Q&A: Follow Up On Objections To Libertarian Free Will

Q&A: Follow Up On Objections To Libertarian Free Will

 

Thank you for responding to my question(s). I, however, would like to clarify some of my points. I think you have misunderstood many of my arguments. For my first one, I will just rephrase it because I did such a poor job of explaining my main argument that there cannot be free will that it would be simpler to just restate it completely. Basically, an Agents decision to do X must be either caused or caused via the law of the excluded middle. If my decision to do X over Y was caused by a previous act of volition then the question arises did something causes the previous volition? If the cause was yet another volition the question arises what causes that volition? And this goes on back infinitely in which case each volition was determined by a previous one just as me raising my arm is caused by previous acts of volition. Of course, as you would likely point out an infinite regress is impossible, (and not to mention we were born so this obviously could not apply to us) so there must be the first act of volition. Was it caused? If yes then it was out of our control. Was it self-created, aka did you make a decision but you were neither uncaused nor caused but it remade itself in the self-creation way? That runs into the argument I mentioned above about self-causation being impossible. The final option is that it is uncaused. Now the quote that you mentioned said that the indeterminism is fused into the act of volition in the moment of the decision, that is fine. I never said that it would feel like it wasn’t yours or that it wouldn’t be yours, it would be. What I am saying is that if you were not determined by anything that would include any previous acts of will which would mean that it wasn’t made to happen by you or your desires, character and therefore it would just be a random coincidence and more importantly you had no control over the fact that you happened to choose X over Y, you just happened to uncaused to go with that option over the other and you had no control over that as no previous act of will caused you to go with Option X over Y. Libertarians may believe that free will isn’t random if it is uncaused however my argument shows that it would and more importantly it would be ultimately out of your control. I hope that makes sense, if not Jonathan Edwards explained what I meant by self-causation in Freedom Of The Will Part 2 Section 1. and cleared up misconceptions. He also discusses the caused vs uncaused dilemma in Part 2 Section 13. (The first link is to the entire whole of part 2 which is very long, however all that is relevant for that link is Section 1.)

For the moral responsibility argument after admitting that it seems like Pharaoh’s Free Will was infringed upon, you argue that a better interpretation would be that God simply said things that would result in him freely choosing to resist out of stubbornness. I do not know much about the expressions the Ancient Israelites used, but assuming they are generally similar it makes little sense for God to say he would harden someone’s heart when he could have instead said that when Pharaoh was told (by Moses-not God) to let the Israelites go he would become even more stubborn. Now if you or anyone else can show that the Ancient Israelites would have understood it in a way that is compatible with Pharoah having free will at that moment that then I will concede the point. For the issue of the passage discussing pharaoh hardening his heart I suspect that God would be strengthening his stubbornness and as a result causing him to harden his heart. As for the example of Tom it would make sense for me to say that “Tom angered me” however it does not make sense to say that “Tom hardened my heart.”

 

I am not really sure what to say to your objection to natural vs moral ability, I just don’t agree that a person is off the hook just because they were fully determined–in a way that is consistent with there character-to want to do evil acts and then to act on them as a result of this. I am not familiar with the movie you mentioned but if the Winter soldier was programmed to be a horrible person and to deliberately want to kill innocents out of evil motivation then I would say that Iron Man should hold him accountable although he should also hold the Hydra responsible for deliberately making him morally unable to resist being evil as well since the Hydra did it out of evil intent. If however the winter soldier is not a thinking/sentient being who has intentions or if they were programmed in a different way that isn’t related to moral inability then I would not hold him/her/it culpable. For some reason people tend to be more inclined to agree with the distinction when it is for people doing good so I will try that. If a person is so born with an irresistible inclination to help others even at the cost of a horrendously painful death would you say they are not praiseworthy for doing so? I certainly think they would and as many people believe that God is perfectly good by nature (he must do good and cannot do evil) and this does not diminish there praise of him one bit, I heavily doubt that it is the common sense moral intuition of humans that moral and natural inability are the same in terms of culpability.

For the Biblical evidence of free will I never said that 1 Corinthians 10:13 must be translated as test rather than tempt because it can be, I said that it clearly is. I should have clarified as to why I think it clearly is. The context you point out makes my case even stronger given that idolatry is a sign of disloyalty and lack of love for God over idols, so if God is saying that he would not let the Christians be tempted to worship idols that compete with the true God beyond what they can bear and that he will offer them a way out. Everything about this screams that this is a test even if you translate it as tempt. Any person who truly can bear it and as God has offered everyone a way out, the ones who are truly loyal will take that way out at least most of the time. So if they love God they have the opportunity to flee idols. This does not require free will. For the 2 passages, they were not promises that they have a choice to choose God or idols. As I see it they are basically God saying through his prophets that the Israelites cannot have both God and idols and that if they want to worship idols then they can do so. I think you will agree that the point of the passage is not that we have a choice it is an ultimatum: If you love God and want to worship him then stay if you want to worship an idol and not God then get out!! This does not make God a liar.

For the argument from love, perhaps you have a point on the issue of God predestining vs humans doing it. I however do see a meaningful difference between God causing people to love others as a part of his plan and a human doing it to a robot in order to help me get a ‘wife’ presumably because I am to pathetic to get a real one myself. And not to mention, robots do not have feelings, are not conscious, cannot reason at any comparable level, are not as complex as we are and most important of all loved you for no reason at all. If we imagine a robot that was made to be our equal in terms of consciousness, emotions, reasoning, complexity/unpredictability, etc and loved you for a good reason would that not be valid? If ‘her’ will was determined by her strongest motive and the motive to love you was the strongest and for a valid reason then I would consider it valid if a bit strange. it certain   And further you did not address my main argument: If your wife was irresistibly inclined to love you for a good reason would you consider that ungenuine? I sure wouldn’t!! I would in fact prefer that, as long as she wasn’t forced to do it against her will or in a way that is the result of a brain tumor, Stockholm Syndrome or some other corruption of her natural mentally healthy mind. As long is she is willing for a good reason it is fine. And further what reason is there to assume that God has the same preferences with regards to what makes love genuine as humans? I would consider a human who wants to have any form of relationship with an mere Ant weird and yet the distance between the Creator of the universe and humans is incomprehensibly greater then the difference between a human and an Ant, yet the Bible clearly says that God wants a relationship with humans so if I were a Christian I would not place my beliefs about the nature of God’s love based on human intuition, especially since the Bible declares human hearts to be corrupt (Jeremiah 17:9). You mention the idea that humans are not by nature loving where God is love as much as fire is hot. (Why God didn’t make humans by nature loving is a definite problem for the free will defense.) I do find the idea of God being loving by nature to be better than an individual human at a certain point in time being by nature loving as that can change, but I would still consider it genuine.

You state that I don’t understand what a properly basic belief is. I more or less have the definition you use in mind: “A properly basic belief is a belief that one is justified in holding without any external warrant. This includes self-evident axioms (cogito ergo sum) and, arguably, directly observed (hence empirical) facts. A properly basic belief is not necessarily a true belief (though I would hold that some are). A properly basic belief is just simply a belief one is justified in holding even in the absence of any arguments or evidence.” I would argue that if a person can show that an illusion of a supposedly properly basic belief (in this case free will) is an inevitable by-product of things that we know to be true about our minds then as free will actually existing would do absolutely nothing to help explain our sense of having it, it would be irrational to continue holding it on that basis unless more evidence/arguments are presented. If it is shown that it is the inevitable result of the way our mind works that we have the illusion of there being an external world then I could no longer (rationally) hold that belief on that basis. You say that I may have a point on the God is a deceiver argument so no further commentary is necessary-accept to add that it is to your credit that you are willing to concede that.

For the Freethinking argument you state that I attacked a Strawman. I did not. Tim Stratton (the founder of the argument) himself argued that we must (indirectly) choose our beliefs for the freethinking argument to hold up. (see here: Can We Choose Our Beliefs?) Given that the founder of the argument said that I do not think it was a strawman. Further you state that: “I’m not sure The FreeThinking Argument depends on being able “to choose your beliefs”. It simply depends on being able to weigh the evidence pro and con, think critically, deliberate, and come to a conclusion. This, I would argue, cannot be done if determinism is true (hence the affirmation of premise 3). If you reason to a wrong conclusion, it’s because you were determined (by brain chemistry, God’s divine decree, or whatever) to make a fallacy somewhere along the way. If your view is correct, we cannot reason. Our brains can only fire certain ways. In his article ‘Deliberation Requires Liberation’, philosopher Tim Stratton wrote ‘If exhaustive determinism is true, then the non-rational laws of nature and past events, or God, always exhaustively determines a person’s considerations, examinations, and estimations (all of one’s thoughts about their beliefs and one’s beliefs about their thoughts). If that is the case, then the person cannot rationally affirm or provide justification that their beliefs really are the best or true (including their belief that determinism is true). With this in mind, it seems that libertarian freedom is necessary if one genuinely possesses the ability to rationally evaluate one’s thoughts/beliefs and to deliberate in the truest sense.'” It is true that on my view that God has ultimately caused every belief I have and that I could not have evaluated my beliefs better. However, my point was that the way we evaluate our beliefs is by focusing on being rational, making sure we have learned both sides of the argument and several other. Focusing on applying rationality to our beliefs is essentially what deliberation is regardless of whether or not we have free will. It is self evident when we are doing this, to what extent, etc. Even if it is fully caused by motives and other causes which were in turn caused by previous events ultimately leading back to God. It is not as if most Calvinists believe that God directly causes everything, many believe in secondary causes such as motives. As a Deist I certainly believe in secondary causes. I believe that God causes things to happen through things such as motives. To name one Calvinist who believes this way: Jonathan Edwards famously stated that “The will is always determined by the strongest motive.” It is not the case that non-rational causes have determined my beliefs, my God given reason is a significant part of what causes my beliefs and I can distinguish there rationality based on my focus on using logic. I am aware of how much I can focus on a topic and how much of it is done. As for the notion that souls are compatible with free will, what makes a soul different to us being our brains in regards to allowing us to have free will? Naturalism does not imply determinism anymore then supernaturalism. as Sam Harris points out in Free Will (pg. 11-12). The distinction between Agent Causation and event causation begs the question since one can always ask whether the Agent was determined to choose option A over option B or whether the Agent was uncaused to do so which has the dilemma mentioned above. As a youtuber articulated very well here:  Inspiring Philosophy, Ayn Rand And Free Will Ayn Rand’s view on free will and focus was the inspiration for my idea of focus, I just substitute the idea of us freely choosing to focus with us being determined by motives.

I am currently not a Christian as mentioned above so by definition I am not a Calvinist. I will become a Christian if/when I think the evidence is highly supportive of it, which is quite the opposite of my current outlook however that is a topic for another Email. However, given the nightmarish problems Libertarian Free Will has (I only mentioned one out of a multitude that I have with the concept.) I certainly never become an Arminian, Molinist, Open Theist, or Pelagian, as the evidence and arguments are so overwhelmingly against the idea of free will unless this is adequately answered. However, I do appreciate that you took the time to answer my email.  Hopefully, any future Emails will be much shorter.

 
– Sam

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To your first objection, I think it does indeed involve an infinite regression problem. This is especially potent to you as a Deist. Do you think God has libertarian free will or do you think his choices are just as causally determined by a series of prior events which caused him to think, will, and act as he did? You can ask “What caused God to decide to create the universe?” but then we can ask of that cause “What caused the cause that caused God to decide to create the universe” and then we can ask “What caused the cause of the cause of the cause that caused God to decide to create the universe” and so on back to infinity. No cause could ever come about because there would be an infinite number of causes preceding each cause in the infinite chain. God is the uncaused cause of the universe, and his decision to create was the first decision ever made. (for interested readers, see my article “The Kalam Cosmological Argument”).

What caused God to exercise his volition to create the universe? God did. God is the cause of his actions. What caused me to decide to respond to your article? I did. I am the cause of my actions. Now you can ask “But what caused you to decide to respond?” I don’t know why I’m not allowed to just say “I don’t know”. As long as I have good grounds for affirming that we do indeed have libertarian free will, I’m content with the how it works being a mystery. And indeed, if the biblical texts I appealed to were properly interpreted and if Tim Stratton’s FreeThinking Argument is sound, then I would say we do indeed have good grounds for affirming LFW exists.

In my humble opinion, it would be better to put the Mystery label onto how free will works than to have to put it on God’s character on how can determine all the evil in the world and yet still be morally perfect and have clean hands. If I had to resort to mystery, this would be a better place to do it by far.

In any case, since traversing infinite regressions are impossible, you have to have an explanatory stopping point somewhere, even on determinism. For the Calvinist, that explanatory stopping point would be God’s eternal sovereign decree. For the Arminian, Open Theist, and Molinist (i.e libertarians), that stopping point would be each of our own individual minds as volitional agents.

As the philosopher William Lane Craig said in a different context; “In order to recognize an explanation as the best, you don’t need to have an explanation of the explanation.” 1

You wrote “What I am saying is that if you were not determined by anything that would include any previous acts of will which would mean that it wasn’t made to happen by you or your desires, character and therefore it would just be a random coincidence and more importantly you had no control over the fact that you happened to choose X over Y, you just happened to uncaused to go with that option over the other and you had no control over that as no previous act of will caused you to go with Option X over Y.” — But this simply reiterates the misunderstanding that the Kenneth Keathley quote was meant to correct. We do have control over our actions. This is why free will does not “resembles something akin to Tourette syndrome or epilepsy rather than a moral ability.”or to use your terminology “just a random coincidence…you had no control over. …..that I just happened to choose.” I decide which way my sail turns. The cause is me. Neither I nor any libertarian would deny that things can certainly influence our decision (e.g hunger can influence my decision to grab a snack), but we would deny that such things cause or render our decisions inevitable. Hunger can incline myself towards the decision to grab a snack. That I’m in the middle of fasting can incline myself toward the decision to refrain from eating. But whichever inclination I give into is ultimately up to me. This is what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 10:13 regarding temptation and God’s provision to avoid it.

The Moral Accountability Argument


To the hardening of Pharoah’s heart, I think the evidence for my interpretation is, again, that the hardening of Pharoah’s heart is talked about from two perspectives. Exodus 8:15 says that Pharoah hardened his own heart. Exodus 8:32 also says that Pharoah was the one who hardened his heart. In Exodus 14:8, it is said that God is the one that hardened Pharoah’s heart. Now, if you just read Exodus 8:15 and 8:32 by themselves, what would you likely conclude? You would likely conclude that Pharaoh was solely responsible in the hardening of his heart. You wouldn’t suspect that God played any part in it at all. By the same token, if you only had Exodus 14:8 and the other verses which speak of God doing the hardening, you would suspect that God took over Pharoah’s mental faculties and made his heart hard. You wouldn’t think Pharoah had any say in the matter.

But we don’t have passages that only mention Pharaoh hardening his heart or only passages mentioning God’s part in it. We have both. The author of Exodus says that both God and Pharoah are the reason why Pharoah’s heart’s was hardened. In fact, many skeptics of The Bible have pointed to this as a contradiction! They say things like “The author here can’t make up his mind as to whether it was Pharoah or God who did the hardening.”

Now, my interpretation would resolve the alleged contradiction. Pharaoh hardened his heart. How? Through an act of volition. Why did Pharoah choose to do that? Because God was offending his pride as a self-proclaimed god by continuously demanding (through Moses, since that’s a prophet’s job) to submit to His demands and let the Israelites go free and showing him up by bringing about plague after plague that he could do nothing to combat. By continuing to have Moses tell the Pharaoh “Let my people go”, he brought about (in philosophical terms; weakly actualized) the hardening of Pharoah’s heart.

So, in light of the information I’ve presented to you, here’s what you’re faced with: accept my interpretation or claim that The Bible contradicts itself 1)in saying Pharoah chose to do something and also that God did it for him.

*Natural Ability VS. Moral Ability

I’m just baffled that you would believe that if a person were truly unable to prevent an evil action he committed, that he could somehow be morally culpable. He would be responsible only insofar as being the cause of the effect (the murderer being the cause of the murder), and we would probably lock him up in a prison for the safety of others. But I fail to see how we could say “Shame on you! You shouldn’t have done that!” if the person couldn’t have done anything but that.

It would make as much sense as wagging your finger at The Terminator for obeying his programming (another movie reference, sorry).

You said “For some reason people tend to be more inclined to agree with the distinction when it is for people doing good so I will try that. If a person is so born with an irresistible inclination to help others even at the cost of a horrendously painful death would you say they are not praiseworthy for doing so?” — No, I would not agree. While I would be pleased with the results of their actions (just as I’m pleased when Alexa tells me the weekly forecast or when the oven cooks my pizza), I wouldn’t go up to that person, pat them on the back and say, “You are such a good person. May God richly bless you for your selflessness.” if he were just a puppet on God’s string or following the programming of his brain chemicals.

There’s a reason I don’t use the complement app on my Echo device. It’s deterministic, so it means nothing to me.

The Biblical Evidence For Libertarian Free Will

I still don’t see how 1 Corinthians 10:13 doesn’t present us with a clear-cut example of libertarian free will. It would make God deceptive to say “Here’s a test. Choose me or the idols” if he had pre-programmed everyone from the beginning to choose Him or idols. Paul says in essence “Temptation has a limit to its strength. Don’t make excuses by saying that it’s so overwhelmingly powerful that you couldn’t do anything but give in. That’s false. Why? Because in every area of temptation, God will provide a way of escape so that you can hold up under it. Should you give into temptation, it’s your own fault. You could have done otherwise because God provided the way of escape for you, but you just chose not to take it” Paul says his readers don’t have to choose A (to worship idols) because the temptation to choose A won’t be so powerful that they cannot resist it. God gives us a way to choose Non-A (worshipping Him). This is “The way of escape”.

If people who give in had no choice but to give in, and people who took the way of escape had no choice but to take the way of escape, this whole verse is rendered unintelligible. For the people who give into temptation, the “way of escape” was a mere illusion. It wasn’t accessible to them….even though God said it was.

Imagine a math teacher deciding from the outset that some people would get Fs and others would get As no matter what. The entire test would be pointless, wouldn’t it?

When you say “Any person who truly can bear it and as God has offered everyone a way out, the ones who are truly loyal will take that way out at least most of the time. So if they love God they have the opportunity to flee idols.” you’re just admitting that “the way of escape” isn’t available to anyone, which means God is a liar for saying that it is, but God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). You admit that “the way of escape” is not available to everyone. It’s only available for those God chose to give it to. So then, those who give into temptation really do have a good excuse; i.e “God didn’t give me the way of escape”. But that excuse is precisely what Paul is trying to rob the Corinthians of!

I still find your interpretations of the Deuteronomy 30 and Joshua 24 passages implausible. Yes, it is clearly an ultimatum. The prophets were indeed presenting a dichotomy between Yahweh and the Idols. But to say that this is all that can be taken out of the passages just doesn’t work.

I’ll quote Stratton again, who I don’t think I cited in “5 Arguments For The Existence Of Free Will”, the article we’re commenting on, but I did cite in my paper “The Case For Mere Molinism”. 

Tim Stratton comments on the Deut 30 passage saying: “Moses commands the unregenerate Israelites to make a choice! He says they have options from which to choose. They are to choose between life and death, between blessings and curses. Moses pleads with them to choose life! Moses precedes his plea for life by making it clear that the unregenerate Israelites actually possess the ability to make this choice. That is to say, this choice is ‘up to them’ and not causally determined by things external to them. He makes it clear that this is not only something they possess the ability to do, but moreover, it is not even ‘too difficult’ for them to make this choice. He says, ‘you may do it.’ The ESV reads, ‘so that you CAN do it‘ (emphasis mine). This is not just biblical support of libertarian freedom to choose otherwise; it seems to be libertarian freedom regarding an offer to choose God — or at the least, not to reject Him.”(underlining mine) 3

Let’s look at the Deuteronomy passage again. “If you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, ‘Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?’ No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. – Deuteronomy 30:10-19
(emphasis mine)

When Moses goes to such lengths to stress the non-difficulty of obeying the command to worship God and serve Him only, and then says “I call upon you to make the choice between who you’ll serve; idols or Yahweh”, it’s hard to accept the interpretation that the only thing Moses is doing in this passage is presenting them with an ultimatum and not giving them a genuine choice implying they have the power to choose between alternatives.

The Argument From Love 

Let me work backward here and first address the argument that God could have made humans loving by nature. I am talking here of the philosophical distinctions between essential attributes and accidental attributes. Essential attributes are attributes that things have to have in order to be what they are. Were X to lack properties 1, 2, and/or 3, it would cease to be X. It has 1, 2, and 3 by logical necessity, in virtue of being what it is. A car has the essential property of being a 4-wheeled motorized carriage with a steering wheel. If it were a 2 wheeled vehicle with handles, it would be more like a motorcycle than a car. A square has the essential properties of 4 corners. A triangle has the essential properties of 3 corners.

Accidental properties, by contrast, are properties we could lack and still be what we are. I have brown hair, but I would still be human Evan Minton even if I dyed my hair or shaved my head entirely. Our car is white, but we could have it painted blue and it would still be our car. My hair color is not an essential property. Neither is the color of my car.

God is, in virtue of what He is, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and morally perfect (which entails being a being of perfect love). If he were to lack any of these properties, he wouldn’t be God. Just as if a house lacked walls and a roof, a bedroom and a kitchen, it would cease to be a house. Human beings are, in virtue of what they are, bipedal primates who are rational, moral, volitional agents. These are essential attributes of humanity. God could create embodied rational, moral, volitional creatures who aren’t bi-pedal primates (lizard people), but they wouldn’t be “humans”. These hypothetical lizard people could even still bear the image of God, since John Walton4 and Michael Heiser5 have observed that what the imageo dei is is being God’s representatives on Earth. I see no reason to think why intelligent lizard people couldn’t do that so long as God endowed them with the pre-requisite mental faculties required for the job. But, nevertheless, these lizard people would still not be “human” because a human is not a lizard creature. A human is a primate. Not even God can change this fact, except by maybe calling these hypothetical lizard people humans. But of course, you don’t need omnipotent creative power to call a cat a dog.

Now, God has love as an essential attribute. Were he to lack it, he wouldn’t be God. Humans, by contrast, can lack love entirely and still be humans. As I said before, Hitler was no less human than Mother Teresa. Sure, we sometimes call moral monsters “inhuman”, but it should be obvious that that’s just an expression. So, coming back around the block, this is why I see free will as essential to human love being genuine but that this rationale doesn’t equally apply to God.

Now, to your point that humans are infinitely more complex than robots, and the fact that on divine determinism God is doing the programming for his own purposes than I would be for my own self want, I don’t see how this changes anything. On determinism, the only thing I can see that would separate us from robots is that one is a machine and the other is a biological organism. One has wires and the other has veins. One has electricity running through the wires and the other has blood running through the veins. One is determined by 1s and 0s and the other is determined by As, Cs, Ts, and Gs. One is made of metal and the other is made of meat. But both are deterministic agents, controlled by forces outside of themselves, doing merely what their (M)maker programmed them to do. Both are automata. The fact that the latter is sentient and the former isn’t doesn’t change this fact. It’s a meaningless distinction. Automata is automata even if the robot is self-aware.

If I were a determinist, I would indeed take as little pleasure in the love a spouse, parent, or friend would give me as I would a robot. I would think to myself “Your acts of charity, your compliments, your desire to spend time with me are just your brain chemicals making you do it.” I would take as much pleasure in my mother saying she’s proud of me as I would a Text To Speech system saying it to me.

Moreover, besides not actually defeating the argument that free will is required for love, your appeal to the Noetic Effect (based on Jeremiah 17:9) is actually self-refuting. If our mental faculties are so corrupted that we cannot believe our intuitions, then how can you trust your mental faculties when they tell you that in light of their corruption, you cannot trust them?

To quote William Lane Craig and J.P Moreland;
“The Fall brought about the perversion of human faculties, but it did not destroy those faculties. Human reasoning abilities are affected but not eliminated. This can be seen in the fact that the writers of Scripture often appeal to the minds of unbelievers by citing evidence on behalf of their claims, using logical inferences in building their case and speaking in the language and thought forms of those outside the faith.” 6

The Proper Basically Of Belief In Free Will

With regards to belief in libertarian free will being properly basic, you wrote “I would argue that if a person can show that an illusion of a supposedly properly basic belief (in this case free will) is an inevitable by-product of things that we know to be true about our minds then as free will actually existing would do absolutely nothing to help explain our sense of having it, it would be irrational to continue holding it on that basis unless more evidence/arguments are presented.” but this would merely show that belief in libertarian free will is false, not that belief in free will isn’t properly basic! A properly basic belief can be irrational if continued to be held in the face of powerful defeaters. It is in the absence of a defeater that a properly basic belief if held to be justified.

For example, Bob believes properly basic belief X. X is false and the evidence is against it. Bob reads a book arguing against X. In light of the evidence, Bob abandons his belief in X. But was Bob an irrational individual for holding to X prior to investigating the arguments against it? No. Was Bob irrational for holding X even though he knew of no arguments in favor of X? No. This is because X is properly basic.

The FreeThinking Argument 

You wrote; “It is true that on my view that God has ultimately caused every belief I have and that I could not have evaluated my beliefs better. However, my point was that the way we evaluate our beliefs is by focusing on being rational, making sure we have learned both sides of the argument and several other. Focusing on applying rationality to our beliefs is essentially what deliberation is regardless of whether or not we have free will.” — But what if a person based his beliefs on what felt good to him? On what gave him warm, fuzzy feelings? On what he wanted to believe was true? What if he even thought he was justified in basing his beliefs on emotions for reasons X, Y, Z? On your view, this person isn’t “focused on being rational, making sure we have learned both sides of the argument and several others”. Indeed, the person in question scarcely reads what the other side has to say. On your view, he was determined to come to the views that he did. You were determined to use logic and look at both sides. Both of you were determined and both of you came to different conclusions.

Now, lest you object to this as being entirely hypothetical, it would be incredibly naive to assert that there aren’t people like this. There are Christians who are Christians not because they’ve looked at The Ontological Argument or the historical case for the resurrection, but because the idea of an eternal Heaven makes them feel good. There are people who only listen to liberal podcasts and never listen to what conservatives like Ben Shapiro has to say. The same is true vice versa. Isn’t this what “safe zones” on college campuses are all about? Lots of people prefer their own little echo chamber. On determinism, the way all of these people go about picking what beliefs to adhere to was simply the result of either God’s decree or brain chemicals affected by internal plus external stimuli (manifesting in the form of “the strongest desire” or “the individual’s nature”).

You say that your God-given reason is what caused you is a significant part of what causes you to come to the conclusions that you do. What you call “God-given reason” is, on determinism, a result of biochemical and/or geographical accident (physicalistic determinism) or simply what God made you believe (divine determinism). My biochemical and geographical accident or God’s decree regarding what I hold on the very topic we’re debating was different. We “reasoned” differently because we were determined differently. And we had no choice but to think through the issue the way we thought through them.

If I wanted to respond to your point with nothing but “I don’t like your conclusion! So you must be wrong! Na na na na boo boo!” you could hardly blame my childish reason for rejecting your conclusion. God made me do it. Either Him or it was my upbringing, my environment, plus some internal brain chemistry. The chemicals go where they go, man. Physics determines 32 degrees to freeze water and to boil at 212 degrees (approximately). Biochemistry determined me to be a libertarian and you to be a determinist. The chemicals go where they go, man.

And I fail to see how secondary causes would help you out here anymore they would in alleviating God from being the author of evil. If secondary causes caused me to respond to your argument with “Na na na na boo boo”, I would be just as incapable of doing otherwise as if God directly put his hand on me and made me His muppet.

With regards to you attacking a straw man of Tim’s argument, I still hold that you did. As Tim pointed out in the “Can We Choose Our Beliefs” article, there are two kinds of “Doxastic Voluntarism” and the kind you seemed to be objecting to in the previous e-mail was the direct kind. Tim Stratton agrees that direct doxastic voluntarism is absurd. He said “Direct doxastic voluntarism seems utterly absurd as no one could choose to believe any proposition (or not) at any given moment.”. What The FreeThinking Argument’s third premise advocates is the indirect kind. “Indirect Doxastic Voluntarism” seems, at least to my mind, to be a much more expensive way of simply saying “deliberation” or “reasoning to a conclusion”. Stratton wrote “I believe that indirect doxastic voluntarism is true. If so, I am truly responsible for at least some of my beliefs in the sense that I can exercise freedom at various points in my life. For instance, I can freely choose what I will or will not consider, how I will view a particular subject, if I am open to a particular line of argumentation or not, etc.”

Conclusion 


I still think determinisms of all stripes are hopelessly bankrupt philosophically as well as biblically. However, I think you can be an orthodox Christian (by orthodox, I mean non-heretical) and hold to some form of determinism. At least as you don’t follow determinism (divine determinism especially) to it’s logical conclusions.

I have a book coming out soon called My Redeemer Lives: Evidence For The Resurrection Of Jesus. When it comes out, I’d love to send you a copy. I would be thrilled if you became a Christian, Sam, even if you adhered to deterministic Calvinism. As for me, Luis De Molina Is My Homeboy.

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NOTES

1: William Lane Craig, “On Guard: Defending Your Faith With Reason And Precision”, chapter 4, David C Cook, 2010

2:  Keathley, Kenneth. Salvation and Sovereignty (Kindle Locations 1307-1316). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition.

 

3:  Tim Stratton, “Molinism Is Biblical”, June 8, 2017 – https://freethinkingministries.com/molinism-is-biblical/

4: See Walton, John H.. The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate (Kindle Location 1331-1356). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

 
5: Heiser, Michael S.. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (p. 41). Lexham Press. Kindle Edition.
 

6: William Lane Craig and J.P Moreland, “Philosophical Foundations For A Christian Worldview”, chapter 1

If you have any questions about Christian theology or apologetics, send Mr. Minton an E-mail at CerebralFaith@Gmail.com. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Christian or Non-Christian, whether your question is about doubts you’re having or about something you read in The Bible that confused you. Send your question in, whatever it may be, and Mr. Minton will respond in a blog post just like this one. 

 

References   [ + ]

1. in saying Pharoah chose to do something and also that God did it for him
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