Doug Wilson's "pennies"

Post Reply
User avatar
steve
Posts: 3362
Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2008 9:45 pm

Doug Wilson's "pennies"

Post by steve » Mon Jun 01, 2020 3:05 pm

Doug Wilson’s “tossed pennies” illustration

Steve,
In your debate with Douglas Wilson on Calvinism, you affirmed that God knows the future decisions we will make, but does not determine them, because we have free will. Doug responded (quite reasonably, it seems to me) that if you had a handful of pennies and tossed them on a staircase, they would land in different places on the staircase, some heads, some tails, in a very complex arrangement. If you knew in advance, however, how each penny would land, and tossed them anyway, then by tossing coins whose final position was known to you, you have actually determined that each coin would fall in its assigned position. Thus, your foreknowledge of the end makes you the determiner of that end, if you know the end before you toss.
Jeremy

----------------------------------------------------

Hi Jeremy,

It is true that God seems to give more opportunities to make the right choices to some than He gives to others. I don't know why He does so, since those with the most opportunities often are lost nonetheless (like Israel, in the Old Testament). This is why some are more accountable than are others. The abundance of grace and opportunity given does not necessarily correspond to individual responses. I presume that the thieves on either side of Christ's cross, both had equal opportunity to observe Christ and to form their opinions of Him. One chose to worship Him and the other chose differently.

I don't know why some are given more prevenient grace than are others, but Jesus "draws all men to Himself" without all responding favorably to Him. To analyze all the factors that make one person stubborn and another compliant, or that make one person love evil and cruelty, while another is drawn to goodness and kindness, would be a psychoanalytical task too complex for any of us to attempt.

That God knows some will choose rebellion while others choose submission to Him does not make Him the determiner of any of these decisions—even if He knows them well in advance. Wilson's illustration of the pennies thrown on the stairs was not relevant to the Calvinist/Arminian controversy. He was saying, if one knew in advance the way each penny would land, and threw them anyway, then that person has determined how they would land. This is logically false. It is chance and natural law that determines how each penny would land. Suppose I know in advance that I get to keep all the pennies that land heads-up, and the ones that land tails-up will be lost to me—and suppose that I know already (supernaturally) how many will land in each position. I would certainly prefer that they all land heads-up. However, foreknowing that I would only get a fraction of the pennies, I might well decide that it would be worth it to throw the lot anyway.

In doing so, I have not, thereby, caused any penny to land either heads-up or tails-up. My throwing them determines only that the pennies will land one way or another. I have not determined how any of them will land—which is an outcome determined by other factors in nature. Thus I have determined that the toss will take place, though I might wish the results had turned out more in my favor. The only thing that I am determining is that the project will not be abandoned, simply because I will not get all the pennies. I may judge that some pennies are better than none.

Thus Doug's illustration proves no such point as would help Calvinism. Even Arminians believe that God, knowing full well the outcomes, determined that the project would go forward. Calvinists add that God has determined specifically the place and orientation of each penny, including the determination that certain pennies, which He had the power to make turn-up "heads," should "according to His purpose and good pleasurel" nonetheless must turn-up "tails." In Calvinism, God controls every detail.

The illustration does not tie foreknowledge with predetermination, as Doug believes it does. If tossing the coins is said to determine where and how each will land, then this is equally true whether I know the outcome in advance or not. Whether foreknowing, or not foreknowing, it is my casting the handful that results in their disbursement. However, they are no longer in my control from the second they leave my hand. I have determined to toss them, but have not determined how they will fall. And this is equally true whether I know in advance how they will land or I do not know. The only difference in the experiment, if we add a factor of my foreknowing the outcomes, is that my tossing them means I approve of the toss being made, and will tolerate a less-than-perfect outcome which is foreknown by me. I still have no power over how any given coin will land, even if I have some power of foreseeing it. Seeing is not determining.

In giving men free will, God excludes the possibility of His forcing all the coins to turn up as He prefers. But by setting the project in motion, in the Garden of Eden, He determined that human decisions will be made—some good, some disappointing— though He has not determined or controlled the outcome for even one penny. It then can be said that He has determined that every person will choose, but not how every person will choose. The latter He has left to us.

User avatar
Paidion
Posts: 5000
Joined: Mon Aug 18, 2008 10:22 pm
Location: Back Woods of North-Western Ontario

Re: Diug Wilson's "pennies"

Post by Paidion » Mon Jun 01, 2020 3:41 pm

If someone KNOWS (in the absolute sense of "know") that I will eat an apple tomorrow at 1 P.M. how is it possible that I could choose NOT to eat an apple at 1 P.M. tomorrow? And if it is not possible for me to refrain from eating an apple at 1 P.M. tomorrow, the I do not have free will.
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

Avatar shows me at 75 years old. I am now 82.

User avatar
steve
Posts: 3362
Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2008 9:45 pm

Re: Diug Wilson's "pennies"

Post by steve » Mon Jun 01, 2020 11:13 pm

Ah, yes! But that is your problem. You will or will not eat the apple as it pleases you and as you exploit the opportunity to do so, without outwork duress. If someone knows you will do such a thing, then it will indeed happen. If I know you will do it, that does not make me actively involved in your decision, nor diminish your freedom in performing the action. The question is, who made it happen? Certainly not the Knower by knowing it!

User avatar
Paidion
Posts: 5000
Joined: Mon Aug 18, 2008 10:22 pm
Location: Back Woods of North-Western Ontario

Re: Diug Wilson's "pennies"

Post by Paidion » Tue Jun 02, 2020 12:41 pm

I fully agree, Steve, that God's knowledge does not CAUSE my choice.

I simply think that God or anyone else KNOWING that I will eat an apple tomorrow at 1 P.M., is logically inconsistent with the possibility of my choosing NOT to eat an apple at that time. And if my choosing not to eat an apple at that time is impossible, then where is my free will?

My belief is that, based on God's omniscience (knowing everything that is possible to know), He is in a much better position to correctly PREDICT a person's choice, than any human being who does not know the thoughts and intents of human hearts.
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

Avatar shows me at 75 years old. I am now 82.

User avatar
Seballius
Posts: 84
Joined: Fri Mar 30, 2018 11:19 am

Re: Diug Wilson's "pennies"

Post by Seballius » Tue Jun 02, 2020 10:00 pm

Molinism?


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

User avatar
darinhouston
Posts: 2216
Joined: Tue Aug 26, 2008 7:45 am

Re: Diug Wilson's "pennies"

Post by darinhouston » Wed Jun 03, 2020 7:37 am

Paidion, is Logic useful when dealing with things outside and beyond our dimensional reality? It's all we've got, but it's not all there is. Cause and effect may only be true within our time and space continuum. God is not bound by them and they only seem "real" to us because of our limited perspective. How is this any different than your position concerning when Jesus was "begotten"? (i.e., that there was no time before that act). This seems nonsensical to me. But, I recognize before Creation there may not have been a "time" as we know it even if I can't relate to that.

If you want to twist your mind in this way (as to dimensional realities), have you ever heard of the old book called "Flatland?" It's freely available online.

From "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flatland"

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions is a satirical novella by the English schoolmaster Edwin Abbott Abbott, first published in 1884 by Seeley & Co. of London. Written pseudonymously by "A Square",[1] the book used the fictional two-dimensional world of Flatland to comment on the hierarchy of Victorian culture, but the novella's more enduring contribution is its examination of dimensions.[2]

Plot[edit]

Illustration of a simple house in Flatland.
The story describes a two-dimensional world occupied by geometric figures, whereof women are simple line-segments, while men are polygons with various numbers of sides. The narrator is a square, a member of the caste of gentlemen and professionals, who guides the readers through some of the implications of life in two dimensions. The first half of the story goes through the practicalities of existing in a two-dimensional universe as well as a history leading up to the year 1999 on the eve of the 3rd Millennium.

On New Year's Eve, the Square dreams about a visit to a one-dimensional world (Lineland) inhabited by "lustrous points". These points are unable to see the Square as anything other than a set of points on a line. Thus, the Square attempts to convince the realm's monarch of a second dimension; but is unable to do so. In the end, the monarch of Lineland tries to kill A Square rather than tolerate his nonsense any further.

Following this vision, he is himself visited by a three-dimensional sphere. Similar to the "points" in Lineland, the Square is unable to see the sphere as anything other than a circle. The Sphere then levitates up and down through the Flatland, allowing Square to see the circle expand and retract. The Square is not fully convinced until he sees Spaceland (a tridimensional world) for himself. This Sphere visits Flatland at the turn of each millennium to introduce a new apostle to the idea of a third dimension in the hope of eventually educating the population of Flatland. From the safety of Spaceland, they are able to observe the leaders of Flatland secretly acknowledging the existence of the sphere and prescribing the silencing of anyone found preaching the truth of Spaceland and the third dimension. After this proclamation is made, many witnesses are massacred or imprisoned (according to caste), including A Square's brother, B.

After the Square's mind is opened to new dimensions, he tries to convince the Sphere of the theoretical possibility of the existence of a fourth and higher spatial dimensions; but the Sphere returns his student to Flatland in disgrace.

The Square then has a dream in which the Sphere visits him again, this time to introduce him to Pointland, whereof the point (sole inhabitant, monarch, and universe in one) perceives any communication as a thought originating in his own mind (cf. Solipsism):

"You see," said my Teacher, "how little your words have done. So far as the Monarch understands them at all, he accepts them as his own – for he cannot conceive of any other except himself – and plumes himself upon the variety of Its Thought as an instance of creative Power. Let us leave this god of Pointland to the ignorant fruition of his omnipresence and omniscience: nothing that you or I can do can rescue him from his self-satisfaction."[4]

— the Sphere

The last sketch in the book.
The Square recognises the identity of the ignorance of the monarchs of Pointland and Lineland with his own (and the Sphere's) previous ignorance of the existence of higher dimensions. Once returned to Flatland, the Square cannot convince anyone of Spaceland's existence, especially after official decrees are announced that anyone preaching the existence of three dimensions will be imprisoned (or executed, depending on caste). Eventually the Square himself is imprisoned for just this reason, with only occasional contact with his brother who is imprisoned in the same facility. He does not manage to convince his brother, even after all they have both seen. Seven years after being imprisoned, A Square writes out the book Flatland in the form of a memoir, hoping to keep it as posterity for a future generation that can see beyond their two-dimensional existence.

User avatar
Paidion
Posts: 5000
Joined: Mon Aug 18, 2008 10:22 pm
Location: Back Woods of North-Western Ontario

Re: Diug Wilson's "pennies"

Post by Paidion » Wed Jun 03, 2020 6:59 pm

Yes, I have heard about that book, and if I remember correctly, have read parts of it.
But I fail to see how that relates to whether or not it is possible to KNOW in advance what a free-will agent will choose.
In my opinion, to do that is logically inconsistent.
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

Avatar shows me at 75 years old. I am now 82.

User avatar
steve
Posts: 3362
Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2008 9:45 pm

Re: Doug Wilson's "pennies"

Post by steve » Thu Jun 04, 2020 4:02 pm

Hi Paidion,

I suggest that there are too many things we do not know about the nature of time to know whether your logic is inevitable.

User avatar
Paidion
Posts: 5000
Joined: Mon Aug 18, 2008 10:22 pm
Location: Back Woods of North-Western Ontario

Re: Doug Wilson's "pennies"

Post by Paidion » Thu Jun 04, 2020 4:49 pm

Thank you, Steve, for your suggestion.

In my opinion, "time" is not an entity about whose nature we may be able to learn.
Rather "time" is simply a word by which we attempt to track the passing of events, or refer to these events or their sequence.
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

Avatar shows me at 75 years old. I am now 82.

Post Reply

Return to “Calvinism, Arminianism & Open Theism”