Sunday, January 04, 2009

Bad Intentions

So, Arminians believe in libertarian free will. One question asked of this view is about what causes a choice. The question is perplexing, and there is no agreement among libertarian action theorists as to how to answer it.

A typical question is put this way: Mary chooses to go on vacation. She has two options she's weighing - Alaska or Hawaii. Mary chooses Alaska. That fits her budget better, the flights fit her busy schedule, the location is more alluring, her kids have always wanted to go there, fill in more blanks as you wish. Now, say Mary made this decision libertarianly free. That means, among other things, that nothing determined her choice. Nothing preceding the choice determined it. That means all the blanks above (some that were filled in with various desires and reasons) could have all been exactly the same as they were and Mary might have chosen Hawaii. Put differently, if we rewound the tape of Mary's life back to the point exactly before her choice and no further (thus keeping all the blanks the same) and then played the tape, Mary could just have well chose Hawaii (again, even given the same blanks we filled in). So, given this story, what is asked is, "What is it that explains why a libertarian free agent went one way over another?"

Now, in the literature this question has raised some interesting issues. For example, some have argued that libertarian free will doesn't afford us enough control to render a libertarian free agent morally responsible. Thus it would look like one of the main objections to compatibilism, viz., compatibalistically free agents cannot be held morally responsible for their actions, is actually shown to be a bigger problem for libertarianism. There are other issues raised. It's beyond the scope of this post to comment on them. I wish to raise another issue for Arminianism as it stems from some insights obtained from the above story about Mary.

Arminianism claims to believe in total depravity. I actually find it a superfluous concept since no human is actually totally depraved. They just would be if not for "prevenient grace" (another unbiblical doctrine fraught with its own problems). Actually, all humans are regenerate. They're only regenerate partially, though. Regenerate Lite. It's like this. Imagine a drink, let's call it Regenerade®. Now, people are naturally just an empty glass. But, no one is actually an empty glass. God flooded the world with Regenerade® such that all people are at least a glass half-full (or, "empty," if you like). Now, some people are filled to the brim with Regenerade®. They choose to "let go and let God" and so God "fills 'em up." But to get "filled up" you have to have at least some Regenerade® in your glass already. Since all people have an equal shot at filling up the glass, this means that all people have at least some Regenerade® in their glass. That's pretty much what they teach here.

Okay, now since total depravity is read counterfacuality, i.e, what all people would be if it weren't for God's flooding the earth with Regenerade®, we need to talk about scenarios that could happen. Total depravity is inherited from Adam, the federal head of the human race. So, let's bring back Mary. Mary is a counterfactual human living in a possible world W with no Regenerade®. When Mary makes a decision to * in W, she either has libertarian freedom or not. Since she would be morally responsible in W, then Arminians must say she had libertarian freedom - or, down goes almost all their object to Calvinism.

So Mary makes a choice to kill in W. She kills Harry. She hates Harry. She is jealous of Harry. She is annoyed by his voice. Fill in more blanks. Now, is she responsible? Arminians would have to say yes. So, rewind the tape. Given the same desires and reasons above, given every single event up until the choice was made to kill remains the same, Mary might just as easily choose not to kill. Is she responsible? This is vague.

She may not be civilly responsible since the state doesn't have the power or right to punish mere motives or desires, especially if kept private. But, she is still responsible to God for her motives. So, she must be free to not have sinful motives. Sinful desires. Even sinful inclinations. God will judge even the secret inclinations, thoughts, and desires of our heart. No one will have any such desire, thought, motive, or inclination in heaven.

So, either Mary is free to form sinful desires or not. But if she had no sinful thoughts, desires, motives, inclinations, etc., how could she plausibly be totally depraved? If she does not have the ability to get rid of the sinful heart from which sinful actions spring, she is still responsible for that heart. For that nature. But, she necessarily has said nature, and she didn't, in Kane's terminology, have a "crisis of the will" and self-form her will or character. She didn't will it but was willed it. She inherited it from Adam. Yet, in all of this, she is morally responsible. As top libertarian action theorist Robert Kane says, if an agent does indeterministically form her own will, then she cannot be a morally responsible agent. Totally depraved people do not form their own will. Their motives, desires, inclinations, etc., are evil and must be evil. And yet they are responsible.

And with that, most major objections from Arminians to Calvinism go down the drain.

42 comments:

  1. Michelle,

    That is one answer. As I said, my post wasn't intended to speak on that issue. So, as usual, you make irrelevant comments. I have discussed agent causation. If you continue to comment on matters not having to do with the topic of the post your comments will be deleted.

    'Regenerate Lite' meant what I said it did - the regeneration all men have. The trickle of the faucet rather than the full blast from the hose.

    I'm not talking about 4-point Calvinism. And, I specifically said the Arminians held to TD, TD Lite, you could call it. So, again, you make comments without reading what I write.

    Lastly, I never commented on the final judgment and the new heavens and earth. "Correcting" points not made is a quick way to get your comments deleted. Play by the rules in my combox. I'm not impressed by people who clutter up the meta with the specific intention of showing how "erudite" they is.

    So, play by the rules or don't play.

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  2. I think this post is moot, because everyone knows Hawaii is more alluring than Alaska.

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  3. And, in your answer, can you

    i) Define "error."

    ii) Tell us if this is an "error:" [Weatherman says] "Sunrise is at 5:45 am." Why or why not?

    iii) When is it appropriate to ascribe an erroneous comment to someone?

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  4. Paul -

    By "*" do you mean "let go and let God"?

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  5. Vytautus,

    (*) = some action whatever.

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  6. Hi Michelle. You said:

    A free will choice is the "first cause" of a new chain of cause-and-effect which has no explanation, because that explanation would then be the generative cause of the choice, and it would require another explanation, and so on. If you reject that a free will choice is a miniature first cause, and demand an explanation for it, then this demand applies for the first cause of the universe itself, and God's creative act would require a prior explanation.

    I'm trying to understand this, but it seems to entail a number of very serious problems as I see it:

    1. What does it mean for a cause to have no explanation? Surely the principle of sufficient reason demands some explanation; if not an external one, then an internal one? But internal explanations are explanations from necessity. Having precluded external explanations, that seems to be what you're left with. By way of example: I wouldn't say that God's choice of creation was necessary, since the Reformed creeds to which I adhere express his creative act as a free one. So, without closer examination of the topic, I assume it was a contingent act. Therefore, I would absolutely demand an explanation for it; I would say that this creative act does indeed require a prior explanation: and that explanation is God's faculty of choice itself. That then takes us back to a necessary condition—an internal explanation, which is that God exists necessarily as he does. The principle of sufficient reason allows us to end there; but it doesn't seem clear at all to me that this sort of answer can be applied in the case of free will choices.

    2. On the other hand, if you say that the principle of sufficient reason does not apply to free will choices, then I must ask: on what grounds? You need to show either that PSR is itself defective, or that it does not apply to free choices. That seems like an insurmountable task, though certainly you may have some insight here which I don't.

    3. Moreover, does not the notion of choices as unexplained and uncaused causes put them into a position of metaphysical parity with God? Your view seems to entail that these choices have the same ontological status as God himself. How is this possible; and doesn't it entail the complete abandonment of God's aseity, in an even more extreme way than molinism?

    4. Going even further, does this ontological entailment not imply, a fortiori, that the originators of the choices have at least the same ontological standing as well?

    5. But then, what does it mean for people to be the originators of uncaused events? How can a free will choice be mine if it is, in fact, uncaused? It's not clear to me that we can coherently speak of choices in this way. If there is no explanation for a free will choice, then certainly I am not the explanation in any sense. And if there is no cause for such a choice, then certainly I am not the cause in any sense.

    Given the nature of these problems, I suspect there are numerous other entailments I haven't thought of which would also create difficulties for your view. But these ones, at least, I have thought of—how would you answer them?

    Regards,
    Bnonn

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  7. Hi Renee. I'm sorry, but most of what you've said doesn't seem to make sense.

    It means the cause is an anchor-point for a chain of subsequent cause and effect. It's like a hook in the ceiling where you suspend a chain. The hook itself is not a link, but it provides the ability of the chain to bear weight (analogous to existence).

    This doesn't explain what it means for something to have no explanation. It's an analogy sans the analogy, since the hook is suspended in a ceiling. To be fair, that question was largely rhetorical: meant to demonstrate by reflection that it's not really possible to answer. And I think it achieved that goal quite well. That said, you seem to be conflating explanations with causes. The two are not the same.

    The laws of biology are rooted in deeper laws of chemisty, and those laws are rooted in the deeper laws of quantum electrodynamics, which are a broken symmetry of a Grand Unified Theory, which in turn precipitated out of a Theory of Everything that includes quantum gravity, and so on, until you arrive at the most fundamental and basic laws which underpin all of reality and have no further explanation, other than they were selected by an intelligent will with sufficient power to impose them uniformly across the entire universe. [Emphasis mine; and hereafter.]

    The emphasized portion evidences some confusion. The material regularities of the universe are, in fact, explained by God's omnipotence and omniscience; this is merely a different kind of explanation than the ones which led to it, however. It isn't a lack of an explanation. The principle of sufficient reason is demonstrated and upheld here.

    So we postulate that God possesses a property called "free will" which is isolated from prior causes (otherwise it's not free, by defintion).

    Well, I wouldn't exactly agree. God's free will isn't isolated from prior causes—there aren't any prior causes for it to be isolated from. God is the first, uncaused cause. This is a unique metaphysical fact about him, which is why I objected to the notion that our free will has, or can bring about, the same ontological state of affairs.

    And in order to absolve God from being culpable for human sin, we postulate that this supernatural property called free will was also given to human beings

    I don't see why it would be necessary to postulate this supernatural property for humans in order to absolve God of culpability for our sin. We don't need to have free will in the sense that you mean in order for God to be completely without fault. That said, I'm glad you acknowledge that libertarian free will is, in fact, a philosophical postulate, rather than an exegeted truth.

    but it was coupled with a limited power which goes along with being finite. Thus we are able to initiate certain sequences of cause and effect for which the ultimate responsibility lies solely with us, and cannot be laid at God's door.

    The difficulty here is that if something has the same ontological status as God, its ancillary properties (such as what facts it can cause to obtain) aren't relevant to that central issue.

    Now, you've said that the PSR doesn't apply to free choices,

    On the grounds of the dichotomy between materialism and the supernatural. Limited to materialism, the PSR leads to an infinite regress of causes (or deeper and deeper explanations as outlined, which is a more subtle rabbit hole to follow). Thus we must postulate a supernatural (or metaphysical some would insist) intervention which rolls out from taking as an axiom that the will of a moral agent truly is free.

    But this, as far as I understand what you're saying, doesn't offer grounds for believing that PSR doesn't apply to free choices. In fact, it's hard to see what it's supposed to argue. It offers grounds for why PSR must apply to material events; but PSR is not a material law. It's a metaphysical one. You seem to be making some kind of argument from determinism, but it's not clear to me what it is. Hopefully you can elaborate on this. So far, though, you don't seem to have given any justification for believing that PSR doesn't or shouldn't apply to free choices.

    When God created man "in our image" he was not speaking of his body, because God is a spirit. He was speaking of God's mind. And God is free. So God created man free. But God only created man after his likeness, he did not reproduce himself and create little gods. Our powers are limited to what we can sense and touch, with the exception that we can communicate with God in prayer and respond to the movement of his spirit.

    As per the emphasized portion, you evidently recognize the distinction b as I understand itetween communicable and non-communicable attributes. The problem is that my exact argument (if it is even as advanced as an argument; I would call it pointing out a self-evident fact) is that your thesis of freedom implying unexplained and uncaused choices exactly entails that God created little gods by merit of it requiring that these choices, and by consequence ourselves, have a non-communicable ontological status which only God has. You haven't given any reasons for rejecting this; you've merely begged the question by asserting that what I have observed is not, in fact, the case—when it clearly is.

    In fact, the consequence of your thesis is even more extreme. Even God has an explanation; the principle of sufficient reason does apply to him, as to all things. So, if anything, in asserting that the PSR doesn't apply to free choices, you are asserting something so wildly extravagant about our ontological status, or the ontological status of one of our faculties, or at least the ontological status of events which we produce, that it can't even be asserted of God. It is a power or property beyond even him.

    I then ask what it means for ourselves to be originators of uncaused and unexplained events, to which you reply,

    There are two classes of uncaused events, random events and first cause events. When I was a child (not so long ago), we played a card game called "War" where you split a card deck in half, and each player threw down a card one at a time, and whichever card was bigger won that "trick". It was boring because it was purely random, there was no way for the player to claim ownership of their play. So how to make it more interesting? Let the players look at their cards, and look at each other. They use their judgment to decide when to play the high cards or when to sacrifice the low cards. That's the secret. Intelligent decisionmaking.

    This doesn't answer my question at all. Even if I accept your distinction between random events and first cause events, which I don't as I don't hold that random events obtain and I don't hold that first cause events are unexplained, that doesn't in any way demonstrate how the latter can be attributed to us as their originators (in the case of free choices at any rate). Now, you imply that the former could not be attributed to us as their originators—so presumably it is in the distinction between random and first cause events that the answer you were intending to explicate lies. Perhaps if you could articulate this distinction, we could examine it to see whether it explains how uncaused events can be attributed to us. However, I must say that, prima facie, to attribute an event to someone is to say that the person caused the event to occur. So from the outset, it seems self-evident that your position refutes itself. If free choices really are "ours", then they are, in principle, neither uncaused nor unexplained. Conversely, if they are uncaused and unexplained, then they most certainly cannot be attributed to us.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

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  8. Michelle,

    If you don't substantiate your false charges you'll be banned from my comboxes for a week.

    Secondly, even granting that agent causation is an intelligent notion (in the sense meant by libertarians), even granting that there's millions of ex nihilo events taking place, even granting we understand causations and events enough to make the theory analysis proof, even granting all that, your comments do nothing to over turn the worries I initially raised.

    The point is that if we rewound the tape a million times to the nano second before the choice was made, Mary, supposedly, if she were libertarian free, had the ability to make the choice or not. But given all the same reasons, desires, character, etc, Mary could have chose other than she did. This makes instances of agent causation appear to us compatibilists like they are instances of chance. Like it is mere luck an agent goes one way over another. Why does the agent go one way over another? We can't say. One set of a million could be 70% one way and 30% the other. Another set of million might reveal results that are 45% one way and 55% another. Another set of a million might reveal results 80% one way and 20% another. This looks like the final outcome is do to chance. So how does the agent have the ability to do otherwise? To have both these abilities would be to be able to determine the outcome of a process whose outcome is due to chance or luck.

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  9. Okay Michelle,

    Stay out of my comboxes for a week.

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  10. Bnonn said - “I would say that this creative act does indeed require a prior explanation: and that explanation is God's faculty of choice itself.

    So God’s free will is a faculty or a power. And we are created in the image of God, remember, so just like God gave us the faculty/power of thought, the majority of Christians also believe God gave us the faculty/power of free will.

    Bnonn said - “but it doesn't seem clear at all to me that this sort of answer can be applied in the case of free will choices.”

    By “this sort of answer” I think you mean that the choice is self-caused? God’s choices are self-caused. He created us with some of the same faculties in his image. Our choices are self-caused. If they were caused by ANYTHING other than our selves, then they wouldn’t be choices in the first place. However, the fact that we use a power of reasoning, or a power of free will, and our thoughts and our choices are self-caused does not mean that our existence, like God’s, is self-caused. God caused our existence and gave us certain faculties by which we are responsible for our own actions.

    Manata said - “Mary, supposedly, if she were libertarian free …”

    I don’t know if you guys can fathom this because I don’t know you personally. But it’s the use of redundant terms like “libertarian free will” that cause non-intellectual laymen to laugh and make fun of philosophers and intellectuals. Not that I’m making fun, I’m unfortunately pretty intellectual myself, but I do still this it’s funny.

    “… had the ability to make the choice or not. But given all the same reasons, desires, character, etc, Mary could have chose other than she did. This makes instances of agent causation appear to us compatibilists like they are instances of chance. Like it is mere luck an agent goes one way over another. Why does the agent go one way over another? We can't say.”

    I’m trying to figure out how to make this clear. To ask what caused someone to make a choice is nonsense to some of us. If someone was “caused” to make a choice, then it wasn’t a choice by definition. If a “choice” was caused by your nature, your desires, your circumstances, etc., then that “choice” was ultimately caused by whoever gave you your nature, your desires, your circumstances, etc. The faculty of free will means that, in spite of whatever outside or inside influences there are, you are free to choose either. Free will means the ability to choose what you do not desire. Free will means the ability to choose what is against your nature to do. The only actual causation involved is the self.

    Now, after the discussions on here, I don’t know if a compatibilitist even comprehends this idea. But it isn’t chance or mere luck that causes an moral agent to choose one way or another. It can’t be. Because nothing can cause a free moral agent to go one way or another but that free moral agent’s own self. Maybe the problem/misunderstanding is how some compatibilists think of the term, “self-caused.” Through the use of free will, a moral agent’s actions are self-caused. But it’s not that an action causes itself. Actions do not cause themselves. But a self can cause an action. And if something caused that self to cause an action, then that action was not chosen through the faculty of free will.

    Again, apologies for beating my head against a brick wall here, but it’s the only way I can think of to describe this. I suppose I do believe in what you call “libertarian free will” - lol - as opposed to what, dictatorial free will? I’ll confess I’ve been frustrated by some of your articles recently, but I’m still making comments because it seems like there are ideas that you aren’t responding to yet or haven’t considered yet that I want to learn what your response to them would be. I’m in this discussion to learn - I’m not trying to score points against anyone in an argument or prove anything.

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  11. Hi Persiflage.

    So God’s free will is a faculty or a power. And we are created in the image of God, remember, so just like God gave us the faculty/power of thought, the majority of Christians also believe God gave us the faculty/power of free will.

    Well, we are created in God's image, remember, so just like God gave us the faculty/power of thought, he must also have given us the faculty/power of omniscience, omnipotence, and aseity. Right? No, he only gave us communicable analogies, like limited knowledge and limited power? You see how this argument from the imago Dei only proves anything if you presuppose that libertarian free will is a communicable attribute—a proposition which the compatibilist denies?

    God’s choices are self-caused.

    In other words, God's choices are God-caused. After all, it doesn't make sense to say that a choice causes itself. A choice is an action of the will—something which Michelle appears not to understand. As I've pointed out, it is absurd to speak of an action of the will causing itself. In fact, as you say, an action of the will is both caused and explained by the agent whose will it is. But this precludes Michelle's untenable thesis that free will choices are uncaused and unexplained events. That is, to be frank, a very stupid idea, as I've adequately shown.

    However, the fact that we use a power of reasoning, or a power of free will, and our thoughts and our choices are self-caused does not mean that our existence, like God’s, is self-caused. God caused our existence and gave us certain faculties by which we are responsible for our own actions.

    I think you're assuming that you disagree with me and agree with Michelle; whereas that doesn't seem to be the case here. Thus, your intended objection is rather misplaced. I agree that our ability to cause certain actions within ourselves doesn't imply an ability to cause ourselves (though I would add that our abilities to "cause" are themselves underwritten by God's own causative power upholding them); but that isn't how the initial problem was framed. Michelle's thesis was that our choices are uncaused; and that entailed certain very problematic ontological commitments. Those commitments aren't in view given your own stated position, since you agree that our choices are caused.

    I don’t know if you guys can fathom this because I don’t know you personally. But it’s the use of redundant terms like “libertarian free will” that cause non-intellectual laymen to laugh and make fun of philosophers and intellectuals. Not that I’m making fun, I’m unfortunately pretty intellectual myself, but I do still this it’s funny.

    Well, not to sound unkind, but the reason we use the term "libertarian free will" is because there is more than one action theory of the will. So libertarian free will distinguishes the libertarian action theory from the compatibilist action theory. If we were talking about that, we'd talk about compatibilist free will. The use of the term "libertarian" is not redundant. In fact, assuming that philosophers and intellectuals laugh and make fun of anyone, it's the use of equivocal and inaccurate terms like "free will" that causes them to do so regarding non-intellectual laymen. Or, apparently, self-professed intellectual laymen like yourself.

    The faculty of free will means that, in spite of whatever outside or inside influences there are, you are free to choose either. Free will means the ability to choose what you do not desire. Free will means the ability to choose what is against your nature to do. The only actual causation involved is the self.

    You seem to be contradicting yourself. On the one hand, you've already acknowledged that choices are actions of the will of an agent; ie, they are caused by that agent. And of course, agents are not free to create themselves. Now, however, you want to talk about choices as if they are not caused by agents, inasmuch as that would entail prior conditions, thus somehow obviating the choice (I don't see how). This sort of confusion is normal for libertarian action theories, since their understanding of both causation and the prerequisites of responsibility is itself so confused. I think that needs to be pointed out.

    To get back on topic, then, let me ask you the same question I asked Michelle: what is it that distinguishes a free choice from a random choice? This is, if I understand Paul correctly, the central point at issue.

    And if something caused that self to cause an action, then that action was not chosen through the faculty of free will.

    This is just question-begging. Why can the action of the will not itself be caused (in a different sense)? Does not a biblical understanding of metaphysics entail that God causes all things from moment to moment? How else would they obtain, since they have no power of existence in themselves? And you yourself have admitted that we are not on ontological par with God. But if we ourselves don't have the power of self-existence, then certainly no faculty we possess can have such a power. On the contrary, our continual existence is caused exhaustively by God himself—including our decision-making faculties, and the actions thereof. This is amply demonstrated in Exodus 9–14 as God causes Pharaoh to choose all sorts of things.

    Now, in that regard, you could agree that Pharaoh's actions weren't libertarianly free, but claim this as an exception. But then you undermine your primary reason for believing in libertarian free will in the first place—namely, to preserve human responsibility. On the basis of Scripture, even if the libertarian action theory is true, it is clearly not necessary toward the end of human responsibility. Exodus gives us incontrovertible proof that a man can be held morally responsible for non-libertarian actions. It does you no good to argue, as many libertarians do, that God's causing Pharaoh to sin is actually a punishment for his prior (libertarian) sins. Even if it is a punishment, it's still a case of God causing Pharaoh to multiply his sin, and then holding Pharaoh accountable for that sin which God himself caused. It is extremely clear from this instance that it is not unjust for God to judge a man for sins which did not have their ultimate metaphysical cause in that man himself, but in God (let's call this conclusion C).

    Of course, since the primary basis for the supposition of libertarian free will is that (C) is false, not much else needs to be said. You can't derive libertarian free will from scriptural exegesis. You have to presuppose it as a philosophical constraint on the basis of ~(C). Since ~(~(C)), libertarian free will should not be presupposed. Therefore, compatibilist free will obtains. And this line of reasoning certainly seems to extend to other libertarian arguments, like the argument from love. The assumption that love must be free to be meaningful seems quite easily rephrased to say that we must be responsible for our love. Of course, even if so, responsibility doesn't entail libertarian freedom if you're a Christian. Biblical responsibility is predicated upon man willingly violating God’s law. The ultimate metaphysical cause of man doing this is not relevant. The fact that God causes man to will evil, and then causes man to perform evil, does not have any bearing on the fact that man does will evil, and does perform evil—actions for which he is held responsible by God, who punishes them accordingly.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

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  12. I don’t know if you guys can fathom this because I don’t know you personally. But it’s the use of redundant terms like “libertarian free will” that cause non-intellectual laymen to laugh and make fun of philosophers and intellectuals. Not that I’m making fun, I’m unfortunately pretty intellectual myself, but I do still this it’s funny.

    And? Are "non-intelligent laymen" (whatever that means) reading the comboxes of T-blog?

    Furthermore, I don't think so. Point to the sociologists' and the pollsters' study on this. I asked my non-Christian brother what he meant when he said, "I freely did x," and he said, "No one made me do it." He's not a philosopher and doesn't bother to read or study any of these things, so it's not a biased sample.

    Also, ask most "non intelligent laymen" what they mean by "knowledge" and why they believe their senses are reliable, you'll get some funny answers.

    "I’m trying to figure out how to make this clear. To ask what caused someone to make a choice is nonsense to some of us."

    Then you're not studying your libertarian action theorists very deeply. Many respond "the self caused it." Surely you are not going to say it was UNcaused? The existence of uncaused events makes non intellignent laymen laugh at people like philosophers. Oh and BTW, it loses preconditions of moral responsibility for you.

    "If someone was “caused” to make a choice, then it wasn’t a choice by definition."

    Sure it was, if the "self" did the "causing." That's what many of your Arminian buddies say at any rate.

    Furthermore, I don't see the logic behind saying "If I was caused to make a choice, then it wasn't a choice by definition." That's vague at best. The only way I can understand it is if we read "caused" as something like "forced against my will." But of course that's an odd definition of "cause" and compatibilism doesn't claim we were coerced or forced to do anything.

    "If a “choice” was caused by your nature, your desires, your circumstances, etc., then that “choice” was ultimately caused by whoever gave you your nature, your desires, your circumstances, etc."

    This is an assertion without an argument. I don't understand it, at all. I'm sure it's just "obvious" to you, perhaps you can spell it out for me. And, there can be such thing as dual causality. Furthermore, on this logic, if you say the self caused the choice, then whoever ultimately caused the self caused the choice!

    "The faculty of free will means that, in spite of whatever outside or inside influences there are, you are free to choose either."

    Why did you choose one over the other? If nothing can be said, then it looks like chance. If nothing then how are you able to do and not do? That assumes a kind of control over something.

    "Free will means the ability to choose what is against your nature to do. The only actual causation involved is the self."

    Right, I even granted that. You're not following the argument. Is all you're saying that "the self causes what the self causes?" That tells us nothing and surely doesn't imply that the self is a proper subject for moral ascriptions.

    "But it isn’t chance or mere luck that causes an moral agent to choose one way or another. It can’t be. Because nothing can cause a free moral agent to go one way or another but that free moral agent’s own self."

    I didn't say "chance" or "luck" caused it, I said that that an agent goes one way over another seems to be a matter of pure luck or chance.

    "Maybe the problem/misunderstanding is how some compatibilists think of the term, “self-caused.”

    I don't think so. And this objection, in seed form, came from Peter vanInwagen, one of the top defenders of libertarian action theory.

    "Through the use of free will, a moral agent’s actions are self-caused."

    Again, this tells us nothing interesting.

    "Again, apologies for beating my head against a brick wall here, but it’s the only way I can think of to describe this. I suppose I do believe in what you call “libertarian free will” - lol - as opposed to what, dictatorial free will?"

    yeah, that's right, dictorial free will. Keep parading your ignorance around for all to see in broad daylight.

    " I’ll confess I’ve been frustrated by some of your articles recently, but I’m still making comments because it seems like there are ideas that you aren’t responding to yet or haven’t considered yet that I want to learn what your response to them would be."

    I'm quite aware of your position. I have taken the time to read and study your position - a favor not returned by most Arminians and libertarians. I'm sure it comes as a surprise to you, but I think your notion of free will is highly problematic and cannot ground ascriptions of moral responsibility, and it has the other problem of being false given that we live in a determined world.

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  13. To the T-bloggers and other Calvinists, Persiflage might be worth trying to convince rather than treating him like an Arminian hack like Robert or Reppert.

    He seems to be a bit sarcastic at times, but after having read superficial, low-level critiques of Calvinism by Hunt and Geisler, who can blame him?

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  14. Hey S&S. Was that comment directed toward me at all? I hope I haven't come across as not being interested in persuading Persiflage; certainly I am.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

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  15. That was directed at everyone but no one in particular.

    Everyone around here is used to dealing with the village atheists, the (not so) Eastern Orthodox apologists, and the Arminian hacks that we (including myself) are used to firing back full-strength.

    So, it's just a general statement not to write Persiflage off quite yet.

    He's been trying to deal with each of the 5 points over at his blog. Clearly, he's only been exposed to the surface argumentation on both sides. [And yes, I think that James White is somewhat surface/popular level.]

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  16. Well I for one enjoy talking with Persiflage. I will soon be done with overtime at work, and then I can jump back into our conversation.

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  17. Bnonn,

    So I guess one question is what does being created in God’s image mean? (Gen. 2:26) As I understand it, this is what distinguishes us from the animals. Each one of us was created with a soul (which is the part of us that has the faculty of reasoning, of thought, of free will, etc. - it’s the part of us that can be held morally responsible for our actions and our relation to God). I admit I my exposure to philosophy has only been in personal reading (some Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Nietzsche but mostly Locke, Montesquieu and Hayek). So I haven’t been exposed to the idea of “compatibilism” except for what’s on Wikipedia. Could you distinguish the difference between compatibilist free will and libertarian free will? For now, I’ve simply assumed that compatibilist free will would be the same as Jonathan Edwards definition of free will - the ability to choose what you desire. I could be wrong on this though.

    Agreed, it doesn’t make sense to say that a choice causes itself or that it’s uncaused. And you’re right, I don’t necessarily agree with Michelle. Then you said -

    “I agree that our ability to cause certain actions within ourselves doesn't imply an ability to cause ourselves (though I would add that our abilities to "cause" are themselves underwritten by God's own causative power upholding them) …”

    I think any Christian at all would also agree that everything is held into existence by God’s power. Our ability to live, the existence of atoms and molecules, etc. are all held together by the power of God. So that’s taking things back to the basics. However, I don’t think Christianity teaches that this fact makes God responsible for the existence of evil. The idea of orthodox Christianity as I understand it for now is that a sovereign, all-powerful God is powerful enough to create a physical reality where his creatures possess free will. As far as compatibilism has been explained to me, it seems like a “divine” determinism where everything single little thing is preordained to happen by God, and yet free will exists at the same time.

    But I guess I haven’t figured out yet how “free will” can exist - “the ability to choose between at least two options” if God set up a universe where your actions were determined beforehand. Put that together with all the examples in the Bible of people making real choices and it seems like determinism violates Scripture. So far I’ve just heard that well, it’s compatibilist free will instead of libertarian free will - but that just doesn’t seem to solve everything - including the idea that God is not the author of evil.

    I understand there are different philosophical textbook definitions of “action theories” and all that - but I can’t figure out how you would base one philosophical “action theory” off of Scripture - where it says that God does indeed intervene in reality, and God does choose to preordain some things to happen (perhaps more often than we think), but where it doesn’t say that EVERYTHING is preordained by God. However, if all an action theorist means by God preordaining everything is that his power makes material existence possible, then I think it’s just a matter of philosophers defining terms differently than how most everyday people use English grammar. And if that’s so, why even bother to use English terms with different philosophical definitions outside normal usage, if you are trying to present Christianity to everyone?

    You said - “You seem to be contradicting yourself. On the one hand, you've already acknowledged that choices are actions of the will of an agent; i.e., they are caused by that agent. And of course, agents are not free to create themselves. Now, however, you want to talk about choices as if they are not caused by agents, inasmuch as that would entail prior conditions, thus somehow obviating the choice (I don't see how).”

    Yes, actions of the will are caused by the “self” of a free moral agent. It’s one thing to say that actions are caused by the self, and another to say that something outside the self caused the self to make a choice. If one is caused to make a choice by an outside force, than it wasn’t a choice to begin with. I do not deny that God has the power to exert outside force on the self to cause choices (nor do I deny that God sometimes does this in Scripture). But the fact that God does this sometimes, in and of itself, does not mean that He does it all the time, right? Just in a purely logical abstract sense. God can force the will of his creatures if He chooses too. The question is whether or when He actually chooses to.

    Thus, a self’s will is not free whenever he is caused to make a choice by an outside force.

    You asked - “what is it that distinguishes a free choice from a random choice?”

    From my point of view, at the most basic level, I don’t understand how a random choice would even be a choice in the first place. If we distinguish between a free choice (only caused by the self through the faculty of free will) and a random choice (caused by anything randomly other than the self), then a random choice is either not a choice at all (caused by an outside force) or it’s an uncaused choice (which we agree is nonsense). So I guess I don’t think there is such a thing as a random choice. To ask, well what causes Adam to eat of the tree in disobedience to God? The answer would be nothing. Nothing causes Adam’s self to choose one action over the other, because if he’s free, he can, by definition, pick one action or the other. (This is also not to say that there can’t be outside influences - the devil’s temptation, the lusts of the flesh, how one is raised, one’s culture, etc. - but these are all influences and not causes).

    I guess I reject Jonathan Edwards’ definition of free will because I don’t believe it is real free will at all (by either libertarian or compatibilist standards). Being free to only choose what you desire is not being free. Being free includes the ability to choose to do the opposite of what you desire. This is why there is a difference between the idea of will and the idea of desire.

    Paul says in Romans 7:14-20 that, as a Christian, he does & wills what he does not desire. And the idea of following the law, in spite of desire, means choosing/willing to do what is right even when you don’t desire to do right. Biblically and philosophically, if the will is a slave to desire then the will is not free. John Locke also firmly distinguishes between “will” and “desire” in his “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.”

    A Biblical understanding of metaphysics does mean that God causes the existence of all things from moment to moment in a physical & material sense. But does this then mean that it would be logically impossible for God to create creatures with real free will? It seems like some Calvinists think so - but I’m unclear what exactly the “compatibilist free will” idea involves. Do people make choices? Or do people simply do what God predetermined they would do by setting up the universe in the first place?

    The example of Pharaoh is an example of God acting on a man’s will. This does happen in the Bible, but I just can figure out how to reason from this that this means that God always acts on man’s will. Regardless of why God acted on Pharaoh’s will - I think we would both at least agree that Pharaoh at that particular time, did not have free will (whether or not he had free will earlier or later). Pharaoh was not free to will to let Israel go until God stopped using his power to force Pharaoh’s will.

    So I agree with your conclusion C about Pharaoh. Does that mean I don’t believe in libertarian free will? Because while agreeing with you about conclusion C, I would not say that God condemned Pharaoh to hell because he didn’t let Israel go. I would say that Pharaoh’s sin nature condemned him already, and that his rejection of God happened before God ever exerted any force or power taking away his ability to actually choose between options.

    I also don’t see how responsibility doesn’t entail free will if you’re a Christian. I don’t believe that God holds man responsible for being forced to act in a certain way. I believe that part of God’s justice involves (Psalm 62:12) judging every man according to his moral acts. I believe God punishes and judges us based on the choices that we make. It could be that I’ve just been brainwashed by my surrounding culture to think this way. And if determinism is true, then I’m sure God has preordained the appropriate time for me to finally understand that free will is nonsense. Until that happens, I’ll just keep working on trying to better understand what you guys believe. You are definitely presenting ideas at angles I’ve never heard them before. Hope I can do a little of the same.

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  18. Paul,

    The thing about your average laymen on the street is that there are still universal simplistic truths out there that everyone will agree to. This is something I need to look into more, because starting with the basics, where everyone agrees and building from there seems like one of the best evangelistic/apologetic tools you could use (with applied Scripture of course). I think when a Calvinist and a nonCalvinist meet, sometimes starting with the basics might be the only way to communicate because they have so many different definitions of the same terms.

    The idea here is asking what caused the self to make a choice, and this idea that if something caused the self to make a choice then it wasn’t a choice. Libertarian action theorists respond “the self caused it,” but it seems like you guys are then asking well, what caused the self to cause it. Is this what you’re getting at?

    So by “someone” I mean self. By their being caused to make a choice, I mean being caused by any outside force other than “the self.” Sorry if I didn’t originally make this clear.

    Maybe we should also define “choice” - would this definition work for you? Choice - a decision made between more than one option. Because if there is only one option, then there is no choice to make. So the logic behind saying “if one was caused to make a choice, then it wasn’t a choice by definition” is “if one was caused (by an outside force) to make a decision, then there was no choice to make.”

    You said - “The only way I can understand it is if we read "caused" as something like "forced against my will." But of course that's an odd definition of "cause" and compatibilism doesn't claim we were coerced or forced to do anything.”

    To say that something is caused to me means to say that a power or force makes (causes) something to happen. So if an outside force or power causes a free creature to make one decision rather than the other decision, then that creature was not free (at least for that one particular decision where a force outside the self caused it).

    By the way, you are really making me think here man - I’m still commenting here, not because I’m trying to argue, but because by this discussion I’m understand both my beliefs and your beliefs better. In fact, I’m forming a clearer idea of what I believe by having to explain this stuff. I hope you think this is cool because I do.

    You also asked me to explain what I meant better by choices being caused by one’s nature, desires, surrounding circumstances, etc. Let’s try this - as I understand desires, natures, temptations, surrounding environment, circumstances, culture, how you are raised - these are all “influences” on decisions. A decision (including Adam and Eve’s decision to sin) can be influenced (by the devil in their example) while still free. A will can be influenced by desire. But if the choice a will makes is caused by anything, then the will is not free. A free will is free to choose the opposite of what the self desires, or is tempted to do.

    I could argue with an atheist, for example, about God being the author of sin. The atheist could argue that since God made the devil, God caused the existence of evil. I think C.S. Lewis would tell the atheist that, on the contrary, God made a perfect angel with the faculty of free will. In other words, God gave the devil the power to choose to obey God and to choose to disobey God. Through the use of this power (that God gave him) the devil chose evil (disobedience to God by definition). The evil action by the devil, was caused by the devil not God. While the existence of the devil was caused by God not the devil. So, if the atheist still blames God for evil after that explanation, then that is because he is ignoring the faculty of free will that God sovereignty gave to the devil while creating him perfect.

    You asked - “Why did you choose one over the other? If nothing can be said, then it looks like chance. If nothing then how are you able to do and not do? That assumes a kind of control over something.”

    I agree. It assumes a kind of control - a certain amount of power. And I believe that God can still be sovereign and omnipotent and give his creatures limited powers like the faculty of reason, and the faculty of free will. So the reason why a free creature makes a choice is the “self” of the creature. Why did the devil choose disobedience to God? There are only two answers - (1) because the devil chose evil all by himself, or because (2) God created him with a “self” different than the other angels who didn’t fall, and thus put something in him that would cause him to disobey God. God creating “selves” that are meant to turn bad does is not creating a world that is “good” (Gen. 1:31) whether we’re talking about angels or Adam and Eve.

    You said “I didn't say "chance" or "luck" caused it, I said that that an agent goes one way over another seems to be a matter of pure luck or chance.”

    I’ll apply this idea to Adam and Eve. Sounds like you’d ask me what Adam and Eve’s chances were - was it mere luck or chance that they would choose obedience or sin? Did they have a 50/50 shot? In terms of mathematical probability (isn’t chance governed by mathematical laws God set up?), I don’t know what the odds were. I do know that God foreknew they were going to sin, but created the world anyway. I do know that, whatever the influences or temptations were, they were still both free to choose either obedience or disobedience.

    And I don’t know how it could be logically shown that since God foreknew that they were going to sin, that He foreordained them to sin (using his power on their wills). Or that they had no choice but to sin since God knew they were going to. On the other hand he knew they were going to because He knows the future. On the other hand, He is outside of time and saying that one came before the other with God is applying “time” to God. So again was it luck or chance that Adam and Eve sinned? I would say no - because they had the ability to do both - and having the free will to do either means being able to choose against odds. If mathematical probability lined up all the desires and temptations on a scale, free will still includes the ability to choose against the odds, against your desires or temptations.

    You said - “I'm quite aware of your position. I have taken the time to read and study your position - a favor not returned by most Arminians and libertarians.”

    Well, I am trying to take the time to read and study your position right now. I’m still keeping up the discussion because I am genuinely interested in what you have to say. Thanks for keeping it up so far.

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  19. "Choice - a decision made between more than one option"

    This would be a bad definition of choice, at least if we're trying to keep with the concept of free will, due to the fact that if I put a gun to your head and say, "Your money or your life" I've given you two options, yet this would be the very definition of coersion.

    It also falls prey to many philosophical counters. For example, if you choose something because you think there's more than one option available, yet there is really only one option available and it just so happens to be the one you picked, is that still classified as a choice? An example given would be such things as: You're put in a maze and come to a fork in the road and you can go either left or right, and you go left, unaware that a sheet of plexiglass actually barred you from going right if you had chosen that path.

    In this example, you really don't have another option, but you never knew you didn't have that other option. The existence or non-existence of a piece of plexiglass does not seem capable of determining whether a choice does or does not occur, yet if you must have actual viable options then its existence would be the determining factor. If the plexiglass exists, no choice; if it does not exist, choice.

    This seems absurd on the face of it.

    There's probably more that could be said, and Paul probably will say it :-)

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  20. Hi Persiflage.

    So I guess one question is what does being created in God’s image mean? (Gen. 2:26) As I understand it, this is what distinguishes us from the animals. Each one of us was created with a soul (which is the part of us that has the faculty of reasoning, of thought, of free will, etc. - it’s the part of us that can be held morally responsible for our actions and our relation to God).

    Agreed; man was created with a nephesh, a soul or a spirit (see 'On the composition of man'). But so were many animals. I take it that the distinction between us is not so much the possession of a soul, but in what degree the "breath of life" is given. This seems consistent with what we observe of animals—the higher animals start to approach a human level of rationality, evidencing the existence of that same breath; though obviously not in such great degree. And I agree that the capacity for rational, moral actions is what allows us to be morally responsible. But none of that entails that we have libertarian free will. You ought to recognize that compatibilists are no less assured of the truth of Genesis than libertarians.

    Could you distinguish the difference between compatibilist free will and libertarian free will? For now, I’ve simply assumed that compatibilist free will would be the same as Jonathan Edwards definition of free will - the ability to choose what you desire. I could be wrong on this though.

    That's reasonable; Jonathan Edwards was a compatibilist, though no doubt compatibilist action theories have advanced since his time. I haven't read much on compatibilism myself; I merely know what the Bible teaches, and what can be ascertained by the deliverances of reason. I would say that what distinguishes compatibilism from libertarianism is that the former has a coherent and biblically cogent theory of causation, while the latter does not.

    I think any Christian at all would also agree that everything is held into existence by God’s power. Our ability to live, the existence of atoms and molecules, etc. are all held together by the power of God. So that’s taking things back to the basics. However, I don’t think Christianity teaches that this fact makes God responsible for the existence of evil.

    I think it's a good idea, at this point, to return to basics. Of course Christianity teaches that God causes evil.Cf Exodus 10:1; Deuteronomy 2:30; Joshua 11:20; Judges 9:23; 2 Samuel 12:11-12; 24:1; 1 Kings 22:22; Job 12:16; Proverbs 16:1 & James 3:8; Proverbs 21:1; Isaiah 45:7; 63:17; Jeremiah 10:23; Ezekiel 14:9; Lamentations 3:37-38; Amos 3:6; John 12:40; Acts 2:23; Acts 3:18; Acts 4:27-28; Romans 9:18; Ephesians 1:11; Philippians 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:11; Revelation 17:17. How you choose to couch that in terms of responsibility is up to you, but I'd point out that it's incoherent to speak of God being morally responsible, since that entails accountability to a higher power.

    The idea of orthodox Christianity as I understand it for now is that a sovereign, all-powerful God is powerful enough to create a physical reality where his creatures possess free will.

    Assuming you mean libertarian free will, even if the compatibilist is wrong in arguing that this idea is logically contradictory (and God cannot do the logically impossible), this just isn't what Scripture teaches.

    As far as compatibilism has been explained to me, it seems like a “divine” determinism where everything single little thing is preordained to happen by God, and yet free will exists at the same time.

    Precisely. Refer to Hebrews 1:3a; Acts 17:28; Colossians 1:16–17; John 1:3 as evidence that God causes all things, both initially and continually. Now, given this, we can formulate certain conclusions.

    1. The existence of all things is caused both initially and continually by God (hereafter simply "caused").
    2. To cause the existence of a thing is to cause the existence of all its parts, properties, functions, and actions.
    2. Human beings are existent things.
    3. Therefore, the existence of all the parts, properties, functions, and actions of human beings is caused by God.
    4. Moral choices are a part, property, function, or action of human beings.
    5. Therefore, the moral choices of human beings are caused by God.

    By which it can be said that God not only causes the moral choices we make, but that he is in perfect control of how those decisions come about. Of course, this has already been proved from the Scripture references cited, but it's good to know that you can arrive at a consistent position by deduction from the parts of Scripture which teach about God's relationship to his creation.

    Put that together with all the examples in the Bible of people making real choices and it seems like determinism violates Scripture. So far I’ve just heard that well, it’s compatibilist free will instead of libertarian free will - but that just doesn’t seem to solve everything - including the idea that God is not the author of evil.

    You're assuming that a "real" choice must be libertarian free. Why? That's just question-begging; you need to give an argument for your assumption. As regards the notion that God is the "author of evil", this is a phrase bandied around far too much. I affirm what Scripture affirms: that God ordains and causes evil, yet without himself being evil, since he is not the agent performing the evil, and his so causing is itself good, being directed according to his good pleasure. If this is what is meant by "author", then so be it; an author may certainly write evil into his book through the mechanism of his characters' actions without himself being evil. But if you mean that God himself actually does evil, as if he himself is the immediate cause (as opposed to the mediate cause), then I deny the assertion as self-evidently false.

    I can’t figure out how you would base one philosophical “action theory” off of Scripture - where it says that God does indeed intervene in reality, and God does choose to preordain some things to happen (perhaps more often than we think), but where it doesn’t say that EVERYTHING is preordained by God.

    As I've shown, Scripture does, in fact, teach that everything is preordained by God. However, I think that you mean caused, since even under an orthodox libertarian view God preordains everything exhaustively by merit of choosing to instantiate a certain, exhaustively-foreknown reality over another. You would have to be an open theist and deny that God has knowledge of future contingent choices before you could argue that he doesn't preordain everything.

    Yes, actions of the will are caused by the “self” of a free moral agent. It’s one thing to say that actions are caused by the self, and another to say that something outside the self caused the self to make a choice. If one is caused to make a choice by an outside force, than it wasn’t a choice to begin with.

    That's an assertion in search of an argument. I think you're assuming a very simple view of causation. Not all causes are of the same kind.

    So I guess I don’t think there is such a thing as a random choice.

    Let me rephrase. What is it about free choices that makes them able to be distinguished from random actions? Simply claiming "the faculty of free will" just begs the question; it doesn't answer it.

    Being free to only choose what you desire is not being free.

    Are you saying that people do not necessarily choose according to what seems the most desirable at that time (however complex that may be)? That someone can, in fact, choose something he desires less over something he desires more? That seems to me self-evidently false. We always choose according to our greatest desire of the moment. If we choose contrary to something we desire greatly, and choose something we feel we desire less, it is only because we have a third desire greater than the first, which is to choose the second thing for some reason. Of course, that doesn't deny the distinction between the will and the desires; it merely points out the obvious relationship between them.

    Do people make choices? Or do people simply do what God predetermined they would do by setting up the universe in the first place?

    Your couching this as a disjunction is telling. I would frame it as a conjunction.

    The example of Pharaoh is an example of God acting on a man’s will. This does happen in the Bible, but I just can figure out how to reason from this that this means that God always acts on man’s will.

    That wasn't my initial argument.

    Regardless of why God acted on Pharaoh’s will - I think we would both at least agree that Pharaoh at that particular time, did not have free will (whether or not he had free will earlier or later). Pharaoh was not free to will to let Israel go until God stopped using his power to force Pharaoh’s will.

    Since we agree on that, we can agree that a man without libertarian free will still makes choices for which he can be held accountable. Presumably we agree that a choice for which we are held accountable is a "real" choice—there's nothing more real than sin and hell, after all. So we therefore agree that a man without libertarian free will makes real choices. Hence everything you've posted up until this point seems, well, kind of moot, don't you think?

    I would say that Pharaoh’s sin nature condemned him already, and that his rejection of God happened before God ever exerted any force or power taking away his ability to actually choose between options.

    Well, that just isn't a valid reading of the passage. God explicitly states that he will hold Pharaoh accountable for the very sins which God causes. Read it yourself; it's plainly stated.

    I also don’t see how responsibility doesn’t entail free will if you’re a Christian. I don’t believe that God holds man responsible for being forced to act in a certain way.

    I've never said man is forced to act a certain way, so this isn't addressing my position. Remember, I affirm that we have free will; just not libertarian free will. Free will, by definition, is not forced.

    Incidentally, sorry if this sounds abrupt; I'm writing on a deadline (:

    Regards,
    Bnonn

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  21. To all my non-Calvinistic friends, here are some observations that I think might be helpful:


    Chance is one of those words that has different meanings in different contexts. Here's five common ways the term is used (there are probably more way).

    1. chance can refer to our ignorance due to (seemingly) random events (to finite minds). For example, we talk about how a flipped coin ends up landing heads to tails "because of" chance. "Chance" here has no metaphysical existence. It's a description of our ignorance of the exact amount of spin given to the coin, the distance to the floor, height of flipping, how air pressure/wind/humidity (etc) affects the flipping and landing of the coin. The same goes for shuffled cards. There's only a limited number of ways in which they can be arranged. Even if we can't predict which way because of limited knowledge or calucating ability.

    2. "chance" can refer to mathematical probabilities. For example, when we speak about the "chances" of a coin landing heads or tales being 50/50. The math doesn't affect the outcome since it too has no metaphysical substance.

    3. "chance" sometimes refers to coincidence. For example, you can call a friend using your cell phone to ring their cell phone. While at the exact same time your friend is calling from his home phone to you home phone. Both of you being home and having your cell phones nearby, you talk about how it was "by chance" you both decided to call each other.

    4. "chance" can refer to metaphysically contingent events. That is, events that have no metaphysical and/or epistemic (rational) cause or reason.

    5. "chance" can, in popular parlace, refer to something that actually has power to do something. As if it has some metaphysical existence and power or force. So for example, some people attribute their meeting and finding their spouse to "chance" in the same way others would refer to fate, destiny or fortune. However, this is a sense that philosophers don't normally refer to because it has the appearance of superstition. As Christians we all deny such things.

    Now when Calvinists refer to how libertarian free choices seem to be due to "chance" they're referring (I believe) to number 1 and/or 4. I think that's what Paul was doing. Either we aren't aware of the reasons or causes (because subconscious or metaphysically out of reach) or , OR there are no reasons (rationally/psychologically/epistemically/characterally (even a word?)) or causes (metaphysically due to one's nature). In which case, the "self-caused" free will choice has no reason or cause. It just happened. And THAT out of the control of the "self/person" who chose it. There was no deliberation (heh the word for "will" from Latin is in there). But most Arminians wouldn't argue that people choose things without thinking about which they want and the consequences.

    Yet, on the other hand (and inconsistently), those who hold to libertarian free will will (in other contexts) also argue that to ask for a cause or reason would be to deny that the "self" caused the choice. But then we have to ask what IS the "self"? Does it have a character? A disposition? A nature? If not, then what does it mean for a person or self to exist/be and for it/him/her chosing something? If a person/self doesn't have a nature or character, then they could choose something for no rational reason whatsoever. That's why some who hold to libertarian free will admit that there are contributing factors when people make choices. Including their character, nature, internal and external pressures (etc). Yet, they will argue that none of them (singularly or collectively) is/are THE determining factor in the choice.

    It seems to me, from my own personal experience, that I choose things with a telos/goal/purpose/agenda. As Jonathan Edwards argued, we choose things according to our greatest higher/highest desire (or set of desires) above lesser a desire (or set of desires). Our desires, in turn, are based on what we preceive to be the greatest good(s). Antecedent to that, what/how we preceive greatest goods is based on our natures (hence, dung beatles like dung, lions would prefer deer meat not fresh carrots, and Homers donuts not tofu). So, for example, if a mugger told me "Your money or your life."; I would give her (grin) my money even though (ceretus paribus) I'd rather keep my money (to buy more donuts). Why? Because I have a greater desire to live to eat another donut another day, than the desire to "keep" the money (of course, till it's wrenched out of my cold hands).

    These types of considerations also apply to the old "Buridian Ass" type dilemmas. Which pile of hay will the donkey go to when they are equally appealing and at the same distance? Or the kind of dilemma we had as children when someone would say to us that he had candy in one of his closed fists. If we picked the right fist, we could keep the candy. How does one go about choosing which (assuming one likes candy)?

    Usually, even when we think we're choosing randomly, there's a subconscious reason for why we choose one over the other. Even if merely disposition or mood. Moods themselves can be affected by amount/lack of sleep, food etc.

    All these considerations make me consider the Calvinistic position(s) more plausible than the libertarian type ones. However, there are unusual cases where I don't know which positions fit best with.

    For example, a lunatic or mentally abnormal person who seems to irradically irrationally choose (to do) something. But even then, at least in the Calvinistic position(s) (the most common being some form of compatibilism) their nature still is the determining factor. In LFW, the lunatic's decision is just as untraceable as the rational person's. Since, if LWF were true, a person who normally has a very reliable and moral character, could for no reason, all of a sudden choose something "out of character". Even contrary to their wishes, desires, thoughts, deliberations, plans, intentions.

    With regard to Romans 7:14-20, I don't think that Paul was saying that we do things we don't (or have no) desire to do. He saying we do things we know we shouldn't do, and which, because it is wrong, (we actually) want not to do (since we want to do what's right (assuming he's referring to a religious person or truly regenerate (which isn't necesarily the same thing))). If that's what Paul meant, then it falls under the description of Edwards "greatest desire(s)" thesis.

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  22. Let's stay small Persiflage,

    "The idea here is asking what caused the self to make a choice, and this idea that if something caused the self to make a choice then it wasn’t a choice. Libertarian action theorists respond “the self caused it,” but it seems like you guys are then asking well, what caused the self to cause it. Is this what you’re getting at?"

    I am not saying anything outside the agent caused the action. Remember, I granted that the agent was the cause. He self-caused it. Say the agent had to options, A and B. He indeterministically self-caused A over B as his choice. I then asked, why the agent went with A over B? I said that if he had libertarian freedom then presumably he had the power to choose A or B right up until he actually chose A. So, say he choose A based on x, y, z, reasons, etc. Suppose we rewound the "tape of life" back to one second before he chose A. At this time he had the ability to still choose A or B. Now, say that we rewound the tape 1,000,000 times. Say he goes for A 70% of the time and B 30%. Another set of million he goes for A 55% and B 45% of the time. The next set of million he goes for A 80& of the time and B 20%.

    Obviously we can't say that given the same reasons and desires he will necessarily choose A. That would imply determinism. You don't want that.

    So, what account for A in some cases and B in others - remember that all the reasons, desires, motives, etc., are the same each and every time.

    It seems you'll have to say, "The self just chose to go that way over the other." But why? You don't know. It just did. But the worry we have is that your choices look like a chance happening. It looks to be a matter of luck that the agent goes one way over another. Notice I am not saying anything outside the agent caused him to choose one way over the other.

    This means that the agent does not have the ability or control to go one way over the next. You don't have control over happenings of chance or luck. So even on libertarianism it seems that you don't have the power to choose A over B.

    Obviously, this isn't enough to ground ascriptions of moral. Therefore, ironically, libertarian free will isn't enough for the moral responsibility needed to justify condemning sinners for their sins.

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  23. "And I don’t know how it could be logically shown that since God foreknew that they were going to sin, that He foreordained them to sin (using his power on their wills)."

    I never said that foreknowledge meant he ordained it.

    The worry here is this:

    If God eternally knows that tomorrow you will eat Cherrios for breakfast, then it is true today that you will eat Cherrios for breakfast tomorrow. Therefore, you cannot do otherwise that eat Cherrios for breakfast tomorrow.

    This why many on all sides agree that foreknowledge of libertarian free actions implies determinism.

    This is why many Arminians are seeing the logical consistency in Open Theism. Some have went over to Molinism - but there are worries there too. For example, many libertain action theorists don't see how Molinism isn't determinism. They also wonder if counterfactuals of freedom can even be known.

    So, it's not enough to get out of the problem seen by almost all philosophers by saying, "But that doesn't mean God ordained it."

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  24. "Maybe we should also define “choice” - would this definition work for you? Choice - a decision made between more than one option. Because if there is only one option, then there is no choice to make. So the logic behind saying “if one was caused to make a choice, then it wasn’t a choice by definition” is “if one was caused (by an outside force) to make a decision, then there was no choice to make.”

    Peter pointed out some problems.

    I would add you have to distinguish between making a choice and having choices where the latter implies that each is a live option.

    We certainly make choices. The pheonomenology is the same for both of us. We have a pile in front of us, and we pick up one thing over another. Therefore, inability to choose the other doesn't mean that I didn't choose the one. I did.

    Furthermore, we are held responsible for the choices we make. What we actually picked. The compatibilist picks what he does for reasons and certain desires. He does what he wants to, but he must be responsive to reasons to demarcate him from a lunatic.

    Seems to me that the real worry here is moral responsibility. How can we be responsible for the choices we make? The libertairan wants to say that the only way we could be is that we could have actually done other than we did (this is unfallsifiable though, we never know if we could have actually done other than we did! No one has ever empirically verified this. No one has ever done other than they did.). So, you want to add this constraint: an agent cannot be responsible unless he could have actually done otherwise. This is called the principle of alternative possibility, or PAP.

    Now, is PAP a proper constraint for ascribing moral responsibility to agents?

    Say you wanted to kill Jones, a senater. Mr. Black knew this and so brought you into his office and said he could make get you into the convention where Jones would be and pay you one million dollars. You agree. Now, Black wants to make sure that you go through with it. So, he slips something into your cocktail and you fall into a deep sleep. he has his doctors insert a device into your brain that will control the proper muscles, neurons, etc., by a press of a button and make you do whatever - just like a puppet. He does this in case you have a failure of nerve. So, he will make sure you kill Jones. Now, everything goes as planned and you get inside the convention. You set yourself up in the catwalk and pull out your sniper riffle. Jones steps on stage and you keep your resolve and shoot Jones. Thus Black did not have to press the button and force you to shoot Jones. But, recall that you could not have done otherwise. So, are you not morally responsible for killing Jones?

    This (and the examples get more precise) is a reason why compatibilists, and some libertarians a) W.L. Craig, b) Dave Hunt (the philosopher), and c) Robert Kane (for particular cases), do not find the PAP constraint necessaary for moral responsibility.

    Therefore, on compatibilism I made a choice from a pile, I did so, I did so for reasons, I was responsive to reasons, I wanted to do what I did, and yet I could not have done otherwise.

    Honestly, I just don't see the problem with this.

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  25. Bonn,

    I agree about going back to the basics. It looks like we need to get into why we interpret Scripture the way we do. Otherwise both of us are going to start making more and more statements like “this just isn’t what Scripture teaches” or “this has already been proved from the Scripture references cited” when we obviously don’t look at the same Scripture passages the same way. I want to know why we look at these Scripture passages differently.

    First, I do want to always make sure and answer your questions -

    1 - “You're assuming that a "real" choice must be libertarian free. Why?”

    Actually I can’t answer this one yet - sorry if I missed it while you guys have been repeating it over and over, but what is the difference between “libertarian free” and “compatibilist free” again? I’m still thinking in terms of the simple word “free.” So when you say that one “has a coherent and biblically cogent theory of causation” while the other does not, I still have no idea how being “libertarian” free is different than being “compatibilist” free.

    2 - “What is it about free choices that makes them able to be distinguished from random actions?”

    Here’s how I’d distinguish a “free choice” from a “random act.” A random act is an abstract, philosophical idea that assumes there is no rationality behind an action. We can think of this idea, but it does not exist in the real world. In a universe of moral agents, there is no such thing as a “random act.” This is the same idea as luck, chance, coincidences - in a world ruled over by God, there is no such thing as a coincidence. A free choice is the ability of a moral agent’s will to will between different options. In a universe of moral agents, free choices are made all the time.

    Now I could also see you asking “then why isn’t a free choice a random act?”

    The answer is because there is rationality behind it. A free moral agent uses his reason, his intellect, his desires, his inclinations to will one way over another. And if he has free will, then he can sometimes choose to will for the way his reason tells him to go, against the way all this powerful desires, inclinations and instincts tell him to go. So making choices, whether using reason against desire, or desire against reason, is not random by any means.

    3 - “Are you saying that people do not necessarily choose according to what seems the most desirable at that time (however complex that may be)?”

    Yes, I am saying that - because possessing that ability is exactly what it means to be a free moral agent.

    4 - “That someone can, in fact, choose something he desires less over something he desires more?”

    Yes.

    Two more important comments -

    You said - “That seems to me self-evidently false. We always choose according to our greatest desire of the moment.”

    If the greatest desire in us is that of the Holy Spirit, then Paul’s reasoning in Romans 7:14-20 - “I do not do what I want” refutes your assumption here. I think some of the Christian Enlightenment philosophers like John Locke would also disagree with you here.

    You said - “I've never said man is forced to act a certain way, so this isn't addressing my position. Remember, I affirm that we have free will; just not libertarian free will. Free will, by definition, is not forced.”

    As I understand it, if libertarian free will and compatibilist free will both mean “not being forced” than that’s cool - I don’t see the need to use a more complicated term than mere “free will.” But it sounds like to me when you guys say God ordained something like sin to happen - this includes God exerting his power of man’s normally free will to make him will one particular way. To me, this is the use of force. It’s your will being forced. I believe that, in the Bible, God does do this sometimes. It looks like you guys believe that God always does this with everything mankind ever wills. And that’s what I can’t find in the Bible.

    5 - “Hence everything you've posted up until this point seems, well, kind of moot, don't you think?”

    Only if I’m interpreting those Scripture passages with the same assumptions that you’re interpreting them with.

    You made a logical chain of arguments from 1-5. I would strictly agree with all five, but we’re still looking at this differently. I think Scripture says that God is the cause of all things in the sense that He is the Creator, and in the sense that as the Creator he is continually holding everything together by his power. I could also say that God causes the existence of moral choices by doing this, and by giving human beings free will. While I think you think God causes each individual moral choice a little more specifically than that.

    Looking at your Scripture references ASAP.

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  26. Peter,

    Cool to see you in the discussion again.

    So Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines “choice” thus - “the voluntary act of selecting or separating from two or more things that which is preferred; or the determination of the mind in preferring one thing to another …”

    My “a decision made between more than one option” was just trying to simplify it a little.

    You said - “This would be a bad definition of choice, at least if we're trying to keep with the concept of free will …”

    How would you define choice within the concept of free will then?

    The gun to the head choice is indeed still a choice between two options, but there is outside force being exerted to get the person to pick one option over another. It’s my contention that God rarely puts the gun to our heads.

    Can a person be duped into thinking that they have a choice when they don’t have one? Yes. In fact, maybe that’s me. Again only thinking you have free will to choose (when you don’t have more than one options to choose from) is not really free will. It’s also my contention that God is not interested in tricking us into thinking we have a choice (to believe in the gospel or not for example) when He has predetermined everything all along. I don’t think we just think we’re making a choice when God really has put up a plexiglass barrier limiting us to only one option all along.

    This seems absurd on the face of it.

    So I agree with your distinctions, but am not sure why they would mean we need to change the meaning of the English word “choice.” Let me know if you have a better definition.

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  27. Bonn,

    You said -

    “Christianity teaches that God causes evil.”

    “God causes all things, both initially and continually.”

    “I affirm what Scripture affirms: that God ordains and causes evil, yet without himself being evil, since he is not the agent performing the evil.”

    “As I've shown, Scripture does, in fact, teach that everything is preordained by God.”

    “Well, that just isn't a valid reading of the passage. God explicitly states that he will hold Pharaoh accountable for the very sins which God causes. Read it yourself; it's plainly stated.”

    __________________________

    I would disagree with all of the above statements precisely because of what I’ve read in Scripture. You listed a long list of references “proving” your claims. I’ve seen all of these before for the idea that everything is preordained by God, including evil, and have been recently engaging Saint and Sinner about them over at this website.

    Here -

    http://contra-gentes.blogspot.com/2008/12/response-to-persiflage-on-decree.html

    And Here -

    http://contra-gentes.blogspot.com/2008/12/eternal-decree-of-god.html

    Here’s the problem. I can’t understand how you interpret these verses to reach the fundamental conclusions that “God causes evil” or that “God preordains everything that comes to pass.” None of these verses say that God ordains everything, nor do any of them say that God ordains evil. I’ll use two examples of two of your strongest passages, and then summarize the rest - you can see look at those two pages on Saint and Sinner’s website to see a longer more detailed look at each verse.

    1 - Lamentations 3:37-38

    It’s when you use verses in this manner to prove your conclusion that really bothers me. And I’m going to resist using sarcasm here because I’m afraid of using Scripture like this myself - because I know I’m capable of it. To be plain, you are using Scripture out of context. Every time I hear a Calvinist use these two verses, he ONLY uses these two verses without looking at the actual passage. Here’s the whole thing in context -

    31 For the Lord will not cast off forever,
    32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
    33 for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men
    34 To crush underfoot all the prisoners of the earth,
    35 to deny a man justice in the presence of the Most High
    36 to subvert a man in his lawsuit, the Lord does not approve.
    37 Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?
    38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?
    39 Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins?
    40 Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!

    And, if you keep reading, the passage goes on about God’s punishment of the unjust and unrepentant.

    First, verses 37-38 are clearly talking about blessing and punishment from God, as opposed to moral good and moral evil. I had to pull out Strong’s Concordance on this one - the word “bad” in verse 38 is the Hebrew word ra’ (no. 7451 in Strong’s). ra’ is defined as (1) evil, wicked in ethical quality, what is disagreeable to God is ethically evil, or as (2) God’s actions of judgment which are disagreeable to the wicked. In the context of Lamentations 3, the second definition is what is meant by the word “bad.” God’s actions of judgment is what this chapter is discussing. The one phrase in the verse cannot be attributed to an evil or wickedness that God causes. God causes judgment.

    Second, Lamentations is also giving us a contrast that affirms even more God’s steadfast love and compassion. He does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men. In other words, God does not cause pain and suffering or wickedness and evil, the fact that these things happen do not mean that they were God’s will. In fact, verses 34-36 list three different things that are specifically (a) NOT God’s will, and (b) are why God is causing judgment and punishment in the first place.

    So basically, using verses like this to prove that God causes evil is not going to work. Indeed, taking the whole passage together, most people would probably conclude that evil was not God’s will (instead of just taking the 2 verses, that if left all by themselves, sounds like both good and bad come from God).

    2 - Isaiah 45:7
    I create light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.

    Again, the word for “calamity” in the ESV, translated as “evil” in the KJV, is the Hebrew word ra’. So either God is saying that he makes well-being and creates moral wickedness, OR God is saying that he makes well-being and calamity/judgment/non-well-being as punishment. The latter is the obvious meaning in this verse. In the context of the passage, God is declaring his creation as he made it, and his works of blessing and judgment in creation’s current state. Taken along with the context of this passage, and along with the context of other Scripture about the character of God - God made creation very good (Genesis 1:31) - God Himself is good (Psalm 136:1) - God does not tempt us to evil (James 1:13) - God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all (I John 1:5) - you cannot honestly use Isaiah 45:7 to mean anything other than God is the cause of judgment and calamity. To say that God causes evil in the way you mean it is not found in this passage either.

    3 - Summary of Scripturally Related Ideas

    Yes, God occasionally hardens the hearts of man in order to accomplish specific purposes (Exodus 10:1, Deut. 2:30, Josh 11:20, Isaiah 63:17, Romans 9:18). There is a point with some men where God gives them up, so to speak (Romans 1:24) to their own sinful desires. Regardless of why this happens, or when exactly this happens (although in Pharaoh’s case, it very specifically says that he hardened his own heart - (Exodus 8:14, 32) - before it ever says that God actually hardens his heart in the 6th plague) - the fact that God hardens the hearts of already evil men to accomplish specific purposes (like fighting battles they will lose in Josh 11:20) does not mean that God had made them evil in the first place, nor that he preordained for them to be evil in the first place.

    Yes, God still uses evil in order to accomplish good (Judges 9:23, 2 Sam. 12:11-12, 24:1, I Kings 22:19-23, Job 12:16, Ezekiel 14:9, Acts 2:23, 3:18, 4:27-28, Eph. 1:11). This means that God works all things together for good. God can make use of evil spirits, sending them to do particular jobs, punishments, goals, etc. God can even exert His power on some evil men’s wills or minds, blinding them to some fact, so that they get punished by the consequences. God even used the wickedness of the people who crucified Christ, in order to accomplish the greatest work of all - the cross and the resurrection. However, all the many passages of Scripture (and there are more) that say that God allows and makes use of evil that exists, never say that God made it exist, ordained it to exist, or caused it to exist. God uses evil, yes. But God ultimately causes evil? No.

    God causes calamity, disaster and judgment as punishment on the unjust and evil (Isaiah 45:7, Lamentations 3:31-40, Amos 3:6).

    God specifically acts using his power on the will of kings and rulers to get them to do specific things in order to determine national or global events (Exo. 10:1, Prov. 21:1, Rev. 17:17).

    John 12:40 is a difficult passage often misinterpreted. A more full description of the same thing is found in Matthew 13:13-15 where the author is explaining how Jesus and Israel’s rejection of him is fulfilling a prophecy in Isaiah. Some people use this passage to say that God doesn’t want some people to understand the truth and repent. That is inaccurate when you read the whole story.

    You also listed some verses as proof that God causes all things -

    Heb. 1:3 - his power upholds the existence of the universe
    Acts 17:28 - in Him we live and move and have our being
    Col. 1:16-17 - He created all things
    John 1:3 - all things were made through Him

    These verses declare that God created the existence of all things (a slightly different idea than God causing all things). But to claim that, because of this, God must have preordained the existence of evil - a morally wicked state only possible through the exertion of free will - is to claim more than these verses are claiming. You’ve got to have some other assumptions that are coloring your interpretation of these verses. Not that I don’t have my own assumptions, that color how I interpret Scripture as well. It’s just that we need to go into what those assumptions are on both sides - because I know what the verses say. And what they strictly say is less than what Calvinism deduces they are saying.

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  28. Hi Persiflage. Maybe we should get really basic:

    Actually I can’t answer this one yet - sorry if I missed it while you guys have been repeating it over and over, but what is the difference between “libertarian free” and “compatibilist free” again? I’m still thinking in terms of the simple word “free.”

    The word "free" implies a relationship—free from something. So, when you say that the will is "free", I think it behooves us to ask: free from what? The compatibilist simply maintains that the will is free from coercion. From the sounds of things, you hold that it must be both free from coercion, and that the principle of alternative possibility must obtain. In other words, you think the will must be free from God. It's entirely unclear to me why this must be necessary; if you refer to Paul's last post, he lays out the superfluousness of PAP very well. If you're still following the moral responsibility line, then biblically it seems abundantly clear that responsibility, stated negatively (ie, responsibility for sin), is predicated on only the following principle:

    (R) A man is responsible if he willingly transgresses the law.

    Now, I'm sure you'd agree that this is at least necessary for responsibility; but you'd no doubt add that it isn't sufficient. You would want to say something like this:

    (R*) A man is responsible if he willingly transgresses the law and could have chosen to do otherwise.

    But where is R* to be found in Scripture, whether implicitly or explicitly? Is it not, in fact, denied, as per the examples already given? This seriously undermines the libertarian view, since (R) does not necessitate libertarianism, and R* seems unbiblical and superfluous. Unless you can show that (R) is false, from Scripture, there seems no reason that we must hold to libertarian free will. Given this, and given the numerous arguments already forwarded against libertarianism and for both compatibilism and, ancillary to that, God's total causative sovereignty, the non-libertarian position seems far more justified.

    A free choice is the ability of a moral agent’s will to will between different options. In a universe of moral agents, free choices are made all the time. Now I could also see you asking “then why isn’t a free choice a random act?” The answer is because there is rationality behind it. A free moral agent uses his reason, his intellect, his desires, his inclinations to will one way over another.

    Okay, but this sounds like compatibilism; not libertarianism. It sounds like you're saying that the confluence of reason (intellect) and desire (inclination) suffice to cause the choice made. This being so, if we rewind the clock a million times, as per Paul's example, then the same choice will be made every time, given the exact same internal and external circumstances. But that's deterministic; not indeterministic.

    However, you then go on to affirm what looks like an indeterministic view. But Paul's whole point is that indeterminism is indistinguishable from randomness. My point is similar and aims in the same general direction: if a choice is not determined by the agent making it, then it isn't his choice. Thus, moral responsibility is destroyed rather than upheld.

    If the greatest desire in us is that of the Holy Spirit, then Paul’s reasoning in Romans 7:14-20 - “I do not do what I want” refutes your assumption here. I think some of the Christian Enlightenment philosophers like John Locke would also disagree with you here.

    I think you're actually refuting yourself. Under your own interpretation of the passage, Paul is being coerced in some way to do what he does not want to do. Either his own sin is forcing him to act contrary to his stated desire; or perhaps his libertarian free will is acting indeterministically to choose something he doesn't want; or perhaps both. Look at the passage:

    So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. (Romans 7:17–20)

    How can you possibly argue that this passage is teaching that Paul libertarianly freely chooses? This baffles me! I can't see any possible interpretation, under your own assumptions, other than that Paul is being forced against his will to sin—indeed, so exhaustively that he plainly states that it is not even he who is sinning! Of course, it's recognized as trivially true that a man forced to sin against his will is not responsible, since (R) is violated, and I think we both agree that (R) is at least necessary for responsibility. So this passage seems to totally undermine your argument, rather than bolstering it.

    Again, I forward as self-evident that we choose what we most greatly desire—even in cases where it seems as if we have chosen what we desire less. In such cases, we in fact have chosen according to a third desire which overrides our expected greater desire. In my opinion, you are taking too naive a view of decision-making. I love chocolate; if someone offers me any I expect I will take it, because that will be my greatest desire. But there have been times when someone has offered me chocolate and, although I have desired to take it, I have found in myself a greater desire not to get diabetes or die of heart disease at the age of 30. It's a different kind of desire, and so in a sense it seems less urgent; less carnal. But it is still the greatest desire I entertain if I act by it.

    As I understand it, if libertarian free will and compatibilist free will both mean “not being forced” than that’s cool - I don’t see the need to use a more complicated term than mere “free will.” But it sounds like to me when you guys say God ordained something like sin to happen - this includes God exerting his power of man’s normally free will to make him will one particular way.

    Don't you see how you are begging the question here? You say "this includes God exerting his power of man's normally free will"—but of course, if man's will is in fact never free from God's power, as I argue, and is rather merely free from coercion, then your whole argument falls down. So, in a sense, you are attacking a strawman. You probably don't mean to; I've certainly seen this objection before by people who just can't get their heads around how completely and exhaustively God organizes his creation. God is not "overriding" the will, or "exerting his power over" the will, as if the will is some kind of independent thing which he needs to take control of and direct for his purposes. The will, like everything (Colossians 1:17), is entirely dependent on God (Acts 17:28). God causes the will exhaustively as a necessary consequence of causing us exhaustively. If, for some reason, he wants me to choose chocolate at time t, he will work backward from that time and ensure that at every point of my life I desire and choose in such a way to bring me to the point of choosing chocolate at time t. I am not some ontologically independent entity making my own choices in isolation from God's power, deciding of my own self-caused power that I will not eat chocolate any more, and then getting to t at which point God has to suddenly wrest control away and steer me in the opposite direction. This is the sort of caricature you are presenting, though.

    It looks like you guys believe that God always does this with everything mankind ever wills. And that’s what I can’t find in the Bible.

    Refer to the argument I gave; I welcome any criticism so that I may improve it.

    Only if I’m interpreting those Scripture passages with the same assumptions that you’re interpreting them with.

    No, I don't think we need to have the same assumptions in order to come to the same conclusions from these passages. Let me give an example (many others could be chosen since the fact in question is reiterated dozens of times throughout the tale of the plagues)—

    Exodus 9:11 reads: "But the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he did not listen to them, as the Lord had spoken to Moses." This phrase, "as the Lord had spoken to Moses" is used repeatedly when Pharaoh's heart is hardened, to refer back to God's statement in 7:3–4: "I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you." Now compare verse 9:11 with verses 9:34–35: "But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet again and hardened his heart, he and his servants. So the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people of Israel go, just as the Lord had spoken through Moses." So here also that phrase is used, "as the Lord had spoken"—once again referring back to God's promise of what God himself would do; namely, to harden Pharaoh's heart. Additionally, the further explanatory statement, "Pharaoh's heart was hardened" is used in case the reader is really challenged and doesn't immediately see the mediate cause as God himself. You can compare with 7:13 to see this clearly. That God causes Pharaoh to harden his heart, and that Pharaoh sins in doing so, is repeated so often that it's just impossible to miss; it isn't some kind of obscure, once-off reference. It's a major theme. And it's a major theme which utterly annihilates the view that libertarian free will is required for moral responsibility. As I said, (R) is what is taught; (R*) is not only superfluous, but denied.

    You made a logical chain of arguments from 1-5. I would strictly agree with all five, but we’re still looking at this differently.

    Well, I know we're looking at things differently; that's why I made the argument—to show you that the way you're looking at it is wrong! If you strictly agree with (1)–(5), then you agree that "the moral choices of human beings are caused by God", and you should give up libertarianism because it's contradictory to that conclusion. In other words, if you agree that the conclusion is sound, then you should stop looking at the issue differently than me, and look at it the same as me!

    I think Scripture says that God is the cause of all things in the sense that He is the Creator, and in the sense that as the Creator he is continually holding everything together by his power. I could also say that God causes the existence of moral choices by doing this, and by giving human beings [libertarian] free will.

    Well, this contradicts (5). So either you should believe (5)—and you say that you strictly agree with the argument in toto—or you should "look at this differently" and affirm the above while denying (5). You can't rationally do both.

    Finally, if you'll permit me to comment on something you said to Peter:

    It’s also my contention that God is not interested in tricking us into thinking we have a choice (to believe in the gospel or not for example) when He has predetermined everything all along. I don’t think we just think we’re making a choice when God really has put up a plexiglass barrier limiting us to only one option all along.

    As Paul has pointed out, choice does not presuppose PAP. So representing the compatibilist view as God "tricking" us into thinking we have a choice is yet another case of you begging the question in favor of your own position—which Paul refuted—while attacking a strawman.

    Regarding your latest post, I don't think it's fruitful here for me to engage with your exegesis, given the arguments I've already made. This discussion is already getting very lengthy, and much of it is only marginally on topic. I think we are slipping too far into questions of theodicy, rather than sticking to the prior question of free will.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

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  29. Persiflage,

    I would say that a choice is the mind making a selection. This, however, only requires the perception of options, not the actuality of those selections.

    Thus, I disagree when you say: "Can a person be duped into thinking that they have a choice when they don’t have one? Yes." There is no "duping" involved. If someone thinks he has options, he is making a choice regardless of whether those options are real or possible.

    BTW, you also have to note that there is a difference between a choice and an action. Choices are immaterial, mental aspects. Actions are physical. One can choose that which is impossible to actualize. (Example: I can choose to fly and jump off a building and die.)

    Anyway, if we go back to my example of the maze with the plexiglass, the existence or non-existence of plexiglass is irrelevant to determining if there was a choice. What matters is that you got there and thought there were options. You then selected an option that just happened to be the only one actually available--but this was still a mental selection, a choice.

    This distinction is critical, for you continue:
    ---
    Again only thinking you have free will to choose (when you don’t have more than one options to choose from) is not really free will.
    ---

    A) I must note that you're being philosophically imprecise here by simply declaring "choice" = "free will" when these two things are different (again, my example of the robber would be a choice, as you acknowledge, yet certainly no one would consider it "free").

    B) More importantly, if it is simply the perception of having options that is relevant, then a choice really does occur even if you have no ability to actually choose otherwise. This will be a little clearer if we examine your next comment:

    ---
    It’s also my contention that God is not interested in tricking us into thinking we have a choice (to believe in the gospel or not for example) when He has predetermined everything all along.
    ---

    This is the part where you do not understand compatiblism. Let's keep the example of the maze in mind. Let's say that God has put that plexiglass door up.

    You still chose to go left, not right.

    That is, your mind selected left. The fact that going right was not actually possible is irrelevant to your mind's selection. You did not know that going right was barred, and therefore your choice was to do--for whatever reasons you thought--the only possible option you had. You selected this based on your own mental understanding, not because you knew the other way was blocked. You selected. If your mind's selection is what constitutes a choice, then you made a choice even though the reality was such that you could not have done otherwise.

    God is not "tricking" us at all, in other words. Our mind's select what we want. The perception of having a choice means that when we pick to go left instead of right, we have made a moral decision to go left. If, in fact, we had chosen to go right, we would have run into the plexiglass and then been COMPELLED to go left--but this would not have been a choice to go left. There is no longer a perception of options.

    The reason this is critical is because that perception of choice means that men are still responsible for their foreordained actions. God didn't compell them to do anything; they selected it of their own wills. That they could do no other does not alter the fact that it was their mind that selected the direction they would go. In other words, they were never compelled because they did not choose the other way and find it blocked.

    This is compatiblism. Our minds select what we do; it happens that we could have done no other; we are still responsible because we did not choose based on the inability to do other, but based instead on our mind's reasoning.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I do not think that the above necessarily explains every possibility regarding choices. For instance, one that comes to mind is the flip-side of my maze example--namely, what if someone thinks he's compelled to go a certain route when in reality he could turn and go down a different path. Does his lack of perception of alternate choices mean he's not choosing his current route? This, I think, would be an interesting avenue to think about (and I shall do so because thinking about weird things is what I do). However, I think even if it turns out that there are exceptions (I'm not at all convinced this is the case, mind you), what I've presented above is at least generally sound, and fits nicely with Scriptures view of man as a responsible agent and God as a sovereign ruler.

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  30. Paul,

    you said - "It seems you'll have to say, "The self just chose to go that way over the other." But why? You don't know. It just did. But the worry we have is that your choices look like a chance happening. It looks to be a matter of luck that the agent goes one way over another … This means that the agent does not have the ability or control to go one way over the next. You don't have control over happenings of chance or luck. So even on libertarianism it seems that you don't have the power to choose A over B … Therefore, ironically, libertarian free will isn't enough for the moral responsibility needed to justify condemning sinners for their sins."

    Having to do a little reading up on the luck & chance objection to free will & moral responsibility. It's a pretty heavy subject. I haven't really thought of it before, so I'll let you know what I think of it after I've had a little time to think about it.

    More on this soon ...

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  31. Paul, Peter, & Bnonn,

    What I really need to do is to sit around a table somewhere and talk this through thoroughly over some beers. But I'm guessing that you guys don't live in California?

    Since you're all making essentially the same argument now, I'll try and respond to everything all three of you have said with one response next, instead of continuing the same discussion times three in seperate comments for each of you. And oh yeah, I'm thinking about what Annoyed Pinnoy said too.

    Currently mulling it over ...

    ReplyDelete
  32. To piggyback on Manata’s distinction between having choices and making choices, as well as Pike’s illustration of the maze with an invisible barrier, I’d like to address the charge that, under that scenario, God is tricking us.

    It’s really quite commonplace for men, women, and children to make choices on the basis of the choices they mistakenly think they have. To take a mundane example, many is the 17 or 18 year old who, on the day of his high school graduation, was filled with plans for his future. He makes various career choices on the basis of his ambitions, like the choice of college, college major, &c.

    And many is the 40 or 50 year old who has come to the humbling realization that he must scale back his plans. He didn’t have the time or talent to realize all of his lofty ambitious.

    And yet he made many choices on the basis of those illusory outcomes. He did A with a view to C. He thought that doing A would enable him to do C. Instead, it only got him to B.

    Is this divine trickery? Is it not a pretty universal experience to make choices on the basis of choices we thought were at our disposal, but, in fact, were never within reach? That, with the benefit of hindsight, we now see that these choices were never in the cards? Even if some of them were live options in isolation, they were not live options in combination.

    Many goal-oriented individuals have had to adjust their grand plans to a sobering and unyielding reality. Setting goals got them to certain point where they wouldn’t be absent the goal. Yet they frequently fall short of the mark.

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  33. To put the same point more simply, do people who overestimate their abilities still make real choices?

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  34. Luke 9:35
    A voice came from the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him."

    Does the use of this word necessitate that God could have chosen another option?

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  35. Recent Progress

    1 - So in my allotted time for idle thinking today, I'm back reading John Locke's "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding." I've been trying to think back on which thinkers or writers have seemed the most logically convincing to me on the philosophical idea of free will. Locke and C.S. Lewis are probably the two. Reading them a little today, should come up with a summary by tomorrow.

    2 - I'm getting it though. Your objections to "libertarian free will" is the element of chance, and the randomness of our decisions if made through "libertarian free will."

    So far I'm now thinking that "libertarian free will" does not allow for moral responsibility because of the pure randomness of a free agent's actions - if his choices are determined by pure chance, then there is no just reason to hold him ultimately morally accountable for them.

    On the other hand, I also don't see how determinism and compatibilism do not allow for moral responsibility because of the predetermined nature of a moral agent's actions - if his choices are determined by divine decree, then here is no just reason to hold him ultimately morally accountable for them.

    2 - I also see how compatibilism seeks to escape this problem by declaring that man's will is free and man's will is determined both at the same time. And yet, compatibilism is still a sort of "divine determinism" in the sense that, like some of you guys were saying, man makes a choice that God foreknew he would make, and he thus could not have done anything different.

    This still leaves us with the idea that Adam and Eve's sin was still determined by God. And that Adam and Eve could not have done anything but sin (particularly since God ordained them to sin). Simply saying that this is a paradox, and that they were still free because God didn't coerce them into sinning doesn't clear everything up.

    I still feel like there is something huge missing or wrong with this picture. Lewis and Locke are very complicated in the explanations I'm reading right now. Locke is saying that technically, it is not man's faculty of the will that is free, but that man himself is free. I also believe that there are clear examples of man being free to will between different options in Scripture - where the outcome is not predetermined by divine decree.

    3 - So more on this soon, currently I'm finding myself rejecting libertarian free will, compatibilism and determinism ... but after saying there's something wrong with all of these ideas I'm left without a label. So I'm reading more, trying to find an anchor somewhere - and hopefully I'll find it, even if it's along with Locke or Lewis' help, in Scripture.

    I appreciate all of your deep thoughts on the subject, and understand that there is a point after reading about it that you do settle down in one particular camp ... my problem is that, while calling myself at least a "mere" Christian and Biblical literalist, I keep finding myself with doubts, unanswered questions, and disagreements about each particular camp I consider settling down in.

    If you know of any writers who have summarized this issue (for a slow thinker like myself who isn't that good with school textbook philosophy terms), let me know. I've found lots of articles by philosophers for philosphers on this subject. Haven't found many clearly written articles on the subject written to the average curious laymen or kid on the street. John Locke and C.S. Lewis are the simplest I've been able to find so far, maybe it's because they use lots of legal terms.

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  36. Hey Persiflage.

    So far I'm now thinking that "libertarian free will" does not allow for moral responsibility because of the pure randomness of a free agent's actions - if his choices are determined by pure chance, then there is no just reason to hold him ultimately morally accountable for them.

    Agreed; but when you say that "his choices are determined by pure chance", I think you're being maybe a little fanciful or imprecise. We both agree that chance is not a thing; it doesn't exist as some kind of force or entity with causal power. So when you talk about something being determined by chance, I think you'll agree with me that what you mean, more precisely, is that it is not determined at all. It is random precisely because it isn't determined by any prior conditions we can point to. So if we lay out this objection as a syllogism, it would look something like this:

    L1. A man is morally responsible only for those choices which are determined by his will.
    L2. No libertarianly free choices are determined.
    L3. Therefore, a man is responsible for no libertarianly free choices.

    On the other hand, I also don't see how determinism and compatibilism do not allow for moral responsibility because of the predetermined nature of a moral agent's actions - if his choices are determined by divine decree, then here is no just reason to hold him ultimately morally accountable for them.

    This doesn't follow in the same way as your previous objection to libertarian free will, although I can see how you'd think it does because there's a kind of superficial similarity between them. Let me lay out this objection syllogistically as well so you can see what I mean:

    C1. A man is morally responsible only for those choices which are determined by his will.
    C2. All of a man's compatibilist free choices are determined (a) by his will and (b) by God's will.
    C3. Therefore, a man is morally responsible for all of his compatibilist free choices.

    Note that (C1) doesn't say that:

    O1. A man is morally responsible for those choices which are determined only by his will.

    If you want to argue for (O1) then that's a separate issue; I'm happy to take it up and discuss it, but it's not on the table at the moment in view of your reasons for (rightly) rejecting libertarianism.

    Also notice how you can't show that God is morally responsible for a man's choices. You can't get that out of the argument. And we can preempt any attempt at an argument which does show that by pointing out that it's actually incoherent to speak of God being morally responsible. Moral responsibility entails accountability to a higher moral arbiter who has the authority and the ability to punish or reward. Since God is that arbiter, the conclusion that he is morally responsible is necessarily unsound. It is, in fact, meaningless by definition to speak of him being morally responsible.

    This still leaves us with the idea that Adam and Eve's sin was still determined by God. And that Adam and Eve could not have done anything but sin (particularly since God ordained them to sin). Simply saying that this is a paradox, and that they were still free because God didn't coerce them into sinning doesn't clear everything up.

    Okay, two things. Firstly, you're misrepresenting our position again. You really need to be more careful about this. No one here has claimed either that (i) there is any paradox; or (ii) that Adam and Eve were coerced. Secondly, I think it behooves you to stop thinking in terms of "clearing everything up", and rather thinking in terms of what is true. Something can be true without being clear, and it can be true while conflicting with your own intuitions about its truth. So I very much encourage you to continue looking at Scripture. Examine the examples I cited in Exodus, as I think they really are the most perspicuous and heavily-labored instances of divine determinism available. But, in reference to your example of Adam and Eve specifically, let me offer the following passage which is analagous:

    This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men (Acts 2:23).

    Now, it's true that Adam and Eve aren't in view here. But doesn't this passage teach the same principle that you're concerned about—namely that God fore-ordained sin so that the sinners couldn't have done otherwise? In fact, isn't it a stronger example, since this is the worst, most infinitely serious sin possible; namely the murder of God himself? Yet according to this passage, it occurred by God's definite plan and foreknowledge. It wasn't merely something he knew with certainty would happen; though even that it sufficient to make it impossible that the "lawless men" could have done otherwise than kill Jesus. No, in fact it was his plan. So again, I would caution you to distinguish between what is subjectively intuitively problematic, and what is objectively certainly true.

    That said, I think you just need to ponder compatibilism at greater length in order to come to terms with it, since it's a significant paradigm shift from where you were. It sometimes takes a while to adjust your intuitions to match reality when your intuitions have been wrong for so long. Isn't that what Paul refers to in Romans 12:2? "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." So I do tip my hat to you for manning up and serving as an example to others by changing your position publicly. Too few Christians are willing to do that, to their shame.

    If you know of any writers who have summarized this issue (for a slow thinker like myself who isn't that good with school textbook philosophy terms), let me know. I've found lots of articles by philosophers for philosphers on this subject. Haven't found many clearly written articles on the subject written to the average curious laymen or kid on the street.

    I'd recommend Vincent Cheung. He's a popular-level writer, and quite entertaining to boot since he's a very aggressive hard determinist. You need to take him with a grain of salt sometimes, because he's a bit hyper-Calvinistic and seems incapable of backing down, but he has written some good stuff on free will. Do a search on his site.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

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  37. Persiflage,

    You said you had a worry about how a determinist world grounds ascriptions of moral responsibility. I anticipated that above and tried to flush out the worry most people have as to why determinism would fail. So I'll quote myself:

    "Seems to me that the real worry here is moral responsibility. How can we be responsible for the choices we make? The libertairan wants to say that the only way we could be is that we could have actually done other than we did (this is unfallsifiable though, we never know if we could have actually done other than we did! No one has ever empirically verified this. No one has ever done other than they did.). So, you want to add this constraint: an agent cannot be responsible unless he could have actually done otherwise. This is called the principle of alternative possibility, or PAP.

    Now, is PAP a proper constraint for ascribing moral responsibility to agents?

    Say you wanted to kill Jones, a senater. Mr. Black knew this and so brought you into his office and said he could make get you into the convention where Jones would be and pay you one million dollars. You agree. Now, Black wants to make sure that you go through with it. So, he slips something into your cocktail and you fall into a deep sleep. he has his doctors insert a device into your brain that will control the proper muscles, neurons, etc., by a press of a button and make you do whatever - just like a puppet. He does this in case you have a failure of nerve. So, he will make sure you kill Jones. Now, everything goes as planned and you get inside the convention. You set yourself up in the catwalk and pull out your sniper riffle. Jones steps on stage and you keep your resolve and shoot Jones. Thus Black did not have to press the button and force you to shoot Jones. But, recall that you could not have done otherwise. So, are you not morally responsible for killing Jones?

    This (and the examples get more precise) is a reason why compatibilists, and some libertarians a) W.L. Craig, b) Dave Hunt (the philosopher), and c) Robert Kane (for particular cases), do not find the PAP constraint necessaary for moral responsibility."


    "I also see how compatibilism seeks to escape this problem by declaring that man's will is free and man's will is determined both at the same time."

    Not libertarianly free. Man is not forced or coerced or made to do what he chooses to do for reasons grounded in beliefs or desires, and he is also responsive to reasons if he is properly functioning. This roots out lunatics and the like.

    "And yet, compatibilism is still a sort of "divine determinism" in the sense that, like some of you guys were saying, man makes a choice that God foreknew he would make, and he thus could not have done anything different."

    No, compatibilism claims that free will is compatible with determinism. It's not a "sort of." The omniscience problem is a problem for all who hold to a full, robust, traditional, all-encompassing omniscience and then want to pretend like PAP holds for them.

    "This still leaves us with the idea that Adam and Eve's sin was still determined by God. And that Adam and Eve could not have done anything but sin (particularly since God ordained them to sin)."

    What is the worry here? Spell out why this is supposed to be bad. And, if God eternally foreknew that they would sin, and on day 1 of creation it was true that they would fall, then on day x of creation - the day of the fall - they could not do other than sin lest the make God's true belief false, per impossible, by backwards causation.

    "Simply saying that this is a paradox, and that they were still free because God didn't coerce them into sinning doesn't clear everything up.

    I don't call it a paradox. And, what is there to clear up? You are simply stating that there's some problem.

    "So more on this soon, currently I'm finding myself rejecting libertarian free will, compatibilism and determinism"

    You can be a semi-compatibilist like me!

    "So I'm reading more, trying to find an anchor somewhere - and hopefully I'll find it, even if it's along with Locke or Lewis' help, in Scripture."

    Remember Scripture tells us that if evil befalls a city, has not the Lord caused it. it tells us that nothing that exists came into being without the Logos, it tells us that God works all things in conforminity with his will, the findings of the drama theologians support the idea that this is a script, a grand meta narrative.

    "I keep finding myself with doubts, unanswered questions, and disagreements about each particular camp I consider settling down in."

    Get used to it. Those can be functions of finitude, fallenness, or both.

    "If you know of any writers who have summarized this issue (for a slow thinker like myself who isn't that good with school textbook philosophy terms), let me know. I've found lots of articles by philosophers for philosphers on this subject. Haven't found many clearly written articles on the subject written to the average curious laymen or kid on the street. John Locke and C.S. Lewis are the simplest I've been able to find so far, maybe it's because they use lots of legal terms."

    John Frame goes over a lot of this in his Doctirne of God - he also has some stuff on his site.

    http://www.frame-poythress.org/

    So does John Byl

    http://www.the-highway.com/freewill_Byl.html

    I am not endorsing everything you'll read above because I think some of what they say is outdated and represents classical compatibilism, which I don't hold to. Same with Vincent Cheung. I don't think his stuff is sophisticated enough to handle the tougher issues brought up by both determinists and indeterminists.

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  38. Bnonn,

    Incredibly interesting … now you’ve really got me thinking …

    You said - “We both agree that chance is not a thing; it doesn't exist as some kind of force or entity with causal power. So when you talk about something being determined by chance, I think you'll agree with me that what you mean, more precisely, is that it is not determined at all. It is random precisely because it isn't determined by any prior conditions we can point to.”

    If a moral action isn’t determined at all, then it is random & arbitrary. But I thought we just agreed that actions from libertarian free will are self-determined? Isn’t that what we meant by the idea of actions being self-caused? So now I can’t see how a moral action can be not determined/uncaused. That’s impossible. So “libertarian free will” is not determined because it is self-determined, and it’s just a matter of chance which way the self decides to choose? That doesn’t make sense. Because every free agent exerts his will in order to make a choice for a reason. There are logical or passionate reasons behind the choices of men. So even though they are self-determined, they are not random, arbitrary, or for no reason. Then you laid out a syllogism. I’m glad you did because it’s helping me understand this better.

    “L1. A man is morally responsible only for those choices which are determined by his will.
    L2. No libertarianly free choices are determined.
    L3. Therefore, a man is responsible for no libertarianly free choices.”


    It’s with L2 that you lose me. Free will, libertarian free will, or what have you is self-caused/self-determined by definition. So choices are determined by the self who exerts to will in order to choose. Who determines the self? God determines his existence and faculty of will. The self himself determines how he freely uses his faculty of will.

    “C1. A man is morally responsible only for those choices which are determined by his will.
    C2. All of a man's compatibilist free choices are determined (a) by his will and (b) by God's will.
    C3. Therefore, a man is morally responsible for all of his compatibilist free choices.”


    Again, it’s with C2 that you’ve lost me. I don’t understand how a choice can be determined by the self AND by divine power. I do understand that compatibilism says that both are true. And I understand the logical possibilities with hidden plexiglass barriers in a maze and whatnot. But when we are talking about the actual exertion of the will - either (a) the self is free to exert the will to choose among different options, or (b) an outside power is exerted on the self’s will to get him to choose only one option. Granted, physical reality can be so that the self is fooled into thinking he has more options than he really does - but that is really basically just a more advanced form of coercion. God could create any physical reality he wants. C.S. Lewis said God could have created a physical universe where it was impossible to hurt your fellow man because as soon as you are about the brain him with a wooden beam, the beam would turn into harmless sponge. But God didn’t create a universe like that. And, even if God created a universe of invisible plexiglass, God couldn’t ensure that man would only choose the real option or the fake option and still give him free will at the same time - that is what would be a logical impossibility.

    And oh yeah, I agree - the only person God could be morally responsible to would be Himself, which doesn’t fit the definition anyhow. It’s much better to speak in terms of cause and effect or His attributes and character.

    “O1. A man is morally responsible for those choices which are determined only by his will.”

    Do I want to argue for O1? I’m tempted to take out the word “only” there. But I guess part of this depends on the implications of when and why God hardens the hearts of some men. And the other part depends on how far I reject the idea of “libertarian free will” as it has been explained to me.

    So far it seems to me like I have to reject “libertarian free will” because I disagree with L2. And it seems like I have to reject “compatibilist/determinist free will” because I disagree with C2.

    More on the Scripture passages soon - the Exodus example with Pharaoh, Acts 2:23, and some of the others we were talking about - I’m being referenced to about 20 different passages continually in this discussion, and I need to spend some time reading them.

    But, to be clear, yes, I am rejecting the idea of “libertarian free will” as it’s being explained to me. Also, I'll look up Vincent Cheung. Thanks.

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  39. Paul,

    I think I’ve moved most of my response to your comments here on to your latest post on the subject.

    A few more thoughts …

    You said that compatibilism claims that free will is compatible with determinism. You know, I knew that, but that’s as clear & simple as anyone has defined it for me. Thanks.

    You commented regarding Adam and Eve’s sin being predetermined by God - “Spell out why this is supposed to be bad. And, if God eternally foreknew that they would sin, and on day 1 of creation it was true that they would fall, then on day x of creation - the day of the fall - they could not do other than sin lest the make God's true belief false, per impossible, by backwards causation.”

    My problem is just with the reasoning actually -

    A1 - God foreknew that Adam and Eve’s free exertion of their faculty of will would result in their choosing sin.
    A2 - Adam and Eve, through the free exertion of their faculty of will, chose sin.
    A3 - Adam and Eve were not free to choose obedience because that would mean that God didn’t have correct foreknowledge.

    It’s the conclusion that gets me. God foreknew about their free decision because He is outside of created time. It was still a free decision. God foreknowing that they were going to do it does not logically mean He actively did anything to make sure they would sin. Indeed, foreknowing is not the same as foreordaining or predetermining.

    So I’m saying that the problem is a logical one - How does one get to foreknowledge = predetermined?

    You said “You can be a semi-compatibilist like me!”

    Who knows, maybe I will be a semi-compatibilist or semi-libertarian or both. Anything could happen. Oh wait, that’s not true, because God’s already predetermined what I’m going to be. But wait, if … never mind.

    I agree with your other comments about God being the cause of the universe, He works all things work together for good, He works everything into ultimate conformity with his will, etc. etc.

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  40. Persiflage,

    "A1 - God foreknew that Adam and Eve’s free exertion of their faculty of will would result in their choosing sin.
    A2 - Adam and Eve, through the free exertion of their faculty of will, chose sin.
    A3 - Adam and Eve were not free to choose obedience because that would mean that God didn’t have correct foreknowledge.

    It’s the conclusion that gets me. God foreknew about their free decision because He is outside of created time. It was still a free decision. God foreknowing that they were going to do it does not logically mean He actively did anything to make sure they would sin. Indeed, foreknowing is not the same as foreordaining or predetermining.

    So I’m saying that the problem is a logical one - How does one get to foreknowledge = predetermined?"


    That's not the argument I made. That's the straw men your libertarian friends have taught you to respond with because they can't answer the question.

    First, let's note that many libertarians make the exact same point as me. That's why they are open theists. So, this isn't some "determinist" begging the question against you.

    Secondly, I said the point was about live alternative possibilitites. God's eternally knowing is irrelevantr here.

    (BTW, here's a paper demonstrating that: http://philofreligion.homestead.com/files/Foreknowledgefreedom.html)

    Again, this is something even libertarians have pointed out.

    See, if God eternally knew that Adam and Eve would sin, then on day one of creation it was true that Adam and Eve would sin on day x. Since God knew this on day one, then it could not turn out to be the case that he was wrong. They do not have the ability to make God's knowledge false. Unger wrote a book about libertarian free will. he called it All the Power in the World. Sorry, libertarians don't have the power of backward causation and making a infallible being's knowledge turn out to be false.

    Moreover, God "saw" all these things in his crystal ball. It hadn't happened yet. The only time Adam and Eve could have done otherwise, ex hypothesi, is when they didn't exist (in fact, some libertarians require non-existent entities to cause God's knowledge, but I digress). Once God decided to create what he saw in his crystal ball, Adam and Eve had to sin in real time.

    "I agree with your other comments about God being the cause of the universe, He works all things work together for good, He works everything into ultimate conformity with his will, etc. etc."

    It says not one thing came into being, and by his will everything exists. I'm not talking about God causing the universe. So, if we take "all" to be "all" here (as you need to in order to hold up the integrity of your anti-limited atonement posts), then since bad intentions, or the agent self-causing something, are all things that exist, then God caused them. But libertarianism requires billions of ex nihilo things to exist, and the "ultimate" cause of those things are the human agents. So, if all means all then you can't hold to agent causation.

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  41. Hey Persiflage,

    So “libertarian free will” is not determined because it is self-determined, and it’s just a matter of chance which way the self decides to choose? That doesn’t make sense. Because every free agent exerts his will in order to make a choice for a reason. There are logical or passionate reasons behind the choices of men. So even though they are self-determined, they are not random, arbitrary, or for no reason. Then you laid out a syllogism. I’m glad you did because it’s helping me understand this better.

    I'm glad I've been helpful. Just to reiterate, the issue with libertarian freedom, as Paul and I have been expressing it, is that libertarians deny that the the "logical or passionate reasons behind the choices of men" actually determine those choices. My argument wasn't regarding causation but determination. There is a subtle difference between these. A libertarian would affirm that choices are self-caused, and that's fine. The problem which Paul and I are presenting is that they don't appear to be self-determined, because the libertarian denies that free actions can be free if they are determined. So the antecedent conditions you speak of, such as logical or passionate reasons, may influence a choice, but they don't determine it. The problem then, very obviously, is that as far as anyone can see, if a libertarianly free choice is simply not determined in the final analysis, it is indistinguishable from a random choice. That was the basis for my comparative syllogisms.

    It’s with L2 that you lose me. Free will, libertarian free will, or what have you is self-caused/self-determined by definition. So choices are determined by the self who exerts to will in order to choose. Who determines the self? God determines his existence and faculty of will. The self himself determines how he freely uses his faculty of will.

    As I say above, it doesn't appear that libertarianly free choices are or can be self-determined in any meaningful sense. Not as long as you hold to the principle of alternative possibility. If they are actually determined by antecedent states of mind, then if you rewind the clock a million times, the same choice will always obtain. But for PAP to be meaningfully true, then on at least some occasions when we rewind the clock, the choice will be different. So either you can agree that actions are libertarianly free in some modified sense (perhaps in a sense which affirms self-determination without PAP, but denies divine determination), or you keep PAP and end up with actions which are apparently random, since they have no determining antecedent(s).

    Again, it’s with C2 that you’ve lost me. I don’t understand how a choice can be determined by the self AND by divine power. I do understand that compatibilism says that both are true.

    Fair enough. Let me lay out C2 into two separate premises:

    C2a. All of a man's compatibilist free choices are naturally determined by his will.
    C2b. All of a man's compatibilist free choices are divinely determined by God's will.

    Or, if I were simply to expand the premise, I could say:

    C2*. All of a man's compatibilist free choices are determined by his will, and all of the determinations of his will are determined by God.

    Notice the two different senses of the word "determined". Compatibilism does not affirm that a man's choices are determined by man and by God in the same way. God does not determine as the man. There is no violation of non-contradiction. Rather, man's choices are determined by man himself, via the natural use of his created faculty of will; and this determination is itself determined by God, via the divine use of his uncreated faculty of will.

    That said, if you're willing to drop PAP then it's hard to see any meaningful distinction between a concurrent causation view of determination such as I hold, and a first cause view such as what you seem disposed toward. They both seem to be species of compatibilism. In either case, man's actions are still meticulously determined, because we both hold that God decides from eternity which world, out of all the possible worlds, to instantiate. In other words, he determines what will happen in creation, and then he instantiates that creation. Thus, since all human choices are part of creation, he determines all human choices. Now, in my view he then causes them to occur in time. You seem to prefer the idea that he merely holds reality together in some generic sense (I don't believe that's coherent, but I'll let it pass for the sake of argument), and man self-causes his actions aside from God's concurrent causation—but certainly still according to his eternal determination. That being the case, what we're really arguing is not on whether a man's actions are determined (we both seem to agree that they are); rather, we disagree over whether God concurrently causes them, or merely acts as the first cause of them by instantiating and upholding the particular world he has chosen to.

    Hope this helps again,
    regards,
    Bnonn

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