Debate on Calvinistic Compatibilism Part: 12 Matt Responds

Hi Derek,

Thanks for your very kind words as to the work I am privileged to be involved with and for your generous comments towards Arminians and working in concert with them. Moreover I do appreciate your attempts to articulate why you continue to believe divine determinism is compatible with genuine freedom of the will. Furthermore I do agree with you that we have gotten down to the root, that being that when one defines “freedom” as “choosing to do what one was determined to do by external factors beyond one’s control,” than of course I have no choice :) but to agree that determinism is compatible with that kind of “freedom.”

Obviously I am putting “freedom” in quotes because your notion of freedom is simply a re-interpretation of freedom that allows you to circumvent the contradictions stated earlier. So I continue to be baffled why you say “genuine freedom.” That term is typically used by Arminians to refer to libertarian free-will, which implies genuine indeterminacy and contingency. Are you referring to libertarian free-will or are you again consigning another private interpretation onto another word, i.e. “genuine?”

What are your parameters for “genuine freedom?” Does it mean one is free to choose against an external cause acting upon him deterministically? If not how is it genuine freedom? If I determine one of my students to fail by giving him a test that only contains invalid fill-in-the-blank options, can I still say he “genuinely failed?”

If we are able to redefine terms when it suits us to make our points avoid logical implications, then there is very little reason to discuss the issue further and we are at an impasse. For example I feel as if I am saying, “John got married today so he is not a bachelor.” To which you respond, “I agree that John is now married but he is also still a bachelor.” When I try to point out the logical contradiction of such a statement, you respond, “Ah—yes I will grant you that it may have the appearance of a contradiction but it is not because I define a bachelor as being “one who is a married single.”

Perhaps this is a poor illustration but it is what the discussion seems to have whittled down to from my perspective. You think doing what we are causally determined to do via an irresistible decree (i.e. not free to act contrary to) is “genuine freedom.” We obviously aren’t using definitive and crucial terms in the same (valid) manner and so it appears we have exhausted our points.

In continuing this thought I do find it a bit odd that on the one hand you say you appeal to paradox, but on the other hand you believe doing what we are divinely determined to do an acceptable definition for “genuine freedom.” So where is the paradox? The mystery disappears altogether! Freedom is simply redefined as doing what you were determined to do by causal factors outside yourself. There is no paradox!

You say that I still have yet to offer a logical reason as to why your view is a contradiction, which of course is not true. I have done so repeatedly. What you are really driving at is, “Matt—you still have not offered a logical reason as to why my re-interpretation of freedom is incompatible with determinism.”

But of course I strongly disagree with your special interpretation of “genuine” and “freedom.” Your definitions are artificial and so there is little that I can say.

You state that my view is a view of sovereignty whereby all things are not pre-determined (I agree) and then you ask, “How do you distinguish between those events that are pre-determined and those that aren’t?” Quite easily. Events or choices that are pre-determined are determined and events that are not pre-determined are thereby indeterminate and contingent.

You also ask if I can offer a biblical proof or reason as to why compatibilistic determinism (a determinism which is causal and prohibits any choice against God’s determination) is illegitimate. Well I could just point out the fact that if universal, divine determinism via irresistible decrees is true, then all choices are rendered necessary, thus NOT FREE, and we are no longer in ultimate control of what we think or choose. As such I could just point to ANY example in scripture where a genuine, free choice is made to invalidate universal, exhaustive determinism.

Or Derek… I could just point to the multitude of scriptures that speak of genuine indeterminacy and contingency, but the grand advantage you have is you can always appeal to “paradox” if the context takes on a tone of greater indeterminacy than your commitment to determinism can handle. So no matter what verse collapses into utter nonsense (like sincerely praying that God not to lead us into the very temptations he decreed we must succumb to, and asking God to deliver us from the very evils he decreed that we commit Mt. 6:13) and no matter what logical contradictions your view faces, you can always play your “paradox/mystery” card and say, “The contradiction only exists in God’s revealed will not his hidden will.”

I find this advantage a tad unfair :) Perhaps as an Arminian I can start saying, “Some people think the Bible is endorsing compatibilistic determinism—but actually it is not. It only appears that way in God’s revealed will that we are privy to see in part, but in his hidden will compatibilism is non-existent.” That would sort of be…hmmm a cop out, yes? :)

In the spirit of acquiescing further :) to your request for a biblical passage that counters compatibilism you may want to take a look at the following link that highlights 1 Cor. 10:13 (which Robert also highlighted)[*references to Robert relate to another blogger commenting on the original blog where this debate started*]. Personally I believe it is only one of a multitude of scriptures that lose all their homiletical force when interpreted compatibilistically.

Lastly, let me offer a few comments in reply to one of your summary paragraphs. I do this to show why your view—EVEN IF IT WERE TRUE—is simply inaccessible or impractical to the average, thinking person. After the first wave of Calvinism-Is-The-Gospel missionaries are sent out to tell everyone that God’s sovereignty means he decreed all their unrighteous sins and acts of disobedience, secondary (paradox trained) missionaries would have to be sent out to do critical follow-up and instruct the masses how NOT to give in to the temptation to think too logically– but rather paradoxically.

You wrote: (MY RESPONSE IS IN CAPS)
“This is part of the reason I have embraced Moderate Calvnism, and devoted myself to deterring and opposing any form of Calvinism which:
-denies or downplays human responsibility” (HOW ARE GOD’S IRRESISTIBLE DECREES FOR PEOPLE TO COMMIT THE MOST INSIDIOUS OF EVILS COMPATIBLE WITH HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY? ANSWER: PARADOX)

“-calls God the author or direct cause of evil” (HOW IS GOD’S HOLY MIND THE FOREORDAINING ORIGIN FOR THE SIN OF X TO OCCUR BUT NOT THE ULITMATE AUTHOR OF THE SIN OF X TO OCCUR? WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOD DECREEING THE SIN OF X TO OCCUR AND GOD AUTHORING THE SIN OF X TO OCCUR? ANSWER: PARADOX)

“-uses God’s sovereignty as an excuse for sin” (BUT ALAS IF ONE DOES USE GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY AS AN EXCUSE TO SIN— WOULDN’T SUCH AN EXCUSE TO SIN, AND THE SIN ITSELF, ALSO BE IRRESISTIBLY DECREED BY GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY? ANSWER: PARADOX

“-hinders evangelism/missions on the basis of election or other theological considerations” (IT IS SAID GOD DESIRES ALL TO BE SAVED, NONE TO PERISH AND WANTS ALL TO COME TO A SAVING KNOWLEDGE OF HIM— YET GOD ACTIVILY WORKS AGAINST HIMSELF BY DETERMINING MANY TO PERISH. WHY? ANSWER: PARADOX)

“-leads to apathy in service and devotion” (BUT ISN’T MY APATHY AND LACK OF DEVOTION PART OF THE “ALL THINGS” THAT GOD DETERMINED, SUCH THAT MY APATHY OR DEVOTION IS ULTIMATELY OUT OF MY CONTROL AND NOT REALLY UP TO ME? ANSWER: PARADOX

“-elevates human logic above the revealed will of God” (BUT IF I ELEVATE HUMAN LOGIC ABOVE THE REVEALED WILL OF GOD—DIDN’T GOD DETERMINE ME TO DO SO? IF GOD DETERMINED EVERTHING I DO—GOOD OR BAD, WISE OR UNWISE—ON WHAT BASIS IS ANYTHING I DO TRULY BLAMEWORTY OR PRAISEWORTHY? ANSWER: PARADOX)

I admire your enthusiasm and desire to remain committed to what you feel the scriptures teach, Derek. But in the end your compatibilistic determinism, despite your verbal protests (and lack of arguments to the contrary), does indeed collapse into causal determinism and invalidate genuine freedom. And thus there exists an obvious, fatal, self-defeating nature to your view.

I don’t like to quote bomb… but William Lane Craig rightly notes:

“There is a sort of dizzying, self-defeating character to determinism. For if one comes to believe that determinism is true, one has to believe that the reason he has come to believe it is simply that he was determined to do so. One has not in fact been able to weigh the arguments pro and con and freely make up one’s mind on that basis. The difference between the person who weighs the arguments for determinism and rejects them and the person who weighs them and accepts them is wholly that one was determined by causal factors outside himself to believe and the other not to believe. When you come to realize that your decision to believe in determinism was itself determined and that even your present realization of that fact right now is likewise determined, a sort of vertigo sets in, for everything that you think, even this very thought itself, is outside your control. Determinism could be true; but it is very hard to see how it could ever be rationally affirmed, since its affirmation undermines the rationality of its affirmation.”

Shalom…and don’t forget to wish your Mom a Happy Mothers’s Day!
Matt

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About StriderMTB

Hi, I'm Matt. "Strider" from Lord of the Rings is my favorite literary character of all time and for various reasons I write under the pseudonym "StriderMTB. As my blog suggests I seek to live out both the excitement and tension of a Christian walk with Christ in the 3rd world context of Asia. I am unmarried yet blessed to oversee an orphanage of amazing children in South-East Asia. I hate lima beans and love to pour milk over my ice-cream. I try to stay active in both reading and writing and this blog is a smattering of my many thoughts. I see the Kingdom of God as Jesus preached it and lived to be the only hope for a broken world and an even more broken and apathetic church.
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