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The Question of Free Will

Discussion in 'Formal Debate Threads' started by MarkRohfrietsch, Sep 12, 2015.

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  1. MarkRohfrietsch

    MarkRohfrietsch Unapologetic Apologist Supporter

    1. The topic and title of the debate: "The Question of Free Will" [topic: Free Will Exists vs. Free Will Does Not Exist]

    2. The members who will be participating in the debate and what positions they will take: @elopez will take the position that free will exists, and SinnerInTheHands will take the position of complete predestination [that free will is at best an illusion and at worst a heresy].

    3. The number of rounds within the debate: Three rounds.

    4. The posts will be made Alternating, @elopez would go first.

    5. Time limit between posts: No more than seven days.

    6. The maximum length for each post: 5,000 words.

    7. Both Biblical citations and outside quotes and references; but be mindful that the 20% rule regarding copyright remains in effect

    8. And, finally, the start date of the debate: Today or tomorrow.

    The Peanut Gallery thread for those who wish to discuss this topic and are not the participants in this debate may be found in General Theology, and is located here: http://www.christianforums.com/thre...ery-thread-the-question-of-free-will.7907495/
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  2. elopez

    elopez Well-Known Member


    I would like to start off by thanking my partner Sinnerinhands for agreeing to participate. Although we may find major disagreements in our theologies, we are still united in Christ! Also giving thanks to Mark for taking the time to set the whole thing up! You rock man! Lastly, I invite an audience to participate themselves in the Peanut Gallery thread, and to read the debate with an open mind and heart. That said, let us begin!

    Free will is such a frequent topic on this website I dare say there is at least one thread on it a month, asking what it is to be free, and if we really can be in the first place. There are threads about this position of free will and that position, with perhaps one or two more posters claiming yet another position! The debate on free will goes back centuries, and has picked up even more in modern times. Then you throw in the idea of determinism and the whole free will thing seems abstruse! Here we faced with a question of determinism and if it exists. If determinism does exist, it is either compatible with free will or it is not. If free will is compatible with determinism we then must explain what free will means in relation to determinism. If free will is incompatible with determinism we must explain also how that is, as well as give an account for morality. I believe my partner and I agree when it comes to the question of determinism in that it does exist. Therefore, the question for us is whether free will is compatible with determinism or not. I say determinism is and free will does exist. He says it is not, and free will doesn't exist. In the over all debate I hope to clarify how free will is compatible with determinism, as well as give good reasons to think free will exists. First, let me make plain why free will is even important.

    Free will is momentous to our faith. Why? Free will is highly associated with our Salvation, as Salvation is the very center piece of Christianity, it becomes apparent how pressing such an outlook as free will is. To apprehend free will in a way that gives us a coherent account for Salvation is near dire for the Christian. Free will bears an understanding of how we come to Salvation. Is it, as libertarianism says, by the mere choice of man? If that is the case, free will obviously exists, yet according to this view determinism does not exist. As I have said above, I believe my partner and I agree determinism does exist. I will touch more on libertarianism later in the post. Since determinism is true, and since it is more improper to artlessly assume, I will deal with why determinism does exist and in what sense. If we have free will and determinism is true, how are we to understand Salvation then? And the same questions needs to be addressed for the opposing side. The issue of free will becomes assailant in theology, and if we wish to resolve it and maintain a Biblical grasp of Salvation, we need to properly assess the above questions and their answers.


    Allow me to clarify my position and define some terms first. It is my contention that free will and determinism exist. And also, despite the seemingly contradictory nature of free will and determinism, they are not mutually exclusive. I see a lot of people talk about what free will is, yet one thing I have noticed that most gloss over is how free will relates to our mind. Our minds play an integral part of decision making and we reflect on reasons of action. Hence, one aspect of free will is a 'freedom of the mind' - to mentally comprehend our actions, our reasons for action, and to understand our actions have certain consequences. This mental freedom is what gives way to another key concept of free will, moral responsibility (MR). If one does not grasp he has reasons for acting, or even why he is acting, he cannot be held responsible for his behavior. This is why we do not hold accountable those with a form of mental impaired illness. They simply do not have the mental capacity to really understand. This is also why free will and MR are so intertwined. Our freedom of the mind gives way to another sense of freedom, a 'freedom of action'. One is free if and only if there are no external or internal factors preventing one from acting how he desires or forcing one to act how he does not desire. One who is attempting to steal, yet is prevented from doing so by being placed in hand handcuffs is not free as there is an external factor preventing him from doing what he wants. Moral responsibility is the status of morally deserving reward, blame, punishment, etc for an act.

    Now on to determinism, which gets more complicated. Determinism comes in a variety of forms, yet our interest here is some sort of theological determinism. I think there are three distinct yet correlated instances of theological determinism. I will quickly explain them here and then address them in further detail. The first we can say is by way of God creating the world. In by doing so He started a causal chain of events that lead to where we are today. Another sense of determinism is in omniscience, specifically in that what God foreknows of must happen. Lastly, there is predestination, which is that God has chosen to save some as an eternal decree.

    1. Causal determinism - Every event is necessitated by prior events and conditions in accordance also with the laws of nature. More clearly I believe this pertains to God's creative act in the beginning. Our events today can be traced back to the point of creation through a causal chain of events.

    2. Logical Determinism - All propositions about the past, present, and future are either true or false. Since God knows everything, He knows the truth value of all propositions. Given a proposition of the future, which God has known eternally without creation, it already has a truth value long before it comes to transpire. I would align this view of determinism more with God's foreknowledge of creation. God's foreknowledge is infallible, and if He foreknows of it, it is impossible for it not to happen.

    3. Predestination - This I feel is going to be one of the main points of debate. My partner has already made clear there is a predestination of the damned while I find this to be false. If there is a predestination of the damned and that is his thought, I will let him make the supporting case since he is in fact claiming it to be so. I think there are some general things we can agree on here though. Such that predestination itself is true. God does predestine. Also that certain people are predestined unto salvation. I also think predestination consists of two of God's attributes - Omnipotence or simply the power He has and mere agency and omniscience to know what it is being predestined. Without both of these there is no predestination, as to God merely foreknowing of an event but not taking action in regards to it, is God merely knowing of the event, and knowing something doesn't cause it. Regardless, predestination is the eternal decision of God, before the foundation of the world, and without creation in total, to allow some people to inherent salvation by means of God's merciful will (this too, I think my partner and I can agree on). In a very real and literal sense, God saves us Himself.

    Compatibilism Explained

    So you, the audience, may be wondering how free will defined above and determinism defined in these instances match up? Let us start with free will and determinism on 1. An event E is determined if there are a set of prior events (A, B, C, D, etc) that constitute the sufficient cause for E. Think of a guy named Bob who likes soccer and is beginning to watch a game on TV on a Friday evening, and he goes to get a beer. The idea here is that getting the beer, call this B, is determined. And this is true as we noted above and to which my partner and I may agree! What this is really to say is that there are external physical factors out of Bob's control that are relevant into his getting the beer.

    Such as the fact the game was scheduled to be on at that time and day by various people who do that job (call this factor J), his acquired taste for beer that began at age 19 (call this factor A), and his going to the store previously that week to buy a case of beer (call this C). These are but a few prior factors that are relevant into E, though not all. However, the real question here is does those factors preclude Bob's responsibility for drinking the beer? Of course not! That would seem preposterous to assume so!

    He is still aware of what beer is, what the effects are, etc. He understand he wants to drink it as he may be thirsty. Bob is still mentally free regardless of J, A, and C, for example. Also, there is nothing externally forcing Bob to get the beer. This is where confusion may stand yet dissipates once we realize again that it is Bob's desire to get the beer. Force in this sense is physical or emotional coercion and the factors of J or C for example, do not coerce Bob into doing something he doesn't want to do. Finally, there is nothing preventing Bob from getting the beer, either external or internal. Alas, Bob has the freedom to act regardless of deterministic factors A, C, and J. Bob is still responsible for getting the beer and drinking the beer regardless of him being determined to do so. I think it's worth noting here that 1 is theological in the sense that God began this causal chain. This is more a day to day basis of how determinism is signified in our everyday normal life.

    On 2 determinism and free will, or in this case, foreknowledge and free will, are compatible in a very similar sense as outlined above of 1. If God foreknows of x, x must occur. It is impossible for x to not occur, and this is precisely because of the infallible nature of divine foreknowledge. God is not wrong. So say God foreknows of future event x, where x stands for Jim going to the store. Divine foreknowledge does not downplay the freedom of the mind, as Jim fully understands his reasons for going to the store.

    Foreknowledge does not down play Jim's freedom to act, as foreknowledge does not force Jim to act. Foreknowledge is not a causal relation itself. In other words, knowledge does not cause things to happen. Jim is the agent that is causing x. Thus, his freedom to act. And obviously foreknowledge does not prevent Jim from going to the store, indeed that is what he desires to do. What God foreknows of is ultimately our desires, which may be independent of any desire God may have for us.

    On 3 free will is compatible with predestination in a very special case. Here, God chooses certain people to be saved without creation from eternity. At the outset, this implies we cannot save, and do not have the ability within us, to save ourselves. Our human nature is polluted with sin, and we have a natural inclination to sin, which was bore into us from day one. We are not taught to lie; we begin to do it naturally as if it is innate. No one is able to believe in God unless He Himself has predestined it to be so. On this, I believe my partnerand I can come to terms with. What free will does not mean then is that man has the ability to save himself. This is a indeterminist position known as libertarianism, and preaches man does have the ability to do such. I find that view on free will to be false as it is not Biblical.

    So God bestows us with the Holy Spirit who brings conviction, and this is an external factor, yet we notice it does in fact force us to do something we do not want, which is the natural desire to sin. This has a huge ramification as we realize in this occurrence it appears that even by the definition I supplied one would not have free will, yet this does not mean free will all together ceases to exist. What this does mean is that there are instances in which one's free will is meddled with. I believe this imposing of the will is only in the instance of God first making 'contact' with an individual, and from there on out one sustains free will. Notice that when the Spirit comes to us we are not free because it forces us to do something we do not desire, to abstain from sin. Yet this desire is no longer once regenerated and we desire to do good. Since we desire to good and not sin, the external factor no longer forces us to do something we do not desire. Our will aligns with God's will, and we are free as we desire to do what He wills.

    I want to look at something I mentioned in the above paragraph. That is, that there are occasions in which one may not have free will, or their will is being imposed upon. This is something I also mentioned when I was defining free will, and gave an example of as one who is placed under arrest. I also gave another example of one who suffers from a mental disorder. In each instance the one who lacks free will lacks one of the two or both traits mentioned. In the arrest example, the criminal still understands his reasons for acting and they have consequences yet an external factor is present that prevents him from acting how he wants. His freedom to act is infringed on.

    In the other case he lacks the freedom of the mind. So you see, these two elements are necessary conditions for free will. If only one abides we may not be free, yet that does not mean free will does not exist at all. Only when one or both of those conditions of freedom do not hold is free will non existent, and this is clearly not the case for every individual.

    The Essence of Free Will

    Above I have outlined how theological determinism is compatible with free will. Next I will cover why we should think free will exists itself. As it is now, I have but explained how free will can co-exist with determinism. I have not yet touched on the real center of debate: does free will exist? I am not submitting there is definitive proof of free will, just as we must submit there is no definitive proof against free will. Instead I submit there is evidence and good reason to think free will exists, and that we can claim to believe in the existence of free will on those terms, and that we are justified in believing of free will unless reliable evidence or good reason to think it does not exist is provided. I further submit, as this debate developes, that the evidences and reasons my opponent gives are actually not reliable or good reasons to reject free will.

    To say free will exists means that humans have some sort of trait or ability within our makeup. What that trait or ability is is the crux of the free will debate. Though we have noted what free will is evidently not, which is that man has within him the ability to save himself, to choose God on his own from his own faculties.

    I believe we have two traits which total our free will. One is relating to the brain and mind, in which encompasses one's mental capacity to understand our reasons for acting, that we are able to adequately reflect on those reasons, and that we understand those actions have consequences. The brain and mind have teased philosophers for centuries as well. One theory of the mind is known as type physicalism which says mental events can be correlated with physical events in the brain. There are of course other schools of thought on the philosophy of the mind, yet as Christians we accept the existence of an immaterial soul which is distinct from the physical, biological body.

    It is within that immaterial soul that we Christians find that the mind exists as we do find that we are still perceptually aware after death. That would make the mind immaterial as well, while the brain a physical organ. The brain tells our muscles what to do and controls our bodily functions. Yet we believe an animated, immaterial, soul must also exist for that brain to have said function. It follows then that the immaterial soul plays the most substantial aspect of the brain in controlling the body, and so too does the soul control the body. The mind is not the soul itself yet is representative of the soul. After all, the soul thinks too. Therefore, it is also the mind that plays a relevant part in controlling the body.

    The mind is capable of many functions yet there are three I want to be attentive of which are relevant to the definition of freedom of the mind. They are, comprehension, reflection, and aforethought. These are the three components which composes freedom of the mind and MR. We will succinctly look at them. Comprehension is the pure mental ability to appropriately understand the nature or meaning of something. Reflection is necessary for consciousness, and is described as being mentally aware of something and that we become aware that we are aware of something. We can self reflect on many things, like how our day went, a test we took, a conversation we had two days ago, and especially on actions or reasons for acting. Aforethought is when we have a desired outcome, and is previously in our mind prior to us taking action. A fully conscious and desired intent of forethought and pre planning. Such as it is with murder.

    These three mental faculties are crucial to our consciousness, and so to our existence. We possess these faculties and make use of them everyday. Again, that we have this type of freedom of the mind suggests we are morally responsible for those actions we reflect and understand the consequences of. We have an aforethought of our actions or what a desired outcome would be. As we cannot deny the existence of the brain or the nature of the immaterial mind, and given their relation to the faculties, nor can we deny the existence of freedom of the mind.

    If we are reflecting and thinking of acting we are capable of agency. Remember, the brain and soul make us capable of movement. We have the physical ability to move our bodies. Agents have the ability to cause events to occur. So long as we are the causing agent of an event we are morally responsible for the end results. Deterministic factors do not totally or directly cause what we do to happen. For example, in the case of 1, deterministic factors A or C do not completely cause B. So it obviously is: if Bob is not even present, B cannot come about! There must be an agent for the occurrence of B, and thus there needs to be agents for certain events to occur.

    Bob causes, or at the very least, significantly assists in causing B. B is what Bob does - an action of the agent. Bob also has awareness that he is partaking in B. Bob knows why he is doing B and has knowledge of his acting. The agent's action is the bodily movement, in this case of walking and moving his arm to open the fridge, etc. The opening of the fridge is the causal consequence of moving his arm and hand, and is an event itself.

    We act in regards to our physical limitations, so if Bob perhaps had two broken arms he may not have gotten up to get the beer but would have sipped on the water in front of him instead. Or, if he was a really fast drinker, he would down two beers in the time it would take a normal person to finish one. We also act in regards to our reasons for acting, and aforethought intentions. An agents desires, intentions, and reasons are causal explanations of actions, and serve as to why an agent acts.

    Again, these two elements - freedom of the mind and freedom to act - amount to one's free will. The freedom of the mind rests on the very complexion of the immaterial mind, and how the soul and brain function. The freedom to act rests on the nature of human and moral agency. Both the mind and agency are objective facets of any person, however, they are relative to one another; one person may be able to comprehend statememt y yet another person may not be able to; one person may be able to perform a certain action while another may not be able to do the same. Whatever the case, both traits are necessary conditions for free will, and one without the other results in the nonexistence of free will for that individual. Yet again these attributes are present within each of us, the majority of us, and they are very real.

    The Bible & Free Will

    I want you all to take into consideration some Biblical references to free will. Of course the term "free will" is not explicitly stated in Scripture, yet then again nor is the word "Trinity" and we go with that. However, the concept of the Trinity is found within the Bible, and much in the same way free will is too. I have made the correlation between free will and MR. The Bible is littered with verses about man's moral responsibility and what it means. Let us consider for now just a few. I wish to provide a simple commentary to explain why the verses seem to indicate MR.

    Galatians 6:7
    "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap"
    There are two sorts of sowing, one to the flesh and the other to the Spirit. Those who reap the immoral life will go down a course of misery and punishment. Those wpunder the guidance of the Spirit will reap everlasting life. What this verse demonstrates is the responsibility of man as it's relation to free will.

    James 1:13-15
    "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death."
    God does not tempt man. Man is tempted by wordly pleasures, and gives into it, and this of course is his own doing. Temptation turns to sin and is punishiable with "death".

    Philippians 2:13
    "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure"
    God works with us so that we can will to do good. Not that we have no will, rather our will conforms to God's will. I think this confirms more of a predestination sense of free will explained by 3.


    To wrap up I want to give an overview of what has been said thus far and lay out some central points, as well as question my opponent's position. The first is that free will is defined as the freedom of the mind and freedom to act, not in a libertarian sense. Determinism can be explained in such a way that it is sensible in relation to free will. Next, our mental faculties and our physicality give us reason to believe free will exists. Also, the concept of free will is mentioned in the Bible. The concept of determinism is as well. These two truths must be understood in light of one another, and indeed they can be.

    I am not entirely sure the reasons my partner has for rejecting free will, so while I anticipate his opening post, for now I would like to pose a criticism. As I have stated earlier free will and MR are so contingent on each other, to state we don't have free will seems to suggest we likewise would not have MR. If there is no MR we nearly collide into moral nihilism, which is to say there are really no moral or immoral action. Now I am sure my partner, while adhering to a total predestination which rejects free will, does not all together disregard morality or responsibility. The trick then is for my partner to explain some sort of idea of MR without appealing to free will and especially how it has been defined here. Such an explanation would appear insurmountable, though definitely necessary.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2015
  3. SinnerInTheHands

    SinnerInTheHands Troubled Christian

    This opening post will not be nearly as long as that of my opponent, as, when first presenting my side in a debate, particularly one of a theological character, I prefer to stay brief, pithy, and Biblical. I thank everyone who is participating, as well as all watching.

    All Bible verses quoted will be from the NASB. If there are any inconsistencies in capitalism, it is because the verses [in their original forms] were poetry, and I changed them into prose in order to provide space.

    Let’s begin, shall we?

    The doctrine of free will has come up rather often within theological circles, and debate over the issue have hounded Christendom for centuries, if not longer. My own stance, which shall be made abundantly clear throughout this first argument, is that the concept of free will not only is untrue, it is at its heart a blasphemy and affront to God.

    Often, we hear of the nature of God. We hear that He’s x, y, and z, and that anyone who disagrees is out of their mind and has no clue whatsoever what they speak of.

    We hear that God requires that we fear, love and trust in Him above all else:

    “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless.” [Genesis 17:1]

    “Let all the earth fear the Lord; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.” [Psalm 33:8]

    “For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.” [Psalm 96:4]

    “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” [Proverbs 8:13]

    “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” [Matthew 10:28]​

    We hear that God is spirit:

    “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” [John 4:24]​

    We hear that God is eternal:

    “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born Or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” [Psalm 90:1-2]

    “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” [1 Timothy 1:17]​

    We hear that God is immutable:

    “But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end.” [Psalm 102:27]

    “For I, the Lord, do not change.” [Malachi 3:6]

    “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” [Hebrews 13:18]

    “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” [James 1:17]​

    We hear that God is omnipotent:

    “I am God Almighty.” [Genesis 17:1]

    “With God all things are possible.” [Matthew 19:26]​

    We hear that God is omniscient:

    “O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all.” [Psalm 139:1-4]

    “Lord, You know all things.” [John 21:17]​

    We hear that God is omnipresent:

    “'Can a man hide himself in hiding places So I do not see him?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?’ declares the Lord.” [Jeremiah 23:24]

    “He is not far from each one of us.” [Acts 17:27]​

    We hear that God is holy:

    “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.’” [Leviticus 19:2]

    “For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; No evil dwells with You. The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity.” [Psalm 5:4-5]

    “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” [Isaiah 6:3]​

    We hear that God is just:

    “The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He.” [Deuteronomy 32:4]​

    We hear that God is faithful:

    “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” [2 Timothy 2:13]​

    We hear that God is good:

    “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His loving kindness is everlasting.” [Psalm 118:1]

    “The Lord is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works.” [Psalm 145:9]​

    We hear that God is merciful:

    “'For I am gracious,’ declares the Lord” [Jeremiah 3:12]

    “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” [Titus 3:5]​

    We hear that God is love:

    “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” [John 3:16]

    “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”​

    Now, it should be mentioned that (1) these are only a few of the many verses that could have been used for each of these categories, and (2) that God is all of these – and more.

    God is spirit, eternal, immutable, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, holy, just, faithful, good, merciful, gracious, love, and more. He is above all things, outside all things, yet ever-present, and unquestionably sovereign over all.

    Tell me: how can a God who is totally sovereign allow to pass those things which He has not willed?

    What does the Bible say on the subject?

    It says that the Fall has resulted in a spiritual death for all men:

    “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” [Ephesians 2:1-3]

    “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.” [Colossians 2:13]​

    It says that since the Fall, man is blind and deaf to spiritual truth:

    “Can the Ethiopian change his skin Or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good Who are accustomed to doing evil.” [Jeremiah 13:23]

    “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” [Genesis 6:5]

    “The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, ‘I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.’” [Genesis 8:21]

    “This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that there is one fate for all men. Furthermore, the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives. Afterwards they go to the dead.” [Ecclesiastes 9:3]

    “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” [Jeremiah 17:9]

    “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” [Mark 7:21-23]​

    It says that since the Fall, man is in bondage to sin, slaves of Satan:

    “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” [John 8:44]

    “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” [Romans 3:10-12]

    “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.” [Titus 3:3]​

    It says that since the Fall, man in his natural state is totally unable to repent, believe, or accept the Gospel:

    “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” [John 6:44]

    “And He was saying, ‘For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.’” [John 6:65]

    “Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” [Romans 8:7-8]

    “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” [1 Corinthians 2:14]​

    It says that God has an elect people He has chosen to grant salvation:

    “Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.” [Matthew 24:22-24]

    “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.” [John 6:37-39]

    “And He was saying, ‘For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.’” [John 6:65]

    “I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours.” [John 17:9]

    “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies.” [Romans 8:28-33]

    “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” [Ephesians 1:4-5]

    “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” [2 Thessalonians 2:13]

    “For they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” [1 Peter 2:8-9]​

    There we have it: predestination in a nutshell.

    As for this leading to Moral Nihilism, I believe scripture also shuts down that assertion rather quickly:

    “What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.’ So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?’ On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.” [Romans 9:14-24]​

    Soli Deo Gloria,

  4. elopez

    elopez Well-Known Member

    While I particularly do not care if any post is balanced with another in length, what matters is the substance of the post itself; does the content address the subject? My partner claims in his opening post:
    Here my partner claims to show two points in this post, the first is that free will is untrue, and the second that it is blasphemy. After reading through a few times, I do not believe that those two points are shown in the post. The content of his post does not seem to adress the subject of debate. Let us go through it and notice why and how.

    My partner begins here. Altough I am unsure why he starts here as I find no disagreement on the divine attributes. I would therefore see no relevancy to sort them out Biblically, unless to go on to demonstrate another point. For now, none of these attributes show how free will is false or blasphemy.

    So perhaps the reason for going through the divine attributes is to ask this follow up question, though the only attribute being inquired of is divine sovereignty and the divine will, again neither of which I disagree with. My partner seems to answer this question with subsequent verses relating to the following points:
    These points I have not denied, yet explained in my opening post as being compatible with free will. My partner has not demonstrated how these verses or the ideas behind them are incompatible with free will, and has instead simply stated them as plain Biblical truths. Nor has he explained how these verses means free will is blasphemy. As I was saying earlier, the content of the post does not address the subject of debate. It is only in that respect that I wish there was more length to my opponent's opening post, or that it at least was more on topic.

    Now, what I was saying lead to moral nihilism is not any idea of predestination or any of the above mentioned points, it is the idea of rejecting free will, as by doing so moral responsibility is also rejected. I was giving my opponent the benefit of the doubt here, and was wondering what conception of moral accountability there is for him as I doubt he outright rejects it. Here I would like to be more direct in asking how is there moral responsibility without free will? As noted, an appeal to responsibility for him cannot include any hint of free will.

    In my opening post I also mentioned my partner belives in double predestination (DP), and pointed out it should be up to him to demonstrate such. I believe he has given a couple verses to do so, and I would like to share my thoughts. It may be that my partner finds free will to be false as he belives DP is true. Though I have explained how free will is compatible with predestination, and again, simply showing the verses that mention predestination does not mean free will is nonexistent. Not only that, DP does not deter free will as it is bogus in the first place! And again, there is nothing to insinuate that DP itself or how my partner explained it means free will is blasphemy.

    The first is Romans 9:14-24. This Scripture does not state that God has predestined the reprobate 'before the foundation of the world' such as it is with the elect. It states that they are vessels, implying they are not being molded in clay, rather are already formed and made. Here I would like to pose another question. Does God act as to predestine the reprobate? If not, it seems we cannot properly call this predestination. If so, there is a more disastrous conclusion.

    I myself digress. This is why I do not find DP to be true. God does not display the one main component of predestination - omnipotence - as to cause the reprobate to be in Hell. God does act in regards to the elect as He must and if not wouldn't be saved. The same is not true for the reprobate as they sin on their own, and God does not need to act to make that happen.

    The other verse is 1 Peter 2:8. Again there is no mention of God relating to the reprobate without creation as He does with the elect. It is God's ordinance that disobedience should end in stumbling yet that stumbling does not necessarily mean condemnation (see Romans 11:11).

    To end my second post, I would now like to consider a Biblical depiction of the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, a frequent topic in the free will musing. We notice God hardens his heart, which those hard determinists take to mean God determines people's choice's hence no free will. What they neglect is that Pharaoh hardened his own heart first (Exodus 8:32). You see, when God hardened Pharaoh's heart it was a desire he had the whole time. It is not as if God coerced him into something he did not want. Yet God is acting and influencing Pharaoh in some way, and this implies determinism, yet Pharaoh is also acting as an agent and is responsible! This is an exact example of compatibilism, found right in Scripture!

    I would like to summarize some main points in my second post as I did in my first. The first is that no where in my partner's first post does he show what he says he is going to, which show free will is false and that it's blasphemy. I see no conclusion of the two evident anywhere! Second, the points he mentioned I dot not find false. And DP is false, or more so misleading as there is no similarity of divine action for the reprobate as for the elect. Lastly, I feel my partner needs to account for some type of moral responsibility, however doing so may be
  5. SinnerInTheHands

    SinnerInTheHands Troubled Christian

    Within both your original post and subsequent rebuttal, you seem to try and seat yourself squarely in the middle of free will and utter predestination, deeming yourself a sort of "compatible / determinist / free willer", ignoring the old proverb about "having your cake and eating it too." You cannot hold both the doctrine of divine sovereignty / divine will and a belief in free will, much in the same way that you cannot heed the words of Christ and believe Him only to be a good teacher rather than falling and worshipping Him as God, King, and Lord. Hopefully, in my rebuttal to your rebuttal I can both clarify and solidify my positions, as you and I seem to be having [at least at the moment] a disconnect of sorts.

    If you want clarification, here are my issues with your position:

    1] You continually (and quite falsely) state that you and I are in complete agreement in regards to determinism. This is utterly untrue.

    2] You continually (and quite falsely) claim that a lack of free will would lead to a so-called "moralistic nihilism." I would ask a few simple questions: Are you forcefully pigeonholing God into a category of being that would never think or act in a way different than you? Do you not think that His understandings of morality, mercy, and justice are more developed then your own? Will you only bless God as "good" if He follows your own "objective" morality, submits to you as His judge, and offers you a decent account of His actions?

    "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?" [Job 38:2]

    "Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it." [Job 40:2]
    3] No matter how many times you say it - free will is not compatible with predestination. Because I still sense a great disconnect, how about we get some definitions out of the way?

    Free Will: "The ability to choose how to act; the ability to make choices that are not controlled by fate or God." [Merriam-Webster]

    Predestination: "The belief that everything that will happen has already been decided by God or fate and cannot be changed." [Merriam-Webster]
    How can you reconcile these two concepts? One is explicitly defined as "the ability to make choices that are not controlled by fate or God" and the other is explicitly defined as "the belief that everything that will happen has already been decided by God or fate and cannot be changed"?
    Let's continue with the discussion.

    Free will and predestination are not compatible! Thus, to believe in predestination is to reject free will, and to enter the grounds of "moral nihilism".

    How is there moral responsibility without free will?

    Let me answer: man has free agency, but he cannot exercise it or use it. It is, in essence, bound to Satan, and man is unable to actualize it. Thus, an individual whose will is enslaved will naturally do bad, as that is how he naturally operates. Since we, as Calvinists, hold that salvation is by Grace alone and not by works, one cannot choose salvation, or contribute to it in any way, shape, or form, save for the sin that made it necessitous. Instead, God frees man in Christ through salvation, giving him complete agency to cooperate with God, being set free from the desire to do the opposite, so that cooperation [through faith] is not the cause of salvation but rather that salvation is the cause of cooperation.

    Now, if you're asking me how I could possibly hold this opinion and still cling to a belief in ultimate predestination [though I prefer the term "equal ultimacy"], I acknowledge that God exists outside of time, and that He has chosen who to save and who not to save since before the world began.

    Thus, my view of free will can be summarized in the following:

    Man [1] and Man [2] are faced with a choice. They can choose either Choice (A) or Choice (B).

    Let's put this in context and say that God has chosen to save Man [1] while choosing not to save Man [2] before the creation of the world, and thus, before the creation of this situation.

    Man [1], whose agency has been restored through salvation, cannot, by design, choose Choice (A). Likewise, Man [2], whose agency is still in bondage to Satan, cannot, by design, choose Choice (B). By design, Man [1] "freely" chooses Choice (B) [perhaps a better word would be "willingly"], and Man [2] "freely / willingly" chooses Choice (A). They have, to the best of their knowledge, used free will to arrive at their choice, but the game was ultimately rigged.
    Would this still take away from your view of "moral responsibility"? I'm not quite sure I understand. Once you clear it up, I would be more than willing to provide a response, but until now, I'll leave it at this.

    This will unquestionably be my shortest response, as I'm not sure I fully understand your position, having misjudged it in my first response.

    How do you define free will in relation to what you view as "determinism", and how do you attempt to reconcile it with the doctrine of "predestination", especially in relation to the definition of these two terms? How do you arrive at this definition?

    Soli Deo Gloria,

    Have a blessed week -

  6. elopez

    elopez Well-Known Member

    I hope this is not just now becoming apparent to you. This is has been the position I stated I would take, before the debate, and in the propsal thread. The thesis was continually expounded on in my opening post.

    I never really care for that metaphor, although the premise is true. Two mutually exclusive things cannot be. However, you have not illustrated free will and determinism to be mutually exclusive. In your opening post you only claimed so, and as noted in my last post, there was no further evidence or reasons to support that claim. You gave verses, yet did not explain how those verses meant free will was incompatible with determinism. Now you say in this post you hope you can clarify. Let us see again, audience, if my partner can indeed solidify his position.

    Well on the outset, I can tell your issue with my position - you think free will is incompatible with determinism. You had the opportunity to express your disagreement about determinism in your opening post, and even had the opportunity to do so now, yet again you simply claim something with no further explanation at the least. For I could ask what exactly do you disagree with me on determinism?

    I said there is determinism in three forms. One in foreknowledge, for example. God is omniscient and knows all, even the future. Do you disagree with this? I think not.

    I said there is determinism in predestination as well. God saves some of humanity without creation. Do you disagree with that? Once again, I think not.

    So what then, are we exactly in disagreement about in regards to determinism? We both believe it exists. We both believe in predestination. And foreknowledge. Unfortunately you are really unclear here as well.

    No. Yes. And no. Here my partner is wondering. I am not claiming my own objective morality aside from God's by stating no free will means no moral responsibility, rather, I am giving criticism for my partners position. I am actually unsure how he could have arrived at this thought as he did respond to the criticism in the second post.

    I acknowledge my opponent and I are having great disconnect, though, where that exactly is and what with is the question. I feel able to claim free will is compatible with determinism only because I have expalined and gave supporting arguments to support that claim. I made my arguments in the opening post. I defined free will. I defined determinism, and I showed how by those two definitions, they are compatible.

    And this is why I am totally taken back by this specifically. Did you not read my opening post? Did you not comprehend it?... Get some definitions out of the way?? What about the definitions I gave in the opening post? You are not addressing that definition of free will. You are not adressing my arguments, nor the content of this debate. You are arguing against a definition of free will, as I have even stated in my opening post, that I find false. I even expalined why that concept of free will is false, known as libertarianism, and went on to explain the compatibilist idea of free will and how that is more coherent.

    All 3 racks up to is a straw man fallacy, which is to argue as giving an impression as to refute an opponent's position, when all the while refuting a position not stated by the opponent. And this is ultimately where I believe the disconnect is coming from. And this is the exact case! I have not espoused the definition of free will that my partner just gave. He is not evening questioning my view, compatibilism, but libertarianism.

    I do not. The concept of free will you gave is not the one I argued for. It is not how I defined free will. That is libertarianism, and as should have been made abundantly clear by now, is not my position. I have reconciled free will in a different sense, and you have totally missed the mark in displaying in any way how that is wrong. You now only have the last post to do so.

    This idea still has not been successfully supported. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to buy it. You literally have given no reasons this entire debate...

    Finally, my opponent seems to respond to one of my questions from my second post, although I inquired of it in the first. You state man has free agency yet cannot use it as he is bound to Satan. "Agency" is one of the ways in which I defined free will in my opening post. On the definition of "agency" I gave, we are capable of agency and since we are bound to Satan when we exercise it we sin. In other words, we are free as our nature allows us, however, we are free.

    I have stated that my opponent, on the side of being consistent with his position, in appealing to a sense of moral responsibility cannot reference also a sense of free will. He in fact does so by appealing to agency, as again that is how free will is defined in the opening post.

    The bolded statement is what I was actually touching on in my last post. I also asked a question in regards to this that went unanswered. It is unfortunate that you just may now reply and did not earlier, as it would have played out well in the debate, as now I have no opportunity to respond.

    What do you mean "your view of free will"? Your attitude is that there is no free will, and is blasphemy. It is almost beguiling to refer to any view of yours pertaining to free will. If that is what you're going with okay, though it is confounding and more so dissonent. I do not know now if I should ascribe you as denying free will, based on what you're saying here. And this is why, audience, I specifically pointed out my opponent not to beseech any sense of free will when accounting for moral responsibility, though he did. As I anticipated such an account would be insurmountable, and he did in fact rely on a type of freedom. And indeed it was the very type of freedom I spoke of in my opening post when reconciling free will and determinism.

    What have I to clear up? You are the one who is left to construe. I layed out my position in my opening post. The reason as to what you do not understand, or why, is obscure. Had this been explained earlier in the debate, the turn out would have been much better.

    I must honestly admit, this is a bit frustrating, as again I plainly defined free will in my opening post. I even put the definitions themsevles of free will in italics, in a "section" labeled Definitions which itself was bolded. I really cannot say how you could overlook that, other than like I said if you did not even read the post. Though, I really cannot say how you could do that either, so it is the same case and I am at a loss for words with this. I can only leave this discussion as it is, which I feel is wholly incomplete. To wind up my part in the debate, I'm going to cover one of the claims my partner said he was going to make evident, yet is actually erroneous. It is the claim that free will is blasphemy. I would also like to pose one last question specifically in regards to my opponents view of Calvinism.

    It is imprecise how my partner is defining "blasphemy". Though, believing in free will is no such thing in any function of the word. It is affirmed in the Catechism, so obviously free will is not blasphemous on Catholic doctrine. Is it then, blasphemy on Calvinist doctrine?

    Does John Calvin himself reject free will? It was my understanding that he still maintained free will, though I will leave that up to you to explain.
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