God) it is true that I will make this post, but this does not entail that I have no free will in the matter because there is a possible world where I don't make the post and in that possible world God knew from the beginning of time that I wouldn't click on the post button.

    However, this is not enough to preserve free will, it just means that I'm not logically committed to posting in all possible worlds. It seems that in the actual world I am committed to posting by God knowing I will post before the fact. William of Ockham introduced a notion of necessity of the past, which is a weaker form of necessity to logical necessity. Logical necessity is also called necessity simpliciter and I think Calvin's necessity absolute is the same concept. This is also different from necessity of consequence. In that an effect may be a necessary consequence of a cause, but it is contingent on the cause, so if the cause doesn't happen neither does the effect - if I click on post then as a necessary consequence my post will appear in the forum (barring computer failure) but it is contingent on my clicking on the post button. In Ockham's statement God's foreknowledge does not have the necessity of the past and so my free will is preserved. A Christian apologist called Alvin Plantinga, who is a Protestant and I think but could be mistaken Presbyterian, wrote a paper called "Ockham's Way Out" which we discussed at some length.

    I suspect that Calvin is using a similar argument. He is arguing for a lower form of necessity, which seems to be necessity secundum quid but I may have misunderstood the fragment you quoted, so that while there is a possible world where Jesus broke a leg and it is therefore not logically necessary that Jesus did not break bones, out of this weaker form of necessity in the actual world he didn't break a leg. Ockham was writing before the Catholic/Protestant schism so I think that this type of argument is accepted across at least the Western Christian Churches.
  3. Standard memberAmaurote
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    03 Jan '16 20:011 edit
    Originally posted by DeepThought
    I suspect that Calvin is using a similar argument. He is arguing for a lower form of necessity, which seems to be necessity secundum quid but I may have misunderstood the fragment you quoted, so that while there is a possible world where Jesus broke a leg and it is therefore not logically necessary that Jesus did not break bones, out of this weak ...[text shortened]... o I think that this type of argument is accepted across at least the Western Christian Churches.
    Many thanks for this, DeepThought, that's very helpful. I've read a few biographies of Calvin in the past, and in practice it seems as if his assault on free-will was at least partly emotional in origin, just as his strengthening of the doctrine of original sin was a product of his anxiety. Certainly his detailed description of predestination is more complex and puzzling than I can remember, in that he insists on attacking the Stoic concept of fortuna as a contrast - in particular he is outraged at the idea of a "lazy God" sitting outside the machine. The problem is that his active concept - God decreeing from eternity, then actively executing his necessary orders in the world in the "present" - seems to imply that there is still a machine, God is inside it, and in fact God is himself a subject for predestination, presumably because a perfect being will not reject its own orders.

    Still, I have a feeling that this strange passage has as much to do with Christology and the qualifications of Jesus as a "representative" and "perfect" man respectively as necessity, and the Biblical text on which it is apparently based does not particularly help:

    Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.


    http://biblehub.com/esv/john/19.htm

    I'm guessing that this is a familiar speculative theme. Without wishing to debase the concept, a Jehovah's Witness once told me that Nikolai Nikolaivich Ge's "What is truth?" was not an accurate portrayal of Jesus, since the real Jesus, as a perfect man, would have resembled Arnold Schwarzenegger. She was absolutely serious, and it took me a few seconds to appreciate the sincerity of her belief. While this was an extreme example, I wonder if the breaking of Christ's legs, as a desecration of his body and a possible obstacle to his Physical Resurrection, offended some believers more than the piercing of Christ's side.
  4. Standard membersonship
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    03 Jan '16 22:54
    Originally posted by Amaurote
    Was this what you were refering to ?

    “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” and again, “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou hast ordained strength,” (Psalm 8:2, 4). Thus he declares not only that the human race are a bright mirror of the Creator’s works, but that infants hanging on their mothers’ breasts have tongues eloquent enough to proclaim his glory without the aid of other orators. Accordingly, he hesitates not to bring them forward as fully instructed to refute the madness of those who, from devilish pride, would fain extinguish the name of God.


    Or should I read through it some more ?
    Thanks for the link. I never read any of Calvin's Institutes, which I understand he wrote around the age of 23.
  5. Standard memberDeepThought
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    04 Jan '16 00:04
    Originally posted by Amaurote
    Many thanks for this, DeepThought, that's very helpful. I've read a few biographies of Calvin in the past, and in practice it seems as if his assault on free-will was at least partly emotional in origin, just as his strengthening of the doctrine of original sin was a product of his anxiety. Certainly his detailed description of predestination is more comple ...[text shortened]... e to his Physical Resurrection, offended some believers more than the piercing of Christ's side.
    The Roman soldiers were required to guard the crucifixion victims until they died and so they'd frequently hasten their victim's deaths in order to be able to leave. However it's unusual that crucifixion victims would be removed from the crosses they were nailed to. Part of the evidence for this is that, despite testament that thousands were crucified, only one skeleton of a crucifixion victim has been found [1]. The passage you quote gives an explanation in terms of "that Sabbath was a high day", so an unusually important Sabbath and Pilate wouldn't have wanted to provoke further unrest. If Jesus of Nazareth was already dead the soldiers would have no particular reason to break his legs. The individual whose skeleton was found also doesn't seem to have had his death hastened in that way. So, apart from the three hours of darkness the description of his execution seems to me to be plausible.

    [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jehohanan
  6. SubscriberGhost of a Duke
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    04 Jan '16 16:52
    Originally posted by sonship
    Was this what you were refering to ?

    [quote] “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” and again, “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou hast ordained strength,” (Psalm 8:2, 4). Thus he declares not only that the human race are a bright mirror of the Creator’s works, but that infants hanging on their mothers’ breasts have tongues eloquent eno ...[text shortened]... link. I never read any of Calvin's Institutes, which I understand he wrote around the age of 23.
    Quite impressive for a 23 year old.

    Looking back on my studies, Luther was much more in the foreground than Calvin. Perhaps i owe it to Calvin to go back and re-visit his work.
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    05 Jan '16 01:094 edits
    Originally posted by Amaurote
    I'm an agnostic, but I've half-way through Calvin's Institutes, which is very impressive so far. I must admit, though, there are some peculiar passages, like the section where he insists on using women's breasts as an example of the action of Providence (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.iii.vi.html). I also have the impression that while both Cath ...[text shortened]... have naturally taken place. [/quote]

    http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.iii.xvii.html
    Very interesting passage. Obviously, Calvin wants to hold that there are divinely determined events, such that both (a) the event is not itself necessary and (b) the event nevertheless does possess a necessity that is contingent on the divine will. That being the case, I find it bizarre that he claims this relies on invoking a necessity of consequent instead of a necessity of consequence. That seems to me entirely backwards.

    The necessity of consequent is exemplified when the necessity attaches to the consequent:

    P --> Necessarily Q. (1)

    On the other hand, the necessity of consequence is exemplified when the necessity attaches to the whole conditional:

    Necessarily(P --> Q). (2)

    Now, let:

    P = God wills that X
    and
    Q = X obtains.

    Then, the necessity of the consequent is exactly what Calvin does NOT require, since the conjunction of (1) & P entails that Q is itself necessary. What Calvin actually needs is (2), where he will get that the object of the divine will always obtains in all possible worlds (hence the efficacy of the divine will is necessary) and yet that the object itself is not necessary.

    Basically, I do not understand Calvin's account. He wants to say that X is not itself necessary but at the same time that God's willing has already made it necessary. Problem is, such a statement is contradictory on the face of it. If we want to make such a statement coherent, then we have to interpret the first instance of the modal term 'necessary' in some different way than the second instance of 'necessary'. I don't think Calvin properly vets this issue regarding modal interpretation, and he only seems to get things backwards when he brings in the distinction between the necessities of consequence and of consequent. So, I would say that Calvin's account is at worst contradictory and at best reliant on some kind of equivocation.
  8. Standard memberDeepThought
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    05 Jan '16 02:371 edit
    Originally posted by LemonJello
    Very interesting passage. Obviously, Calvin wants to hold that there are divinely determined events, such that both (a) the event is not itself necessary and (b) the event nevertheless does possess a necessity that is contingent on the divine will. That being the case, I find it bizarre that he claims this relies on invoking a necessity of consequent i ...[text shortened]... hat Calvin's account is at worst contradictory and at best reliant on some kind of equivocation.
    Calvin seems to have all events divinely determined. Shortly before the passage Amaurote quoted there is this sentence:
    What seems to us contingence, faith will recognise as the secret impulse of God.
    Suppose I toss a coin. In the actual world it comes up heads, there's a possible world where it comes up tails. So in that sense it is not necessary for it to come up heads, but because God knew and, as far as I can tell from skimming the text which is lengthy, planned for the coin to come up heads it was inevitable that it would come up heads. So I think he does want necessity of consequent.

    The start of the paragraph (numbered 9) has this sentence:
    But since our sluggish minds rest far beneath the height of Divine Providence, we must have recourse to a distinction which may assist them in rising. I say then, that though all things are ordered by the counsel and certain arrangement of God, to us, however, they are fortuitous,—not because we imagine that Fortune rules the world and mankind, and turns all things upside down at random (far be such a heartless thought from every Christian breast); but as the order, method, end, and necessity of events, are, for the most part, hidden in the counsel of God, though it is certain that they are produced by the will of God, they have the appearance of being fortuitous, such being the form under which they present themselves to us, whether considered in their own nature, or estimated according to our knowledge and Judgment.
    I think what he's trying to say is that if God wills an event then necessarily that event will occur. But we don't know God's will so the event does not appear to us to occur with necessity.

    The absence of necessity applies to what God wills. If God does not will some event then of necessity that event will not take place; but there is a possible world where God does will the event and in that possible world it will, of necessity, occur.

    I tend to agree with you that there's something incoherent about all this. He has humans having free will, but then also has predestination, which strikes me as contradictory.
  9. Standard memberDeepThought
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    05 Jan '16 06:21
    Originally posted by DeepThought
    Calvin seems to have all events divinely determined. Shortly before the passage Amaurote quoted there is this sentence:
    What seems to us contingence, faith will recognise as the secret impulse of God.
    Suppose I toss a coin. In the actual world it comes up heads, there's a possible world where it comes up tails. So in that sense it ...[text shortened]... as humans having free will, but then also has predestination, which strikes me as contradictory.
    No, you're right, he doesn't want necessity of consequent. This stuff always confuses me. Following your meanings for P and Q, where P is God willing some outcome X and Q is X occurring then:

    ⬜(P->Q) means that if in some possible world God wills X then X happens in that world, and if in some other possible world God does not will X, then X may or may not happen in that other world.

    Since Calvin seems to have God willing everything then we need an if and only if relationship, so I think it should be:

    ⬜(P <-> Q) so that if God wills X it happens and if God does not will X it does not.

    What I don't entirely get is necessity of consequent. P -> ⬜Q, which seems to mean that if God wills X in the actual world then X obtains in all possible worlds. Have I interpreted this correctly?

    The reason I'm confused on this point is that this means that if in the actual world we have God willing X and in some other possible world God willing not X, then we seem to have the God of the actual world beating the will of the God of the other possible world and there's some real damage.
  10. Standard membersonship
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    05 Jan '16 16:084 edits
    Originally posted by Ghost of a Duke
    Quite impressive for a 23 year old.

    Looking back on my studies, Luther was much more in the foreground than Calvin. Perhaps i owe it to Calvin to go back and re-visit his work.
    Some people seem to be early bloomers.

    There is another very impressive three volume book by a young Chinese Christian man named Watchman Nee, who has been impacting on my whole spiritual life. That book was called "The Spiritual Man" which he wrote in his twenties. But he acknowledges sections of it which he derived heavily from others.

    Here's the mere table of contents to this book which is a masterful outline of spiritual progress as a Christian.

    CONTENTS
    THE SPIRITUAL MAN (1)


    Introduction
    Preface to the Second Edition
    Preface
    Postscript
    A Table of Important Words
    SECTION ONE: AN INTRODUCTION CONCERNING THE SPIRIT, THE SOUL, AND THE BODY (1)
    The Spirit, the Soul, and the Body (Chapter One)
    The Spirit and the Soul (Chapter Two)
    The Fall of Man (Chapter Three)
    The Way of Salvation (Chapter Four)
    SECTION TWO: THE FLESH
    The Flesh and Salvation (Chapter One)
    The Fleshly Christian (Chapter Two)
    The Cross and the Holy Spirit (Chapter Three)
    The Boastings of the Flesh (Chapter Four)
    The Ultimate Attitude of the Believer Towards the Flesh (Chapter Five)
    SECTION THREE: THE SOUL
    The Way to be Delivered from Sin and the Life of the Soul (Chapter One)
    The Experience of Soulish Believers (Chapter Two)
    The Dangers of Soulish Living (Chapter Three)
    The Cross and the Soul (Chapter Four)
    The Spiritual Believer and the Soul (Chapter Five)


    Volume II

    CONTENTS
    THE SPIRITUAL MAN (2)


    SECTION FOUR: THE SPIRIT
    The Holy Spirit and the Believer's Spirit (Chapter One)
    A Spiritual Man (Chapter Two)
    Spiritual Work (Chapter Three)
    Prayer and Warfare (Chapter Four)
    SECTION FIVE: THE ANALYSIS OF THE SPIRIT—THE INTUITION, THE FELLOWSHIP, AND THE CONSCIENCE
    The Intuition (Chapter One)
    Fellowship (Chapter Two)
    Conscience (Chapter Three)
    SECTION SIX: WALKING ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT
    Dangers in the Spiritual Journey (Chapter One)
    The Laws of the Spirit (Chapter Two)
    The Principle of the Mind Assisting the Spirit (Chapter Three)
    The Proper Condition of the Spirit (Chapter Four)
    SECTION SEVEN: THE ANALYSIS OF THE SOUL (1)
    THE EMOTION

    The Believer and the Emotion (Chapter One)
    Love (Chapter Two)
    Desires (Chapter Three)
    A Life of Feeling (Chapter Four)
    A Life of Faith (Chapter Five)


    Volume III

    CONTENTS
    THE SPIRITUAL MAN (3)


    SECTION EIGHT: THE ANALYSIS OF THE SOUL (2)
    THE MIND

    The Mind a Battlefield (Chapter One)
    The Condition of a Passive Mind (Chapter Two)
    The Way of Deliverance (Chapter Three)
    The Law of the Mind (Chapter Four)
    SECTION NINE: THE ANALYSIS OF THE SOUL (3)
    THE WILL

    The Believer's Will (Chapter One)
    Passivity and the Danger of Passivity (Chapter Two)
    The Misconception of the Believers (Chapter Three)
    The Way to Freedom (Chapter Four)
    SECTION TEN: THE BODY
    The Believer and His Body (Chapter One)
    Sickness (Chapter Two)
    God as the Life of the Body (Chapter Three)
    Overcoming Death (Chapter Four)

    See Entries # 23-25 The Collected Works of Watchman Nee

    http://www.ministrybooks.org/watchman-nee-books.cfm
  11. Territories Unknown
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    05 Jan '16 18:57
    Originally posted by LemonJello
    Very interesting passage. Obviously, Calvin wants to hold that there are divinely determined events, such that both (a) the event is not itself necessary and (b) the event nevertheless does possess a necessity that is contingent on the divine will. That being the case, I find it bizarre that he claims this relies on invoking a necessity of consequent i ...[text shortened]... hat Calvin's account is at worst contradictory and at best reliant on some kind of equivocation.
    That, or maybe the words meant something different in that day than they do to you now.
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    05 Jan '16 19:191 edit
    Originally posted by DeepThought
    No, you're right, he doesn't want necessity of consequent. This stuff always confuses me. Following your meanings for P and Q, where P is God willing some outcome X and Q is X occurring then:

    ⬜(P->Q) means that if in some possible world God wills X then X happens in that world, and if in some other possible world God does not will X, then X may or m ...[text shortened]... tual world beating the will of the God of the other possible world and there's some real damage.
    Yes, I think you have it right.

    Invoking the necessity of consequent would leads to problems for Calvin since it leads to the entailment that Q is itself necessary, which explicitly contradicts his starting point. To make his account coherent, he needs to avoid any entailment regarding the necessity of Q. At the same time, obviously, he still needs something to be necessary. I would submit that using the necessity of consequence gets this done nicely for him: it turns out that what is necessary is the efficacy of the divine will whatever the objective content of it may be, yet it avoids the result that the objective content is itself necessary.
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    05 Jan '16 19:204 edits
    Originally posted by FreakyKBH
    That, or maybe the words meant something different in that day than they do to you now.
    Perhaps I am misreading this passage. Is he saying he needs the necessity of consequent? Or is he saying he needs the necessity of consequence?

    If, as my reading has it, he is claiming that he needs a necessity of consequent, then I still think he has it backwards and makes a bad mistake in his appeal to the academic distinction.

    Otherwise, in regards to your comment, I don't think the necessity of consequent/consequence distinction means anything substantively different today than in the time of the medieval scholasticism referenced by Calvin.
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    08 Jan '16 17:02
    Originally posted by LemonJello
    Perhaps I am misreading this passage. Is he saying he needs the necessity of consequent? Or is he saying he needs the necessity of consequence?

    If, as my reading has it, he is claiming that he needs a necessity of consequent, then I still think he has it backwards and makes a bad mistake in his appeal to the academic distinction.

    Otherwise, in r ...[text shortened]... bstantively different today than in the time of the medieval scholasticism referenced by Calvin.
    I am suggesting that he didn't necessarily view things in those terms.
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    08 Jan '16 22:54
    Originally posted by FreakyKBH
    I am suggesting that he didn't necessarily view things in those terms.
    I'd ask you to elaborate, but I'm reminded of something about picking battles....
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