May 11th, 2013
The teaching of Scripture seems to assert that post-Genesis 3 humans possess libertarian free will, including freedom to choose between opposites on matters pertaining to salvation or any other spiritual good. This immediately raises questions surrounding the concept of original sin. Augustine first used the expression “original sin” in the wake of the Pelagian controversy. Upon arriving at Rome in A.D. 400, the British monk Pelagius was horrified to see the open immorality prevalent among so-called Christians. This was the direct result of Theodosius I nineteen years earlier (381) declaring Christianity to be the state religion so decreeing that anyone living within its borders to be Christian. This was a transformation of Christianity from a voluntary religion (one that people freely choose to join) to a natural religion (one into which people are born) spawned immense immorality in many people who bore the name of Christ without ever having personally committed their lives to Jesus. Pelagius exhorted the Romans to live worthy of their Christian calling with an argument logically summarized in two steps:
1. Humans possess libertarian free will.
2. Humans should use their libertarian freedom to be good enough people to earn their own salvation.
Unfortunately, as so often happens in the history of thought, one extreme position meets the response of an equally extreme opposing position, thus swinging the ideological pendulum from one side to the other. Very rarely is prudence taken in shifting the pendulum back to the center, where the truth is most likely to be found.
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February 13th, 2013
In the spectrum of human freedom there are typically four distinct positions: hard-determinism, soft-determinism, hard-libertarianism, and soft-libertarianism. Hard-determinism is the belief that free will is illusory and all actions/decisions are causally determined by antecedent conditions, which could be natural laws or God. Soft-determinism, also known as compatibilism, maintains that free will and determinism are compatible. Hard-libertarianism suggests that humans always have free will while soft-libertarianism commits to the belief that humans have free will at significant times.
There are five tenets of soft-libertarianism particular to Christianity.
- Ultimate Responsibility: UR indicates that an acting agent is responsible for the outcome and origin of decisions made.
- Agent Causation: A person is the source and origin of choices.
- Principle of Alternative Possibilities: At crucial times, the ability to choose or refrain form choosing is genuinely available. 1 Cor 10.13 promises that God “will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” It follows that any Christian who does not in some circumstance endure but succumbs to temptation had it within his power to take the way of escape instead, i.e., he had the liberty of opposites in those circumstances.
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June 11th, 2012
I. The Argument
William Hasker has a deep commitment to the position that man holds a high level of libertarian freedom. In his section on “Freedom, Necessity, and God,” Hasker takes the libertarian to task by challenging him with free will’s compatibility with divine foreknowledge. Hasker’s argument states that because God foreknows an agent’s action the agent necessarily fulfills that action.
- It is now true that I will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow. (Assumption).
- It is impossible that God should at any time believe anything false or fail to believe anything which is true (Assumption: divine omniscience).
- Therefore God has always believed that I will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow. (Inference from 1 and 2).
- If God has always believed a certain thing, it is not in my power to bring it about that God has not always believed that thing. (Assumption: the inalterability of the past).
- Therefore it is not in my power to bring it about that God has not always believed that I will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow. (Inference from 3 and 4).
- It is not possible for it to be true both that God has always believed that I will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow, and that I do not in fact have one. (Inference from 2).
- Therefore it is not in my power to refrain from having a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow. (Inference from 5 and 6). So I do not have free will with respect to the decision whether or not to eat an omelet. 
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May 31st, 2012
Here is an old lecture PPT defining the differences between soft/hard libertarian freedom and soft/hard determinism. There are a lot of discussion points in the notes section. I ususally have a great discussion with the class when I teach this. So, for you teachers out there, feel free to use this material as you wish and, if anything, I hope it helps grow your knowledge on the subject. Feel free to follow the sources cited.
Determinism: Choices are caused by prior decisions
Hard Determinism: Free will is an illusion
Soft Determinism: Free will is compatible with determinism
Libertarianism: Choices originate within persons
Hard Libertarianism: Persons always have free will
Soft Libertarianism: Persons have free will at significant times
May 6th, 2012
One of the most important premises behind quantum physics is to understand its indeterminacy. My question is whether or not a theist can use this as an argument for libertarianism. Subatomic particles behave in indeterminate ways (i.e. if you know the location of a particle you do not know it’s velocity and vise versa). It should be noted that this doesn’t negate the laws of causality. Without the laws of causality science absolutely breaks down. It’s really an issue of probability with quantum physics. The case a libertarian may make is that because quantum mechanics function in an indeterminate way, only with a probability, then nothing can be determined, everything is random. Atheist Daniel Dennett and agnostic Stephen Hawking hold to this view of soft-libertarianism (as naturalists).
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May 2nd, 2012
In the chapter titled “A Reformed Tradition Not Quite Right” in David Baggett and Jerry Walls’ book, Good God, they contend that the fundamental divide between Calvinism and [say] Arminianism is how God’s love and goodness are understood. This section is a [ironically] five-point objection to Calvinistic compatibilism. Before the authors make their case they assemble a philosophical justification for their method. Their epistemic framework gives a strong platform for the acceptance of a priori natural revelation going into the biblical hermeneutic. Without further ado they present their case against compatibilism (I once heard Dr. Baggett say that it’s not adieu, as it was once corrected in the drafts by the editors.)
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May 2nd, 2012
God’s responsibility for creation is a governing responsibility. Consider creation as an open system within a closed system. God could have created a world in which everyone never sinned, but that world may not have been feasible. God is responsible in causal sustaining sense as well, but that’s different from an actualizing sense. God weakly and strongly actualizes every state of affairs. As Plantinga defines the terms: God weakly actualizes S iff there is an S* such that God strongly actualizes [direct causation] S* and S* → S, where → is “counterfactual implication” (Let S be a state of affairs).
So am I free to break the predicted pattern? Well, the future is going to happen necessarily, but only because it will be a result of what we would do. Remember, God’s foreknowledge is a reflection of what we would do. In order to have an answer to that question, it depends on what I would do in whatever circumstance, that free choice will determine what will happen.
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February 6th, 2012
Boethius discusses the problem in reconciling genuine human freedom with God’s foreknowledge in “Divine Foreknowledge and Freedom of the Will” (proses III-VI). He bases his whole discussion on whether or not something that is foreknown happens by necessity. He offers the disjunctive option of the necessity of either thing, which are going to happen be foreseen by God or that what God foresees will in fact happen—either way, he argues, human will is removed. When discussing the uncertainty of future events he concludes that, for God, there must be no uncertainty in these events because it’s then reduced to possible conditionals, or could-counterfactuals. Hence, the law of excluded middle is true for knowledge of future tensed events. He makes an interesting point when discussing aspects about Cicero’s contribution to the problem. If foreknowledge is removed then the events of human will are no longer necessary. Considering all of the discussion so far he believes that everything that happens does so by necessity.
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