Debate on Calvinistic Compatibilism Part 18: Matt Responds

Thank you, Derek, for the time and effort you have given to explain your personal view of compatibilism and seeking to demonstrate how it retains an authentic free-will. However… as you probably have guessed :) I have not found your arguments at all persuasive. In fact, to be quite frank, your answers appear to me to be quite inconsistent and contradictory. You personally may have escaped William Lane’s Craig description of how compatibilistic determinism results in confusing “vertigo” but I can’t help but be stricken with it upon reading your responses :) But I want to give you a chance at the end to clarify a key issue.

On the one hand you stated:
“But I have already defined my view of human freedom as the classical compatibilist’s “voluntary, uncoerced” action of the will in combination with our actual experience of free choice, with its obvious and undeniable sense of liberty. We are capable of doing other than we do, and as free as our everyday selection of socks, meals, pets, computers, guitars, books, words to write on a blog, etc. No one compels or forces our selection of these things. We select what we want from a broad range of possible choices. They are “possible” because we possess the ability to choose them, and they are “choices” because they are an action of the will that we select in distinction to the other actions of the will of which we are capable at the same moment.”

Here Derek—you are outright rejecting every logical implication of divine, exhaustive determinism and wholly adopting the indeterminate view of libertarian freedom… which your view seeks to argue against! You try to posit real possibilities, real choices and a genuine freedom and capability to choose amongst different actions of the will. YET as you have affirmed elsewhere you also hold that from GOD’S DETERMINATIVE VANTAGE POINT we can ONLY choose, WILL choose and MUST choose what God determined. Thus from God’s vantage point we are NOT CAPABLE of doing other than what we do—which of course is what God determined we do.

You just can’t have it both ways Derek! You can’t say on the one hand that from God’s vantage point we possess other, alternative, possible choices in contrast to the one decreed for us, and then simultaneously on the other hand posit the view that from God’s vantage point the only real, viable choice is the one decreed for us— necessarily invalidating all other alleged “possibilities.”

Your only way out of this conundrum is to essentially equivocate your usage of words in two different contexts or perspectives. In other words your view commits a unique equivocation fallacy by using the meaning of words like “possible” and “capable” and “free” and “choice” in two very different contexts. One context is our human experience or our perspective of ignorance in virtue of being unaware of what God has decreed. The other context is God’s decretive, deterministic perspective. You move back and forth between these contexts rather fluidly without recognizing that your word meanings, while seemingly viable in one context, are completely invalidated in another context.

Let’s look at two examples:

You stated:
“Yes, I do possess that freedom, in simple terms. But the result of my freedom is that I will choose what God pre-determined. Since I don’t know what was decreed, I freely choose according to my own desires and without regard to decree. No one’s choice is influenced by a decree of which he is unaware (even if he is aware of the fact that there is a decree). We choose from the range of possibilities that we see before us. All of the possibilities are possible before we choose, and we are free to choose any of the possibilities. The fact that a decree of God mysteriously works in, under, and through our choice does not mitigate or invalidate the real freedom that is experienced by us.”

You go on to state:
“I am free to choose any of the socks within the range of the possibilities presented, or no socks at all. Even mismatched pairs might be chosen, and I may even choose to wear them on my hands rather than my feet. All of these options are within the range of the possibilities presented, and I possess the freedom and ability to choose any of them. God foreknows and pre-determines the result, but from my perspective there are many possibilities and I make a perfectly free choice. From God’s standpoint, it is all pre-determined, but from mine it is open. Even knowing that there is a decree behind my choice cannot prevent me from choosing freely and voluntarily from the range of choices presented. In my actual experience, none of the possible choices were ever closed off to me. God decreed that I should be presented with a range of possible choices and experience the freedom of choosing, and yet He also decreed the outcome. He is quite a clever God!”

Here Derek it is quite obvious that your view can only “escape” the contention that it collapses into causal determinism and invariably invalidates humans possessing genuine freedom by reinterpreting freedom as “possessing and experiencing the ILLUSION of freedom from a human perspective.” In other words in seeking to deflect away the initial contention you jump out of one pitfall and right into another—that being that your view collapses into nothing more than having the experiential illusion of freedom. And of course having the illusion of freedom is no real freedom—which is what you want to argue for but can’t arrive at because your compatibilism cannot surrender the view that from God’s decretive vantage point there is only one choice we WILL and MUST make—the one he determined we make via an irresistible decree we are not free to choose against.

Thus from God’s decretive perspective there are no real POSSIBILITIES of alternative choices outside the one he determined for us. And that is the whole point! God’s perspective is the sole lens that defines reality and truth for us Derek. And according to your own view, from God’s perspective we: 1) are NOT FREE to choose against his decree, 2) thus we have no genuine possibilities of real choice as if 3) alternative possibilities were actually competing with God’s decree and our free wills were the final and ultimate arbiter of decision.

It makes no difference Derek if I FEEL like I am experiencing a genuine choice simply because I’m UNAWARE and ignorant of God’s prior determination that is causally constraining my will (from God’s perspective) to his decree.

Our argument is not over “what we feel” or what we think “we are experiencing” but what IS in actuality.

Again—God’s perspective is all that matters because it defines reality. And from everything I can see, your own compatibilistic scheme posits the view that from God’s decretive vantage point of reality, humans only possess the illusion of making choices and the illusion that other choices were JUST AS VIABLE AND POSSIBLE as the one they were determined to make. But in actuality—they were not free and not capable of choosing against God’s decree.

Thus in the end Derek your view is unable to escape the contention that compatibilism posits a view of causal determinism that invariably invalidates GENUINE freedom of choice.

You can avoid this conclusion only by denying that from God’s perspective of reality—the ONLY reality that really counts—we are not free to choose against God’s decree.

However I confess that your comments were confusing and therefore maybe I misread you. I feel compelled to ask you three follow-up questions and give you one last opportunity to clarify your view before I respond more fully:

1) FROM GOD’S DECRETIVE PERSPECTIVE (not our human experiential perspective) do genuine possibilities of choice and outcomes exist other than what is decreed, and can they be chosen in contrast to what God decreed for us?

2) FROM GOD’S DECRETIVE PERSPECTIVE do humans possess genuine freedom and the ability to choose against his sovereign decree to do X?

3) Using your analogy, FROM GOD’S DECRETIVE PERSPECTIVE were you genuinely free and capable to NOT choose the white socks or no socks at all?

Thanks again for the dialogue Derek. It is very informative in many ways.
Shalom, Matt


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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