Monday, January 22, 2018

Parsing Catholic miracles

1. From time to time I discuss reputed Catholic miracles. What position should evangelicals take regarding these claims? Are Catholic miracles bogus? Do Catholic miracles accredit the Roman Catholic faith? This post makes no effort to be exhaustive. I'll give some examples to illustrate general principles. 

2. There are different kinds of Catholic miracles. 

i) Some Catholic miracles are attributed to Catholic saints, viz., levitation, biolocation, inedia, luminosity, stigmata, exorcism.

ii) Some Catholic miracles are attributed to dead Catholic saints, viz, Marian apparitions, incorrupt corpses/odor of sanctity, liquefaction of blood.

iii) Some Catholic miracles are attributed to Catholic objects, viz. weeping/bleeding madonnas, bleeding Host. 

3. What's a Catholic miracle?

Both the noun and the adjective are ambiguous. What does it mean to be a Catholic miracle?

i) Bogus. Fraudulent.

ii) A genuine supernatural event.

If (ii), that's subdivisible into:

a) A divine miracle

b) A paranormal or occultic phenonomenon

iii) What does it mean to be a Catholic miracle? 

For instance, the Martyrdom of Polycarp says he was fireproof when the Romans tried to burn him alive. Assuming that's true, should that be classified as a Catholic miracle? Was Polycarp Roman Catholic? Or is that an anachronistic designation? He wasn't Catholic in the sense that Ignatius Loyola was Catholic, or Matthias Joseph Scheeben–much less Joseph Ratzinger. 

iv) For a Catholic, as the intended beneficiary. If some Catholics are bona fide Christians, God might perform miracles for their benefit, just as he does for Christians generally. 

v) To a Catholic, but for someone else. God might perform a miracle, not for the immediate effect but the long-range effect. 

vi) To authenticate the Roman Catholic faith. 

These are't mutually exclusive distinctions. Some apply in some cases, while others apply in other cases. 

4. Sources

The material on Catholic miracles is a swamp. There's loads of stuff on RadTrad websites, but that's unreliable. Here's some examples of more scholarly sources: Herbert Thurston, The Physical Phenomena of Mysticism; Michael Grosso, The Man Who Could Fly: St. Joseph of Copertino and the Mystery of Levitation; Stanford Poole, The Guadalupan Controversies in Mexico; Our Lady of Guadalupe: The Origins and Sources of a Mexican National Symbol, 1531-1797. 

5. Naturalistic explanations

i) Consider the cult of Padre Pio. There's evidence that he used carbonic acid. If so, his stigmata might be the result of self-mutilation. 

ii) To establish if bilocation happens, we need evidence from both locations to verify that the individual was in fact at two different places at the same time. A kind of reverse alibi where there are witnesses or other types of evidence to verify that the individual was at one place at the same time the same individual was at another place. By the same token, in order to ID the individual, witnesses must have a comparative frame of reference to recognize the individual in question. Do alleged examples meet that condition? 

iii) In principle, some eucharistic miracles might be staged. A homemade communion wafer with ingredients designed to have a chemical reaction that simulates blood when immersed in wine. Or actual human blood could be one of the ingredients. 

iv) Catholic tropes

There are stereotypical miracles attributed to Catholic saints. Is that because Catholic saints typically experience these types of miracles, or is that a cliche motif of the hagiographic genre? 

v) What happens when the miracle fails? For instance: 

6. Supernatural explanations

i) Miracles are, at most, a necessary rather than sufficient criterion to authenticate a religious claimant. That needs to be combined with other kinds of evidence.

Moreover, it can be indirect. For instance, Jesus performed miracles as well as choosing representatives (the disciples) to pick up where he left off after the Ascension. It isn't necessary for each and every disciple or apostle to perform miracles to attest their vocation as a bona fide messenger of God. If Jesus performed miracles that validate his mission, and if Jesus picked the disciples, then his action authenticates their mission. There's a kind of transference. 

ii) The miracles attributed to St. Joseph Copertino include levitation, psychokinesis, poltergeist activity, and materialization of objects. 

a) Even if genuine, there's nothing specifically Christian about that phenomena. That sort of thing can be paralleled in quality literature on the paranormal. For instance:

b) By the same token, there's nothing specifically divine about such phenomena. If genuine, it's more like a supernatural stunt. They fail to exhibit divine wisdom, justice, mercy, holiness, and truth. We'd expect a divine miracle to have a certain dignity or fittingness. Not just be something weird or frivolous. 

c) From what I've read, there's a connection between possession and levitation. 

iii) Here's a programmatic text on false prophets:

13 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst (Deut 13:1-5).

According to that text:

i) It's possible for a false prophet to perform genuine miracles

ii) If it happens, that's a test of faith. Rather than finding that persuasive, the faithful are duty-bound to disregard the miracle. 

That principle is reaffirmed in the NT:

For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect (Mt 24:24).

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed (Gal 1:8).

And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14).

Here's another example:

13 And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. 2 And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear's, and its mouth was like a lion's mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. 4 And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”

5 And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7 Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them.

11 Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. 13 It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, 14 and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain (Rev 13:1-7,11-15).

i) These are delusive miracles. Their express purpose is to mislead and to attest a counterfeit religion. A parody of the Christian faith. 

ii) The church of Rome literally waged war against Protestant believers (cf. Rev 13:7).

iii) "Giving breath" to the image suggests a statue that supernaturally comes to life. Compare that to weeping/bleeding madonnas, or the crucifix of Limpias. Even if some of those reports are the real deal, that doesn't automatically authenticate Roman Catholicism. Indeed, the malevolent design of some miracles is to mimic the real deal. That's the nature of spiritual counterfeiting. 

iv) I'm not suggesting that Rev 13 is a direct prediction of Roman Catholicism. Rather, I think Revelation supplies paradigm-examples of repeatable kinds of events that recur in the course of church history. Likewise, I'm not suggesting that these explanations prove that Catholic miracles are occultic. Rather, we need to make allowance for that possibility. 

7. Regarding eucharistic miracles in particular:

Blood is a potent symbol in Christianity because we're redeemed by the blood of Christ. And that's foreshadowed by bloody animal sacrifice in the OT. It's not coincidental that counterfeit religion trades on that symbolism:

And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems (Rev 12:3).

And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns (17:3).

The dragon (Satan) and the beast (Antichrist) are both blood red. Their color deliberately evokes Christian symbolism. Incidentally, that's applicable to the liquefaction of blood (St. Januarius) as well as eucharistic miracles. 

In that connection, here's another instructive passage:

17 Thus says the Lord, “By this you shall know that I am the Lord: behold, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood…19 And the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, their canals, and their ponds, and all their pools of water, so that they may become blood, and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’”

20 Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood. 21...There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. 22 But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts. (Exod 7:17-22).

The text is ambiguous because Hebrew uses the same word for blood and the color red. Nevertheless, the Egyptian magicians were able to muster a counter-miracle that mimicked the bloody water. That's reminiscent of eucharistic miracles. 

I'm not claiming they're identical. Rather, that's one explanation we should take into consideration when we evaluate these claims.

8. Taking stock

When assessing reported Catholic miracles, it isn't necessary to sift the material. Even if some Catholic miracles are genuine, that doesn't prove Catholicism to be true. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

12 Strong

"What I Learned in the Peace Corps in Africa: Trump Is Right"

Nativity accounts

Critics allege that the nativity accounts are mutually contradictory. Here's how two scholars arrange them:

Annunciation (Lk 1:26-38)

Mary visits Elizabeth (Lk 1:39-56)

Birth of John the Baptist (Lk 1:57-66)

Benedictus (1:67-80)

Joseph's reassuring dream (Mt 1:18-25)

Jesus born in Bethlehem (Lk 2:1-7)

Angelic announcement to shepherds (Lk 2:8-20)

Presentation in the Temple (Lk 2:21-38)

The Magi (Mt 2:1-12)

Holy Family flees to Egypt (Mt 2:13-15)

Massacre of the innocents (Mt 2:16-18)

Holy Family returns to Nazareth (Mt 2:19-23; Lk 2:39-40)

D. Bock, Jesus According to Scripture (Baker 2002), chap. 2; G. Knight, A Simplified Harmony of the Gospels (Holman 2001), vii.

Both scholars have the same sequence of events.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Elevator out of order

In this post I'm going to revisit an argument for Catholicism by Bryan Cross and Michael Liccione:

This post will be deceptively long, because much of the raw length is due to verbatim quotes. 

Michael Liccione May 25th, 2010 1:51 am :

Before I go to bed, I just wanted to say that this is excellent. I will take up a few of your arguments at my own blog, where I plan a post on Newman’s doctrine of conscience. Of course, if the Reformed guys at places like Triablogue and Green Baggins takes note of your post, we will end up having some intricate epistemological debates. I say: bring it on!

Challenge accepted!

Are miracles hazardous?

I'm going to comment on this: Yujin Nagasawa, Miracles: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford 2017):

Performing miracles seems to be extremely risky. Nature is uniform and stable because it is regulated by the laws of nature. If the laws of nature did not exist, we should not breathe, sleep, or even exist. Hence, when miracle workers violate the laws of nature they may endanger living things in nature as well as nature as a whole (47). 

We saw in the Preface to this book that, according to recent polls, the majority of people in the USA and the UK today believe in miracles. We also saw in Chapter 2 that reports of miracles can always be found, irrespective of time, geographical location, or religious tradition. How could that be possible? The most straightforward answer to this question is that miracles do really take place everywhere, all the time. However, miracles should not be so prevalent. Recall our definition of a miracle: it is a violation of the laws of nature that is caused by an intentional agent and has religious significance. If miracles take place everywhere, all the time, then the laws of nature are being violated everywhere, all the time. If this is indeed so, then nature is so unstable that, it would seem, we should not be able to live normal lives. Suppose, for example, that water was frequently being turned into wine or that dead people were frequently being brought back to life. If these events took place regularly then water supply companies and funeral directors would not be able to run their businesses smoothly. However, we almost never hear them complaining about miracles taking place. If miracles do take place then they are extremely rare events. So that brings us back to square one: why is belief in miracles so widespread (51).

This objection is unintentionally comical. An example of smart people with dumb ideas. Presumably, Nagasawa is a bright, sophisticated guy, but his objection is blind on several levels:

i) He begins with an a priori definition of miracle which he then imposes on reports. That generates a discrepancy between the definition and the reports. But instead of adjusting his definition to accommodate the reports, he adjusts the reports to accommodate his definition.

ii) It's doubtful that most respondents to the surveys define a miracle the way he does. 

iii) I myself prefer to define a miracle as a type of event that won't happen when nature is allowed to run its course. 

iv) Then there's the equivocal language about "everywhere, all the time". For instance, suppose a miracle happens everyday in every town, city, and suburb across the globe. Yet the relative distribution of miracles would still be an infinitesimal fraction of all the ordinary events that transpired across the globe on any particular day. Miracles could happen every day or every hour without happening constantly in the sense of representing a sizable proportion of what happens. 

To take a comparison, suppose that every day, in every town, city, and suburb across the globe, there are people with green eyes. Yet in relation to seven billion human inhabitants, that might constitute a tiny fraction of the overall population. Widely scattered specks. By the same token, miracles might be widely distributed in time and place without being densely pervasive. 

v) Perhaps the deepest weakness of Nagasawa's analysis is the apparent, unstated assumption that by breaking a law of nature, each miracle temporarily suspends the laws of nature at a cosmic level. Every time a miracle occurs, assuming a miracle ever occurs, the laws of nature momentarily wink out all across the universe. In that case, the disruption would be cataclysmic. 

But even if we define a miracle as an event that defies the laws of nature (a dubious definition), it doesn't seem to even occur to Nagasawa that the violation can be local rather than global. The transgressive effects can be contained. 

vi) One of the problems may be that Nagasawa adopts a religiously pluralistic viewpoint (although he himself is clearly a skeptic). Within a framework of animism, polytheism, or witchcraft, a wonder-worker might not be able to control the effects of his actions. 

But from the standpoint of biblical monotheism or classical theism, miracles are coordinated with general providence. Even if a miracle requires the suspension of natural laws (a dubious definition), that doesn't mean natural laws must be inoperative everywhere to be inoperative at a particular point in time and space. Rather, the effects would be insulated. A closed system within a larger system.

To take a comparison, passengers inside an airplane are immobile (seated) or walking up and down the aisles within the passenger compartment, even though the plane may be traveling at supersonic speeds.  

Friday, January 19, 2018

What makes a miracle?

I'm going to comment on this: Yujin Nagasawa, Miracles: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford 2017):

For an event to qualify as a miracle, an intentional agent must bring it about (13).

That seems like a useful criterion.

Any probabilistically impossible event with more than 0 per cent probability can take place purely by chance. An event that can happen purely by chance cannot be considered a miracle because a miracle has to be an event that is beyond coincidence. 

Jesus's turning water into wine and resurrecting the dead are miracles precisely because they are nomologically impossible events. Given the laws of chemistry there is no way that water alone can turn into wine. Given the laws of biology there is no way that a person who has been dead for days can be resurrected. Yet they are neither probabilistically nor logically impossible. On the one hand it is not merely a matter of probability that water cannot turn into wine and the dead cannot be resurrected. These events cannot occur by chance. On the other hand, it is not a matter of logic that water cannot turn into wine and the dead cannot be resurrected. There is nothing logically contradictory about water turning into wine and the dead being resurrected. They are impossible only given the laws of the nature of this world…What he [Jesus] performed can be deemed miracles because the impossibilities they involve are perfectly fine-tuned: they are stronger than probabilistic impossibilities but weaker than logical impossibilities (17).

…the outcome of the transformation (e.g. wine) cannot be obtained merely by processing the original substance (e.g. water)…When Jesus transformed water into wine perhaps he first produced wine out of nowhere and used it to instantly replace the water (23). 

i) It's true that turning water into wine (or bread into fish) is naturally impossible in a way that a coincidence miracle is not. That's a valid distinction. And replacement is one way to model it. 

ii) A "miracle" is a term of art, so Nagasawa is at liberty to offer his own definition. But that's subject to scrutiny.

iii) Could the laws of nature be different? The laws of nature are contingent. If the nature world disappeared, natural laws would disappear. 

However, some people are too quick to claim that there could be a universe with different natural laws. Maybe so. But natural laws are interrelated. If you change one, you may have to change them all, or many or most of them. Each natural law must be consistent with every other natural law. But that raises the question of whether a universe with different natural laws is coherent. How many laws would have to be different for any law to be different? Is there a functional combination of alternative natural laws? 

An omnipotent God is very resourceful. And omnipotent God can often bypass the natural order. But what's natural isn't indefinitely elastic. 

iv) What about his claim that a miracle must be an event that's beyond coincidence? Is that a metaphysical definition of a miracle or an epistemological definition?  

Let's take a comparison. Suppose a man dies in a car crash due to brake failure. That could happen purely by chance. 

But suppose, on further investigation, it turns out that his wife was having an affair with the automechanic who serviced the car the day before. And suppose the husband was a rich man. According to the will, his widow becomes a wealthy heiress in the event of his accidental death.

That could be a coincidence. But is it reasonable to classify the event as accidental death rather than murder? Even if all we have is circumstantial evidence which can't absolutely rule out the statistically possibility that is happened purely by chance, yet from an epistemic standpoint, that's not the most plausible explanation. Shouldn't we classify this event, not according to what's possible or impossible but probable or improbable? 

Suppose, finally, the homicide detective recovers text-messages which explicitly reveal a murder plot between the wife and the boyfriend/automechanic. Metaphysically speaking, it wasn't actually a coincidence even if that kind of thing can (and does) happen by chance. 

Grace under fire

Jordan Peterson's recent interview is getting a lot of buzz:

It's a master class in how to respond to a hostile interviewer who oversimplifies the issue. He did a fantastic job. However, he could have fielded one question differently. Does the right to give offense compete with the right to take offense? As the interviewer put it, does he have the right to offend a transgender person?

i) From an American perspective, there's a Constitutional right to offend others, whereas there's no comparable or superior Constitutional right not to be offended.

ii) To be offended is not self-validating. The fact that someone may take offense doesn't justify their umbrage. Indeed, umbrage is often unwarranted. Mere umbrage has no moral authority over anyone else. 

iii) The transgendered aren't primarily offended by others, but by themselves. They are offended by their own bodies.

iv) There are tradeoffs in a free and open society. That may result in hurt feelings, but the alternative is a totalitarian regime.

Rigging the outsider test

It's been many years since I've debated John Loftus, but I recently tangled with him on Facebook:

"A historian wants to know what happened. The apologist doesn't care what happened. He only wants to defend the Holy Book at all costs, even if it means he must sacrifice his intellect to do so."

i) An apologist for atheism doesn't care what happened. He only wants to defend his naturalism at all costs, even if it means he must sacrifice his intellect (e.g. eliminative materialism) to do so.

ii) Loftus overlooks the obvious fact that becoming a Christian apologist is sometimes the end-result of pursuing the evidence, and not the starting-point. 

iii) What about historians committed to methodological naturalism? They don't care what happened. They will defend a naturalistic explanation even if it means sacrificing the evidence.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A tale of two cities


Cat fight in heaven

It's common for Catholic apologists to cast Mary in the role of the Queen Mother of Heaven. The unstated inference seems to be that if Jesus is the king, and Mary is his mother, that makes her the Queen Mother of Heaven. 

Some Catholic apologists take this a step further and infer that Mary is the power behind the throne. Jesus must forever honor his mother by submitting to her whims. So Mary dictates cosmic policy. Mary wears the pants in heaven.

There are several problems with this inference:

i) Grown sons are not supposed to be subservient to their mothers.

ii) Christ's relationship to his human mother is significantly different from normal filial relationships. The Son is Mary's Creator, Redeemer, and Judge. 

iii) Catholic apologists also like to emphasize the church as the bride of Christ. But that raises interesting questions regarding the power dynamic.

A marriage in which the mother-in-law overrules the wife is a marriage on the rocks. In marriage, some mothers are valued counselors, but mothers-in-law aren't supposed to outrank wives. 

A marriage establishes a new authority structure. There was the authority structure of your parents' marriage, but when you grow up you should outgrow that. And your own marriage replaces the old authority structure with the new authority structure.

If Catholic theology is true, then heaven is an acrimonious marriage in which Jesus must duck to avoid the flying pots and pans as his mother and his bride vie for dominance. Not a happy marriage, that's for sure. Thankfully, the solid dome provides soundproofing so that we don't hear all the yelling upstairs. 

The Blue Nun

One of the traditional arguments for Catholicism is the argument from miracles. Catholic miracles. 

A problem with that argument is that reported miracles are hardly confined to Catholicism. There are well-documented Protestant miracles (see case studies by Craig Keener and Robert Larmer). 

But there's another wrinkle. What if Catholic miracles provide evidence that Catholicism is false? That's a paradox, but here's what I mean:

i) Take Fatima. Lucia dos Santos became a threat to the papacy because she accused the papacy of disobeying the Marian command to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. That puts the papacy in a bind. If Lucia is the mouthpiece of the Mother of God and Queen of Heaven, what pope dare oppose Sister Lucia? 

ii) Or take the claim that Catholic seer and stigmatic Anne Catherine Emmerich foresaw the the apostasy of the Roman church?

iii) Or take Maria de Agreda, the Blue Nun. She could reputedly bilocate, and her corpse is reputedly incorrupt. For instance:

Yet her writings were repeatedly condemned by Catholic authorities:

These examples generate a dilemma for the Catholic argument from miracles. They become rogue power centers. 

Between the devil's advocate and the deep blue computer

1. In chapter 4 of Where the Conflict Really Lies, Alvin Plantinga discusses quantum mechanics. Plantinga's aim is twofold: to show that quantum mechanics is compatible with miracles/special providence–as well as human/divine agents who enjoy libertarian freedom. 

Calvinists face a somewhat different challenge, and that is whether quantum mechanics is compatible with "theistic determinism". 

2. Before proceeding, we need to define our terms and draw some distinctions.

i) There's a sense in which Calvinism is deterministic. The reservation I have with that characterization is that "determinism" is an imprecise way to classify Calvinism. That's because an outcome can be determinate without being predeterminate. And there's more than one sense in which that might be the case.

For instance, if an outcome is directly caused, then it's not the end-result of a chain of events leading up to that outcome. In that regard, the outcome is determinate but not predetermined. 

To take a different kind of example, an outcome can be determinate but unintended. It wasn't predetermined in the sense of premeditation. For instance, chemical reactions are determinate but not predeterminate in that sense. 

Calvinism is deterministic is a more specific sense than generic determinism, because Calvinism has a doctrine of predeterminism in particular rather than a doctrine of determinism in general. 

Predestination is a type of premeditation. Everything happens according to God's master plan for the world. In that regard, "determinism" fails to capture the divinely intentional element of Calvinism.  

ii) Calvinism is neutral on physical determinism. Whether or not all physical events are physically determined is a matter of indifference to Calvinism inasmuch as the fundamental determinant in Calvinism is predestination. But predestination isn't synonymous with physical determinism since the locus of predestination is God's immaterial mind and will. God's blueprint for the world as well as God's resolve to implement his plan. 

iii) In Calvinism, there's more than one causal modality by which God's plan eventuates. There's God's timeless creative fiat. There's an order of second causes. And there are miracles which circumvent a chain of second causes. 

3. In addition, there are two different definitions of libertarian freedom:

There seem to be at least two different fundamental notions of what free will is in the contemporary literature. The first of these, which seems to have garnered the most attention in the last century, works under the assumption that for a person to rightly be said to have free will, she must have the ability to do otherwise than what she does, in fact, do. Under this view I could be said to have freely chosen to drive to work only if I also could have freely chosen, for example, to bike to work or to skip work altogether. This approach to free will is referred to as a ‘leeway-based approach’ (cite my book) or an ‘alternative possibilities approach’ (see Sartorio (2016).)

In contrast, a smaller percentage of the extant literature focuses primarily on the issues of ‘source,’ ‘ultimacy,’ and ‘origination’. This second approach doesn’t focus immediately on the presence or absence of alternative possibilities. On this approach, I freely choose to drive to work only if I am the source of my choice and there is nothing outside of me from which the choice is ultimately derived.

In what follows, we refer to the first of these conceptions—the conception that free will is primarily a matter of having alternative possibilities—as the ‘leeway based’ conception. Similarly, we will refer to the second of these conceptions—that free will is primarily a matter of our being the source of our choices in a particular way—as the ‘sourcehood’ conception. (John Fischer and Carolina Sartorio refers to sourcehood views as ‘actual sequence’ views; see Fischer (2006) and Sartorio (2016)).

Both of these notions can be seen in the following passage taken from Robert Kane:

We believe we have free will when we view ourselves as agents capable of influencing the world in various ways. Open alternatives, or alternative possibilities, seem to lie before us. We reason and deliberate among them and choose. We feel (1) it is ‘up to us’ what we choose and how we act; and this means we could have chosen or acted otherwise. As Aristotle noted: when acting is ‘up to us,’ so is not acting. This ‘up-to-us-ness’ also suggests (2) the ultimate control of our actions lies in us and not outside us in factors beyond our control (Kane (2005), 6). Kevin Timpe, Routledge Companion to Free Will

4. Apropos (3), we need to disambiguate libertarian freedom (as defined above) from Calvinism. 

i) I'd say that the ultimate sourcehood definition is straightforwardly at odds with Calvinism. Human agents can't be free in that sense.

ii) But the leeway definition is equivocal. We need to distinguish between alternate possibilities in the psychological sense in contrast to alternate possibilities in the metaphysical sense. 

By "psychological", I mean human agents can imagine alternate pathways. And when we make a choice, that often involves mentally comparing and contrasting alternate pathways.

That's consistent with Calvinism. According to Calvinism, God has predestined rational agents to make choices by engaging in that type of deliberation.

Likewise, it's consistent with Calvinism that human agents can and do influence the world in various ways. 

iii) That, however, doesn't entail that there are open alternatives in the metaphysical sense because not everything that's conceivable is feasible. Although we can entertain many apparent possibilities, it doesn't follow that we can act on all of them. Indeed, it's a commonplace of human experience that there's often a disappointing shortfall between imaginary pathways to our goal and realistic pathways to our goal. 

Pathways that seem to lie wide open may in fact have washed out bridges along the way. That's in part because human imagination is very shortsighted. When we contemplate a course of action, there are many intervening steps that fall outside our ken. 

In addition, our pathway may be blocked by other agents. What seems to be an unobstructed pathway in the mind often hits a wall when we attempt to act on our choice. 

iv) Finally, Calvinism affirms that unlike human agents, God does have leeway freedom. God can access alternate possibilities. God does have open alternatives at his disposal. 

5. One of the complications with assessing the relationship between freedom and determinism vis-a-vis quantum mechanics is the absence of an agreed-upon interpretation of quantum mechanics. There are deterministic as well as indeterministic interpretations of quantum mechanics. There's insufficient evidence to ascertain which is correct. At least according to the current state of the evidence, some deterministic and indeterministic interpretations are empirically equivalent. And it may be that even in principle, there can never be sufficient evidence to settle that dispute. It's striking the degree to which debates over the proper interpretation of quantum mechanics resorts to thought-experiments.

6. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that quantum mechanics is actually deterministic. That would amount to physical determinism at a subatomic level. If true, then that doesn't generate even a prima facie tension between predestination and quantum mechanics.

7. But suppose, for the sake of argument, that quantum mechanics is actually indeterministic. If some physical events or outcomes are physically uncaused or indeterminate, is that consistent with universal predestination?

Let's consider an analogy. At present, I believe there are computer chess players that can beat the very best human players. 

Suppose,for discussion purposes, we grant that human chess players have libertarian freedom. Suppose choosing which move to make originates with the player. 

Likewise, there's a sense in which a player has leeway freedom. As he scans the board, the pieces, and their position, many alternate pathways lie open to him. That's not just imaginary. It correspond to objective reality in terms of empty spaces on the board and different ways in which different kinds of pieces can move. There are multiple opportunities for action. In that respect, there's more than one way ahead. 

Ah, but here's the catch. Because the computer is unbeatable, every pathway leads to defeat. Every alternate course of action leads to checkmate.

It follows that a determinate outcome is consistent with indeterminate choices. Although it might seem that determinism and indeterminism are antithetical, they can be combined. Even if every pathway is indeterministic, the denouement is the same in each case. 

8. I'm not suggesting, from a Calvinistic perspective, that chess players have libertarian freedom. Rather, I'm using an a fortiori argument (a maiore ad minus). If even in the greater case, where indeterminate choices are nevertheless consistent with determinate outcomes, then mutatis mutandis, that holds true in the lesser case where leeway freedom (and ultimate sourcehood) is false. And that's an analogy for quantum mechanics, even on indeterministic interpretations, where causal determinism is false at the subatomic level.