In dealing with free-will the Calvinist skillfully maneuvers the discussion into a framework where he can give lip-service to “free-will,” but in doing so he mars the common sense, standard understanding “freedom” beyond any semblance of recognition.
Let’s take sin’s occurrence for example. Calvinists will define God’s sovereignty over this world as his predetermination and foreordination of everything that occurs, including sinful choices. But God is said to hold us responsible because we sin freely, and not that God is the author of our sin. Much can be said of this. For example how does the Calvinist parse the difference between God’s mind being the origin for the sin of X in virtue of foreordaining the sin of X, yet not be the author of the sin of X?
Though I’ve yet to hear a cogent answer from a Calvinist that responsibly deals with this question without being evasive, it is not my intention to get stuck on this unavoidable conundrum for the Calvinist. Rather I want to zero in on the fact that Calvinism’s usage of the term “sin freely” is logically incoherent.
Calvinism’s sleight of hand is to on the one hand assert humans sin freely due to their sinful nature. On the other hand the move is made to assert that God also engineers our freedom. That is to say he determinatively steers our free will according to his prior conceived predestinations, which are deeply sequestered in his hidden decree. But engineered freedom is no genuine freedom at all! Divinely determined, engineered choices are no more free than are engineered robotic arms assembling a vehicle in an auto factory. Programming, or in the case of Calvinism, causal foreordination necessarily restricts the range of movements or choices to only one–the one determined.
In Calvinism freedom, decision, deliberation, choice and contemplation are merely illusions in our brain. In a Calvinistic world we don’t really deliberate or contemplate or choose anything in this world—including whether or not one should be a Calvinist or an Arminian! For everything has already been divinely determined. But oddly enough that doesn’t stop Calvinists from writing anti-Arminian books at a feverish pace attempting to dislodge people from considering Arminianism and persuade them to become Calvinists. It just goes to show how incoherent, bad theology and logic can’t be consistently applied in a real world context without one’s life becoming an inconvenient, self-refutation of one’s internally held beliefs.
In a Calvinist context freedom looses all sense of meaning and becomes wholly incoherent and devoid of value. Indeed to assert that humans freely sin while simultaneously holding that every sinful choice is restricted to only the choice that God predetermined is not only a patent contradiction—it is to play word games both intentionally and deceitfully with the word “free.”
Calvinists may assert they aren’t seeking to be at all deceitful. Rather they are merely using the word “free” outside the common, everyday usage and understanding of “free-will.” That is to say they are redefining freedom to serve their philosophical bent. But here the Calvinist commits an obvious equivocation fallacy. For Calvinists believe God is a free being and as such God’s choices are not causally determined by anything outside his own self-will. Therefore God’s choices and God’s will is free. But when it comes to humans the move is made to utilize the word “free” but to apply it in a totally different sense than how it is applied to God.
It may be the case that the wills of humans are subject to environments, influences and desires that God’s will is similarly not subjected to, but that doesn’t change the fact that a free choice, whether by humans or by God, is a choice which is free from any causal constraints to determine it one way or the other. Humans and God alike possess selfhood or personhood. We possess it because we are made in God’s image.
Calvinists decry the view that the “self” can be the ultimate cause for choice and argue that to say such a thing is to posit un-caused cause. In other words they want to know what caused the self to choose?” Here it must be stated clearly that there is nothing behind the determinative will of self to choose. The self is the ultimate end and final determination of every choice made. Again—so it is with God. God’s will of self determines his choices, but Calvinists don’t go around decrying that God’s willful choices of self are likewise uncaused causes.
It’s simply absurd and pointless for the Calvinist to ask, “What is the cause of self-will to choose?” It’s a bit like asking, “What does the letter “T” taste like?” or “What material objects did the universe contain before the material universe existed?” The point is the cause of self-will is the ultimate cause and explanation for human choice and to demand a further explanation for the cause of self-will is simply incoherent and absurd. It’s equally absurd for the Calvinist to assert that humans sin freely according to their sinful natures when the range of possible choices has been divinely reduced to one. For in a Calvinistic scheme every choice—including your sinful ones—are merely the effects in time of what God already predetermined you would choose prior to the creation of the universe. Hence humans are nothing more than God’s actors on God’s stage performing their lines and given roles.