Rich Davis, “What’s Not Wrong with Jerry Walls’ Argument Against Calvinism”

, posted by SEA

In a guest post (here) on James Anderson’s blog Analogical Thoughts, Daniel Johnson, Associate Professor of Philosophy and co-editor of  Calvinism and the Problem of Evil, claims that a invalid argument lies at the heart of Jerry Walls’ new book Does God Love Everyone? What’s Wrong with Calvinism. I’m afraid that Dr. Johnson is quite mistaken on this point. Prof. Walls’ argument is demonstrably valid.

Johnson sets out Walls’ argument (from p. 30) as follows:

  1. God truly loves all persons.
  2. Not all persons will be saved.
  3. Truly to love somone is to desire their well-being and to promote their true flourishing as much as one properly can.
  4. The well-being and true flourishing of all persons is to be found in a right relationship with God, a saving relationship in which we love and obey him.
  5. God could give all persons “irresistable grace” and thereby determine all persons to freely accept a right relationship with himself and be saved.
  6. Therefore, all persons will be saved.

Johnson then lodges the following complaint:

Walls treats this argument like it is a logically valid argument. He calls it a “logical argument”… It is not. Walls must never have tried to formalize the argument and prove it valid; go ahead, try it – it cannot be done. It is a premise away from being a valid argument.

He goes on to say that unless Walls modifies his premise (5), “the Calvinist could consistently accept every single premise (all of 1-5) while denying the conclusion (6).” It’s even worse for Walls, since

Representing the argument in the body of the text – the argument without that (modified) premise – as a logically valid one when it clearly is not is an egregious philosophical mistake and amounts to an egregious misrepresentation of Calvinism and its philosophical options.

These are strong words. Since Jerry Walls is well known for his analytical precision—and not at all for making “egregious philosophical mistake[s]”—I  thought I would take up Prof. Johnson on his challenge to “go ahead, try it”—try to prove Walls’s argument is valid. “It cannot be done,” says Johnson. Well, let’s see.

Let the following values hold:

g =def  God
Bx =def  x has well-being.
Fx =def  x is truly flourishing.
Hx =def  x is a (human) person.
Sx =def  x will be saved.
Cxy =def  x can give irresistable grace to y.
Dxy =def  x desires the well-being of y.
Lxy =def  x truly loves y.
Pxy =def  x promotes the true flourishing of y as much as x properly can.
Rxy =def  x is in a right relationship with y.

Here, then, are Walls’ premises and conclusion once again–this time with their corresponding symbolizations:

  1. God truly loves all persons. (x)(Hx → Lgx)
  2. Not all persons will be saved. ¬(x)(Hx → Sx)
  3. Truly to love somone is to desire their well-being and to promote their true flourishing as much as one properly can. (x)(y)(Lxy ↔ (Dxy & Pxy))
  4. The well-being and true flourishing of all persons is to be found in a right relationship with God, a saving relationship in which we love and obey him. (x)((Bx & Fx) → Rxg)
  5. God could give all persons “irresistable grace” and thereby determine all persons to freely accept a right relationship with himself and be saved. (x)Cgx & (x)(Cgx → (Rxg & Sx))1
  6. Therefore, all persons will be saved. (x)Sx

The following deduction proves that Walls’ argument (as it stands) is valid:

snip20161011_4

A couple of things to note. First, premises (3) and (4) are actually unnecessary. You can deduce Walls’ conclusion from (1), (2), and (5) alone.  Johnson’s fuss about the ‘properly can’ locution—the one he finds in Walls’ footnote to premise (3), and which he thinks needs to be grafted into (5)—is therefore also unnecessary.

Second, contrary to what Johnson tell us, we don’t have to alter premise (5) at jot, in order for the argument to come out valid. It’s simply not true, therefore, that (as things in fact stand) “the Calvinist could consistently accept every single premise (all of 1-5) while denying the conclusion (6).” She can’t. The above deduction settles that. Of course, the Calvinist may well want to challenge the truth of (1), (2), or (5), but that’s another matter. The present point is: Jerry Walls is guilty of no “egregious philosophical mistake” in claiming that his argument is logically valid. And that’s because it is.

Notes

  1. Here I’m treating ‘x freely accepts a right relationship with God’ as a stylistic variant on ‘x is in a right relationship with God’.

[Link to original post, which was taken from the blog of the Tyndale UC Philosophy Department]