Archive for October 13th, 2010

October 13th, 2010

The Incoherence of Theistic Determinism – Moral Responsibility

by Max Andrews

This post may have several editions with further elaborations.  My goal is to provoke thought and question the feasibility of theistic determinism (that is, God causes all things).  There are hard and soft-determinists, the soft proponents wanting to say there is a compatibility of human freedom and determinism.  I want to generalize hard and soft-determinism as one general referent.  To be upfront, I hold to a soft-libertarian view of human freedom.  We are morally responsible for our actions, we have the cognitive faculty to choose between opposites, we are able to initiate and cease a causal chain of events, all decisions/choices are not all causally determined but internally originated within the agent, and there are certain will-setting moments that restrict our options/choices.  Our freedom is a derived freedom, I believe, an aspect of the Imago Dei.  Our freedom is a gift.

Theistic determinism is possible, I won’t simply dismiss it as impossible.  However, I do believe that it is infeasible.  There is a possible world in which God causes all things and all human actions.  The only relative necessity that follows from that is that there would be no sin if God were to cause all things.  Why?  I’m assuming that God cannot cause/be responsible for evil and that if one is causally related (initial cause or direct cause), then that person is responsible.  The initial cause would follow from a personal agency (God) and a causal relationship following that cause (in a mechanistic manner, remember, no freedom if God causes all things).  Just as an agent wields a cue stick hitting the cue ball, which hits the eight ball, which drops into the corner pocket, what is responsible for the eight ball sinking the corner pocket? The cue ball hitting it. What is responsible for the cue ball hitting the eight ball? The cue stick wielding agent. Who is responsible for that sole agent? The agent. In the illustration the effect we will discuss as the referent is the eight ball sinking the corner pocket.  The direct cause of the eight ball sinking the corner pocket is the cue ball striking it.  The initial cause that set in to motion the causal chain of events, is the agent.  To drop the illustration, whether or not God sets in motion a chain of events or is the direct cause for an action (an intervening cause or a puppeteer), God is responsible for the chain of events.  This seems to be the biblical witness, that we are responsible for what we do.  The person who [intentionally] left the key under the doormat to allow the murderer in at night is an accomplice and is guilty of some type of crime/sin, to what degree is irrelevant (is it okay for God to cause evil just a little?).  The accomplice to the murder enabled the evil event to take place (there’s a difference between enabling and permitting, to be discussed later).  The only way for God to be absolved from being causally responsible for sin is to introduce another agent into the equation.  This agent must meet the requirements of soft-libertarianism because that is the only way to remove the causal connection from God.

The difference between enabling and permitting is an issue of responsibility.  Enabling is contributing to the causal chain of events in some form that brings about the intended end goal/event.  Permitting is God allowing something to occur/exist other than himself while entailing a negation enabling an evil event.  Permission of evil is only possible if there are other [libertarian] free agents involved.  Permission does not necessarily entail moral culpability.  Permission would entail moral culpability if there were not a morally sufficient reason for allow the evil event to occur.  However, enablement cannot be relieved of moral culpability because causing evil for morally sufficient reason is nothing short of a contradiction for a God who determines all things.  It’s not like God got caught off guard in a moral dilemma and had to choose between “the better of two evils.”  He can void the world of evil by creating a world without evil.  That is the only coherent world where God determines/causes all things.  We don’t live in this world.  We live in a world where we are causes of our own evils.  To say that we are responsible for our sin, yet God determines all things and we have no libertarian freedom is nothing short of an implicit contradiction.  If I want to affirm that proposition, then I can blame my pencil on misspelled words and not be wrong for doing so.

Why make an argument for determinism to make someone choose to believe it?