Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Who Is Free?

DagoodS, a member of the ever-increasing, self-debunking team of apostates, critiques for us the “Free Will Defense” that some Christians use. Of course, since I deny Libertarian free will, I do not utilize this defense. In that sense, I can stand behind DagoodS in his philosophical objections to the defense. However, I’d also like to answer his statements from a Reformed perspective:

Born Free:

The concept of Free Will is used in defending Gods lack of intervention in many human events. That God esteems Free Will, elevating it to a position in which it must be preserved at all costs. But can Christianity stay consistent in defending Free Will, both practically and pragmatically?

First and foremost, the question for Christians should be “can free will be defended Biblically?” If the answer to that question is “no,” then obviously there is a problem. Its practical or pragmatic problems are only the icing on the cake.

Why would God have put that horrendous tree in the Garden of Eden in the first place?

This question is rooted in a mistaken assumption. The tree was not “horrendous.” The tree, like of all of God’s pre-fall creation, was “good” (Gen 1:31). That which made Adam and Eve’s act sinful was not based in the tree, but in their disobedience to God’s command. So the question should not be “Why did God put that tree in the garden?” but “Why did God give a command that he required man to obey?” The answer is because he is God. He has the freedom to control his creation and impose his laws upon it. Free Willism portrays a concept of God where he can be only nervous inside when he reveals his commands; “Oh no! This is just one more law for them to break with their free will!” But such is not the case of the God of the Bible. God reveals his law rightly and freely. He has a purpose in it. He even has a purpose for those who break it. Adam and Eve had no idea about the glorious story of redemption that they had begun with their sin. The fall was only the beginning; it was God’s means of initiating the Gospel. The Gospel starts with bad news first, then gives the gloriously good news of the work of Christ.

If but a small act would unleash death, sin, and destruction upon the world to such an extent that God Himself would have to die, and even then only abate a portion of the effects, it was self-defeating to allow this travesty to occur.

Once again, DagoodS wrongly views the tree as the problem rather than man’s sin in disobeying God’s command as the problem. The problem wasn’t that God put some “horrendous tree” in the garden; the problem was that man chose to disobey God’s command. At the real heart of this is DagoodS’ uninformed mentality that God is not free to impose laws upon his creation. But such a concept negates the very definition of God. God, if he is God, possesses the rights of a God.

Furthermore, the cross was no “travesty.” The cross was victory! The cross was the climax of redemptive history; coupled with the Resurrection, Jesus’ work on the cross is the centerpiece for God’s declaration of victory. Good defeats evil; a pleasing sacrifice overcomes sin. This initiates joy, not despair.

The most common response is “free will.” However one chooses to philosophically debate and define it, there is some broad concept out there under this cloak—free will—by which God determined it was necessary to provide humans with a choice between morality and immorality. Reflect on what an awesome usurpation of reality this free will is.

Uninformed questions can only reap uninformed answers. The problem isn’t so much that Free Willists have concocted an unbiblical answer to an honest objection. The problem is that atheists have made uninformed objections based upon faulty assumptions and have somehow accomplished forcing some Christians to abandon Biblical reality in order to come up with a defense. But Reformed Christians do not answer an uninformed question; they rebuke the uninformed question. You see, when atheists ask the question, “Why isn’t God involved in the world? Why is he just standing by watching all this evil?”, libertarians adopt the unbiblical assumptions that permeate this question and attempt an answer: “Well, God can’t be involved because he wants to give us free will.” But not only is this answer Biblically insufficient, it fails to correct the basic uninformed assumptions upon which the very question is based: “No, God is involved in the world. He isn’t just standing by and watching evil do its own thing.” While Libertarians are certainly personally responsible for believing what they believe, it isn’t exactly fair for atheists to force Libertarians into answering a question that is based upon atheistic, or deistic, assumptions and then to criticize Libertarians for giving to them the very answer they wanted. I mean, doesn’t a naturalistic viewpoint desire a God that imparts autonomy? Isn’t that the fundamental principle of naturalism: “God doesn’t exist, but if he does, I want to be free to act as if he doesn’t”?

We see pictures of the genocides of the past century, and what humans can do to do to other humans, and are physically repulsed by these events. Yet somehow God determined that free will makes such atrocities necessary.

…The exercise of Free will is of greater import than horrendous pain inflicted upon humans.

DagoodS rightly notes that there is no difference in culpability between permissibility and determinism. For God to permit an act is no better than for him to decree an act. Either way, he wills it to happen. But in the case of the decree, at least God has a purpose behind the act. You see, if God is merely permitting the world to run wild in sin, then he is willing it do so; but because it is undetermined, he has no purpose behind it. Yet, if God has decreed evil and is actively sovereign over it, then even though he has willed it, he has chosen to work it for his better purpose and the revealing of his glory. Free Will offers the permission of God but not the purpose of God. Biblical theology offers the decree of God and the good purpose of God.

Over and over we see this idea thrown back as a defense to the reality provided by the Christian God.

Why let the snake and Tree in the Garden? Free Will.
Why eternal punishment? Free Will.
Why the Problem of Evil? Free Will
Why can’t God show Himself? It would impair Free Will.
Why allow sin in the first place? Free Will.

Of course, as DagoodS notes, none of these questions are answered by the free will defense. Couldn’t Adam have enjoyed his free will in the garden without the temptation to sin? I mean, free will might mean that Adam’s own will must be authoritative in his choice between good and evil, but does it necessitate that the temptation to do evil be present? I don’t think so. So “free will” is here an insufficient answer. Some of these questions are based upon false assumptions anyway. Why let the snake and Tree in the Garden? Because God had a purpose for the fall of man. Why eternal punishment? It is a wonder how free will is supposed to answer this question. Rather, God’s free will might be a sufficient answer. Why has God chosen to punish sin by means of an eternal hell? Because God, being God, is free to do so. God is the one who truly has free will. Now, we might also give some other answer concerning the holiness of God and his posture towards sin, but ultimately, it would be sufficient to state that the Sovereign God is free to do as he pleases. Why the Problem of Evil? Rather than give a faulty answer to this faulty question, we rebuke the answer: “There is no problem of evil. God has a purpose in evil and will one day destroy all evil.” Why can’t God show Himself? This is another question based upon unbiblical assumptions. Who says that God can’t show himself? Why allow sin in the first place? Because God has a purpose in sin, mainly, to reveal himself in both the condemnation of the reprobate and the redeeming of the elect through the gospel of grace by the means of the cross of Christ.

DagoodS continues by showing that the Bible does not teach free will. He then states:

God imposed Himself on Free Will all the time. With little hesitation. There is no reason He could not have equally imposed in the Garden of Eden. “Free Will” is a handy defense, brought out to convince other Christians there must be some reason why God allows travesty, and then quickly discarded when faced with life’s troubles personally.

He’s exactly right. Now, again, I should note that it is DagoodS’ own fault that he is presented a “handy defense.” A question based upon uninformed assumptions will only receive an answer that is based upon uninformed assumptions.

Evan May.

1 comment:

  1. First and foremost, the question for the believer is:
    Can the absolute Biblical dependence be defended Biblically?


    And round and round and round she goes, and where she one knows!