Debate on Calvinistic Compatibilism Part 22: Matt Responds

Hey Derek!

Sorry for the delay. Hope all is going well. This has been a good dialogue and I thank you. I will probably collect our responses from this comment section and post it up as its own blog entry for easier reading for those interested.

In my last post I sought to point out your compatibilistic view does indeed collapse into a form of causal determinism that invalidates genuine freedom. I pointed out that from God’s standpoint or perspective everything we think, desire and do has been determined by an irresistible decree that we are powerless and incapable to choose against. In other words we are not genuinely free and therefore the TRUE MYSTERY is not how determinism is compatible with free-will, but why God holds us morally accountable for determined choices that originated in his decretive will—not our will.

You do concede that from God’s decretive standpoint everything we think, desire and do is indeed determined by God such that the outcome is rendered certain.

You state:
“God foreknows and pre-determines the result… God… decreed the outcome.”

Now the problem is you feel compelled to affirm real possibilities of contrary choice and genuine free-will to do otherwise (libertarian free-will) because you state that from your human perspective you feel a genuine sensation that you are experiencing free-will and that genuine possibilities are open to you–even though you also insist that God unilaterally determined (not just foreknew) which “possibility” you must choose via his decree. Thus your will did not whittle down all the possibilities down to one choice, God’s decree accomplished that for you. Your “choice” is just an intermediate, instrumental effect in time to bring about God’s decree that cannot fail…yet you still want to retain a belief in genuine possibilities and contrary choice. Is this all sounding confusing? Because it is to me :) Your point seems to be that you are blissfully unaware of what God determined–until you choose what he determined. You are saying more or less that our ignorance of what God determined is a sufficient foundation for our “genuine freedom.”

You state:
“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.”

But Derek, being “unaware” of God’s decree isn’t the point at all. Being ignorant of the fact that a mad scientist has placed electrodes on my head and is determining each chose I make doesn’t therefore mean my choices are free! The point is your view holds that God’s decree causally constrains our wills to choose only what he pre-determined. That is the very anti-thesis of free-will. You continue to invent special definitions to the word freedom, Derek. You now think that freedom = being unaware of what God determined you choose before you choose.” However you simultaneously try to assert that your view ALSO posits genuine possibilities of choice.

You state this as follows:

“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.”

In other words you feel committed to the view that God both determines our choice and the view that we are free to choose among various possibilities because you EXPERIENCE the sensation of choice from your human perspective. But I’m not interested in any feeling derived from the human experience. I’m interested in what is true in reality. So at that juncture I asked you the qualifying question: “Are we genuinely free FROM GOD’S DECRETIVE STANDPOINT to choose against the choice he determined we choose?”

Obviously the answer is “NO.” If it is “yes” then we really have plunged headfirst into a downward spiral of vertigo where determinism can now mean “doing what is undetermined.” I believe William Lane Craig’s point continues to hold sway over your view yet again :)

I was disappointed :( to see you side-step the force of the question entirely and strangely argue that you cannot possibly know an answer. I think your exact words were:

“I must honestly claim a rather gaping ignorance.”

Derek, I have no problem claiming ignorance over a host of issues—such as the incarnation and kenosis of Christ. But you are claiming ignorance over the most basic of logical implications. Because you posit two claims that are contradictory (determined outcome / possible outcomes), your own view logically requires you to answer of necessity to avoid sounding absurdly incoherent.

I believe your reticence to answer either “yes” or “no” is due in no small way to your appreciation of the role of logic. You rightly discerned that if you honestly answered “NO—we are not free from God’s standpoint to choose contrary to his decree” it would logically consign your alleged experience of free-will to be nothing more than merely the illusion of free-will and the illusion of having choices and possibilities unconstrained by God’s determinative decree. If not for the obvious logical implication, why else would you refuse to answer the question candidly???

I found your dismissal of the question(s) slightly ironic. On the one hand you seek to side-step / avoid the question because you intuitively recognize the role logic can play in invalidating your argument. But on the other hand when you come face to face with an incoherent, illogical contradiction intrinsic to your view (i.e. humans possess freedom of contrary choice to only choose that which God irresistibly determined we choose) you all of a sudden want to depreciate the role of logic as being too limited to speak to the issue–and again appeal to mystery.

Why not just own up to the obvious, logical implication of your position and then immediately toss logic to the wind completely and say, “In reality from God’s decretive standpoint we are not genuinely free to choose against what he decreed/determined. But on the other hand we possess a genuine freedom to choose against what God determined.”

I believe you don’t take this route because you know this is an actual contradiction (not simply “apparent opposites” as you suggest) and at the end of the day you actually DO appreciate the value and role of logic despite your misgivings as to its alleged limitations concerning our discussion.

It is rather evident to me that if we are not genuinely free in reality (from God’s decretive standpoint as to what reality will consist of) than our human experience of choice and having genuine possibilities is merely illusory.

Yet again when I pressed you on this you stated:

“But I can’t know, from His perspective, whether my freedom is merely illusory. I only know that from my perspective it is real. On the other hand, I do believe that He decrees the experience of volitional freedom that I engage in everyday, unavoidably, which argues that there is something very “real” about it!”

YES Derek! I can only give a hearty “amen” to your last statement. But I would only argue that the reason you are experiencing genuine volitional freedom that “unavoidably argues there is something REAL about it”—is because YOU ARE EXPERIENCING GENUINE VOLITIONAL FREEDOM! :) Your will is not determined every second of the day by God! Every day you wake up the reality of life presents you with genuine possibilities over which color socks you wear and what sins you commit. These choices are truly up to you! You are not experiencing an illusion of freedom but genuine, indeterminite freedom. But of course—for all the reasons spelled out— if that is true then compatibilistic determinism is false!

Now this leads to an underlying fundamental point I have picked up from our dialogue. You feel obligated to believe in meticulous, exhaustive divine-determinism because you believe certain scriptures lead you to that conclusion. You also think God’s foreknowledge of what we freely choose is to place free-will in the same category as God unilaterally and irresistibly determining what I do. But this is not so. Since my choice as to what I ACTUALLY do is what constitutes God’s foreknowledge–God’s foreknowledge would not act deterministically on my will. They are not the same at all. More can be said of this. In my next post I will seek to address these areas as well as additional comments you have made…and lastly seek to answer questions you have posed to me. It may be another day or two. I’m on the road traveling at present.



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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