Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Got Free Will?

My recent post [Struggling with Regrets] has caused quite a stir. Many have chimed in to attack the notion that man can have the God given power of self-determination. I am, quite honestly, surprised by the amount of interest this subject has generated. I am also surprised by the lack of answers to the questions posed in my post. Not a single advocate of determinism has yet to answer the question: How do you make sense of regrets in a deterministic world view? To be fair, one person made an attempt, but did not bother to defend his position when challenged.

It is one thing to attack libertarian freewill. It is quite another to defend determinism. JC and I have been defending our position against several attacks. I would now like to issue a bit of a challenge for those who are so convinced that libertarian free will is a myth, and that determinism is the Biblical doctrine. Until you answer the following questions, I would ask that you refrain from attacking the contrary position. To the determinist I ask:

1) How do you make sense of regrets if you do not have the power of contrary choice? Why does your conscience bother you when you sin, if you could not have avoided that sin?

2) If God causes all things, then how can you claim that God does not cause sin?

3) Where did the first impulse to sin come from in both Satan and Adam?

Note: Appeals to mystery are inadmissible. Appeals to "second" causes, etc. must be explained in such a way that they actually get God off the hook for causing sin. It does not help to say that we choose according to our desires, and therefore God is not responsible. If God causes all things, then He also causes our desires. If God is the only true actor in the universe, then all creatures are but passive instruments. If we are but passive creatures with no power of self-determination, then all our actions must be directly attributed to God.

Anyone commenting on Struggling With Regrets will be asked to address these questions before expecting any answers from either JC or myself.

Since it has become clear that this is such a sensitive issue, I will do a series on the difficulties of the determinist position. I will not be able to tackle this issue, however, until I complete my series on perseverance, which has been difficult due to the interaction generated by recent posts. In the meantime I direct any readers to Classical Arminianism where Billy is doing a series on how Arminius viewed free will.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

The analogy of an author writing a play may help us to grasp how both aspects can be true. In the Shakespearean play Macbeth, the character Macbeth murders King Duncan. Now (if we assume for a moment that this is a fictional account), the question may be asked, "Who killed King Duncan?" On one level, the correct answer is "Macbeth." Within the context of the play he carried out the murder and is rightly to blame for it. But on another level, a correct answer to the question, "Who killed King Duncan?" would be "William Shakespeare": he wrote the play, he created all the characters in it, and he wrote the part where Macbeth killed King Duncan.

It would not be correct to say that because Macbeth killed King Duncan, William Shakespeare did not kill him. Nor would it be correct to say that because William Shakespeare killed King Duncan, Macbeth did not kill him. Both are true. On the level of the characters of the play Macbeth fully (100 percent) caused King Duncan's death, but on the level of the creator of the play, William Shakespeare fully (100 percent) caused King Duncan's death. In similar fashion, we can understand that God fully causes thing in one way (as Creator), and we fully cause things in another way (as creatures).

Wayne Grudem
Systematic Theology
pgs. 321 & 322

Anonymous said...

Thine eyes did see me, when I was without form: for in thy book were all things written, which in continuance were fashioned, when there was none of them before.
Psalm 139:16

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Cute argument by analogy. Fraught with numerous problems of course, comparing reality to fiction. The Bard did indeed in that sense kill Duncan as much as if he'd plunged the dagger himself, but I don't recall killing a fictional character being a crime in the eyes of men or God.

Anonymous said...

I take it then that you did not like the anology? Please tell me how the Arminian deals with evil and how it gets God completely of the hook? I have seen nothing from either side that would deal with evil in any clear sense, but to each his own.

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Analogies can be used to illustrate a point, but argument by strictly analogy is a rather lame defense generally, unless the things being compared are very much alike. In the case of using fictitious characters to justify actions in real life, you can't get a more apples to oranges comparison than that, unless you want to make it a sin to kill non-existent people.

As far as the existence of evil, God created His creatures (angels, men) good, and with a free will and by nature, the capacity to obey or reject Him. As it is written in Ecclesiastes 7:29,

"This only have I found: God made mankind upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes."

Starting with Adam, mankind rebelled against God of his own volition, not God's eternal decree. God permitted it to occur and still does permit sin for a time, but He Himself tempts no one, nor does He effectively force them to sin.

Anonymous said...

The very fact that Calvinists attempt to convince you that you have no free will is a proof that you do. If you didn't have a free will, they wouldn't try to convince that non-existent will. They fail to apprehend this point, yet all the disagreements between Calvinists also have to do with free will. One Calvinist may say that the miraculous gifts have ceased and another that they have not. Why? Free will. One decided to beleive this way, the other that way. Unless they want to step up the blasphemy of their system to a new level and say that God decreed for Calvinist-A to beleive A and Calvinist-B to beleive B? Why not just go ahead and outright make God out to be the author of confusion? (Essentially Calvinism already does this in many ways, but you get the point.)

Anonymous said...

Who says that Calvinism says that man has no free will???? Yikes, you may want to read some Calvinist literature before you go spouting off nonsense like that.

Anonymous said...

This would go with the analogy and it is straight from Calvin,

For the purpose of illustration, let us refer to the calamities brought upon holy Job by the Chaldeans. They having slain his shepherds, carry off his flocks. The wickedness of their deed is manifest, as is also the hand of Satan, who, as the history informs us, was the instigator of the whole. Job, however, recognizes it as the work of God, saying, that what the Chaldeans had plundered, “the Lord” had “taken away.” How can we attribute the same work to God, to Satan, and to man, without either excusing Satan by the interference of God, or making God the author of the crime? This is easily done, if we look first to the end, and then to the mode of acting. The Lord designs to exercise the patience of his servant by adversity; Satan’s plan is to drive him to despair; while the Chaldeans are bent on making unlawful gain by plunder. Such diversity of purpose makes a wide distinction in the act. In the mode there is not less difference. The Lord permits Satan to afflict his servant; and the Chaldeans, who had been chosen as the ministers to execute the deed, he hands over to the impulses of Satan, who, pricking on the already depraved Chaldeans with his poisoned darts, instigates them to commit the crime. They rush furiously on to the unrighteous deed, and become its guilty perpetrators. Here Satan is properly said to act in the reprobate, over whom he exercises his sway, which is that of wickedness. God also is said to act in his own way; because even Satan when he is the instrument of divine wrath, is completely under the command of God, who turns him as he will in the execution of his judgments. I say nothing here of the universal agency of God, which, as it sustains all the creatures, also gives them all their power of acting. I am now speaking only of that special agency which is apparent in every act. We thus see that there is no inconsistency in attributing the same act to God, to Satan, and to man, while, from the difference in the end and mode of action, the spotless righteousness of God shines forth at the same time that the iniquity of Satan and of man is manifested in all its deformity.

kangeroodort said...

There are way too many "anonymous' around here. If you want to continue to post, you need to leave a name. Either create a google account [very simple], or click "other" and type in a name.

To the one who said,

Who says that Calvinism says that man has no free will???? Yikes, you may want to read some Calvinist literature before you go spouting off nonsense like that.

Either you are completely ignorant of Calvinism, or you are using the same kind of slight of hand as most Calvinists: "Of course we are free. We are free to do just as God causes us to do", etc. Did you read the post at all? Did you miss it when I said, "It does not help to say that we choose according to our desires, and therefore God is not responsible. If God causes all things, then He also causes our desires. If God is the only true actor in the universe, then all creatures are but passive instruments. If we are but passive creatures with no power of self-determination, then all our actions must be directly attributed to God"?

To the one who wrote:

For the purpose of illustration, let us refer to the calamities brought upon holy Job by the Chaldeans....

Satan was the cause of Job's difficulty. God gave Satan permission to harm job. That God allows things to happen is a far cry from causing them.

Permission and allowance are terms that comport with libertarian free will. These terms to not comport with Calvinistic determinism. In the Calvinist scheme, God caused Satan to harm Job, rather than permitting it. Calvin himself chided those who said that God only "permits" things, yet resorted to the same language while trying to get God off the hook for causing sin. For an excellent illustration of this inconsistency within Calvin's writing, I recommend Robert Shank's book, Elect in the Son.

Anonymous said...

I take it that you would agree that God is in complete control? As He was in this case with Job, Satan could not step out of the set parameters that were chosen by God. I guess that means God violated Satan’s libertarian free will, but let’s move on. Tell me if God is in complete control why does He allow a man to be born that He knows will never come to Him, let us add that this man is of the most vile nature that is known to us. He actively seeks out children to molest, to torture and to kill. Now he was doing what he wanted to do and he was free to do that, but why does God allow it under your system? I fail to see how you have solved anything with your libertarian free will.

After all you say that while we all have libertarian free will we are still in bondage to sin and Satan and we only experience this bliss of yours while under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the preaching of the Word of God. You also say that you can only choose from options that are available to you, question- who makes those options available to you??? Who brings things and people into your life at the time that they come into your life? You do have choice, but you have those choices because they were provided to you by the one that sustains all things. The difference is that Calvinism would say that you base your decision on your nature and/or your mind. You on the other hand would say that your choice is completely uncaused; they are totally accidental in that neither your nature nor your mind has any bearing on the choice.


Bill

kangeroodort said...

Hey Bill,

The point of this post was that I am done answering questions until I get a few answers from you regarding the implications of determinism. The questions are listed and described in the post. You have not yet answered these questions. When you do I will be happy to address your concerns.

Thank You,
Ben

kangeroodort said...

BTW, I am not just looking for an answer to one of the questions. I am looking for answers to all of the questions.

God Bless,
Ben

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Bill is big on the superficial objections, but is strangely quiet when it comes to actual answers. In just two short paragraphs I counted three misrepresentations, one argument for a non-issue, and a non sequitur.

Nick Norelli said...

Am I alone in seeing the utter uselessness in asking 'why' type questions that NOBODY had the answers to?

And let us suppose that Arminianism doesn't offer a sufficient answer for X -- does it then follow that Calvinism is off the hook for ALSO not offering a sufficient answer for X?

kangeroodort said...

Am I alone in seeing the utter uselessness in asking 'why' type questions that NOBODY had the answers to?

That was kinda my point. I am done answering questions for determinists who believe they can falsify Arminianism when they refuse to admit that their own system runs into flat contradictions.

And let us suppose that Arminianism doesn't offer a sufficient answer for X -- does it then follow that Calvinism is off the hook for ALSO not offering a sufficient answer for X?

No it does not.

I understand that all theologies will bump into mystery at some point. I have no problem with mystery. I do, however, have a problem with calling contradictions mysteries. How God can perfectly know the future is a mystery. It is a contradiction, however, to say that God causes all things and yet does not cause sin. It is nonsense to regret things that we could not have done otherwise.

The momment a system accepts contradictions it becomes irrational and unfalsifiable. What amazes me is that those who hold to systems which happily affirm contradictions are so quick to criticize other positions on grounds of consistency.

Nick Norelli said...

Ben,

I should have quoted this before my last comment... My comment was sparked by this question from one of the many anonymous-es:

"Tell me if God is in complete control why does He allow a man to be born that He knows will never come to Him..."

You can ask 'why' forever and never be satisfied... I've learned that such questions are not raised when people are really searching for answers, they're raised to justify their own not knowing.

And I couldn't agree more about contradictions... What really irks me is when they call the contradictions 'tensions' and then say 'who am I to answer back to God?'

What's worse is when they try to compare such nonsense to the doctrine of the Trinity as if the analogy was anything less than false!

If smacking folks was acceptable behavior, that would be the time to do it ;^D

Henry (Rick) Frueh said...

When determinism is exposed as unbiblical they usually morph it into a partial-determinism. The issue must center around election, does God chooses and cause sinners to be saved or do they have a God given choice.

That is the core of the two different theologies, all the rest are tributaries.

kangeroodort said...

Nick,

Thanks for the clarification. I'm feeling you on the "smacking" comment :)

Later Bro.,
Ben

Magnus said...

I must admit that I struggle with this whole topic, how can God have planned to the smallest detail the death of His only begotten Son and not be responsible? I do not have the answer to that and have to just believe that through that more honor and glory is given Him. I also have to believe that God did more than just see what we would do to His Son, but He had to of planned it. How this gets Him off I do not know. I will keep praying and reading the Bible and if He wants to reveal it to me then so be it, if not I will continue to plow along.

Magnus

Anonymous said...

1. You still have power of choice just not contrary choice and that is why you can still have regrets.

2. Seems that was answered with the intention reply. God’s intention and man’s or Satan’s intention are completely different. That is how God can be the author or cause and not be guilty.

3. This we will have to chalk up to mostly mystery. Why did not God choose a place where Adam and Satan did not sin? Maybe He could have, but this way lets Him put all of His qualities on display. Maybe this is the best way to display the Trinity in all of its majesty.

gordan said...

Ben,

I'm sorry I didn't see your invitation to me at the Reformed Mafia until just now.

Having read your challenge, it occurs to me that I've been down this road before with you and your cohort here:

Answer my unanswerable challenge with these rules:

1. You may not give a typical Calvinist answer because I have already judged that deficient.

2. Your answer is not allowed to go in any of the directions that I will hereby outlaw.

3. When you DO answer, I and those who think just like me will be the sole arbiters of how effective you were. (Sheesh, talk about your determinism...)

4. If you refuse to answer in accordance with these rules, it will be assumed that your system is deficient, and my victory will be loudly trumpeted.

It's a bit like challenging my Dallas Cowboys to come play two-hand touch football in your yard, and stipulating that Tony Romo has to play something other than Quarterback, that no forward passes will be allowed, and that my guys can only use one hand when attempting a two-hand touch.

And what gigantic chickens they are when they just chuckle at the suggestion and move on!

I believe I'll politely decline. But thanks for thinking of me.

dec said...

kangeroodort said:
If God is the only true actor in the universe, then all creatures are but passive instruments. If we are but passive creatures with no power of self-determination, then all our actions must be directly attributed to God"?

Do you see any similarities between your question and these?

If He has mercy on whomever He wills, and He hardens whomever He wills, why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?

kangeroodort said...

Anonymous,

Thanks for the honest attempt to answer these questions. You will not be surprised when I tell you that I find them woefully inadequate.

you answered ques. #1 with:

You still have power of choice just not contrary choice and that is why you can still have regrets.

To say that we have a choice when we don't really have a choice is not very helpful. The point is that you could not possibly have done otherwise, and what you did do was exactly as God intended and decreed. Why should you regret that?

You answered ques. #2 with:

Seems that was answered with the intention reply. God’s intention and man’s or Satan’s intention are completely different. That is how God can be the author or cause and not be guilty.

The problem is that if God causes all things then He also causes the sinful intentions of both Satan and Adam.

You answered ques. #3 with:

This we will have to chalk up to mostly mystery.

So you admit to having no answer.

Why did not God choose a place where Adam and Satan did not sin? Maybe He could have, but this way lets Him put all of His qualities on display.

Like the quality of causing His creatures to do those very things He forbids and then punishing them for it?

Maybe this is the best way to display the Trinity in all of its majesty.

I sure hope not.

kangeroodort said...

Gordan,

You wrote:

It's a bit like challenging my Dallas Cowboys to come play two-hand touch football in your yard, and stipulating that Tony Romo has to play something other than Quarterback, that no forward passes will be allowed, and that my guys can only use one hand when attempting a two-hand touch.

And what gigantic chickens they are when they just chuckle at the suggestion and move on!

I believe I'll politely decline. But thanks for thinking of me.


Actually, Gordan you have quite missed the point. The purpose of these questions was to force determinists to recognize that their system has insurmountable problems. Since you decline, then I assume you agree.

This post was in response to having the libertarian position attacked by several determinists, none of whom were willing to address questions like the ones mentioned in this post. They all demanded answers but refused to give answers.

The conditions I have laid out do not seem so unfair to me. I am just asking for real answers rather than appeals to mystery [which is inappropriate when dealing with flat contradictions], etc. Which of these conditions do you specifically object to as unfair and why?

I would also remind you that I envited you to answer these questions in reference to the way you responded to someone at your blog who was defending libertarian free will. They spoke of God's knowledge being different than ours [not time bound], and you rebuked him for the "convenience" of what you perceived to be an appeal to mystery.

From the nature of your response here, it would seem that you are just as happy to affirm such "convenient" appeals.

God Bless,
Ben

kangeroodort said...

dec,

You wrote:

Do you see any similarities between your question and these?

If He has mercy on whomever He wills, and He hardens whomever He wills, why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?


No. It seems strange to me that Paul would spend 3 chapters carefully developing his argument, if this statement implied what you seem to think it implies. Why not just stop there?

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Gordan's interpretation of your challenge was interesting to say the least, but his exaggeration of your basic guidelines is to be expected. I never said anything about what answers people could or couldn't give or what direction they could go in concerning my challenge, but he still errantly accused me of such afterwards in his combox (among other things). When it comes down to brass tacks, I guess the side with no leg to stand on has little choice but to resort to crying foul.

Rhett Kelley said...

If you are honestly wanting these questions answered, I'd suggest reading:

God and Evil: The Problem Solved by Gordan H. Clark



Have a nice day.

Rhett again... said...

Here's a link:

http://www.monergismbooks.com/God-Evil-The-Problem-Solved-p-17265.html