Free Will is a topic debated among Christians and even some non-Christians. The Christians who affirm that men have free will in the libertarian sense are Arminians, Molinists, and Open Theists. Christians who deny free will in the libertarian sense generally fall into the Calvinist camp. I have argued elsewhere that libertarian free will is the only true kind of free will that there is. Compatibilism, despite what the name suggests, doesn’t reconcile free will and determinism. Compatibilism, at most, would explain why we feel like we’re free when we make our actions even though we’re determined. Compatibilism would explain why I feel like a free creature despite being the puppet of God, my sinful nature, my desires, or the molecules in my brain depending on what kind of determinist you are. But it doesn’t actually let us affirm the two propositions; (A) Man is determined, and (B) Man is free. Why? Because on compatibilism, man still cannot choose between alternatives. He can only choose what God, his sinful nature, his brain chemistry, or his desires caused him to choose. When placed with the options of choosing A or Non-A, God/Sin Nature/Neurological Processes/my desire will cause me to choose one, and I have no ability whatsoever to choose the opposite of what I chose. I fail to see how this is “free” will in any meaningful sense. Saying that “You’re free to choose what you’re determined to choose” is tantamount to telling a person who’s tied up “You’re free to stay put”.
Libertarian Free Will is the only true free will there is. If you deny that, you might as well deny that we have free will altogether. I believe we do have free will, and I have both philosophical reasons as well as scriptural reasons for holding this belief. Sometimes the philosophical reasons and biblical reasons coalesce (as you will see below). Below, I will list 3 arguments for the truth that man is a free creature. Before I do, let me make sure you understand the definition of “free will” I’ll be employing. As stated, I reject the idea of compatiblism (that determinism and free will can co-exist) because you cannot choose anything except what you were determined to choose. The Free Will that exists in man is libertarian free will.
Libertarian Free Will asserts that:
1: The Man is the origin and cause of his own actions.
2: The Man, in most cases1 will have the ability to choose between 2 or more options. And whichever option he chooses, he did not have to make that choice. He could have chosen one of the alternatives. For example, if presented with A and Non-A, man chooses A, but he didn’t have to choose A. He could have chosen Non-A instead. It laid within his power to choose Non-A. He just didn’t exercise that power. 2
3: The Man’s choice was undetermined. Nothing internal or external to the man causally determined the man to make the choice he did. His choice was uncaused or undetermined.
Now, what reasons might be given for believing that God has endowed human beings with this kind of free will?
1: The Argument From Moral Accountability
It seems to me that if man is determined to do what he does, then he cannot be blamed for his own actions. If God causally determined man to sin (as many Calvinists claim), then how can the man be blamed for that sin? Wouldn’t God be the one to blame? After all, God is the one who causally determined the man to do what he did? How does the human being get the blame but God magically gets off the hook? If our sinful nature causally determined us to sin, why blame us? Why not just blame the sinful nature within us? If, as on atheistic determinism, the molecules in motion inside our brains caused us to do what we did, why blame us? Why not blame our brain chemistry? “It’s not my fault! My brain chemistry made me do it!” Causes are always responsible for their effects. If God causally determines people to sin, then God is responsible for our sins. If our sinful nature causally determines us to sin, then our sinful nature is responsible for our sins. If our brain chemistry….you get the point. Whatever caused us to do what we do is ultimately responsible for what we do. This is common sense that determinists of all stripes willfully deny. If we are not the origin and ultimate cause of our actions, then we are not responsible for our actions. Whatever is the origin and ultimate cause, that thing is responsible. And it is that thing that will get the blame.
If I knock a ball off a table, is the ball to blame for falling to the floor? No! Well, who or what is? Obviously, I am. I’m responsible for the ball falling because I’m the one who caused the ball to fall.
At this point, the determinist who affirms compatibilism may respond “But Man did what he did because he wanted to. He wasn’t forced against his will. His action was in line with his will.” Okay, but why did the man want to do what he did? Many Calvinists say that God causes people to want X and the want then determines them to do X. In this case, the problem is merely kicked upstairs. Man did X because he wanted to do X, but the reason he wanted to do X was that God caused him to want to do X. So, God is still to blame. Determinist Compatibilists who are atheists will substitute the word “God” or “Neurological processes” and make the same argument, but the argument fails on naturalistic determinism for the same reason it fails on divine determinism. From here on, I will only address theological forms of determinism. I only mention naturalistic determinism to point out that it suffers from the same flaw as Calvinism’s.
Some Calvinists believe that Adam had libertarian free will (LFW) and he sinned, from then on, no one was free. Our sinful natures causally determined us all to commit sins of various kinds. In this case, God isn’t on the hook, but neither is man. You can’t blame man for sinning on this view. It’s in his nature. Just as it’s in a lion’s nature to kill gazelles. You don’t blame the lion for not choosing a vegan diet though, do you? If it is in X’s nature to do Y, we generally don’t have any moral outrage at X. We excuse X by saying “It’s in X’s nature. X can’t help it.” Why do this with animals, but not humans?
Moreover, we generally realize that if a person could not choose other than what they did, they are not culpable. If I knock you over, you don’t hold me accountable if you realized that the reason I knocked you over was that my shoe was untied unbeknownst to me, and I tripped over my shoelace while running, causing me to slam into you and knock you over. If you knew my situation, you would most likely excuse me, yes? Now, on the other hand, if I took my hands and purposefully shoved you down, that would be a different story. You would hold me accountable because you knew I had it within my power to choose otherwise, I did it on purpose, and the actions’ origin and the ultimate cause was my volition (not something external to me as in the former example).
If a man has no arms and you tell him to hug you, and he doesn’t because he has no arms, you wouldn’t penalize him, would you? No! Why not? Because the man was not able to hug you. Everyone intuitively believes that an “ought” implies a “can”, well, except for determinists who believe God penalizes man for sinning when he wasn’t able to choose otherwise, and penalizes man for not believing in Christ when they believe that man was unable to believe. But even they accept this premise in all other areas of life, just not theology. I could never accuse a Calvi of being consistent.
It seems to me that unless man is free in the libertarian sense, he cannot be held accountable for anything he does.
My argument for free will is as follows:
1: If Men Aren’t Free In A Libertarian Sense, They Cannot Be Held Responsible For Wrongdoing.
2: The Bible teaches that God will hold men accountable for wrongdoing.
3: Therefore, men have Free Will in a libertarian sense.
This is a logically valid argument. The rule of inference this argument goes by is “Modus Tollens”. So, in order for the conclusion to be reached, both premises must be true. I’ve given us good reasons to believe that premise 1 is true. In fact, premise 1 is the only premise in this argument that Calvinists will deny. No Calvinist will deny premise 2. Nevertheless, let me give some of the biblical evidence for 2 anyway.
“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done.” – Revelation 20:11-13
“So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.” – Romans 14:12
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” – 2 Corinthians 5:10
These 3 passages are only a small sampling of passages stating that God will hold man accountable for his actions. Clearly, the second premise is true. It seems then that both premises are true, in which the conclusion follows: 3: Therefore, men have Free Will in a libertarian sense.
2: In Many Places, The Bible Asserts Or Implies That Man Has Free Will
Free Will is implied throughout The Bible, but there are a few places where it is explicitly evident. For example, in 1 Corinthians 10:13, the apostle Paul wrote: “No temptation has overtaken you, except what is common to man. And God is faithful. He will not allow you to be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, will provide a way of escape also so that you will be able to endure it.” This is probably the most powerful evidence of libertarian free will, the most explicit example of libertarian free will, and the most difficult-for-determinists-to-get-around passage in the entire Bible. Paul says that the temptation that afflicts his readers isn’t anything unusual, nothing unique to them. He then goes on to say that God is faithful, and won’t allow the temptation to sin to be so overwhelming that it’s impossible for them to resist it. Instead, God will provide “a way of escape” so that they’ll endure it and ergo avoid sinning.
Paul is assuming here that his readers don’t have to sin. Sin is not inevitable. God provides a way out so that we’ll be able to avoid sin. If we do sin, it’s because we refused to take “the way of escape” that God offered. If we don’t sin, it’s because we chose “the way of escape”. This verse presupposes libertarian free will. It presupposes that the listener does not have to sin. He’s faced with A (sin) and Non-A (The Way Of Escape). He can choose either and is responsible for whichever one he chooses. The determinist cannot make sense of this verse. If humans are causally determined to do everything we do, then “the way of escape” was not a possible option for those who sin. “The way of escape” on determinism, was nothing but an illusion! Only if man truly has the power to genuinely choose between alternatives, can we say that “the way of escape” was a possible option for those who sinned.
Paul is essentially saying in 1 Corinthians 10:13 “Look, you don’t have to sin. You don’t have to. God will provide a way out so you’ll be able to endure it. If you choose not to take His way out, it’s your fault, not God’s.”
If our love for God and one another weren’t given of our own free will, it would be impossible for our love to be genuine. Instead, we would have an artificial love, a programmed love, a forced love. Love, in order to be genuine, must be freely given. People who give true love must have the freedom to choose not to love. To see the point: imagine it’s the year 3,000 where robotics have been perfected to the point where robots look, sound, and behave 100% identical to real human beings. You go down to “Robot Depot” to buy yourself a wife. You buy this android that looks as beautiful as a supermodel. Based on her looks, you already know she’s got the attractiveness quality. But what of her character? The manual she comes with tells you that you can program her personality anyway you desire. So, you program her to always do whatever you want, to always put your needs above hers, and to always laugh at your jokes, etc. You program her to never leave you for another man. You program her to say “I love you” 20 times a day. You program her to never bother you while watching football. In fact, you program her to be just as into football as you are. You program her to be the perfect wife.
Question: would any of this be meaningful to you? Would you feel loved? No. You would clearly recognize that her love for you is artificial. Every act of kindness, every display of affection, and every “I love you”, was your doing, not hers. You causally determined her to do these things for you. They did not originate within her. All of her acts of love and selflessness would be empty gestures because you caused her to do them, and she had no capability of doing differently.
Similarly, if God causally determined everyone to love Him, praise Him 24/7, to never disobey Him, and to always do good, our actions would be devoid of meaningfulness. The only reason we praise Him is that He programmed us to praise Him. The only reason we abstain from sin is that He programmed us to abstain from it. It would be the same for our “love” for one another. If God causally determines a man to love his wife, I don’t see how that would be any more meaningful than when a little girl causes a Ken doll to show love to a Barbie doll.
I think premise 1 is most certainly true. Even if the Calvinist denies that God causally determines everything, and wants to scribe the determination to the sinful nature or our desires alone, that doesn’t help anything. Suppose in the aforementioned robot-wife illustration that I didn’t causally determine my wife to do all those things, but one of my close friends did. He got me a robot wife and programmed her to do all those things for me because he knows what kind of wife I would like. Even though the programming didn’t come from me, I still wouldn’t feel loved by this robot woman because she was still unable to choose otherwise. So, in a similar way, if my nature, desires, or brain molecules causally determine me to love God and my neighbor, it would be just as meaningless as if God were the One pulling the strings.
Why think that our love is genuine? Maybe The Calvinist can bite the bullet and say “Okay, I agree. Without libertarian free will, our love is worthless automata. But so what? Maybe our love is worthless automata?” First of all, I’d like to point out to my readers that I don’t think any Calvinist would deny premise 2. He’s more than likely to go after premise 1. Of course, that raises the question: Why would the Calvinist be reluctant to deny premise 2?
Because the Calvinist, like all Christians, realizes that God is perfect. God is a Maximally Great Being, and as such has all great making properties including omniscience. If God omniscient, then He knows what kind of world would be one where true love could exist. If premise 2 is false, we’re forced to say that God created a loveless world! No one truly loves God, no one truly loves their neighbor! But, The Bible teaches that God wants our love for Him to be genuine. This is why the two greatest commandments are to love God with all of our hearts, souls, strength, and minds, and to love our neighbors as ourselves (see Matthew 22:37-39, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27). God wants us to love Him with all of our hearts, souls, strength, and minds, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. If God did not want us to obey those commands, then why did He give them in the first place? Would God really create a world where love is impossible and then command us to love? That would be a rather stupid thing to do, wouldn’t it? Since God commands us to love Him and each other, that implies that we are able to love Him and one another. Given that only a world of free will creatures is a world where fulfilling those two commandments is possible, it follows that God would prefer to actualize such a possible world, and since God would prefer such a world, it follows that He would actualize such a world.
Moreover, denial of premise 2 would entail a denial of biblical inerrancy. For The Bible implies that our love for God is real when it says “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19). There it is, right in 1 John 4! “We love”. If you deny this premise, then you have to deny that this verse is true!
Given the truth of the 2 premises, the conclusion follows logically and necessarily. Man loves freely.
4: The Appearance Of Free Will Problem
One of the problems I have with the Young Earth Creationist’s Argument that “The universe is really only 6,000 years old, God just made it look like it was billions of years old” is that it makes God out to be a deceiver. Yes, God had the freedom to make the universe in an advanced state, and He certainly made the wine at Cana in an aged state as it was the best-tasting wine (see John 4), and if the literal reading of Genesis is correct, God made Adam and Eve in adult bodies. BUT would God create Adam and Eve with an appearance of past history? There’s a difference between the appearance of age and past history. As Richard Deem wrote ““Did Adam have an appearance of history? Did he have a navel from a birth that never happened? Were his teeth worn at his creation, even though he had never eaten? Did Adam have calluses on his feet even though he had never walked? The Bible does not address these issues, and since Adam’s body is not available, we have no idea of the answers to these questions. Does the Bible compare Adam’s body to the creation? No! The analogy has no biblical basis and is based upon conjecture alone. Does the wine of Cana have an appearance of history? According to the biblical account, Jesus ordered water pots to be filled with water and, immediately, the water had become wine. Did it have an appearance of history? If the wine had been in wineskins (like the original wine) then one might say that it appeared to have been aged in the wineskins. However, the wine was still in the water pots. It had no appearance of history. Does the Bible compare the wine of Cana to the creation? No! Like Adam’s body, the wine of Cana analogy has no biblical basis and is based upon conjecture alone.”3 For God to have created a universe like he did, He would have created an appearance of past history. History of millions of years of erosion, bombardment on the surface of the moon, erosion of the canyons on Mars, starlight reaching us from millions of light years away, but reaching us in thousands because it was created in-transit, etc. This would make God a deceiver, and The Bible teaches that God cannot lie (see Numbers 23:19, Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18). Since God cannot lie, it follows that He could not have created a universe that appears to have endured through millions of years of history.
Well, it appears the same problem affects Calvinists in the realm of free will. Even Calvinists won’t deny that we appear to have free will. We feel like we have free will. Most of us think our actions are free. It certainly seems like when we make a choice, we could have done otherwise. Calvinists will just deny that this appearance and feeling is real. They will say it’s a delusion or illusion. The problem is that this entails that God created a universe with a deceptive appearance. Everyone is a puppet of His, but He has caused us to believe that our actions are free. He pulls all the strings, but He has implanted in us belief that what we do is done of our own volition, and that we had the power to choose other than what we chose.
In fact, I would not shy away from arguing that belief in free will is a properly basic belief. I think most people innately believe that they’re free, just as they believe objective morality exists, and that the external world exists. It’s only the case that people stop believing in these things when a determinist, relativist, and solipsist respectively talk them out of it. Why would God deceptively form our minds like this? Why would he plant an innate belief in libertarian freedom if that did not reflect reality? It seems to me that if man isn’t truly free, then God is a deceiver, just as God is a deceiver if the starlight hadn’t been traveling for millions of years.
5: The FreeThinking Argument
This argument originated with apologist Tim Stratton, head of FreeThinking Ministries. The premises of the argument demonstrate both the existence of free will as well as the existence of the soul, and it indirectly points to the existence of God. So it simultaneously slays Calvinism and Atheism, at least if all of the premises are true. Stratton’s argument goes as follows
1- If naturalism is true, the immaterial human soul does not exist.
2- If the soul does not exist, libertarian free will does not exist.
3- If libertarian free will does not exist, rationality and knowledge do not exist.
4- Rationality and knowledge exist.
5- Therefore, libertarian free will exists.
6- Therefore, the soul exists.
7- Therefore, naturalism is false.
8- The best explanation for the existence of the soul is God.
Premises 1 and 2 seems obviously true to me. If Naturalism is true, then we’re just organic robots. If atheism is true, all there is is matter, energy, space, and time. There are no “souls” or “spirits”. Most atheists would agree with premise 1. In fact, I’d be shocked if I found one who thought there was a soul inside of his body or thought spirits existed. If this is the case, if we are not souls in bodies, then it follows that we’re just “molecules in motion” as Frank Turek likes to put it. If Naturalism/Atheism is true, we are nothing but automata. All of our movements, feelings, thoughts, and opinions are causally determined by electrochemical processes in our brains, molecules, and atoms bumping about, and other physical processes. “You” are a meat machine. As geneticist Francis Crick put it “Your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” 4
So if atheism is true, we don’t have souls, and if we don’t have souls, we don’t have free will. We’re just “molecules in motion”. What about premise 3? Is it true that “If libertarian free will does not exist, rationality and knowledge do not exist?” I think so! Tim Stratton, in his article “The Freethinking Argument In A Nutshell”, wrote “Premise (3) is equivalent with ‘if all things are causally determined, then that includes all thoughts and beliefs.’ If our thoughts and beliefs are forced upon us, and we could not have chosen better beliefs, then we are simply left assuming that our determined beliefs are good (let alone true). Therefore, we could never rationally affirm that our beliefs are the inference to the best explanation – we can only assume it. Here is the big problem for the atheistic naturalist: it logically follows that if naturalism is true, then atheists — or anyone else for that matter — cannot possess knowledge. Knowledge is defined as ‘justified true belief.’ One can happen to have true beliefs; however, if they do not possess warrant or justification for a specific belief, their belief does not qualify as a knowledge claim. If one cannot freely infer the best explanation, then one has no justification that their belief really is the best explanation. Without justification, knowledge goes down the drain. All we are left with is question-begging assumptions.”5
Given the truth of the 4 premises, steps 5-7 follow. Libertarian free will exists, therefore the soul exists, therefore naturalism is false.
As Stratton will tell you, this argument has 3 deductive conclusions and 1 inductive conclusion. The deductive conclusion is that naturalism is false, the inductive conclusion is an inference that God is the best explanation for why the human soul exists. An atheistic universe with spirits is implausible prima facie. It makes more sense to me to think that if souls exist, immaterial minds, then there was a “Mega Mind” that created all of them. Given that this article is pretty lengthy as it is, I won’t go any further into The FreeThinking Argument’s inductive conclusion than that.
This argument kills 2 birds with 1 stone. Those birds are named Atheism and Calvinism.
For a full, in depth defense of this argument, check out this 48 minute lecture by Tim Stratton. –> http://freethinkingministries.com/test-video-2/
1: When I say “most cases” I mean that there will be some instances in which only one choice will be available for us to choose from. Libertarians aren’t committed to the view that we must always in all circumstances be able to choose between alternatives. For example, if you jump off a building, clearly your only option is to fall to the ground. If a man snorts cocaine, he is addicted and now can do nothing but snort it unless either God miraculously frees him or rehab rehabilitates him. In the case of jumping off of buildings and additions, man cannot choose Non-A, but man can choose Non-A in many circumstances. Ken Keathley calls these “freedom permitting circumstances”. The circumstance before jumping off the building was a freedom permitting circumstance. The circumstance after you jumped off was not.
2: This does not apply to salvation. I am not a Pelagian. I believe man is free to either choose to receive Christ or to reject Him, but man must be given this ability by The Holy Spirit. Man must be given what Arminian theologians call “Prevenient Grace”. To see the biblical case for the doctrine of Prevenient Grace, see my blog post “What Biblical Evidence Is There For Prevenient Grace?” I believe man’s will must be freeD in order for him to come to Christ.
3: Richard Deem, from the online article “Appearance Of Age — A Young Earth Problem”, http://www.godandscience.org/youngearth/appearance.html
4: Francis Crick, The Astonishing Hypothesis, 1994 cited in Mariano Artigas, The Mind of the Universe: Understanding Science and Religion, Templeton Foundation Press, 2001 p. 11.
5: Tim Stratton, “The FreeThinking Argument In A Nutshell”, November 30th 2015, http://freethinkingministries.com/the-freethinking-argument-in-a-nutshell/
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This Post Has 31 Comments
You do realize that only 14% of contemporary philosophers believe in libertarian free will. It’s incoherent and there’s no empirical evidence for it except for our own subjective experience. But I can refute your subjective experience by saying that the only reason you feel free is because oh aren’t aware of the causes and influences that determine your actions. The reason free will is incoherent is that it says you can make choices that are free from your genes, life experience, environment, beliefs, desires, preferences, values, character, motivations, and emotions. But if your choices aren’t determined by anything about your mental nature then how would you even choose one thing over the other? In order to make a decision in a conscious reasoned fashion you have to exist with some principles of choice (I.e, beliefs, desires, etc…) to inform your choice. Now most libertarians will say that iurbchoices are partly determined by our mental nature but that part of the choice is free. If our mental nature only determines 50% of the choice, then the other 50% of the choice must be random or unexplained. Since nothing about the agent explains the rest of the choice. You are basically saying that the agent is the cause of itself. Which doesn’t make any sense. If an event is uncaused then it’s random, no?
1: Truth isn't a majority vote. It doesn't matter how many philosophers accept LFW. The arguments for free will still need to be discussed. Your response commits the bandwagon fallacy.
2: Nothing you said interacts with the positive arguments for LFW given in the article above. Which premise of The FreeThinking Argument do you reject and why do you reject it? I don't know if you're a Christian or not, if you are, then what do you say in response to the other 4 arguments? If you're not a Christian, then just deal with Stratton's FreeThinking Argument?
This is such an excellently written argument! Honestly, I'm kind of in awe. I was discussing free will with my roommate and when this showed up in the search bar, I was ecstatic to have such Biblically sound, factually based evidence to back up free will. Great job!
Two comments, first I believe that only believers have free will (John 8:34-36), so that would deal with the 1 Cor. 10:13 point. Secondly, “we love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19), so then our love is engendered by the love of God, and is not a free choice.
It’s true that 1 Cor 10:13 is directed to believers, so it cannot be used as an all encompassing proof text. Nevertheless, it’s one text in a cumulative biblical case. Secondly, that God loves us firs t. Your conclusion that our choice to love God isn’t free doesn’t follow that premise. It’s a total non-sequitor. That passage says nothing about whether we could resist or not resist The Holy Spirit (though Acts 7:51 says we can). All 1 John 4:19 says is that God was the initiator of our relationship with him, which I affirm wholeheartedly.
Regarding the moral accountability argument, one objection to premise 1 (accountability requires LFW) is that God holds us accountable for Adam’s sin even though we do not possess the LFW ability to resist the sin nature we inherited from Adam. As you say in footnote 2, you are not Pelagian so you agree that man must be given the ability to believe by prevenient grace. As I understand it, that is when God frees a person’s will to believe and resist sin, the genesis of their LFW (at least in regard to saving faith). I realize you drew a distinction in the footnote between salvation and other choices, but if it can be demonstrated that we are held accountable for even one non-libertarian choice, wouldn’t that undermine premise 1?
Specifically, wouldn’t you agree that prior to prevenient grace, man is unable to resist sin yet is still held accountable for that sin? I’m not sure if God actually holds us accountable for Adam’s sin, or rather Adam’s sin necessarily results in our own sin for which God holds us accountable. I lean toward the latter, but either way, it seem there is a point in time in which we are necessarily sinners, not yet enabled by God’s grace, and yet still accountable for the sin that we were unable to avoid committing in our pre-grace state. So if we are accountable for our sin prior to grace, does this undermine premise 1?
Secondly, do you agree that God is not obligated to give us prevenient grace? In my thinking that would contradict the common definition of grace – unmerited favor. Say God freely elected to withhold enabling grace to someone, would that mean that God could not hold them accountable for their sin? Does God have to give us a chance to believe before he is free to judge our sin? Paul seems to affirm God’s transcendent right to judge sin in Rom. 3:5-6. If so, doesn’t that also undermine premise 1?
The Scripture that comes to my mind in this discussion is Rom. 5:12-21. The reason that all sin without fail is because Adam sinned and death spread to all men (v.12). There are no LFW exception to this rule. LFW, if we possess it, must come later. Further, in Rom. 5 our accountability as sinners is not tied to our ability to choose otherwise, but rather to the fact that Adam sinned and we are thus sinners by nature prior to any potential LFW. Even if Adam had LFW (I think he did), it seems unfair for God to impose a consequence on Adam’s sin which also impacts all his descendants, but that seems to be the reality no matter how you slice Rom. 5. It may seem unfair but it is not God’s fault, but rather Adam’s. Granted, God is gracious and loving and it is consistent with his nature to show grace to us in our pitiful state, and He does. But even if we conceded that God does eventually give enabling grace and a freed (libertarian) will, that does not seem to negate the reality that accountability is possible prior to ability. What do you think?
I’m not arguing against LFW, I agree with the arguments of biblical assertion and appearance, though I think Calvinists have plausible (but unpersuasive) answers to those arguments. In fact I would like to hear your response to some of them (not covered in your SEA article) but I will limit my comments for now to this first argument in the interest of a focused discussion. Thanks in advance for considering my comments.
These objections to The Moral Accountability Argument depend upon a very specific view of Original Sin and The Federal Headship of Adam. I for one would agree with The Eastern Orthodox view that while Adam’s sinful nature is transferred to all, that isn’t to say that Adam’s GUILT is transferred to all. I find that to be something read into the text. I wrote a very brief article explaining my interpretation here —-> https://cerebralfaith.net/understanding-what-ter/
Secondly, I certainly agree that God is not OBLIGATED to extend grace to us. God DESIRES salvation for everyone (I think 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4, and a number of other passages make that clear), but He OES it to no one. But let’s say the ability to repent was not available. Could God not judge sin? If course. Just because one couldn’t receive forgiveness for some already committed does not mean that one couldn’t have refrained from committing those sins. A person God doesn’t draw could still have chosen not to rob the bank, for example.
I read your explanation of original sin and as I said in my last comment, I tend to lean in that same direction. I don’t see how the argument I presented “depends” on federal headship. My point was that either way, we agree that people sin without the ability to resist sin and can nevertheless be held accountable for that sin. Therefore, the absence of ability does not necessarily rule out accountability. Can you explain why this fact that we seem to agree on does not undermine premise 1 of the moral argument?
Secondly, you acknowledge that God can judge sin even if we are not able to repent, but your reason seems to be because we had LFW to refrain from committing sin. So we don’t have the ability to repent of sin but we did have the ability to refrain from sinning in the first place? That seems strange. I come back to Rom. 5:12. If we have a LFW prior to prevenient grace, why is it that 100% of people sin? If we had a LFW to refrain from sin, wouldn’t that require that some people never sin by exercising that ability?
I’m not following your reasoning. Either we have LFW prior to grace and therefore we don’t have to sin or we don’t have LFW prior to grace and we have to sin. It seems for the moral argument to stand, you have to conclude the former which doesn’t square with Rom. 5:12 – death spread to all men because all sinned.
First, if one denies that Adam’s guilt is imputed to all people, then the argument that God is holding people accountable for a sin they couldn’t help (i.e Adam’s) fails. That seemed to me to be the argument that you were making. But perhaps I misunderstood. Now, What do you mean by “we agree that people sin without the ability to resist sin”? I certainly wouldn’t agree with that, because not only do we intuitively realize that we don’t have to do the things that we do, 1 Corinthians 10:13 outright says otherwise. No temptation that overtaken us is so powerful that we have to give in. God gives us a way of escape. If we choose to sin, it’s because we chose not to take the way of escape. Hence, if we choose not to take the way of escape we are held accountable.
When you say “If we have a LFW prior to prevenient grace, why is it that 100% of people sin?” Are you asking why no one ever chooses to stop sinning completely? Are you asking why, if we have libertarian free will, why there hasn’t been a single person apart from Jesus who has chosen to live a sinful life? If this is the objection, then I would respond by saying that you’re commiting the fallacy of composition. This fallacy occurs when one makes an inference regarding the whole because of the property of some part. For example, one commits this fallacy when they infer that because every single part of an elephant is light in weight that therefore, the whole elephant is light in weight. This clearly doesn’t follow. While each part is light on their own, together they make one really heavy animal.
Just because it’s inevitable that we all will sin, that doesn’t mean that every single sin that comprises our spiritual rap sheet couldn’t have been avoided. Was it really inevitable that, say, on January 15th 2001 at 11:00pm that Bob had to sleep with his brother’s wife? Couldn’t he have chosen otherwise? Or was it inevitable that when Suzan failed her SATs, she took the Lord’s name in vain? Couldn’t she have freely chosen to say “Darn it!” or “Ah man!” in that particular instance? Couldn’t she have freely chosen to say “Darn it!” or “Ah man!” in that particular instance? Even though it was inevitable that some sins would occur throughout the lives of Bob and Suzan, I don’t think it follows that the particular sins comprising the collection of sins Bob and Suzan committed were inevitable. And so, God could hold Bob accountable for adultery and He could hold Suzan for taking His name in vain.
I didn’t realize you had responded to my comment until I checked back. Sorry for the delay. Yes, I think we are misunderstanding each other. I am not arguing that all sin is inevitable. I agree that believers who are indwelt by the Spirit of God possess the power to not sin as 1 Cor. 10:13 states. We are as Paul says in Romans 6, no longer slaves to sin. But this clearly implies that prior to our salvation, we were slaves to sin. That doesn’t mean that an unbeliever has to commit every particular sin he/she freely chooses to commit. We are free to choose which sins we want to commit, but we are not free to choose to submit to God until He enables us to do so. In fact, the unbeliever is in a continual state of sin by nature of their rebellious position before their creator. They are slaves to their sinful nature inherited from Adam such that they are by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3) and enemies of God (Rom. 5:10) and slaves to sin (Rom. 6:6). It is not until God graciously intervenes with revelation and illumination that we are enabled to “see the light” and choose to turn from that sin. We are not born neutral as Palageius taught, but rather sinners. At least that is how I understand the doctrine of sin. Maybe you see it differently.
I find your example of composition fallacy curious because it seems to fit your argument better than mine. You seem to argue that since we are free to choose whether or not to commit a particular sin (each part of the elephant is light) therefore we have LFW (the entire elephant is light). The point I am making is that whether or not we choose any particular sin, we are born by nature sinners because of Adam and the curse he invoked upon us all. The sinful choices we make are the result of our natural Adamic tendency to sin. We did not choose this sinful nature but inherited it from Adam. Yet, despite the absence of our freedom to choose whether we will be enslaved to sin, God holds us accountable for our sin. Therefore the moral argument for LFW does not stand.
Even if we assume that Adam’s guilt is not imputed to us, his nature and tendency toward sin is imputed. Since everyone does sin, this is strong evidence that we have to sin, not necessarily any particular sin, but we are doomed to a sinful life separated from our creator. This is the state in which God sovereignly determines us to enter this world so that all we can do is grope in the dark (Acts 17:26). Thankfully God does not leave us in this state but he would be just and right to condemn us even if he never gave us the ability to choose otherwise by prevenient grace. Otherwise God is obligate to give grace, and grace is no longer grace but duty.
If we do not have the ability in ourselves to resist sin and avoid our inevitable animosity toward our creator, yet are still accountable, then how can you say that our accountability implies ability to choose otherwise? It seems for the moral argument to stand, we must in our pre-grace state possess the ability to avoid all sin. Since no one does avoid all sin, we do not possess that ability apart from grace. If you did an experiment to determine whether some possess the ability to avoid all sin and you tested 100 billion people and 100% sinned, wouldn’t the data suggest that your hypothesis was incorrect?
I think we may be talking past each other because I am talking about our inability before God gives us grace and you are talking about our ability after God gives us grace (correct me if I am wrong). Let me ask the question this way: Does God have the right to condemn our sin before giving us the gracious ability to resist that sin? I am arguing that Romans 5:12 teaches that we are condemned to death as we sin (accountability), even before God sends us grace to believe and be saved from our sin. All sin so all die. We do not die because we had the ability to choose otherwise, we died because we sin and we sin because Adam sinned and gave us his nature. That’s what Rom. 5:12 says, IMO. Do you see the difference between saying that we inherit Adam’s infallible tendency to sin and saying that we inherit Adam’s guilt?
I am trying to understand your position on accountability. Do you believe we are not accountable for our sin until we possess the ability to choose otherwise? If so, that would mean that if one did not receive enabling grace they would not be condemned even though they sinned. Therefore it is not the sin of rebellion against God that condemns us but rather the sin of rejecting God’s grace once given. Do you agree with the Wesleyans that everyone receives enabling grace and that’s what makes us all accountable, or do some never receive enabling grace (e.g., Aztecs & Inca civilizations prior to Europeans bringing them the gospel)?
Sorry for the long response and asking so many questions. I think I asked you 5 questions. LOL Feel free to pick only one if you don’t have time for the others. I appreciate you taking the time to interact.
In Christ, Dana
You wrote \\\\”We are free to choose which sins we want to commit, but we are not free to choose to submit to God until He enables us to do so. In fact, the unbeliever is in a continual state of sin by nature of their rebellious position before their creator. They are slaves to their sinful nature inherited from Adam such that they are by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3) and enemies of God (Rom. 5:10) and slaves to sin (Rom. 6:6). It is not until God graciously intervenes with revelation and illumination that we are enabled to “see the light” and choose to turn from that sin. We are not born neutral as Palageius taught, but rather sinners.”\\\\ — I wholeheartedly agree! What are you describing is the Arminian view of Total Depravity and Prevenient Grace. We can’t come to Christ without God enabling us. However, God’s grace is not an irresistible force that compells repentance as the Calvinist maintains. One can and unfortunately many do, resist the calling of God’s Spirit and choose to remain in rebellion against their Creator (see Matthew 23:37, Acts 7:51).
I knew there would be concerns over this issue, which is why I linked to my article on Prevenient Grace in the second footnote.
You wrote \\\”The point I am making is that whether or not we choose any particular sin, we are born by nature sinners because of Adam and the curse he invoked upon us all. The sinful choices we make are the result of our natural Adamic tendency to sin. We did not choose this sinful nature but inherited it from Adam. Yet, despite the absence of our freedom to choose whether we will be enslaved to sin, God holds us accountable for our sin. Therefore the moral argument for LFW does not stand.”\\\ — You seem to conflate having a sin nature with being accountable to God. I do not hold that God holds us accountable for inheriting Adam’s sin nature, but he holds accountable on the basis of what we do with that nature, and what inclinations we choose to give into aren’t inevitable even though it’s inevitable that we will give into some sinful tendencies at some point. For example, a man may be predisposed to losing his temper, but God won’t hold him accountable unless he actually loses his temper. The argument would only work on the Augustinian notion that we don’t just inherit Adam’s nature, but we’re also held accountable for Adam’s sin, which I would dispute and which I do not find in Romans 5 or its paralel passage in 1 Corinthians 15.
You could, at most, make the argument that alienation from God is inevitable, but which particular sins alienate us are not. No one has to murder. No one has to steal. No one has to commit adultery. One might choose to steal, but He will be held accountable because he had the ability to choose not to steal. One might murder, and he will be held accountable by God because he had the ability to choose not to murder. The man who is held accountable by God for the sin of theft didn’t have to commit theft. The man held accountable by God for murder didn’t have to commit murder. Yet both may have commited other sins that separate them from God (which they also didn’t have to commit). The one who neither murders nor steals won’t have that charged to their account, but they might covet or commit adultery. And they did not have to covet or commit adultery. I hold that this would be the case even if God never extended anyone grace.
Now, that said, I DO hold that unless God gave prevenient grace to man, He could not hold him accountable for not accepting Christ as His savior. Why? Because he would have no ability to accept Christ. You cannot be held accountable over that which you have no control over. God might as well hold a man accountable for choosing not to sprout angel wings and fly! It would be like penalizing an armless man for not hugging you! It would be improper of God (not to mention illogical) to command a person to repent yet not give them any means TO repent. Yet we are told that “God calls ALL people EVERYWHERE to repent.” (Acts 17:30).
Thanks again for the reply. I’m glad you like my description of Total Depravity, but I am not arguing against that position. Nor am I arguing against LFW. I was questioning the moral accountability argument specifically. But I think we are getting closer to the heart of the issue. If I understand you correctly, you agree that because of our sin nature, everyone must sin in one way or another, but because God only condemns us for actual sins not our sin nature, and every actual sin is individually resistible, the moral accountability argument stands. Is that a fair summary?
You say I am conflating sin nature and accountability. I don’t consider it a conflation but rather a connection. Everyone with a sin nature sins and is therefore accountable. It is the sin itself that brings accountability, not the ability to do otherwise. God does not condemn us for our sin nature, but there is a direct causality between our sin nature and our actual sins which do invoke condemnation. The fact that everyone sins suggests that sin is unavoidable for everyone. If sin in general is unavoidable, how can God still hold us accountable? If we do not have freedom to avoid sin altogether, how can we be moral accountable for something that is inevitable? Yet we are both inescapably sinners and condemned nonetheless. This is why the moral accountability argument fails to prove LFW.
Let me offer an illustration to explain the problem as I see it. Say we are all born with the libertarian freedom to choose between sins A, B or C. We are each free to choose which sin we want, but because of our enslavement to sin we are not free to abstain from all three sinful choices, we will inevitable choose at least one. If the result of this enslavement is that we will be held accountable for the particular sin(s) we choose, because we could have chosen alternative sins, does the moral accountability argument still make sense? Expanding our sinful choices to A-Z would not change the problem. Compartmentalizing accountability to each individual sin is not an adequate solution, IMO. If that is what you are standing on, I guess we just disagree and should move on.
Let me summarize my position to be clear. Even before a sinner rejects God’s prevenient grace and the atonement which is available to him, he is condemned as a law breaker, despite the fact that it was inevitable that he would become a lawbreaker because of Adam’s sin. The fact that he could have chosen a different sin does not save the moral accountability argument. God holds sinners accountable for their actual sins even before they are enable to choose otherwise, through the work of grace which sets them free from their bondage to sin. Therefore our moral accountability does not prove LFW. I understand the logic behind the thinking that accountability implies ability but I think our accountability prior to God’s grace demonstrates that ability to choose otherwise is not a prerequisite for accountability. Even those who are never given grace to resist sin and sinned inevitably, are still held morally accountable for their sin.
To respond to your first paragraph; yes that is a fair summary.
In your second paragraph, I think the ability to do otherwise is absolutely why we are accountable. If someone tossed me out of a window and I landed on someone’s car in the parking lot below, should I be held liable to the damage I caused to the car? How could I be responsible? Could I resist the pull of gravity and fly back up to the second story window which I was thrown out of? Was it not someone’s else’s fault that I fell? If a judge knew all of these facts, would he not hold my aggressor accountable?
You continue to confuse being held accountable for sin (singular) and sins (plural). The latter would comprise things such a rape, murder, blasphemy, adultery, lust of the heart, etc. none of which when comitted HAD to be commited. If some irresistible force caused us to commit these individual crimes, and we had know way of stopping it, then I hold that God would be unjust in holding us accountable.
“Compartmentalizing accountability to each individual sin is not an adequate solution” — why though? If a man could have refrained from comitting murder, yet murders anyway, can’t he be held accountable for murder? And if an irresistible force (God’s causal power/decree, the sin nature, brain chemistry, or whatever) forced him to do what he did, how can he be to blame? Wouldn’t it be who or what caused him to commit the sin be the one to blame?
2 Corinthians 5:10 says “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” We are held accountable for what we do. And we can do otherwise. Murderers don’t have to murder. Adulterers don’t have to commit adultery. Blasphemers don’t have to blaspheme. Saul Of Tarsus, had he not come to Christ, would have been guilty of sin no matter what. But he didn’t have to be guilty of the specific sin of persecuting Christians. He could have chosen to leave the Christians alone. The disciple Peter would have been guilty of sin no matter what, but he didn’t have to be guilty of the sin of denying Christ three times. He could have chosen otherwise. If he couldn’t have chosen otherwise, I fail to see how he could be held responsible. In response to “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul could have said “Don’t blame me, Lord! My sin nature is making me do it!” or “Don’t blame me, it’s God’s eternal decree.” or “Don’t blame me. It’s not my fault the laws of physics and chemistry and making me move like this.”
To be responsABLE, you have to be ABLE to do otherwise.
Yes, those all sound like reasonable conclusions regarding how accountability works in our society. While I think I understand your argument (the reason we are accountable for sins prior to God’s grace is because we had LFW to abstain for each sin individually), I’m not sure you are acknowledging mine. Let me try once more to make my point more clearly:
Suppose God put you in a room full of temptations to sin. He endowed you with libertarian freedom to choose to resist those temptations individually, but He knew that you would eventually fall prey to multiple temptations. He knew this not only because He is omniscient but because He decided that you should inherit a sinful nature from Adam that rendered you incapable of remaining pure. You might not be as bad as you could be but you would most certainly sin and when you did sin, God fully intended to hold you accountable for that sin.
Essentially, God put you in an impossible experiment. While He gave you LFW to resist any particular sin, He did not give you the grace you needed to remain pure like he did for Adam. He set you up to fail (more so than Adam). This experiment shows that you need His grace, that we all fall short of His glory (Rom. 3:23). That’s a good thing. But the problem for the moral accountability argument is that God holds us accountable even though we never had a genuine chance to succeed. We were doomed from the start and it was by God’s design. He wants us to trust Him, not our LFW. He wants us to submit to His judgement of our sin not because it seems fair to us but because He is the Judge whether we are able to resist or not.
I agree with you that if God is the one “throwing us out the window”, then it would seem to make Him responsible for the damages (author of sin). But that is not what I am talking about. I’m not saying that God determines our sinful choices. I’m saying that God allowed us to enter this world with 3 strikes against us. We never had a chance and that’s the point. He wants us to know we need a Savior. We are not free to do right until He rescues us from our sinful state. We do not have a free will until He frees it. I think that’s why many Arminians prefer the term “freed will.” Prior to grace we do not have LFW and yet we are held accountable. That undermines the moral argument, IMO. I guess we disagree. I don’t want to belabor the point any further. I respect your view even though I disagree. I don’t think you are crazy or irrational. I just think it would be better to avoid that argument, IMHO.
Thank you for the excellent defense of LFW. I am convinced from the Bible and from life-realities (in that order) that LFW has to exist and does exist.
However, while I find the overall arguments very good, I do want to offer constructive criticism to the argument employed in number 4 (The Appearance of Free Will), in that you try to make a point by using the Young Earth Creationist as an illustration.
I freely admit to be a YEC, with a background as a medical doctor, coming to YEC position because of the Bible and life-realities (in that order). You argue that the YEC position makes God out as some kind of deceiver, but actually the opposite is true. This is probably the wrong article to argue this topic, but as I only stumbled on this website through other links, and am not familiar with this site, I will just shorten it into compact points here.
1. In essence, God gave us special revelation (the Bible), and general revelation (among others the cosmos around us). You are saying that if God created the Earth to look like billions of years old, while it is only thousands of years old, God would be a deceiver. I would argue that that’s not necessarily the case at all, for who is to say what a “thousands of years” universe ought to look like. In fact, if God says, yes SAYS, PROCLAIMS, in His SPECIAL REVELATION, the Bible, that He created the universe thousands of years ago, when He actually did it billions of years ago, then God would definitely be a deceiver.
2. The main rebuttal to number one would be that God did not mean what He says about the creation of the heaven and earth. Typically they would say that it’s just a poetic account of creation. What it actually means is that it’s fictional, untrue, and not historical. But, if we take the same standard, then proponents of Determinism can say that all the “appearance of Free Will” in the Bible, are just “appearances,” or “poetic” ways to present the situation, not true representations of existence of free will. Basically, throwing out the Genesis portions of the Bible out, means risking throwing the whole Bible out.
3. Some would argue that the Bible is not a history book and not meant to teach history, and therefore we can disregard the places the Bible seems to talk about history, including the history of the creation of the Earth. But we can do no such thing. Yes, the Bible is not primarily a history book, but if the Bible is God’s special revelation, then the Bible has to be correct whenever it touches upon history. In fact the totality of Christian faith is dependent upon the accuracy of the history contained in the Bible. Is the birth, life, crucifixion, death, and RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ, mere illustrations, poetic expressions, mythological teaching tools? Or are they true events of God’s intervention in history? No true Christian can deny the historicity of the Bible. To make “fiction” some of the Bible’s history and to cling to other parts of it is compromise, folly, and very dangerous.
4. I don’t know of any YEC that argues “the earth is thousands of years old but looks like billions of year old.” The YEC argues that the Earth looks young. There are many scientific indicators for a young Earth. Determining the exact age of the Earth, scientifically, is not easy, for there are many indicators and variables, many of them conflicting. Many scientists do see a young Earth in the data. Of course many atheistic, anti-God, “scientists” vehemently deny such things, and will only interpret that raw data to fit their secular viewpoint. Do not be under the illusions that these scientists have no bias or that their biases do not permeate their conclusions.
In conclusion, I trust God’s special revelation to be true. God will not deceive me there. That’s why I believe in LFW, because God says I have a choice. No amount of “philosophy” or “science” or whatever else will persuade me that God will deceive me when He says that I have a choice to make.
Blessings to you.
I don’t think YEC inherently makes God a deceiver, just the appearance of the age argument. And I’ve heard PLENTY of YECs make that claim. I am surprised you haven’t run into it. But perhaps you read YEC scholars who know better than to made that rediculous move. Not every YEC makes it.
First, you said \\”who is to say what a ‘thousands of years’ universe ought to look like.”\\ — The answer is math! If it takes one year for 1 centimeter of a river to erode, and yet you have a river that has carved a trench 1,000 MILES thick, you don’t have to be a mathematician to know that it would take more than 6,000 years to happen. This is a hypothetical example of course, but there are many examples in the natural world in which the growth rate of something, X, is known, and it is determined that for X to have to grown to the extent it has, the Earth would have needed to have been around much longer than 6,000 years. You can check these out in any science textbook on geology, cosmology, astrophysics, etc. Especially when it regards to terrestrial origins. This is in fact where appearance of age advocates come in to say “No, no. God could have created the world with these things already present”.
Secondly, while it is true that many evolutionary creationists (like Peter Enns) take the creation account of Genesis to be non-historical, a great many old earth and evolutionary creationists take the account of Genesis 1, 2, and 3 to be just as historical as you do. We don’t interpret the accounts in exactly the same way, but we agree that the events happened. We may disagree on how long the creation days were (Hugh Ross) or whether it was even about material origins at all and is instead an account of assigning functions to everything within a 7 day period of God inaugurating the cosmos to be His cosmic temple (e.g John Walton, myself, Michael Jones of Inspiring Philosophy). We may disagree whether Adam and Eve were actually created de novo (see my blog post “Why There’s No Conflict Between Evolution and A Historical Adam” and John Walton’s book “The Lost World Of Adam and Eve”), but we agree that there was an Adam and Eve who introduced sin and death to the entire human race. Of course, you need not even dispute the de novo creation of Adam and Eve, as S. Joshua Swamidass argues in his upcoming book “The Genealogical Adam and Eve”. So since I take Genesis 1-11 historically, and not a divinely approved myth, this objection carries no weight with me.
Regarding your third point, I wouldn’t disagree. You seem to think that if one rejects YEC, then they must interpret the creation account non-historically. But even a cursory reading of Old Earth Creationist and Theistic Evolutionist material shows that that is patently false. Hugh Ross, John Walton, Michael Heiser, S. Joshua Swamidass, Myself, Inspiring Philosophy, Tremper Longman III, and a host of other old earth Christians affirm the historicity of Genesis 1, the account of Adam and Eve, the fall, the Nochaic flood, and The Babel event.
Finally, you said \\” Many scientists do see a young Earth in the data. Of course, many atheistic, anti-God, “scientists” vehemently deny such things, and will only interpret that raw data to fit their secular viewpoint. Do not be under the illusions that these scientists have no bias or that their biases do not permeate their conclusions.”\\ — You have to account for why so many scientists who are THEISTS (which according to various polls make up around 25-33% of the scientific community) accept the ancient age of the universe. These scientists have no naturalistic bias. Indeed, not only are the open to supernatural causes, they believe the biblical miracles occurred. They affirm that God created the universe ex nihilo and raised Jesus from the dead. And yet, many of these scientists (Francis Collins, Dennis Venema, Aaron R. Yilmaz, Deborah Haarsma, S. Joshua Swamidass, Hugh Ross, Leslie Wickman, just to name but a few) accept the widely established 14 billion year age of the universe. The argument that “Oh, they just see an ancient universe because evolution requires it, and evolution has to be true because we can’t let God into the picture” just doesn’t work.
In his book “Deliver Us From Evolution?” Aaron Yilmaz wrote of the absurdity of the “White Coat Conspiracy” argument. He said
Yilmaz, Aaron R. Deliver Us From Evolution?: A Christian Biologist’s In-Depth Look at the Evidence Reveals a Surprising Harmony Between Science and God (Pages 50-51). Sehnsucht Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Thank you for your response and interaction.
First, let me clarify the YEC claim about the world created with age. YEC, (and actually all creationists should by logic), believe that the universe was created with an appearance of AGE already. We do not however, say that the universe was created with an appearance of OLD AGE. Perhaps I misinterpreted your original point, but I do not know YECs that say the earth was created to look like billions of years old. Now, of course YECs all agree that the earth was created with some appearance of age, just not billions of years of appearance of age.
Logically this is true. For instance, let’s take Adam. I think you quoted someone who said something about we not having the body of Adam to really study it. But we don’t need the body of Adam, we know from the Bible that Adam was created an adult. Which means, that on the very day of Adam’s creation, he has an age of one day, but he looks like an adult. Now, he does not have to look OLD, but he does have some appearance of age.
The same with the universe as a whole. How do the Big-Bangers come up with 15 billions of years? To greatly simplify, they surmise that the universe is expanding today (which might be true based on red-shift, etc.), and so they rewind back. They keep rewinding back and calculating the size of the universe billions of years ago based on the rate of expansion today. But because they don’t believe in creation, they have no stopping point. They have to keep rewinding back to the point of ??? Well, until everything is a “singularity” (whatever that is) smaller than an atom, and they postulate about things that happen in a “singularity” which do not correspond to any real physics whatsoever. I hope you see how ridiculous the whole thing is.
Now, let’s see about the “math” that you mentioned. I am quite familiar with the concept of extrapolating into the past, based on the present speed of things. Several things here:
a. Like I mentioned, there are quite a lot of things that using this extrapolation method, requires a young Earth. I don’t know the policy of linking outside resources for this website, but for instance: https://creation.com/age-of-the-earth (hundreds of metrics indicating impossibility of billions of years of timeframe). Among others: rate of human population growth, which fits the biblical timeframe instead of millions of years, short-cycled comets, helium in zircons, etc. Even erosion. With the current rate of erosion, in millions of years, all the continents should have been eroded away. So many others.
b. Just because the rate of a process can be measured today, it does not mean that the rate was uniform throughout the ages. Also, scientists have no way of knowing about special events that can occur to mess up all the rates involved. How long does it take for a river to carve a canyon? We can presume a flat rate based on what we observe today, but that can be very wrong if something special happened. Such as what? Well, how about a world wide flood. This is just like the question: the lit candle is being consumed at a rate of 5 cm / hour. Now you can observe 10cm of candle left, how long ago was the candle lit? To answer this question, not only must we assume a constant rate, but also assume how long the candle was originally (which has something to do with the appearance of age, etc)! What if some catastrophic event happened, like someone slicing parts of the candle off? Math can never take these into considerations! And that’s exactly why the matter of the age of the Earth will never be a question of math only! If only it were that simple.
c. That’s not to say the math and the metrics are useless. They are quite useful, as circumstantial evidence. But as in any court of law, circumstantial evidence can never trump clear, credible eyewitness accounts. The weight and value of an eyewitness account is great. The more credible and trustworthy the witness account, the more value it has. In fact, we have in the Word of God, an infallible Witness about How the Universe was Formed, and How long ago, and Who did it, and many other details. We have to view the Circumstantial evidences in the light of this ABSOLUTE eyewitness accout, not the other way around.
Subsequently, you say that you take the Genesis account as history. I am very glad that you do. Nonetheless, I do not see how you can do that and arrive at billions of years old. As an example, you say that we agree the events happened, but may disagree on the length of the days. Wait a second. Can we say that we agree Jesus died, was buried for three days, and then rose again, but we may disagree about the length of the days? You know, maybe it was a day-age. Maybe it’s actually three thousand years afterward that Jesus rose (after all 1 day = 1000 years right? Right?), or three months. We would think this as silly. The same applies. Part of agreeing about what happened is the time frame that God says it happened. What can be clearer than Exodus 20:11 “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Furthermore, God did not merely “assigned functions” in those six days. He created. He made. He spoke and things came into existence. If words mean anything at all, that’s the only conclusion we can come to. We depend on the accuracy of the WORDS of Scripture to build doctrines, such as LFW. If God said that we are to choose between two alternatives, we conclude that God has not predetermined beforehand that choice. That’s why we don’t believe the Bible teaches determinism. Words matter. The Bible specifically said that God CREATED the heaven and the earth in those six days. The order of creation is also important and makes any compromise with evolution impossible. For the plants and trees were created before the sun, moon and stars, an impossibility if the days were ages long (and yes, God created the sun on the fourth day, not merely announced its existence). Yes, the order of sequence as stated in Scripture is important, for do we not argue that Scripture teaches men believe first, and then become regenerated into the family of God (for instance John 1:12), and not as the Calvinists believe that men are regenerated first, and then believe? Wildly different conclusions arise out of this question of which one first! Or should we be concerned about sequences when dealing with certain doctrines only, and not when it earns us ridicule from the “scientific world”? If words mean anything at all…..
To put it another way, let us not only believe that God created, but let us believe what God said about HOW and HOW LONG He created.
Neither can we, I believe, take Genesis seriously and historically, and at the same time believe organic evolution, especially of humans from primates. Not only is this evolutionary notion totally bereft of any proof, but it is patently unblibical. How can death and suffering come into the world through the fall of Adam, if in fact various animals, so-called neanderthals even, had been born, died, became extinct, etc., for millions of years before? The Bible informs us of a world of perfection, a world of peace, a world of no defect, thorns, disease, conflict, before Adam fell. But theistic evolution would picture a world already red in tooth and claw long before there was even an “Adam.” These are things that cannot be just swept under the rug. And to abandon the clear teaching of the Bible for what?? A bag of lies. As someone with the medical sciences as my background, I can personally say that science does not support the notion that one major kind of animal can turn into another, reptiles into birds, or apes into humans. The evolutionists cannot even make a theoretical pathway of how this would happen! Which genes have to turn into what other genes? Which bodily organs would first have to add what function and lose what function? How will the necessary enzymes and proteins be formed? There is no viable pathway. And they say this is science? Wild conjectures and mere assertions. The more we know about biochemistry, protein, DNAs, living cells, the more impossible evolution become. Evolution is more impossible today than when Darwin first speculated it.
As for whether or not there is bias in science, I will only briefly say that as with anything human, there has to be a bias. I myself have not been persecuted scientifically, but that’s partly because I do not work in the Western hemisphere. But I have two personal friends, both Ph.Ds working in universities in a western country, who told me that if it be known by their colleagues that they believe in creation, then they will face huge troubles. The Bible warns us to “avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called.” I love science. But I believe that God’s Word is the key to true science, not the other way around.
Blessings to you and may we ever draw closer to the truth.
If you can’t name a single young earth creationist who doesn’t say the universe wasn’t created with ancient age, then you clearly haven’t done a lot of reading nor have you spent any amount of time in social media groups where the age of the Earth is debate among Christians. J.W Wartick writes “Young Earth Creationists (hereafter YEC or YECs) sometimes make the claim that the reason the universe is found to be so ancient by modern science is because it merely appears to be that old. I myself actually held to this view for a while when I was holding young earth creationism in tension with the evidence I observed.” (From the article “Do Young Earth Creationists Advocate Appearance Of Age?” — https://jwwartick.com/2014/10/20/age-appears/).
In the book “Three Views on Creation and Evolution” published by Zondervan, the YECs in this book–Paul Nelson and John Mark Reynolds–do indeed defend the position of the “appearance of age.” Here’s a quote:
“Some suggest God could have created starlight in transit to the earth. Perhaps most of cosmic history is apparent rather than actual. (page 52”
Initially this may not seem like a claim of “appearance of age,” but the authors go on to defend the plausibility of this “apparent” cosmic history and age of the universe:
“…[Perhaps] God needed such a[n ancient appearing] creation to sustain life on earth. It might be necessary to have the universe the size and shape that it is in order for life on this planet to survive… God would have no real motive to ‘actualize’ most of cosmic history… ‘Apparent’ history in the mind of God could not be any different than ‘actual’ history… He would gain a fully functioning universe, but without the ‘waste of time’ needed to actualize the less interesting parts. (52-53)”
From these quotes, it is obvious that Nelson and Reynolds are defending the notion of apparent age.
In the article by Wartick, Wartick goes on to show the problems with such a postulation; primarily that it makes God into a deceiver. Indeed, I’ve argued elsewhere that such a concession would destroy science entirely! If God would create the universe with the appearance of a history that it never endured, what other false things has He put in creation? Do stars even exist at all? Maybe God just makes it look like there are stars in the sky every time night falls, and maybe he makes images of stars appear in the eyes of astronomers when they look through their telescopes and when space-based telescopes take pictures. Why not? If God could create the universe with an “appearance of age”, why couldn’t He have created the universe with an appearance of stars? Maybe there are no such things as germs. Maybe God just makes it look like germs exist when biologists look through a microscope. Why draw the line at God making the universe with an appearance of being billions of years old?
It’s little wonder why YECs get accused of being anti-science. This thinking, when followed out consistently, utterly destroys the entire scientific enterprise.
I don’t think The Bible actually does claim Adam was created a full-fledged adult (see my article “Why There’s No Conflict Between Evolution and A Historical Adam”), but even if I were to grant that, there’s a difference between made in an advanced state and is made with an appearance of false history. For example, Adam was made as a full-fledged adult. But do you think he had acne scars from teenage years he never lived? Worn teeth from the food he never ate? Did he have a belly button from an umbilical cord he was never attached to? If a scientist examined Adam’s body, he would be completely justified in concluding Adam had endured a 30-year life. BUT, and he’s a very important distinction, unlike the cosmos, Adam could correct the scientist. The universe can’t say to the atronomer “I know it looks like I’ve been here for billions of years, but I’ve really only been here for thousands.” But Adam would be fully capable of correcting someone on his true age. And don’t go for the example of Jesus turning water into wine example either, as YECs are prone to do. Everyone was present and knew that the delicious wine wasn’t as old as it tasted. They witnessed Jesus make aged wine in an instant. So these biblical examples are really disanalgous with what YECS like Paul Nelson and John Reynalds claim God did when He created the universe.
It’s not my purpose to convince anyone of an old earth or evolution. My goal whenever I talk about this is to show that one can be a biblically faithful Christian AND also accept what mainstream science says about origins. So, a debate on which view of origins the science favors is not something I’m interested in doing. That said, I will point out that I find it what you say for points A and B are completely contradictory. You say certain extrapolations of natural rates REQUIRE a young earth, but yet you also say that we can’t assume rates were uniform throughout history. So if you can’t rely on, say, the speed of light to be uniform so we can reliably determine that a star is millions of light-years away, how can you make the claim that some things don’t happen at a rate consistent with an ancient Earth?
You said \\”That’s not to say the math and the metrics are useless. They are quite useful, as circumstantial evidence. But as in any court of law, circumstantial evidence can never trump clear, credible eyewitness accounts. The weight and value of an eyewitness account is great. The more credible and trustworthy the witness account, the more value it has. In fact, we have in the Word of God, an infallible Witness about How the Universe was Formed, and How long ago, and Who did it, and many other details. We have to view the Circumstantial evidences in the light of this ABSOLUTE eyewitness accout, not the other way around.”\\ — Well that’s all good and well if Genesis 1 were meant to be an eyewitness account of natural history. But, I have an entire series of blog posts making the case that it isn’t. But you don’t have to read the whole series. Just one post will do. — “The Cosmic Temple View Of Genesis One” –> https://cerebralfaith.net/the-cosmic-temple-view-of-genesis-one/
This not only makes the case that the 7 days are God inagurating the cosmos as His temple, but that what it means for God to “Create” (Hebrew – Bara) does not always mean in its Ancient Near Eastern context what it means to our modern, western, 21st century minds. Indeed, when you not only understand how Bara is used, how the ancients understood ontology (what it means for something to exist, and ergo what it means to create something), you come away with a very different understanding than what is commonly taught from the pulpit. And how the original audience would have understood the passage (and especially the author) is the most important, wouldn’t you agree? Now, you can’t get to an old earth or evolution from this, but it is certainly compatible with an old earth and evolution. I affirm with Galileo that the purpose of The Bible is not to tell you how the heavens go, but how to go to Heaven. Jesus Christ is our high priest, not our science teacher.
Finally, what about animal death? There is an article on this website that debunks the claim that The Bible precludes any death of any kind prior to the fall. –> https://cerebralfaith.net/why-pre-fall-death-isnt-problem-for-old/
Well, out of all your reply, I find this to be quite revealing:
“Well that’s all good and well if Genesis 1 were meant to be an eyewitness account of natural history.”
I submit that Genesis 1 is an eyewitness account of what happened. I don’t care if you label it “natural history” or whatever. God told us what happened. That’s what an eyewitness account is.
I was encouraged when you say that you believe the Genesis accounts to be historical, but then you straightaway deny that it’s a real eyewitness account! And herein lies the crux of the matter, which no arguments from me can solve. One cannot believe in YEC unless one is willing to believe that God means what He says, about HOW He created the World, and HOW LONG ago He created the World. If God created humans from lower animals through evolution, it’s very easy for God to say so, but He did not say so.
Virtually all Bible students from centuries ago, before Darwin and Lyell, et al., took Genesis 1 as historical eyewitness account. All the other theories about Genesis 1 that have sprung up after that are constructed to accommodate the atheistic billions of years and evolution.
You said that Adam could have corrected scientists who thought he was years old, even though he was only days old. And the universe cannot speak up to correct scientists today. That’s true. But do you know who can? God can. God can speak up and say: no, actually the universe is only seven days old now, I created it seven days ago.
I wonder if God were to ever speak up like that, where would He speak? Hmmm…, maybe His Word?
It is not with joy, but great sadness, that I think on how Christians who believe in billions of years, and evolutionary compromises, will one day stand before God. And God will ask them: why didn’t you believe that I created the world in six days? Well, I thought you didn’t mean it, I thought it was just poetic license, I thought it’s mere illustrations…
Let’s imagine for one moment, that God really did create the world in six days. What would God have to say in His Word, to tell us that? “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” (Exo. 20:11). Is this proclamation not enough?
About the appearance of age, like I said, YECs agree there is appearance of age, just that not necessarily OLD AGE. About the starlight problems, the “light created in transit” view is only one solution, and not all YECs hold to that. There are several other solutions.
When I say that certain metrics requite a young earth, I was using the atheistic argument that assumes uniformitarianism against the them. That is, if you assume rates are constant for your “old-age” metrics, then let’s asssume the same for “young-age” metrics. But in reality, like I said, any such metrics can only be used as circumstantial and secondary to an eyewitness account, which God provided.
I will not affirm Galileo, but instead I will affirm what Jesus Christ said: “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?” (John 3:12). It is true that the Bible is not a science book, but if the Bible is God’s Word, then whenever it touches science and history, it would not be wrong.
This is probably my last post on this subject. I know how hard it is to move when one is entrenched in a position already. I myself was taught and imbibed evolution before I was saved, but praise God that He opened my eyes to the truth of the Bible. I will say thank you again for the good post on LFW. May God work in our hearts, that we will use the free will He has given us, to seek always after the truth.
Yes, everyone took Genesis 1 to be historical, but it’s not correct that they all held to the account of 7-days of creation. Some held the day-age view. Augustine held the Framework Hypothesis, but, ironically, not to stretch out God’s creative activity, but to compress it. He reasoned that 144 hours was too long for an omnipotent God to take creating things, so he adopted the Framework Hypothesis and asserted that God made everything instantaneously.
Your second point presupposes a lot of assumptions; (A) that the calendar day interpretation of Genesis 1 is correct rather than The Day-Age, Framework, or Cosmic Temple Inauguration views, and (B) that the genealogies are complete. But if these two assumptions are challenged, then the “Well, God corrected us.” argument falls apart. I challenge both of those assumptions of many articles on this website. I encourage you to check them out.
\\”YECs agree there is appearance of age, just that not necessarily OLD AGE. About the starlight problems, the “light created in transit” view is only one solution, and not all YECs hold to that.”\\ — But the light-in-transit argument IS an assertion of appearance of OLD AGE. It appears as though starlight from millions of lightyears away has been traveling millions of years to get us (that is what a light year is after all – the distance light traverses in a year). So if one says God created many stars millions of lightyears away, but created their light with most of the distance already traversed, that JUST IS to say that God created the universe with an appearance of old age. God made a universe where it looks as though the light has been traveling for millions of years.
And here’s the thing: God didn’t have to do that. God didn’t have to make light from some galaxy or star 25 million light-years away be visible from Earth. There’s just no reason for that.
By the way, you get no points taking John 3:12 out of context. Jesus wasn’t affirming concordist hermeneutics. He was referring to his parables in a conversation with Nicodemus. Specifically regarding his statement that a man must be born again before he can enter the kingdom of God.
\\”It is true that the Bible is not a science book, but if the Bible is God’s Word, then whenever it touches science and history, it would not be wrong.”\\ — But why think God’s purpose would be to reveal scientific truths to an ancient audience? Indeed, interpreting The Bible in its ancient context, you get a very different picture of the cosmos. Maybe God chose to accommodate His message to an ancient scientific understanding. I encourage you to check out this article on ANE cosmology and its place in the Biblical text. –> https://henrycenter.tiu.edu/2018/09/teaches-or-assumes-ancient-near-eastern-cosmology/
Truth is truth. God’s purpose is to reveal truths, not un-truths. We don’t need to play one kind of truth against another kind. There is trouble when we do that.
It’s just like when the SJWs talk about “social justice.” When you start to add modifiers like “social” to a clear concept like “justice” you end up with the opposite of justice.
Therefore, a lot of people use the term “scientific truth” to basically say God told a lie. “God did not give a scientific truth.” Good one. So God gave a “scientific falsehood” then.
I never can figure out the argument that “God accomodates His message to an ancient scientific understanding.” What would be so hard for the “ancient” mind to understand, if God had said:
a. I created the universe using a long, long time, periods of uncountable time.
b. I created the sun first, and then the earth
c. I created the Earth from pieces of the same material as the sun.
d. I created humans from the animals, changing them little by little into humans.
e. I created the animals from other lower animals, changing them little by little.
f. There were death and suffering in this world long before I created humans from said animals.
The ancient mind would have perfectly understood those, and a lot of ancient mythologies do incorporate many such elements. And, these would have been accurate, if EVOLUTION and BILLIONS of years were true.
But God did not say those. God said He created heaven and earth in six days. Very clearly said that. And He said He created humans not from animals, but distinctly, from the dust of the earth. The choice is simple. Either God said the truth or God did not say the truth. It’s a gimmick to say, God said the “truth” just not “scientific truth.” Truth is truth.
I have challenged many evolutionists, who identify as Christians, just like I said in my previous post. Imagine that God did create the universe in 6 days. Just imagine that. How would God have communicated that in His Word? What should be different than what is recorded now? I have received no answer from any “Christian” evolutionists as of today.
This shows, that in their minds, they have already ruled the “young earth” scenario off from the very start.
I have perused some of the links and other portions of this website. I find that many times to arrive at your conclusions, you have to perform amazing feats of interpretive/exegetical gymnastics.
I get the same impressions just like when I read Calvinists trying to get Limited Atonement from the Unlimited Atonement passages. Sure they have lots of arguments, and can somehow conjure up “Aha, so this passage does not necessitate Jesus really died for all mankind.” I get the very same vibe here: “Aha, so this passage does not necessitate a literal six days.” To me, the arguments are unconvincing, forced, and ultimately not driven by anything found in Scripture, but by a philosophy to harmonize Scripture with the prevailing “scientific” notion of the hour.
If any of the above sounds uncharitable, I apologize. My aim is not to berate, but just to try to strongly present the truth.
Since I feel I am coming closer to understanding your views on the moral argument for LFW, I would like to shift to the genuine love argument. I agree with your Biblical assertion/implication argument. Honestly, I think that should be sufficient. But I often hear Arminians use this genuine love argument and like the moral accountability argument, I find it lacking. Specifically, the syllogism you present is a gross oversimplification of a very complex human action – love. Love is certainly a choice, but it is a very complex choice based on many factors. I believe love is libertarian, but why must love either be libertarian or robotic? Your syllogism presents a false dichotomy (I hope I am using that term correctly).
Anyone can see that your robotic example is not real love, but that’s because it is a straw man. No Calvinist I know thinks that our love for God is robotic. You like many Arminians think that is the necessary implication of determinism but that is only one possibility. I’m sure you are familiar with compatibilism. I think I’ve read one of your articles on the subject, but I do not recall the specifics of your critique. Compatibilists agree that we are physically free to choose otherwise but it is certain which choice we will make because our choices are governed not by what we “can” do but by what we “want” to do (and God determines our “want to”).
The question is, how does He do that? If God persuades us to see the value of a particular choice, it is certain we will make that choice because we are compelled by the choices’ virtue. If we choose otherwise, it means we were not sufficiently persuaded. If Satan persuade us to love an idol, we make that choice because we are persuaded that idol will fulfill a felt need. According to the Compatibilist, the reason we love God is because He opens our eyes to see how lovable He is. A love which is compelled by reasons is actually more meaningful that one that is simply chosen because we were free to do so.
Let me use your example of a marriage relationship (without the straw robot). If I told my wife that I loved her simply because I just decided to do so and it was my libertarian choice, she would not be impressed. But if I told her that I was so compelled by her beauty and moral virtues and excellence of character that I felt I had no other choice but to love her, that would be far more meaningful.
Or consider the example of the Trinitarian love of the Father, Son and Spirit. Each person of the godhead is so utterly perfect in character, it is impossible for one to choose to not love the other persons of the Trinity. They do not possess the ability to choose otherwise in a moral sense (any more than they have the ability to lie). They are omnipotent so they may possess the physical ability (I use the term loosely) but it is certain that the Father will love the Son and vice versa. This certainty and absence of alternative possibility, in nowise reduces the meaningfulness of Trinitarian love.
As I said, when we love, it is certainly a choice, but it is an informed choice. We love God because we are made aware of His love for us and His supreme virtue. We love our neighbor as our self because we are commanded to do so and because we are indebted to Christ our Savior who commands us. We love our enemies for the same reason and perhaps also out of pity, empathy and compassion. But there are always reasons for our love. We do not love arbitrarily or simply because we choose to do so. In every case we are compelled by reasons either good or bad. The more compelled we are the more powerful the love. Your syllogism suggests the opposite.
Arminians agree that our choices are certain in that they are foreknown by God. The difference is that Arminians deny that God’s foreknowledge or decree determines our choices. Compatibilists if pressed are forced to acknowledge that God determines our choices, but He does so not in a robotic programming sense but in a persuasive, relational, transformational, loving sense. After all, God is not compelling us to do something bad, he is helping us to see the truth. He is setting us free, not enslaving us. In a sense we are slaves to God as Paul says in Romans 6, but even that is a good thing, not a bad thing, because the alternative is slaves to sin. That is where He found us.
I don’t agree with the compatibilist view of freedom, but I understand how it could work. God awakens our dead hearts (they say before we believe, we say after we believe) and then God informs our hearts such that our choice becomes obvious and inevitable. He knows us perfectly so He knows perfectly all our objections and hangups from faith. God certainly has the power to do so and it seems perfectly loving and good (at least toward those who receive this grace).
This is poor analogy but the movie Groundhog Day comes to mind. Bill Murray tries to compel the woman he loves to love him, but he fails again and again. At first it seems you are right, true love cannot be compelled. But through trial and error, he gets to know her and learns what she needs and is passionate about. He learns how to reach her heart. He also grows personally and changes his character from a self-involved egomaniac to a caring and gifted human being that everyone in town loves easily. The analogy is poor because God never changes or improves and never needs to learn. We are the ones who need to change. He also is not desperate for our love like Murray. But I guess that is the point. God doesn’t have to force us to love Him or pursue our love desperately, He is already supremely lovable. All He has to do is open our eyes to see what we have been missing – to see that He is the love of our lives, the One we have been longing for all this time, yet never knew it even though He was right under our nose. Groundhog Day is a good love story but God’s love story toward us is in its own category.
Love is a far more wonderful and complex action that your simple syllogism allows. I for one am glad, even as I affirm LFW.
I attacked no straw man in my argument. I simply pointed out the logical implications of determinism. You, like so, so many other people conflate “The view says” with “The view entails”. (See my aritlce “The Importance Of Distinguishing A View From Its Entailments). If I was saying that the divine determinist/Calvinist’s position was that our love for God and each other was robotic, that would be a straw man argument. But that’s not what I said. I argued that what Calvinists DO say regarding divine determinism logically entails that love doesn’t exist because true love requires genuine freedom. Now, the Calvinist can dispute that point. He can try to argue “No, I don’t think my view entails that”, but neither he nor you can legitimately accuse me of attacking a straw man.
As for compatiblism, it’s just “determinism with extra steps” as one of my friends in the Molinism – Official Page Facebook group put it. You said \\”compatibilists agree that we are physically free to choose otherwise but it is certain which choice we will make because our choices are governed not by what we ‘can’ do but by what we ‘want’ to do (and God determines our ‘want to’).”\\ — but we cannot do otherwise. We can only do what we want. and we can only do what God caused us to want. I fail to see how this is different from programming a robot to *want* to carry out a certain action which he then proceeds to carry out.
If determinism (of any stripe) is true, then true love doesn’t exist. The “persuasion” you talk about is far from what happens on determinism. God doesn’t, on determinism, woo us to Himself by showing us how lovely it is and how great it would be to be in a relationship with him. Rather, I would agree with Tim Stratton that how God gets us to love Him on the Calvinistic view is more similar to Stockholm Syndrom.
In his article “Harley Quinn + The Joker = True Love?”, Tim Stratton wrote
The way that you describe love as an “informed choice” is more consistent on an Arminian view than on a Calvinist view. So the Arminian view is the one analagous to the situation in Groundhog Day whereas Suicide Squad is a better analogy for Calvinism. God knows what would invoke a free choice to love Him, and therefore can choose to actualize a feasible in which we find ourselves in just such circumstances. If Bill Murray’s character had middle knowledge like God, he wouldn’t have had to repeat that day over and over and over again. He’d know what circumstances *would* freely invoke a free love response out of the woman *if* he did them. It would be a short movie, but it would have a happy ending.
That was my point. God knows what will compel us to love Him. That is not robotic. I think Groundhog Day is analogous to compatibilist love. Here’s why: Murray was very manipulative and forceful, but he learned that he couldn’t program her, he had to open her eyes to see that he was a different man than she thought. Likewise, in compatibilism, God does not force us to love him but simply opens our eyes to the truth. Was Andie MacDowell (Rita) free to reject Phil’s advances? Physically, yes, but perhaps his charisma was ultimately so compelling she finally “fell” for him. Even if she did have the LFW to ultimately say no to him, the sense of the movie is that they were meant to be together and this was fate’s way of making it happen. The movie seems more deterministic than libertarian, not that that matters, I’m just explaining why I disagree with your assertion that it fits better with Arminianism.
For the movie to be more libertarian or Arminian, Rita would have to deliberate at the very end and make a free will decision while seriously considering the alternative choices. Her choice would be the focus rather than Phil’s efforts. Instead she seems to swoon and fall for him almost against her will (better judgement). Her only struggle is trying to make sense out of the conflicting information. She thought he was a jerk but now she was seeing a different person.
You seem to be stuck with a definition of compatibilism that is robotic. Since that is how you see it, of course Groundhog Day is not robotic, therefore it cannot be analogous to compatibilism. But your conclusions are biased. Do you see that?
I’m not familiar with Harley Quinn but that does sound awful. Again, it seems like an easy analogy to knock down. I get your point about the distinction between what a view says and what it entails. Fair enough. But your conclusions on what the view entails are extreme. It would be better to point out the weakness of analogies that Calvinists use like a compelling love story. If the compatibilist does not mean to imply robotic love, why go there? Why not address the flaws in the love they understand?
For example, there is a distinction between compelling and guaranteeing. Just because one is persuasive does not mean ultimately a person could not choose to tune out the truth and believe the lie. The movie could have ended with Rita wanting to fall for Phil, but her fear gets the best of her and she decisively rejects Phil’s love in a way that discourages Him from trying anymore. The story would become a tragedy. With that as even a possibility, I agree with you that the movie could fit well with libertarian freedom.
My point is that compatibilists are not crazy either. They don’t believe in robotic love. They do believe in freedom but their emphasis is just slightly off IMO. No need to demonize their perspective. No need to point out what their view entails from your perspective when they have no intention of conveying that sense. If you want to call them inconsistent, by all means. I have! But don’t imply they are destroying true love. That’s just melodramatic.
I do though appreciate your willingness to talk through these issues with me. I don’t find many who have the time. Thanks.
Could the woma n resist Murray’s characters advances? You say she could. If she coukd, then she is freely loving Murray’s character and hence her love is true. You seem to think a libertarian free choice is something spontaneous, random, uninformed. While one certainly could choose to love someone without knowing anything about them (I can carry out some items listed in 1 Corinthians 13 to needy homeless people even prior to getting to know them), a libertarian free choice to love does not have to be uninformed and spontaneous.
On compatiblism, people cannot do anything other than what they desire, and their desires are programmed into them by God, their nature, or something else (compatiblists disagree amongst themselves as to what exactly determines us). I’m any case, I don’t see how compatibility freedom is “free” in any meaningful sense of the word. If we cannot resist God’s advances, then we are essentially divine rape victims and are experiencing cosmic Stockholm Syndrome. Moreover, I’m not “demonizing” anyone’s views. I’m just following the assertions of determinants to their logical conclusions. Calvinists who don’t conclude that we’ve essentially been ravaged by God are simply being logically inconsistent. Indeed, most would not say that we have robotic love. That is exactly right. But I have a hard time seeing how their deterministic view of grace doesn’t logically entail that. The Calvinist who thinks his view doesn’t result in robot love,or that our relationship with God isn’t like Harley Quinn and The Joker needs to make a counterargument.
Well, we were talking about a movie. The character did not resist Murray in the end. The movie was not trying to answer the question of whether Rita had libertarian free will. I was merely explaining why I thought the movie fit compatibilism. You never explained why you felt it fit libertarianism better. But I was agreeing with you that in real life, a Rita would have LFW. I’m not interested in winning an argument, just having a productive conversation where we help each other see the weaknesses in our arguments. I was pointing out that the genuine love argument does not hold true in human relationships or divine relationships.
I’m sorry if I gave the impression that LFW choices have to be uninformed and spontaneous. Certainly they do not. I thought I was arguing just the opposite. When we make libertarian choices, we consider the facts (information) and weigh them. Sometimes that is spontaneous and without much careful thought. Other times it is quite deliberate and calculating. Neither of these scenarios are inconsistent with either kind of freedom. We all agree we make informed choices.
My point was that libertarian freedom does not corner the market on love. Compatibilists believe in genuine love too. I agree with you that there is an inconsistency in the compatibilist argument. I have no problem with you calling them out on that but I think to be fair you should acknowledge that their problem is not that their love is robotic but rather their argument is inconsistent. I don’t see how our choices can be both free and determined at the same time. They can’t explain it either, they can only appeal to mystery. I think you and I both find that unsatisfying. But that does not mean they are necessarily wrong. Perhaps we are just missing key pieces of information. But in any case, I don’t think determinism necessitates robotic love.
As for a Calvinist counterargument to robotic love or Harley Quinn’s love for the Joker, that’s what I was presenting in my Groundhog Day example. God through his exhaustive knowledge of our hearts, woos us to Himself. Yes, Calvinists sometimes chide Arminians for using words like wooing because it is not strong enough. But I disagree. I think we are closer than most on either side want to admit. But when you resort to robots and puppets, you are closing off serious discussion for the dramatic effect.
How is compatibilism different? Programming a robot is cold and emotionless. Opening the eyes of the spiritually blind and softening the hard heart through kindness which is meant to lead us to repentance, is deeply personal. We are designed by God to want to worship Him. This is why there are so many religions. Mankind has a god-given appetite for worship. But the problem is we worship the wrong things. We worship what we value and our values gauges are broken. When God fixes our broken gauges, we see Him as He is, not as the devil deceitfully portrays Him. “He knows the day you eat of it you will be like Him knowing good and evil!” Lies! Our knowledge of good and evil destroyed our relationship with God. Our view of God is hopelessly distorted until God corrects our vision. Compatibilism provides one possible explanation for how God does this.
Now I believe that when God does that, we remain free to yet reject Him, but that is just my assertion based on some inferences from Scripture as you noted. But I can understand how it would be possible for God to so completely change our view that He renders it certain that we see clearly and choose wisely, especially when we take into consideration is foreknowledge and perfect comprehension of our inner being. Therefore I respect the compatibilist view and don’t twist it to say what they never intend to say. I agree with you they are being inconsistent, but I also admit that I could be wrong about the inconsistency. If you consider these your brothers and sisters, do not offend them by insisting their view entails something horrific. Point out their inconsistency but be fair. even when their harshest apologists are unfair to you. You will have to give an account someday not just what you believe but how you treat your brothers who disagree with you. I hope I haven’t been uncharitable toward you. I may have been too critical. Please know I only wish to converse with you in love. I have received your criticism and correction with gratitude.
Though I don’t know the Harley Quinn story, from your description, it sounds like the Joker used mind control to force her against her will to love him. That reminds me of the Netflix series Jessica Jones where her nemesis, Kilgrave controls her mind and forces her to be affectionate toward him when inside she despises him because he is a heartless killer. It is a chilling scenario. Again, not what compatibilists believe. God does not need to control people’s minds, though He could. All He has to do is open their eyes to see His glory. A maximally great being (as you put it) is going to have a fundamental impact on the heart when revealed even in part. God changes us without our permission, just by revealing Himself. Again, I believe we retain the freedom to resist Him even as He opens our heart, but I can conceive how it might be impossible without needing to conclude it is all automata, puppetry and mind control. If you can’t see how the descriptions I’ve used could possibly be true without those extremes, I’m not sure how to help you. But thanks for listening and conversing.
Peace to you brother.
Rita DID NOT resist Phil in the end, but according to your own words, she COULD. And that is the point. As long as it wasn’t *literally* irresistible, then it isn’t a good fit for compatibilism. If she possessed the ability to turn him down, then her choice to love was a libertarian free choice. Compatibilism is a form of determinism, and on determinism, one can only choose according to their strongest desire. It’s impossible to deviate to another course. In Groundhog Day, Rita COULD choose to reject him even though she didn’t, and even though she had no desire to. On Suicide Squad, Harley had no option but to worship the ground the Joker walks on. He had brainwashed her. This is why I said your analogy is closer to -actually a Molinist-Arminian rather than a generic Arminian – soteriological view.
\\”My point was that libertarian freedom does not corner the market on love. Compatibilists believe in genuine love too. “\\ — You’re again conflating what they believe with what their view logically entails. I am not arguing that compatibilists (or any person on the face of the planet for that matter) believe that genuine love does not exist or is not possible. The question is; the compatibilist consistently affirm determinism and love? I don’t think they can.
\\”How is compatibilism different? Programming a robot is cold and emotionless. Opening the eyes of the spiritually blind and softening the hard heart through kindness which is meant to lead us to repentance, is deeply personal. We are designed by God to want to worship Him.”\\ — Harley Quinn gets emotional towards the Joker too. Just saying. Also, in some sci-fi films, you can program the robot to feel warm fuzzies towards you if you want.
Thanks again for the discourse Evan. I appreciate you engaging my comments. Even though we don’t totally agree on how to approach the argument, we share many of the same conclusions. One thing is clear, God’s love is wonderful and worthy of our deepest thoughts and admiration. Soli deo gloria!
Amen to that! 🙂
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