Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom II
Two blog entries ago, I posted on "Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom" in response to a couple of comments by Professor David C. Innis on an even earlier entry in which I ask about "Total Depravity?"
In my blog entry on "Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom," I cited Matthew 11:23 as a scriptural foundation for free will:
καὶ σύ Καφαρναούμ μὴ ἕως οὐρανοῦ ὑψωθήσῃ ἕως ᾅδου καταβήσῃ ὅτι εἰ ἐν Σοδόμοις ἐγενήθησαν αἱ δυνάμεις αἱ γενόμεναι ἐν σοί ἔμεινεν ἂν μέχρι τῆς σήμερον (Morphological Greek New Testament)My argument was as follows:
And thou, Capernaum, which unto the heaven wast exalted, unto hades shalt be brought down, because if in Sodom had been done the mighty works that were done in thee, it had remained unto this day; (Young's Literal Translation)
Look at the biblical statement, which -- in its larger textual context -- effectively means that Capernaum will be condemned because Sodom would have repented (cf. verse 20). The "because" here specifies the reason for Capernaum's condemnation, namely, that Sodom would have repented, implying that Capernaum should also have repented. But that implication further entails that Capernaum could have repented, for a "should" entails a "could."Professor Innis replied:
Well that is a challenging point, and I've had to ponder it. But is the example really any different from Jesus' call for people to "Repent!"? Or is it any different from the very fact of a Judgment Day, when Jesus will say, "I was hungry and you didn't feed me"? Here he says, Messiah himself lived in your midst, preached the Kingdom, and you didn't repent. He uses the example of Sodom to shame them and so to stir their consciences.I think that there is a difference between Matthew 11:23 (actually, the entire passage of Matthew 11:20-24) and two examples given by Professor Innis. Neither example offers a counterfactual. In the first example, Christ's call to "Repent!" is a present offer, current at each moment (until retracted someday). In the second example, the judgement pronounced by Christ on Judgement Day is for a past failure, therefore closed off in the past (and thus judged). Neither of these situations is expressed counterfactually. Although I believe that the call and the judgement both presuppose personal responsibility and thereby free choice, I think that Matthew 11:23 provides a stronger argument by virtue of its counterfactual.
Basic to my argument here is the statement that a "should" entails a "could." According to my friend Bill Vallicella, The Maverick Philosopher, this is equivalent to stating that an "ought" implies a "can." The standard view in philosophy is: "If one ought to do X, then one must be able to do X." I think that this statement is even more clear when expressed as a past subjunctive -- "If one should have done X, then one must have been able to do X" -- for this means that one could have acted differently.
Christ's words in Matthew 11:23 seem to mean that in the very conditions in which Capernaum had found itself at the time of the call to repent, it could have chosen to repent or not to repent. Capernaum did not repent, but this fact does not mean that it could not have repented, for if that were the case, the analogy to Sodom as a counterfactually repentent city would fail.
My argument depends upon Christ referring to a past event, which is how I understand Matthew 11:20:
Τότε ἤρξατο ὀνειδίζειν τὰς πόλεις ἐν αἷς ἐγένοντο αἱ πλεῖσται δυνάμεις αὐτοῦ ὅτι οὖ μετενόησαν (Morphological Greek New Testament)The Greek word metenoasan (μετενόησαν) is in the aorist, and ou metenoasan (οὖ μετενόησαν) therefore means "did not repent." Some translations use the past perfect: "had not repented." Either way, I take Christ's words here as referring to a past event from the perspective of Christ himself.
Then began he to reproach the cities in which were done most of his mighty works, because they did not repent. (Young's Literal Translation, slightly edited)
But I suppose that there might be some disagreement on how to understand the use of the aorist in this verse, and I'll have to think about this point.