by Jims | February 2nd, 2010
Flint, Thomas P. “Risky Business: Open Theism and the Incarnation.” Philosophia Christi 6 (2004): 213-233. Critique by James L. Smyrl, PhD.
Thomas Flint begins his argument with the appearance that dialogue occurred prior to page one. The reader enters the discussion with a sense that information is not available, but is needed to grasp the direction of the author. His thesis is somewhat ambiguous and multifaceted. He notes a need for “openism,” (his terminology for open theism) and various Christ doctrines, to allow for a union for examination of results from each union. His thesis, in regard to the effect of open theism, is narrowed to the doctrine of the incarnation of Christ. Again, he narrows the scope of his thesis to examination of the possibility that the incarnate Christ’s freedom made way for Him to sin or not.
In light of Browne and Keeley’s work, several divergent arguments surface while examining Flint’s discourse. Initiating his discussion, Flint admits to presenting a faulty dilemma. He notes that in the primary debate there is a high probability that no resolution will emerge from either side. This initial indicator of the articles’ conclusion leaves the reader wondering why the examination of the incarnate Christ’s ability to sin ever ensued. Beginning his polemic with a statement of the impossibility of any resolution is a violation of Browne and Keeley’s “false dilemma” criteria for rejecting an argument. Not only is the impossibility of the resolution a reason to downgrade the value of Flint’s argument, but also his presentation in this opening statements that only two primary oppositions exist in regard to this issue. His conclusion is replete with unattainable resolutions that lead the reader to ponder the validity of investigating the subject in any manner.
Flint’s use of the “slippery slope” approach in his argument is cause for suspicion as to the argument’s validity. Throughout his work, Flint uses the “if” “then” analysis, but usually assumes too much in the “then” portion of his argument. This use is most flagrantly evident in his analysis of the open theist’s view of the Molinist claim “concerning counterfactuals of creaturely freedom” (222). His conclusion is that the open, after the described chain of events, must yield their conclusions to the assumption that God is free only if He risks sinning. Flint also uses the slippery slope fallacy of argumentation on page 226. After footnote twenty four, Flint states, “So . . . .” He is drawing a final conclusion, without adequately tracing the line of reason that would naturally lead to such a conclusion.
There is also the fallacy of reasoning in Flint’s argument that Browne and Keeley label “explaining by naming.” He labels Christ’s Human Nature as CHN, and provides adequate argument for this title. His argument’s fallacy enters when he attempts to explain The Metaphysical Assumption by labeling it TMA. He uses a deductive argument in explaining The Metaphysical Assumption, but his assumption that the reader understands his implied premise is faulty. His argument in the second paragraph on page 216 shifts to an inductive approach, but still leaves the reader with little information on which to build a foundational understanding of what is a primary subject throughout his work.
Perhaps the most detrimental fallacy in his reasoning evolves from his regular appeal to questionable authority. Regularly, Flint refers to “most openists,” but does not provide an endnote or direct quote informing the reader with the quality of these sources. Flint’s appeal to questionable authority weakens his entire argument, resulting in the reader wondering if these sources really exist, rather than seeking to interact with his premise. This appeal to questionable authority also includes an appeal to popularity. By noting “most openists” he seems to build an argument that since most believe these issues, their beliefs are factual.