I’m going to make a few comments on this article: Paul Himes, “When a Christian Sins: 1 Corinthians 10:13 and the Power of Contrary Choice in Relation to the Compatibilist-Libertarian Debate.” JETS 54 (June 2011): 329-344.
A couple of general observations before I delve into the details:
i) Himes is more comfortable with exegesis than philosophy.
ii) Apropos (i), his philosophical foils consist of guys like Ware, Nash, and Edwards. But Edwards hardly represents state-of-the-art determinism, while Nash and Ware are scarcely the most astute exponents of determinism.
Ware isn’t even a real Calvinist, although I appreciate his critique of open theism. And he’s better at the destructive task than the reconstructive task.
What, then, does 1 Cor 10:13 have to do with the compatibilist-libertarian debate? To begin with, one must stress the limits that 1 Cor 10:13 places on the nature of temptation. The verse indicates that the Christian is not forced to succumb to temptation and possesses the capability to resist. In other words, the temptation has its limits and does not possess the power to force the Christian to succumb to it (or, more accurately, it does not possess the power to render the Christian unable to endure). In other words, the temptation is such that not succumbing to it is possible.
i) To equate predestination with “force” is a popular canard. “Force” suggests that we are acting against our will. That we consciously wish to do one thing, but are made to do something else. However, predestination (or determinism) would generally operate at a subconscious level. We don’t consciously resist what we’re predestined to do, for all our thoughts, feelings, and actions are the seamless effect of predestination. We’re not directly aware of what’s causing them. We lack that detachment or objectivity.
ii) In addition, if predestination is true, then it’s not the temptation that “forces” us to succumb to temptation. Rather, it’s predestination which ensures our succumbence to temptation. If predestination is true, then temptation is not a sufficient condition to ensure succumbence to temptation, for God could predestine that we either resist or give in to the same temptation.
No doubt Himes would not regard that as an improvement over the version he’s attacking. However, his argument isn’t calibrated to the actual position he’s attacking. So that doesn’t derive from his exegesis, even if his exegesis were sound. At the very least he’d need to restructure his argument, assuming his original argument can be salvaged.
Thus, if this paper’s interpretation of 1 Cor 10:13 is correct, one must assert that a believer, no matter what the situation, has the ability to choose not to sin (since God does not allow the temptation to get to the point where the end result is, by necessity, sin).
i) This assumes that the verse is dealing with temptation in general, rather than a specific type of temptation. But it’s arguable that Paul has specific reference to divine protection against apostasy or sins which lead to apostasy.
ii) If we accept his interpretation, then that’s an argument for perfectionism. It’s possible that a Christian can lead a sinless life. But is that either Scriptural or empirically plausible?
Furthermore, by “possible,” we must mean “a legitimate possibility.” One could argue that resisting sin is physically or mentally possible, but that the Christian’s pre-set scale of values has already decreed that he or she will not resist the temptation to sin. Yet this would seem to miss the whole point of the passage and allow the Corinthian believers the very excuse that Paul seeks to deny them. In other words, the Corinthians could simply argue that their scale of values has been set such that they naturally value the city’s social life over their own sanctification. Since their own scale of values were set by things outside of their control (including their own character), they could legitimately say, according to a compatibilist scheme, that the temptation was too strong for them at that particular situation, the very point that 1 Corinthians 10 denies.
i) Actually, the notion that our character may preselect our choices is consistent with libertarianism. Prior choices can shape character, which–in turn–conditions subsequent choices.
ii) If a Christian were predestined to sin, would he cite predestination to excuse his sin? But that presents something of a psychological paradox. For, as I already noted, the fact of predestination doesn’t imply an awareness of predestination. That’s normally subliminal. We don’t directly experience predestination. Rather, we experience the result. We’re on the receiving end of the process. Our experience would feel the same if our choices and actions were randomly produced.