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Compatibilism Or Theological Determinism?
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My previous article entitled
Do We Have Free Will? Is Free Will An Illusion?
concluded that free will is in existence i.e. we have free will. You and I have free will to make an independent choice – a choice that is not causally determined.
So does this mean that we are Libertarians – those who endorse the libertarian free will position?
Libertarianism claims incompatibility of free will with determinism. Libertarians believe in free will; they negate determinism. Libertarians could also be termed as
. Libertarians believe that for any choice made, one could have always made another choice or no choice at all. This is called the CDO condition or
Could Have Done Otherwise
There are sincere Christians who believe that free will is compatible with determinism. They are the
. They believe that God’s sovereignty is compatible with human freedom.
Compatibilism defines free will differently. “Compatibilism claims that every person chooses according to his or her greatest desire. In other words, people will always choose what they want-- and what they want is determined by (and consistent with) their moral nature. Man freely makes choices, but those choices are determined by the condition of his heart and mind (i.e. his moral nature).”
Compatibilism believes that man’s choices are not absolutely free. Both the desire and the choice of man are determined by God and the forces of nature and not by man. In this situation, man chooses what God and the forces of nature have already determined for him. This is not absolute freedom.
, however, believes that God’s sovereignty extends absolutely to every event that occurs in the history of this world, which also includes human choice. Theological determinism eliminates human freedom since there are external factors that are sufficient to determine human choices.
A theological determinist, if he is a soft determinist will be a compatibilist.
These positions, Compatibilism and Theological Determinism should explain a plethora of
. A few of those dilemmas are mentioned below:
1. If all our actions are determined, then
is God the author of sin?
If A kills B, then it implies that God determined A to kill B. So God is the cause of the murder, not person A.
2. If God is the cause of the murder, how can HE punish person A for murder? Person A did not choose to murder, instead, it was God who determined A to murder. So if A were to be punished, would it not be an unjust punishment? Extending this to the final punishment would pose another serious dilemma. If mankind is not free to make a choice to either believe or disbelieve in God, then
how can God send unbelievers to hell?
How would it be just/fair on God’s part to send someone to hell despite the fact that that person did not choose to disbelieve in God?
Does this mean that God is evil?
If God is the author of sin and if God punishes people unjustly, then HE cannot be a good, loving, merciful, gracious and a just God.
More such theological dilemmas should be explained by those holding to the viewpoint of theological determinism and compatibilism.
Whatever be our stance,
we need not condescend
to the extent of alienating our Christian brothers and sisters holding opposing viewpoints. We could always agree to disagree, yet maintain our brotherhood.
Christian apologist, Greg Koukl articulates this well:
I believe that all things are in operation. That there are some things that are determined. Our molecules are like dominos falling in a certain way according to their chemistry and natural law, and we don’t make any decisions about those kinds of things. There are other things that I seem to make decisions on and I could have done otherwise, so I believe that there are libertarian freedoms that we have when we’re trying to make decisions about things.
There also seems to me that there are some things that I do because I want to do them, but I couldn’t have done otherwise. I don’t think it’s possible for us to live a sinless life. I seem to want to sin, and sometimes I want to do right. But even when I want to sin, and I do the sinful things, these are things that are, to some degree, dictated by my nature.
How that all plays out in our theology is a complex kind of notion. But when you’re addressing the question of free will, think of these different categories: strict determinism, strict libertarian freedom, and right in the middle, it’s called compatibilism, or soft determinism. Yes, some of the things are determined by your desires, and in that mix, you’re going to find a place for your particular theology.
Why am I not a compatibilist?
, even its non-technical version, is quite compelling against compatibilism. The non-technical version of the consequence argument is this:
This argument invokes a compelling pattern of inference regarding claims about what is power necessary for a person. Power necessity, as applied to true propositions (or facts), concerns what is not within a person's power. Or, put differently, it concerns facts that a person does not have power over. To say that a person does not have power over a fact is to say that she cannot act in such a way that the fact would not obtain. To illustrate, no person has power over the truths of mathematics. That is, no person can act in such a way that the truths of mathematics would be false. Hence, the truths of mathematics are, for any person, power necessities.
… The argument requires the assumption that determinism is true, and that the facts of the past and the laws of nature are fixed. Given these assumptions, here is a rough, non-technical sketch of the argument:
1. No one has power over the facts of the past and the laws of nature.
2. No one has power over the fact that the facts of the past and the laws of nature entail every fact of the future (i.e., determinism is true).
3. Therefore, no one has power over the facts of the future.
According to the Consequence Argument, if determinism is true, it appears that no person has any power to alter how her own future will unfold.
Peter van Inwagen is a prominent metaphysician and a brilliant Christian philosopher. He is an incompatibilist. He has written a paper entitled
A dialogue on Free Will.
Read this paper if you desire to dig deep into the subject of the superiority of incompatibilism over compatibilism.
I am a libertarian
, for I hold to the libertarian free will position. This does not relegate those holding opposing views to hell. Whatever be your position, it
does not affect your salvation
, unless the extension of your belief motivates you to negate any of the essential doctrines of Historic Christianity. What affects your salvation and mine is our belief in the essential doctrines of Historic Christianity.
How do I reconcile my libertarian free will with God’s sovereignty
? God has given man free will and God
man to make independent choices that are not causally determined. So man is free to make his own decisions, and he needs to face the consequences of those decisions (moral responsibility).
The sovereign God predestines people based on his foreknowledge (cf. Molinism). God knows who will accept and reject HIM. When God predestines, HE does so in the light of HIS perfect knowledge, which includes the knowledge of the counterfactuals as well.
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