Tag Archives: Newcomb’s paradox

Yours Sincerely

In an earlier post I offered a response to a specific objection to the doctrine of particular redemption. This objection boils down to the claim that the following two statements are incompatible:

(1) Christ did not die in an atoning sense for S.

(2) The gospel can be sincerely offered to S.

I argued that (1) and (2) can be seen to be compatible by drawing an analogy with Newcomb’s paradox in the case where one of the two boxes turns out to be empty.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant raised some characteristically thoughtful objections to my argument. He and some other readers thought they smelled a rat, in the form of a relevant disanalogy between the two scenarios. In the first part of this post, I’ll first respond directly to Bnonn’s comments; in the second, I’ll try to advance the argument a little further.

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Newcomb’s Paradox, Particular Redemption, and Sincere Offers

Newcomb’s paradox is a famous puzzle in decision theory that has provoked much discussion. It has been formulated in different ways, but a standard formulation runs as follows.

The Predictor is a person who is able to make a prediction about a future choice of yours with a very high degree of certainty. (In some versions, the Predictor is infallible — a point to which we will return.) The Predictor invites you to play a game involving two boxes: A and B. Box A is transparent and you can see that it contains $1,000. Box B is opaque. You’re now given a straight binary choice: you may pick either both boxes or only box B. But before you choose, the Predictor informs you that he has already predicted which choice you will make and has arranged the contents of box B accordingly. If he predicted that you will pick only box B then he placed $1,000,000 in that box; but if he predicted that you will pick both boxes then he left box B empty.

The million-dollar question is this: What choice should you make? (The thought experiment assumes, of course, that you want to maximize your winnings!)

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