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Thinking Out Loud: Compatibilism and Necessity

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The in house debate about free-will in Christian theology has been particularly big in the West. Arguments about Calvinism and Arminianism can sometimes turn quite heated. Also it seems that Reformed theology has been making a resurgence over the past few years. Great, God-loving men and women adhere to the Reformed faith. I used to myself. However it is now my belief that Reformed theology is mistaken. It’s denial of libertarian free will, has many moral and theological implications that are questionable. Often times, Calvinists will give scriptures that seem to make their view difficult to escape. Especially when it comes to passages that deal with the nature of man. People who affirm free will are often accused “Pelagianism” or “Semi-Pelagianism.” They’re accused of trying to “earn-salvation” or saying that “Christ’s work on the Cross wasn’t enough.” In their view, God predestines, determines and guarantees who will end up in heaven or hell, before they’re born. God on this view choses, not based on anything they’ve done. But simply on His will (again, the Nominalism is strong here). On this view, God’s grace is decisive and irresistible, when he wants to save someone. And his reprobation (predestining to destruction) is just as certain. But I would like to examine some of the foundational assumptions about human nature being made in order to support these doctrines.

Instead of getting into big philosophical definitions about what Libertarian Free Will is, I’ll keep it simple. It all depends on what view one has on the relationship between natures and wills. Do natures compel (determine) actions. Or do they qualify or circumscribe what is possible for that person to do, but don’t actually determine what they will do (LFW). Some Christian Determinists (Calvinists) will try and say that people still have free will on their view. How so? Because freedom on this view means the will is not determined by external manipulation/effects. Rather the strongest compulsion of their nature or strongest desires do determine their choices. So they did what they wanted to do. However, on this view, what they wanted to do is determined by their nature. In effect, persons are reduced to self-aware natures. The consciousness doesn’t actually choose anything. Rather their natures gives the impulse by which they have to act. Meaning that choice is an illusion. One may think they are choosing but they are merely being aware of the direction in which their nature is bringing them. They may deny this is what they’re saying, but it’s the logical out working of their position.

Some Christian Determinists say that man is free while at the same time, God determines their choices. God simply affects their natures, which in return will affect the direction it brings the person (choices). God determined what the person would do by affecting the nature, which in return changes direction to wherever God decided. The person then, under the compulsion of their natures *wants* to move in said direction and does. So the Christian determinist under this schema can say God determined it and the person wanted it. Those who hold to this position are called “Compatibilists”. Because they hold that free will and determinism are compatible. Yet that is free will as they define it. Ironically, this is view of free will is compatible with Naturalism. On this view, humans are but atoms in motion. Everything, even our wants, have been predetermined by the laws of physics. Either on a macro or quantumn level. The Calvinist simply substitutes God for physics.

 

And now for the following, which are excerpts from conversations I’ve had with people. They will cover the two main points which I find problematic with Calvinism.

1) Calvinism confuses what is attributed seperately to nature and persons.

2) Calvinism implies that Creation and Evil are necessary

The conversations will deal with these issues respectively. And then the final part of this post will apply some of these ideas to Biblical text. To see the logical implications and possible contradictions.

*If a sentence is in between qutations (“) or a slashes (/) it means they’re not my words.*

 

Before we get into the conversations, an important concept needs to be understood. The distinction between nature and person is a huge part of historical Christianity. The Christological controversies of the Ecumenical Councils were due to trying to articulate the Trinitarian revelation brought by Jesus Christ. That God was both one and three. And that one of the three became man and yet remained God. By making the distinction between person and nature, the Fathers of the Church recognised that they were ultimately dealing with a mystery. The doctrine of the Trinity states that God is one in essence, but three in person. One ousia, three hypostasis. But it was not always so defined. Much theological and philosophical work had to go into forming the right terminology to express the doctrine correctly. This included the radical innovation in what it meant to be a person. The person is not a part or quality of their nature. But rather is a reality with the nature, which gives the nature it’s grounding in reality or concreteness.

The idea that persons are not reducible to the sum total of their nature, is a matter of Christian revelation. For God who is one in essence and yet three in person is the centre of the faith. And the key act of Christianity, the incarnation, displayed that it is possible to predicate action to one member of the Trinity, that is not applicable the others. If essence equals person, and God has only one divine essence, then God is truly only ever one divine person (the heresy of Modalism). It would be just as true to say that the Father died on the Cross at it would be to say the Son (the heresy of Patripassianism). And it would mean that at the incarnation, the one we call Christ is two persons, one a divine nature and the other a human nature, working together (the heresy of Nestorianism).

Keeping this in mind, there are somethings that you can say about persons, that you can’t say about natures. And vice versa. The confusing of personal and natural properties, is one of the key reasons that I find Calvinism problematic.

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Conversation 1 – Mixing Nature and Person

“Adam and Eve, prior to the fall, had the ability to sin, and the ability to not sin. This was their created nature.”

Well everyone agrees that they were able to sin or not sin. I’m saying that given reformed anthropology and compatibalism, that really isn’t possible. Not any way that I can see. The Reformed position is inconsistent on this matter.

Really the key is to make a distinction between nature and person. You need only ask answer two questions:

1) Do natures compel persons?

2) Is righteousness a natural property ? (can you say someone’s nature is righteous, and not just that someone  is righteous?)

If you say yes to both, then you’re saying that Adam and Eve were compelled by their nature (compatibalism) and that it was a righteous nature. In which case you’re stuck now by trying to work out how one who is righteously compelled could sin? Not only that but since the Bible does teach a fall, this question is side stepped as a mystery. And then the Reformed doctrine of Total Depravity now says that *nature has changed* from being righteousness to being wicked. That’s how you’re able to justify infant damnation (if God did it) by saying that they are in a state of wickedness. Because you’ve attributed a personal property to a nature. Essentially teaching that evil is a substance. But evil is not a stuff that exists, it has no substance. It is not therefore a natural thing, and all natural things are created by God, John 1:3 “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” If you want to say that evil is a substance, then according to John 1:3 you’ll have to admit that God created evil the same way he created the world.

 

So then what is evil? All created things have a nature and correct design/use (telos) for that nature. Sin then is to “miss the mark” by misusing what God has created. Such as lust, the desire for sex is good, but the way in which it is sought is not. Even when we sin, we do it because we think we are choosing a “good” in that moment. So evil is the action of a Person (personal property), misusing their will to put themselves in a state that is contrary to the design of their nature and therefore harmful to themselves and contrary to God’s will and design for creation. It’s a distortion.

In light of these two questions asked at the beginning, the consistent Reformed position should require that no fall ever occur. Human or Angelic. But of course a fall has occurred, so the Reformed person consistent with Total Depravity and compatibilism would have to say that the nature itself is evil and thus evil is a substance.

Backing up one step further, saying yes to both questions would mean that there was nothing in Adam or Eve or even Lucifer, that should have brought sin into being. So the only other place one can look for is… God. In fact, if one takes the compatibilist view of the will’s relationship to nature and applies that to God. They would have to say that there is something in *God’s* nature that compels Him to cause evil to be. Since it can’t be in Adam or Eve or the Angels. Again this position to is inconsistent because if God’s righteous nature compels him, and he creates creatures whose righteous natures compell them, then how can evil even *be*? Unless of course… Righteousness and evil are intrinsically tied together somehow. A sort of eternal dualism. I don’t know why a Christian would defend that position or how Biblically they could.

 

But the fact is that there is evil in the world. But given Reformed Theology’s compatibilism, God could have created a world in which everyone freely did only good. Found satisfaction in God. As John Piper says “God is is most Glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.” Then one has to ask why God would then choose to “freely determine” people to sin? Or that evil and suffering exist?

The common response is that God made it this way for his Glory. Not just for his Glory, but that in order to get the *maximum* Glory, he ordained that evil be. Problem is, that this makes God’s Glory contingent on evil. It again, ties evil and good together. It’s makes God, who is the source of all good, insufficient to be that *good* for His creatures, without evil having to be. One then has to ask if the Trinity were not able to enjoy or have said maximum Glory manifest to one another without evil having to exist? Without having a creation in order for evil to exist? This is akin to the argument that says that in order for God to be love, He has to be at least two persons. Otherwise God needs creation in order to love or Love is not an essential or defining characteristic of God. Also, free will is not just a dichotomy between good or bad. If it were then no one, not even God has free will, and creation would be necessary. Why? Because, if free will is always a choice between good and bad, and God chose to create, then it means he had to do it, or else to choose otherwise would have been wrong.

Now, I’m not saying that God can’t be Glorified even when evil occurs. But there is a stark difference between saying He can get Glory out of evil and that he needs evil in order to get the *maximum* Glory.

 

So it comes back to this:

1) Do natures compel persons?

If yes, then how could a righteously compelled person sin? If no then why not admit that Libertarian free will and Synergy between man and God is the correct position?

2) Is righteousness natural property? If yes, then good and evil are substances as well as characteristics of a person. Hence you can posit that people have a wicked nature. And can be damned even before sinning. Infants included. Plus God created evil. If No, then corrupt nature =/= wicked nature. Hence no Total Depravity. People who haven’t committed sin can’t be considered as wicked. So how can they be damned?

So not only do I find Reformed theology inconsistent but the implications of it are morally questionable in light of anything found either in human experience or in scripture. So one positing Reformed theology either has to say that God made the world with evil in it, because He needs evil or because he prefers evil. I don’t know which is worse. Only given LFW do I see the possibility of a third answer.

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Conversation 2 – Making Creation and Evil Necessary Due to God’s Nature or Character

//I wasn’t denying His freedom in creating, but rather suggesting that in creating the world, it is by nature an out working of His nature and intrinsic attributes, and that as a result it is the only possible world.//

I think I see what you’re saying. You’re saying that God didn’t have to create, but that if he created, the world could only be one way. In which case, what is it about God’s nature that constrains him to only this choice?

//And while creation necessarily happened because God willed it, I wouldn’t say that it was necessary FOR God. Merely that it was an out working of His intrinsic attributes.//

If it wasn’t necessary for God to create, but he did then you’re saying God has libertarian free will. Otherwise, the same argument holds, and given Compatibilism, God’s nature being the way it is determines both that He *had* to create and that it *had* to be a certain way if he did create it.

 

//What do you mean that it would be a problem if the nature and person of God were conflated?//

If God has libertarian free will, then nature and person are not the same. Which means that his nature doesn’t determine his actions. But rather gives the range of options possible. Eg, the fact that by nature I have legs, doesn’t mean I have to walk. I could decide to be lazy and wait for someone to get the remote for me.

So if you wish to say that this world is the only possible world for God to create, you’ll have to say:

God is determined by his nature to create (Compatibilism).

Or

He could have chosen to create or not to create (Libertarian Free Will), but given your view, the way in which he creates is limited to this world being the only option. But since you don’t wish to say that God had to create, but if he did, this world is the only option possible. Then you’re left with only one explanation. You’d have to say that the reason why the world can only be this way, is because God’s character is only consistent with this world. And so he will not choose to make it differently. Which means, for some reason, God’s character is only consistent with a world where evil exits. And of course, in order to make sure this world comes into being in this way, his creatures can’t have libertarian free will. Unless you wish to be a Molinist 😛 [this is ironic because the conversation began as a denouncement of Molinism]. I think there are serious issues with which ever option you take, but I’m wondering which of the two views you’re espousing. Or maybe you have a third.

Only in a view where both God and Man have LFW could you affirm both that

  1. God didn’t have to create.
  2. And if he did, this world or evil aren’t necessary. Evil only exists because creatures with LFW choose it.

 

//I’m not really going to bother going down the rabbit hole of Compatibilism with you, because I believe that to be a clear implication of the teachings of scripture, and you do not.//

I hope I’ve made clear why it isn’t actually a rabbit hole. And I don’t wish to debate with you whether or not Compatibilism is true. Rather I’m assuming for the sake of your argument that it is, and then looking at the implications of the position. Which is what I was doing last time. So the question is, to whom do you ascribe this mode of willing? To God, man or both?

—————

 

Applying some of these ideas to Biblical text:

If you’re a Christian, the Bible promises that God will always provide a way out, every time temptation arises. In fact every temptation is one you do not have to succumb to.

1 Corinthians 13

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

You are also told that you can be given grace in order overcome it.

Hebrews 4:15-16

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

 

The Compatibilist has a real problem when dealing with these passages. For them, natures compel persons. In which case how could 1 Corinthians 10:13 be true? No way of escape means anything to the believer if God doesn’t change his nature enough so that they take that escape. The orientation of the nature will determine the orientation of their decision. If God provides a way of escape but they cannot take it, then it is pointless. Not only so, but the scriptures say that this grace, is enough that they may be able to endure. How are they able? If natures compel decisions, the only way they would able is if enough grace is given to compel the right decision. Which means that on the Compatibilist view, in order for this scripture to be true, grace would not only have to make victory possible, but also inevitable. This is obviously not the case, since Christians still sin. On the Compatibilist view, there is no such thing as an “able” which means possibility. You either do or don’t. And your nature determines which. God then either gives what’s needed to make the decision or does not.

Only on the libertarian free will view can these passages make sense. Grace makes overcoming sin an option to the believer. But it doesn’t not determine their decision. The person can choose whether or not to sin. Grace expands what they’re able to do. However they’re decision matters because it will form character. This character will make future moral decisions harder or easier to go through with. This formation of character may also make future moral decisions impossible. That’s a weighty responsibility. Right and wrong are in your ability. But for a consistent Compatibilist, when you sin it is always beyond your ability.

 

The same thing goes for the Hebrews passage. Given Compatibalism, God determines people’s decisions in a way that on this view still makes them free. According to Hebrews, we are then to come before God and ask for grace to overcome temptation. This is what it would look like on the Compatibilist view if a believer does this and still sins: God determines to put you in a situation that you’ll where you’ll be tempted. God then determines you’ll ask for grace.

Problem 1) God then determines not to give you enough grace to overcome, making 1 Corinthians 10:13 false.

Problem 2) God then determines to gives enough grace to overcome, meaning you never sin. If you sin, it means you were never a Christian. Since Christian on this term must mean “One who never sins” Otherwise 1 Corinthians is false.

For further reading on this problem of sufficient grace and Compatibalism, read Alexander Pruss’ blogpost (1).

 

In light of all that, if grace wasn’t irresistible for Adam, one who was innocent, connected to God and had a well-functioning nature, then I fail to see how it would be for one with a corrupt nature and twisted character. I believe therefore that divine grace can bring one where choice is possible, but not compelled. Man truly has free will. But for the Compatibilist or Monergist there is problem. Given the promises that God’s grace will be sufficient, either God gets all the blame and praise or man gets all the blame and praise. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

(1) Alexander Pruss: http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.ie/search/label/Reformed%20theology

More on these issues: https://yoshuascribes.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/natures-and-persons-grace-in-reformed-theology-and-eastern-orthodoxy/

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18 comments on “Thinking Out Loud: Compatibilism and Necessity

  1. Marvin Edwards
    April 29, 2015

    ” In effect, persons are reduced to self-aware natures. The consciousness doesn’t actually choose anything. Rather their natures gives the impulse by which they have to act. Meaning that choice is an illusion.”

    I like the phrase “self-aware natures”. It separates living versus non-living parts of nature.

    However, while nature provides the biological drives to satisfy the needs of life (a kind of “biological will”), it also provides a mind to mediate between those needs and the environment of the other living and non-living parts of nature. Our nature says we are hungry. But we employ the mind to imagine alternative ways to satisfy our hunger. We could choose to kill the guy with the sandwich to satisfy our hunger or we could choose to walk across the street and get a hamburger from MacDonald’s.

    The mental process of choosing is not an illusion. We observe it in ourselves and we share our experience of choosing with others, who objectively confirm that they have the same experience. Therefore it is a real phenomena in the real world.

    As children we all learned that some means are good and some are bad. We are censored by parents and teachers when we make inappropriate choices, such as stealing another kids sandwich. So we learn instead to eat our own sandwich today and to ask our mom tomorrow to make the sandwich we like better.

    That’s how choosing works logically and practically. Those suggesting it is an “illusion” are incorrect.

    I’ll skip the religious angle for now. It is important that we understand the reality of ourselves choosing for ourselves what we will do next. And it is important to understand that free will is no more and no less than this.

    • Yoshua Scribes
      April 30, 2015

      Thank you Edward for your response. By nature I’m speaking of human nature in it’s totality. Which according to Christian theology includes the soul and the body. Material and immaterial. And in theology the person and their nature are not the same (though I believe they often get confused in Western theology).

      So one will either
      1) Confuse nature and person

      2) Say natures compel persons

      3) Libertarian free will.

      In the example you gave, about choosing how to satisfy hunger, assuming self aware beings it is true that there are many ways that it could be satisfied but that doesn’t guarantee free will.

      Because which option you choose will either be determined by internal or external conditions and you are simply aware of which determination is given you, thinking it was up to your person (Compatibilism).

      Or

      There are internal and external factors may be reasons for choosing an option but not determinative. Rather your person was the ultimate decider (Libertarian Free Will).

      At any rate, making the distinction between the mind and body as a guarantee of freedom won’t help unless there is also a distinction between nature (physical *and* immaterial) and person. Otherwise persons are simply self aware natures whose choices are stimuli of what is external acting upon the internal conditions of their nature. There is no agent called the person who chooses, just a nature reacting and being aware that its reacting. Like giving a fake steering wheel to a child, who thinks he’s controlling the movements of the car, while in reality, is actually just aware that the car is being controlled.

      That is why I don’t see a real distinction between Calvinistic “free will” and Physicalism. In both cases, creatures are behaving voluntarily (they want to do what they do) but are determined to want what they want.

      So given physicalism, the same nature that tells you you’re hungry, is the same the determines how you’ll satisfy that hunger. So the mind/body split won’t be a sufficient clause for freedom there either. The choosing is real, but it’s not the kind of freedom I’m positing. It is thus the freedom that I’m calling illusory. Free will cannot simply be choosing alone, in which case even computers can be programmed to “choose”. The only difference between us and a computer then would be self-awareness. And a deceptive belief that we are in fact the determining factor in what is chosen. So choosing would be a necessary condition for free will, but it’s not a sufficient condition.

      But if it is suddicient, then given the purpose of post, I argue that this raises some serious theological issues. Especially in regards to dealing with the problem of evil.

      • Marvin Edwards
        April 30, 2015

        ” There is no agent called the person who chooses, just a nature reacting and being aware that its reacting.”

        In ordinary language, these “self-aware natures” call themselves “persons”. And these persons created ordinary language to describe what is happening. They have invented or discovered a number of concepts that have proved useful to them in making their way in the real world.

        One of these concepts is “free will”. In ordinary language it refers to someone choosing for themselves what they will do. This is distinct from the situation where someone is forced to act against their will by somebody else, where their will is not free.

        I don’t know that it makes any practical difference whether one is an immaterial soul or a physical incarnation. Consider that reasons are causes. So it would follow that the soul, if rational, would also be making decisions in a deterministic fashion. The soul would have its spiritual nature, its beliefs and values, and some purpose that drives its choices.

        But the key here is what is included in the circle of what we call “us”. And I believe that circle includes all of that which you call “internal conditions”. It would include our beliefs and values, our history of experiences, what we have acquired by learning from others, our own reasons and feelings, etc. None of these things have any effect except that they be ours and that we choose to value them when we make a choice. That choice becomes our will at that point in time. And so long as it is genuinely our own, then it is us doing the choosing.

        After we’ve made a choice, we can reflect upon the reasons and feelings that led us to choose “this” rather than “that”. And we may discover at the end that it was truly inevitable that we made the choice, because it bests reflects who we uniquely are.

      • Yoshua Scribes
        April 30, 2015

        Thank you for replying to my message. There are a few things I would add/adjust to what you’ve said.

        First, historic Christianity rejects the metaphysic that persons are just self aware natures. This goes back to our Trinitarian and Christological beliefs. Relevant to our discussion is the fourth Ecumenical council where the hypostatic union was defined. Christ was a divine (uncreated) *person* with two natures. In other words the fact that he incarnated and took on a human nature as well, did not mean that the one we know as Christ was actually two people. One self aware divine nature and one self aware human nature. That was the notion of Nestorius, and Nestorianism has been condemned by the Churches at the 4th council. So then a person is not simply a self aware nature. Persons are realities that are never apart from natures, but not reducible to them. So a person is not even a soul, rather they have a soul. Persons are not just words for natures that are self aware, but person possesses the nature. This means that what we call freedom and what you’re calling freedom are not the same.

        Both of us agree that our beliefs, values purposes drive our choices. But given our metaphysic, we arrive to those variables differently.

        Given that you hold to persons being self aware natures, there is no distinction between nature and person. It means that the values, beliefs and purposes that a person has as well as their choices are the impulses of determined internal conditions *reacting* to external stimuli. In other words, the only difference between you and robot is that the robot doesn’t know he’s doing it. Your self awareness is someone sitting in the passenger seat and the term *you* or person is predicated to the car. Every move of the car is attributed to *you* even though your self awareness is in the passenger seat and has no control over what the driver (internal conditions) does or of what kind of driver is in control. It is simply aware of the factors.

        So given the view that persons are but self aware natures, then sure, all these things could be attributed to “you”. But your self awareness made no more of a difference to it than being aware that you’re in a falling plane affects it. You just know what’s happening to you but are no more free than a falling rock simply it in the laws of gravity. This is what well known Atheist speaker and neurologist Sam Harris makes, that we are determined like anything ekse, and this cannot truly be called “free will” just because you’re aware of it (even your reasoning to such may not be logical but rather your predetermined mental state). That’s the point of an illusion, it requires an awareness that is being deceived. But even your own being deceived or not being deceived into believing you’re free is determined.

        But since this is only notion of choice available, given the metaphysic of persons being self-aware natures, one is then forced to say that persons are still free though determined. Or else they would have to deny people are free, in which case, no one is praiseworthy or blameworthy of anything. Yet we choose to live in a self denial and live a contradictory life of treating people as responsible.

        Given libertarian free will, our values and beliefs do indeed influence us. They may limit or circumscribe the possible options, but they do not determine what option one decides. And even those are in part formed due to libertarian choices we’ve made in the past. That is why character is important because it reflects my use of freedom and is not entirely determined. And character, being the result of such can limit future options or even make some inevitable. So I lean towards a soft libertarianism which allows for certain determining and limiting factors without reducing agency to mere awareness with no actual control.

        If one wants to be a naturalist and accept that as freedom the fine. But if one holds to Christianity (as Calvinists do) and wants to claim that this view of freedom holds, then there are serious issues. Because it means that God could have made a world in which everyone “freely” lived in harmony with Himself and others. But that is clearly not the case. It also means that if some people are eternally lost, it could have been avoided. Such a God then either prefers to determine reality in which evil exists or for some reason *has* to determine a world in which evil exists. None of which square off with the decrees of 7 Ecumenical councils which have defined the faith. Which are binding for Catholic and Orthodox Christians. Or one can choose to accept this Christianity, to the detriment of other key tenants historically held. Which if taken logically end up with implications that few would probably affirm or want to affirm.

  2. Marvin Edwards
    April 30, 2015

    “So a person is not even a soul, rather they have a soul.”

    That concern caused a junior high school me to write a letter to Oral Roberts asking for clarification. If the soul is not me, does that mean that I die, but somebody else goes to heaven who is not me? They wrote back that I should talk it over with my local minister, but they were my parents, so how would they know?

    But back to free will.

    “But your self awareness made no more of a difference to it than being aware that you’re in a falling plane affects it. ”

    But when I talk about it, I know that it is me. I know that those are my own feelings and my own thoughts. Even if I make a choice based on feelings as much as on reasons I would know they were my feelings and my reasons. And I would recognize the choice as my own.

    And if I were the pilot on that plane, I would choose to grab the stick and recover from the fall. I would not be simply an observer, waiting to see what would inevitably happen. I would be choosing what happens next. And that choice would determine what became inevitable and what remained mere possibility. And I would call that causal agent “me”.

    “You just know what’s happening to you but are no more free than a falling rock simply it in the laws of gravity. This is what well known Atheist speaker and neurologist Sam Harris makes…”

    There are a lot of otherwise intelligent people who fall victim to the silly paradox. If we say something was “inevitable” our first thought is that it is “beyond our control”. But deterministic inevitability must take into account all causes. And one of those causes happens to be minds making choices for themselves about what they will do next.

    None of the influences upon our decisions can cause anything without our active participation. We choose which values, reasons, and feelings to apply in a given situation. And our choices are the final responsible cause of what happens next.

    We are not separate from causality. We are a thinking and choosing part of it. We are not the victims of inevitability, but the deciders of what becomes inevitable and what does not.

    “That’s the point of an illusion, it requires an awareness that is being deceived.”

    The ordinary meaning of an “illusion” implies something insubstantial, something you can walk through as if it were not there, since it really isn’t there. If I correct the flight of the airplane to prevent it from falling, then where is the illusion? The plane is real. The controls are real. And I am real. And my choices had a real effect upon what happened next. There is no illusion there.

    Therefore it is only the illusion of an “illusion” that is the illusion. And the same applies to the illusion of a conflict between determinism and free will. There can be no conflict between two things which we objectively witness to be real. One cannot make the other impossible.

    “Given libertarian free will, our values and beliefs do indeed influence us. They may limit or circumscribe the possible options, but they do not determine what option one decides.”

    Then what does “determine what option one decides”? Do you see the problem? Causation is everywhere and in everything. It is part of the “rational world” regardless of the physical world.

    Universal inevitability is a useless fact. There are no useful implications that one can derive from it.

    (1) If I face a decision, it does me no good to tell me that whatever I decide will be inevitable if you cannot also tell me what that inevitable decision will be. I still have to go through the mental process of making the decision.

    (2) I cannot take inevitability into account when making my decision without getting into an infinite loop. If it appears that option A is to be my choice, can I then choose option B for spite? But then option B would have been inevitable due to the spite, so I choose A instead, but then I must choose B to escape inevitability, and on and on…

    (3) Inevitability has no effect upon free will. After all, here we are, thinking and choosing just like before we ever heard of deterministic inevitability. And if we are thrown into a swimming pool, we cannot simply sit back and wait to see what will inevitably happen, because that is also our choice, and it will determine what inevitably happens. I like to say that “inevitability requires our active participation”.

    (4) Praise and blame are employed to deterministically alter behavior. They are not separate from causation (nothing is separate from causation). One cannot say to the judge that it was inevitable that I stole that car, because the judge can also claim a rich string of cause and effect which resulted in society building prisons to prevent car thieves from running amuck.

    Cause and effect run through everything. Even through free will. After all, what would be the point of a will if it could not in turn cause effects of its own.

    • Yoshua Scribes
      April 30, 2015

      //So a person is not even a soul, rather they have a soul.”
      That concern caused a junior high school me to write a letter to Oral Roberts asking for clarification. If the soul is not me, does that mean that I die, but somebody else goes to heaven who is not me? They wrote back that I should talk it over with my local minister, but they were my parents, so how would they know?
      But back to free will.//

      Persons are not reducible to natures, but are never without them. Your person has a soul and body. It is possession of both soul and body that makes you a human person. When one dies, their person remains with the soul. But they are not a complete human, lacking their bodies. Hence why the resurrection is important. The body is not superfluous to human existence. And the lack of if is against the telos (design) of humanity put by God. The distinction between nature and person comes to us by revelation. Hence why the idea of person as we have today stemmed out of Christian dialogue in trying to understand the implications of the incarnation and what it meant for God to be triune.

      //“But your self awareness made no more of a difference to it than being aware that you’re in a falling plane affects it. ”
      But when I talk about it, I know that it is me. I know that those are my own feelings and my own thoughts. Even if I make a choice based on feelings as much as on reasons I would know they were my feelings and my reasons. And I would recognize the choice as my own.//

      It’s missing the point. Given your definition of persons as merely self aware natures, topped off with Compatibilism, saying that “you decided” is no different than saying your nature decided. In other words, the internal conditions responding to outside stimuli. The fact that you’re conscious doesn’t add anything to it but awareness, since you deny libertarian free will. There is no difference between a robot who’s internal condition is programmed to respond a certain way to outside stimuli, and yourself. Other than the fact that you’re aware. Unless you want to affirm libertarian free will, this is simply the case. Either you’re determined and unaware (a rock or robot), determined and aware (Compatibalism) or you’re not determined and aware (libertarianism). The illusion is in thinking that your being conscious is affects choices. You are but acting out your internal script, given the external setting. But I think our intuition that we are the ones making choices is correct because I hold to LFW.

      //And if I were the pilot on that plane, I would choose to grab the stick and recover from the fall. I would not be simply an observer, waiting to see what would inevitably happen. I would be choosing what happens next. And that choice would determine what became inevitable and what remained mere possibility. And I would call that causal agent “me”.//

      This misses the point of the analogy. If you hold to determinism, then you are just as determined as a rock falling is determined by the law of gravity. For you, persons are simply *natures* that are self aware. On this view, there is no metaphysical reality that is *with* the nature, which acts in the nature but is not compelled by it. Rather the agent is *reducible* to the nature, but is simply the called an agent because this particular nature is self-aware. Since there is no other reality but the nature, what ever choices result, are because of *what* that nature is. The illusion of making free choices, is actually just awareness of how ones nature is reacting to the world. No one is saying choice isn’t real. But it is that your nature responds, you’re aware and that is response is a choice, but not of your awareness. ***Basically, your deliberation and awareness of the choice is not prior to the choice having been made. Rather your deliberation and conscious decision to move are the result of the choice having been made by your nature*** The illusion comes from believing that your consciousness is the decider of choice as opposed to the receiver. Just as if you are sitting in a falling plane. You are aware that the plane is falling. But even if you were asleep, it would still be falling. Your knowing or not knowing is superfluous to what is happening. Because the effect is already being done for you.

      //None of the influences upon our decisions can cause anything without our active participation. We choose which values, reasons, and feelings to apply in a given situation. And our choices are the final responsible cause of what happens next.//

      Again, the issue is not choice, but the determiner of choice. Everyone believes in choice, the question is about what constitutes “free” choice. Saying your choices are the final responsible cause, is no more than describing what is happening as opposed to saying why. You made a choice. Was that determined by your internal factors? Was it determined by external factors? Again, if you’re a naturalist, then even your internal factors are determined by the laws of nature in the material world. Since you only matter. If you’re a theistic Compatibilist, then your internal factors were determined to be such by God.
      So let external factors; God or the Laws of physics be A, let you internal factors be B, and let your choices be C. And let your awareness be D.

      A determined what B is.
      B determines what C is.
      C comes about from B interacting with A.
      But A determined what B is in the first place.

      The fact that you are aware of C, does not mean that you determined C. Rather A determined C by determining B. The illusion is thinking that D changed or added to anything. As opposed to simply playing out the script brought about by A.

      //We are not separate from causality. We are a thinking and choosing part of it. We are not the victims of inevitability, but the deciders of what becomes inevitable and what does not.//
      You are part of it as being a conscious entity determined by A. What you call a decision is but awareness (D) of doing C and thinking, that you’re awareness brought about C. As opposed to being D being compelled by B, which is compelled by A.

      //“That’s the point of an illusion, it requires an awareness that is being deceived.”
      The ordinary meaning of an “illusion” implies something insubstantial, something you can walk through as if it were not there, since it really isn’t there. If I correct the flight of the airplane to prevent it from falling, then where is the illusion? The plane is real. The controls are real. And I am real. And my choices had a real effect upon what happened next. There is no illusion there. //

      I’ve addressed the plane illustration and meaning of illusion above. The illusion is not in what *is* happening. It is in what you *perceive* the role of your awareness is in what is occurring.

      //Therefore it is only the illusion of an “illusion” that is the illusion. And the same applies to the illusion of a conflict between determinism and free will.//
      This begs the question as it supposes a particular view of free will. That free will is simply that one’s choices are determined by B. Which obviously is not in conflict with determinism. Since A causes B. But is not the kind of free will
      1) We are positing as libertarians to lead to any praise or blame
      2) Not the kind of free will people perceive to have or you’re trying to make your position look like.

      //“Given libertarian free will, our values and beliefs do indeed influence us. They may limit or circumscribe the possible options, but they do not determine what option one decides.”
      Then what does “determine what option one decides”? Do you see the problem? Causation is everywhere and in everything. It is part of the “rational world” regardless of the physical world.//
      The agent does. But the agent isn’t reducible to their nature. Nor are they a me self aware nature. The Person is a reality that exists with the nature and chooses within it. Having no sufficient causal determiner or explaination of why they choose A over B as opposed to the fact that they decided. They have that causal power endowed in them by God, to have a free mode of existence. External and internal factors limit the scope of choices and can make some more unlikely or likely. But they do not always compel the person.

      //Universal inevitability is a useless fact. There are no useful implications that one can derive from it.
      (1) If I face a decision, it does me no good to tell me that whatever I decide will be inevitable if you cannot also tell me what that inevitable decision will be. I still have to go through the mental process of making the decision.//

      Whether you have knowledge or not of an inevitable decision matters not. Neither does the the fact that you go through mental processes. This isn’t about your epistemic state, but about the ontological fact. And also as to why your decisions came about. If your mental states do not cause he decision, but rather play out the decision the you are determined. And are only responsible if awareness is superfluous to responsibility. Since your awareness played no part in the choice other than being aware of it. The illusion of responsibility is mistaking your awareness as a factor, given compatibilism. As displayed in the formula I used earlier.

      //(2) I cannot take inevitability into account when making my decision without getting into an infinite loop. If it appears that option A is to be my choice, can I then choose option B for spite? But then option B would have been inevitable due to the spite, so I choose A instead, but then I must choose B to escape inevitability, and on and on//
      If you don’t have libertarian free will, then whatever you choose, was determined. Even if you think A is to be your choice, but out of spite you choose B, that spite and choice of B was always going to be the end result. Your confusing your knowledge of what you’ll do (epistemology) with the grounding for why you did what you did or cause of it (ontology). Just because you’re unaware that you’re determined, doesn’t mean your choices are free.

      //(3) Inevitability has no effect upon free will. After all, here we are, thinking and choosing just like before we ever heard of deterministic inevitability.//
      Again, you’re thinking that lack of awareness somehow changes reality. That’s simply not the case. And further demonstrates that what you’re calling “free” is an illusion.

      //And if we are thrown into a swimming pool, we cannot simply sit back and wait to see what will inevitably happen, because that is also our choice, and it will determine what inevitably happens.//
      As mentioned already, the issue is not choice, but the determiner of choice. In a deterministic world, not matter what you do. No matter how you try to rebel against the powers that be, every thought and action is still but playing a script. The fact that you’re aware, changes nothing except bring about the illusion that you’re not being scripted.

      //I like to say that “inevitability requires our active participation”.//
      And the cause of said inevitability will determine the participation or lack thereof and the manner of participation if it occurred. Like a person in the passenger seat, you are no more in control whether you’re awake (sentient) or asleep (non-sentient).

      //(4) Praise and blame are employed to deterministically alter behavior. They are not separate from causation (nothing is separate from causation). One cannot say to the judge that it was inevitable that I stole that car, because the judge can also claim a rich string of cause and effect which resulted in society building prisons to prevent car thieves from running amuck.//
      And given Compatibilism, both the stealing of the car and building of prisons was determined by the ultimate, A. Be it God, or whatever external factor you wish to add in.
      //Cause and effect run through everything. Even through free will. After all, what would be the point of a will if it could not in turn cause effects of its own.//
      No one denies cause and effect. The question is about where causal power lies.

      I’m no expert on these issues and have much to read up on it. But I do think that if one wants to hold to Compatibilism, then there are serious theistic problems that arise. I accept Libertrarianism more as a matter of revelation, since I’m not learned in philosophy. So my interest is more about the implications for Christianity, if one denies Libertarianism.

      • Marvin Edwards
        April 30, 2015

        “When one dies, their person remains with the soul. But they are not a complete human, lacking their bodies. Hence why the resurrection is important. The body is not superfluous to human existence.”

        Ah! That is a perfect answer to my question. I try not to believe in life after death anymore, but it is comforting to know that the question has a totally reasonable answer. Thanks!

        “Given your definition of persons as merely self aware natures, topped off with Compatibilism, saying that “you decided” is no different than saying your nature decided.”

        I have a spiritual issue here in the use of “merely” in that sentence. For any part of nature to be self-aware is highly significant. If one believed in miracles, then it may be called “miraculous”.

        These self-aware, living organisms watched birds fly and invented airplanes so we could fly too.

        “There is no difference between a robot who’s internal condition is programmed to respond a certain way to outside stimuli, and yourself.”

        Again, a demeaning characterization of the persons who actually invented robots and programmed them to do useful things to benefit us, such as building cars for us to drive.

        We all come with a biological will to satisfy the necessities of life. The need for food, water, affection, and the rest of Maslow’s basic needs animates us, and distinguish us from the inanimate. On top of that, we have a sensory package connecting us with the environment where we hope to find what we need. And on top of that, we have a mind capable of learning, imagination, planning, and choosing how we will go about satisfying our needs in the environment.

        The means we choose may harm others (steal their food) or may be consistent with others satisfying their needs as well (a community cookout). And from the effects of choosing one means rather than another we develop the concepts of right and wrong, moral and immoral, good and evil.

        “But I think our intuition that we are the ones making choices is correct because I hold to LFW.”

        Because I find the “libertarian” political ideology to be mainly anti-Christian, I gag when I hear a Christian use that term in a fond way. I prefer to classify the view as “anti-causal free will”.

        To my mind, ordinary determinism and ordinary free will have never been in conflict. The idea that our will must require indeterminacy to be free is, to me, irrational, because indeterminacy is irrational. If I pick an apple from the tree I expect to have an apple in my hand. That’s determinism. If I pick an apple and end up sometimes with a cat and sometimes with a pair of slippers, then that is indeterminacy. Nice place to visit, but who could live there?

        “On this view, there is no metaphysical reality that is *with* the nature, which acts in the nature but is not compelled b[y] it. ”

        Mind serves a purpose. By reasoning it chooses what advances and what frustrates that purpose. Mind, whether metaphysical or physical, is no less “compelled” than nature. However, again, it is spiritually demeaning to use the term “compelled” when the mind is serving its own chosen purpose.

        “***Basically, your deliberation awareness of the choice is not prior to the choice having been made. Rather your deliberation and conscious decision to move are the result of the choice having been made by your nature***”

        I disagree. The choice has not been made until it has been consciously approved. Otherwise we are talking about a habit rather than a deliberate choice. And many of our “choices” are in fact habits, based on a deliberate choice made much earlier. The criminal offender, for example, may have thought long and hard before stealing his first car, but after stealing several more, he is no longer deliberately deciding, but is acting habitually.

        “You made a choice. Was that determined by your internal factors?”

        I AM my internal factors. The will cannot be free of one’s own self without becoming someone else’s will. Therefore it is irrational to define free will as freedom from one’s self.

        “Was it determined by external factors? ”

        Nor would it be rational to define free will as freedom from the environment in which we exist. To escape the environment would mean we are dreaming, and rather than willing we are wishing.

        “So let external factors; God or the Laws of physics be A, let you internal factors be B, and let your choices be C. And let your awareness be D.”

        I am aware of my internal factors (I’m hungry at the moment). I am aware of the external factors of my environment (there is food in the fridge). I’m awake and conscious, so I know I am not sleepwalking when I choose to go to the fridge to fix a sandwich.

        There is no illusion of a sandwich. There is no illusion of walking to the fridge and fixing a sandwich. There is no illusion of considering whether to fix a sandwich, or a salad, or perhaps a TV dinner. The choice is as real as the walking and the sandwich are.

        You have a semantic problem. You are having difficulty saying the choice is “free” since it was determined by the hunger and the fridge. I say the choice was of my own free will because it was my hunger and my fridge and my choice.

        “External and internal factors limit the scope of choices and can make some more unlikely or likely. But they do not always compel the person.”

        In ordinary language, to “compel” is to force someone to act against their own will. If I am acting of my own will, then I am not compelled.

        “The illusion of responsibility is mistaking your awareness as a factor, given compatibilism. ”

        The concepts of “blame” and “responsibility” work like this: Some harm has occurred, for example, a car runs through a red light and kills a kid. To “hold responsible” means to identify a point where corrective actions may be taken to prevent the harm from recurring. If the driver were drunk, then he will be subject to a corrective penalty. If the stoplight was not working, then the light will be repaired and more closely monitored.

        It may be that the driver made one bad decision, and the penalty needed to correct future decisions may be less than if he were an habitual offender. This is what responsibility means. It is a useful concept in the system of justice and corrections. And it may not be arbitrarily discarded by the irrational “anti-choice determinist” position.

        “So my interest is more about the implications for Christianity, if one denies Libertarianism.”

        The problem is not in denying Libertarianism. The problem is in denying free will. The problem and its solution are much actually much simpler than creating whole schools of philosophy designed to obscure rather than enlighten.

  3. Yoshua Scribes
    April 30, 2015

    //I have a spiritual issue here in the use of “merely” in that sentence. For any part of nature to be self-aware is highly significant. If one believed in miracles, then it may be called “miraculous”.
    These self-aware, living organisms watched birds fly and invented airplanes so we could fly too.//

    Apologies, I wasn’t using merely comparatively, to show that the opposite was superior. And I think self-awareness is amazing. And I don’t see how it could come about naturalistically.

    //“There is no difference between a robot who’s internal condition is programmed to respond a certain way to outside stimuli, and yourself.”

    Again, a demeaning characterization of the persons who actually invented robots and programmed them to do useful things to benefit us, such as building cars for us to drive.//

    I wasn’t using it in a derogatory sense. Rather the focus was on consciousness. You and the robot essentially function the same way. You’re sentient, while it is not. Basically that your being conscious adds nothing to the equation of decisions. Other than getting you to honk that you’re in control.

    //To my mind, ordinary determinism and ordinary free will have never been in conflict. The idea that our will must require indeterminacy to be free is, to me, irrational, because indeterminacy is irrational. If I pick an apple from the tree I expect to have an apple in my hand. That’s determinism. If I pick an apple and end up sometimes with a cat and sometimes with a pair of slippers, then that is indeterminacy. Nice place to visit, but who could live there?//

    It’s not a complete indeterminacy. As natures circusribe possible options. But don’t choose which option the person makes. Given Compatibilism the nature may technically circumscribe different options, but only one outcome is possible ala determinism. And no one is posting that kind of indeterminacy in the example you gave. It’s not relevant to the discussion.

    //Mind serves a purpose. By reasoning it chooses what advances and what frustrates that purpose.//

    We don’t hold a person to be a mind, but rather to posses a mind as part of their soul. Given determinism, the minds reasoning is also determined. And it’s choice of which purpose to serve is also determined. Given determinism purpose A or B are not decided by the mind.

    //Mind, whether metaphysical or physical, is no less “compelled” than nature. However, again, it is spiritually demeaning to use the term “compelled” when the mind is serving its own chosen purpose.//

    Well given determinism, the purpose that the mind serves was not up to the mind. And since there is no LFW, there is a sufficient causal chain of explainations going back to an ultimate cause as to why the mind came to choose A over B. And unless wants to posit an infinite regress, it will point back to a cause that just is. Which is not caused but uncaused and undetermined. So an undetermined cause is the ultimate reason for the minds reasoning and decision. But it did not originate with in the person. LFW says that this power to bring about new causal realities, not determined by prior conditions is rooted in the person. And thus how they choose to act reflects their character. Not a predetermined state or condition.

    //“***Basically, your deliberation awareness of the choice is not prior to the choice having been made. Rather your deliberation and conscious decision to move are the result of the choice having been made by your nature***”
    I disagree. The choice has not been made until it has been consciously approved. Otherwise we are talking about a habit rather than a deliberate choice. And many of our “choices” are in fact habits, based on a deliberate choice made much earlier. The criminal offender, for example, may have thought long and hard before stealing his first car, but after stealing several more, he is no longer deliberately deciding, but is acting habitually.//

    I was stating what I believe is the logical outworking of determinism. What you consciously approve or disapprove on this view is not determined by your person. But by external factors which created your internal factors, which respond to those external factors. The personality plays no role here other than being aware of what’s going on, but thinking it is doing something. I agree about habits being results previous choices. Soft libertarianism affirms this. But essentially, on determinism all actions operate lack habits. Being the culmination of external factors on a predetermined internal nature.

    //“You made a choice. Was that determined by your internal factors?”
    I AM my internal factors. The will cannot be free of one’s own self without becoming someone else’s will. Therefore it is irrational to define free will as freedom from one’s self.//

    Saying you are your internal factors is exactly what I meant by confusing nature and person. If you are reducible to your internal factors, then nothing explains what you did except predetermined state, being acted on externally. All finding root in an ultimate cause, which alone is the reason why you reason as you do or choose anything or anything else. Essentially in the same position as a puppet. But rather a self-aware puppet. Who thinks he is the one in control. Nobody said that free will is freedom from oneself. For what one is limits the options, A, B, C, D etc. But doesn’t determine whether A, B, C, D are chosen. Rather the agent having this ex-nihilo causal power does, forming their character (how they choose). This does lead to habit. And LFW doesn’t require that they use this causal power all the time.

    //“Was it determined by external factors? ”

    Nor would it be rational to define free will as freedom from the environment in which we exist. To escape the environment would mean we are dreaming, and rather than willing we are wishing.//
    Again, external or internal factors limit/circusribe possible options. But don’t determine which options are chosen. They still play a role.

    //I am aware of my internal factors (I’m hungry at the moment). I am aware of the external factors of my environment (there is food in the fridge). I’m awake and conscious, so I know I am not sleepwalking when I choose to go to the fridge to fix a sandwich.//

    You are aware of certain external and internal factors. It is all your internal factors and external factors as a whole from the moment of your being brought into being which have determined the point in time which you find yourself and how it is you would respond. That’s the point of determinism. When you say “I choose”, that isn’t the full story. For the “I” does not have any inherit causal power to break from the past. But is playing out the results of the past. The past doesn’t just give you options and then “you” choose. Rather it it chooses what option you’ll opt for. And if persons are reducible to natures, then there is no “I” choosing. Your nature is you. And your nature is determined both by what it is at any given point in time, as well as the current external factors at any given point in time. It matters not that you want the option you choose. For you were determined to want it.

    //There is no illusion of a sandwich.//

    Agree.

    //There is no illusion of walking to the fridge and fixing a sandwich.//

    Agree.

    //There is no illusion of considering whether to fix a sandwich, or a salad, or perhaps a TV dinner.//

    But wether you’ll choose on or the other is not due to your consciousness. But can ultimately be found
    in a cause predating gout existence.

    //The choice is as real as the walking and the sandwich are.//

    Again, no one is saying the choice isn’t real. But that your awareness had nothing to do with what choice you’d choose. You’re just aware of the effect of a long causal chain which determined your choice. By determining your reasoning and determining your desire. And determining which purpose to serve.

    //You have a semantic problem. You are having difficulty saying the choice is “free” since it was determined by the hunger and the fridge. I say the choice was of my own free will because it was my hunger and my fridge and my choice.//

    Your hunger, your fridge. These are the factors, then what are your options? Eat now. Eat later. Go to the fridge. Go to my friends fridge. Order out. The question is then, what determines which option you’ll go for? If persons and natures are the same, then what option you choose is determined by what you are (all internal factors) which were determined by external factors. Bringing you back to the puppet situation. You’re free in the exact same sense. So if you want to say the puppet is free, then you’re also free. If a puppet is not free, then neither are you. Your awareness brings no new causal energy. It is only your choice in so far as your nature is the one being determined to choose.

    //To “hold responsible” means to identify a point where corrective actions may be taken to prevent the harm from recurring.//

    You’re confusing ideas now. I’m not talking about “holding someone responsible” as in looking at measures to take when incidents occur. I’m talking about the idea of what qualifies a person to be *accountable* for a matter. It is often the case that accountability and responsibility are linked with the degree of control one has in a matter or what obligations they ought to follow given their capacities. So it would be unfair to put someone in prison for the weather. Or for not being able to hold their breath for three hours. Given determinism, ones actions are ultimately not up to them. They are simply aware of how what they are (their nature) is behaving in response to external factors. Factors which are ultimately the reason for why they are as they are in the first place, to respond as they are responding. If I create a robot and program it to kill and then destroy it when it does, I am responsible. If I create a robot to kill and give it sentience and it can’t but act out its programming. I’m still responsible. Even if, because it was programmed that way, the sentient being wanted to kill, enjoyed it, reasoned to it and carried it out. I made what it is, so that *what it is* it is would choose to behave in a certain way. Sentience adds nothing to the causal chain. Given determinism, every choice being the result of desire and mind are no more free than a programming, since the desire and mind are also determined. If a robot is free, then you may call this freedom as well.

    But as I said, my main point here isn’t to argue against determinism, but to argue that determinism poses problems for Christianity. I’m more interested in talking about that. As opposed to giving philosophical defences of about the mechanics of LFW. Thank you for dialoguing! It helped me do what the title says “think out loud.”

    • Marvin Edwards
      April 30, 2015

      Okay. Thanks for your patience. I was drawn to the post by the “compatibilist” tag.

      My definition of compatibilism is that it finds no conflict between perfect determinism and free will. They are compatible, like two sides of one coin. Or like two viewpoints, one looking at choosing from the inside and the other looking at it from the outside.

      It seems like a paradox to say that everything that happens is in fact inevitable and yet we freely choose for ourselves what we will do next. But neither proposition can be disproved. We observe a universe of reliable cause and effect, where we hope that every event relevant to human existence might be studied and understood. We seek the causes of disease so that we might prevent or cure them. We seek the causes of criminal behavior through psychology and sociology, again to prevent or cure.

      To the person making a deliberate choice, it must begin with an uncertainty, where one can honestly say that it is not yet known whether he will choose this or that. By applying his values and beliefs, his reasons and feelings, his best estimate of the outcomes of each choice, and so on, he finally reaches a decision, and chooses what he will do next.

      To the scientist observing the decider, if she knows him well enough to correctly guess the outcome of that mental process before it is complete, then she could write the decision down and hand it to him in an envelope to open after his deliberation is complete and the choice is made. (He will not believe the prediction is accurate until his deliberation is complete).

      Thus we see with our own eyes both determinism and free will in action simultaneously. This, to me, is “compatibilism”.

      • Yoshua Scribes
        May 1, 2015

        I think I get what you’re saying. And none of this is easy. I’ve a lot more to learn. I don’t know all the answers, but that’s why I’m learning. Thank you for talking with me. I learned a lot and had to think over things. It was really helpful. I hope that your journey will be good. And though you may not currently believe, that you will have faith restored, or rather placed in Jesus as He really is, and not how others or even our own thinking has misrepresented Him to be.

      • Marvin Edwards
        May 1, 2015

        Thanks. I was raised Christian and remain a big fan of Jesus as a moral philosopher. Keep up the good work.

      • Yoshua Scribes
        May 1, 2015

        You’re welcome 🙂 God Bless

  4. wildswanderer
    April 30, 2015

    I haven’t read all the comments, but just an observation: Early theologians tended to see Adam and Eve as spiritual children. And what they were tempted with was knowledge that would supposedly make them godlike. Instead, they only gained partial knowledge, and lost thier innocence. It seems that the Calvinist trys to reduce God to a formula he can understand. God determines everything, period. Not too hard to grasp, but not Biblical either, and its a lot like the serpents offer: take this path, and you’ll have all knowledge.

    • Yoshua Scribes
      April 30, 2015

      I think Calvinism like any school of theology may on the surface make some things easier to grasp, but it has its difficulties.

    • Yoshua Scribes
      May 1, 2015

      I’ve had a glance at the soteriology part of your blog. I think I’m going to enjoy reading it! Looks good.

  5. Pingback: Matters of the Atonement and Justification | Irish With A Tan

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This entry was posted on April 29, 2015 by in Theology and tagged , , , , , , , , , .
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