Monday, January 23, 2012

"P" and the "No True Scotsman" Fallacy

version 2.0

Truth Unites... and Divides responding to a comment I posted in this blog said...

This is a highly interesting comment.

I have a derivative question which has puzzled me for some time.

With regards to "P" (the Perseverance of the Saints), how does "P" escape the charge of falling into the "No True Scotsman" fallacy? If someone could help my muddled thinking on this, I'd appreciate it.

Thesis: Only genuine Christians persevere. And never apostasize or deconvert.

Thesis: Michael Sudduth apostasized (or deconverted).

Conclusion: Michael Sudduth was never a genuine Christian (supposing that Michael Sudduth died today and never repudiating Hinduism and Lord Krishna and never repenting of his worship of a false idol).

Question again: How does doctrine of "P" refute the allegation that it's an example of the "No True Scotsman" fallacy?

My response:

Truth Unites... and Divides, there's the logical possibility that God, in His absolute sovereignty, temporarily saves some people only to later take away that salvation by withholding (or taking away) "the gift of final perseverance" (to use Augustine's terminology). In which case, as some Catholic Augustinians claim, God elects some to initial salvation AND to final salvation. But for others, God only elects them to initial salvation. This logical possibility doesn't take away from God's sovereignty even though, like classical Arminianism genuine Christians can fall away. The difference is that in the former God's will is the determining factor in those who fall away, while in the latter it's the person's libertarian will that's the determining factor. Therefore, one could argue that in Augustine's (and Aquinas' and Luther's) view, God is actually more sovereign than in Calvinism because God can be a spiritual "Indian giver" (no ethnic insult/slur intended) taking away a salvation he initially gave (by retracting or withholding altogether the gift of perseverance). This is my interpretation of Augustine's view. Augustinian Catholics would say that God didn't positively reprobate those whom He elected to only grant initial salvation and that it is their own sinfulness that leads them to finally fall away. But I would argue that the mere fact that God intentionally withholds or takes back the gift of final perseverance logically necessitates that God is positively electing them to reprobation since God knows that without His gift of perseverance they cannot do other than fall away.

From my perspective, the major problem with Augustine's view is that it denies that God's love is unchanging. Sure Common Grace can allow for God to love the non-elect in a way less than the elect, but in Augustine's view there would then be three categories of grace: 1. Efficacious Grace (which lasts to and through eternity), 2. Initial Grace (which does not last even though it's nearly identical in basis and kind as the former), and 3. Common Grace (which does not last, but which is dramatically inferior in kind than either 1 or 2) .

Also, how can the Scripture be true that states "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also along with Him graciously give us all things [including the gift of perseverance]"? Btw, one's view of the atonement obviously has tremendous ramifications for the doctrine of Perseverance [ see below].

Nevertheless, it could be that the number of the elect and the number of genuine saints aren't coterminous. All this also depends on what one means by a "(genuine) saint". Is one a genuine saint by virtue of regeneration? Does that only mean the Calvinistic understanding of regeneration, or can it include baptismal regeneration (per Augustine, Aquinas, Luther et al.)?

Catholic James Akins section on the Perseverance of the Saints in his paper explains it much better than I can. He makes clear the Augustinian distinction between predestination to initial salvation (election to salvation) and predestination to final salvation (election to glory).


Above I mentioned Rom. 8:32 and how one's understanding of the atonement could affect the doctrine of Perseverance.

While I'm not dogmatic against it, I now lean less towards "Limited Atonement" (as it is understood by contemporary Calvinists) because of the seemingly legitimate distinctions made by Reformed folks like David Ponter, THEOparadox and websites like Calvin and Calvinism (et al.).

They show that, though forgotten by or unknown to modern Calvinists, there has been a long line of historic Calvinists who affirmed that while the intent of the atonement is limited, the extent was unlimited. So they make a distinction between John Owen's view (and later re-affirmed by John Murray's) of Limited Atonement, and a permissible and historic Calvinistic view of Particular Redemption which affirms Christ did die (in some sense) for the non-elect.

Though, I have to admit that in their debates with the Triabloggers a few months back (primarily with Steve and Paul), the Triabloggers seemed to have had the better arguments.