Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom III
In a comment to my first post on "Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom," Dominic Bnonn Tennant has posted a vigorous critique of my interpretation of Matthew 11:23. Due to lack of time, I will have to deal with the critique in several posts.
Let's recall the verse in question:
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)Bnonn -- as he is commonly known online (pronounced "non") -- begins with my own words:
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)
Capernaum is to be punished for having chosen the wrong response, differently than Sodom would have chosen in a similar case.Bnonn restates my point in his own words:
Indeed. Let me rephrase your words back to you: Capernaum is to be punished because they chose sinfully.He then quotes me again:
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.Bnonn maintains that this does not follow, arguing:
Capernaum will be condemned because they chose sinfully. Not because Sodom would have repented. How does the latter follow? Why would the fact that Sodom would have repented function as a reason for condemning Capernaum? Condemnation is grounded in wilfully choosing what is wrong; not in some kind of comparison to other sinners. The comparison can certainly emphasize the depravity; but it does not function as a grounds for condemnation.The objection that Bnonn raises here follows from my manner of expression. I was trying to stay close to the wording of Matthew 11:23:
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)One could raise a similar objection to this verse that Bnonn has raised to my statement above. Why should Capernaum be brought down because Sodom would have remained to this day? As Bnonn rightly points out, "Condemnation is grounded in wilfully choosing what is wrong; not in some kind of comparison to other sinners." Yet, a comparison has been made.
I had attempted to explain this comparison by stating that "the 'because' here specifies the reason for Capernaum's condemnation, namely, that Sodom would have repented." Perhaps a better way of stating this would have been to say that Capernaum had been offered a choice to repent and could have repented. The comparison to Sodom is offered as evidence that the choice had been offered and that the choice had been a free one because if the same mighty works had been done in Sodom, it would have repented. My interpretation here is that since the choice was free, Capernaum therefore has no excuse.
That's my understanding of the comparison used in Matthew 11:23's because-clause. I don't know if this clarification allows us to move on to the next point or not, so I'll wait to see Bnonn's response.