Argument against free will

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steven-nemes

Puritan Board Sophomore
The argument is basically this: God has something to accomplish in the atonement, the salvation of sinners as well as fulfilling a promise to Abraham. Fulfilling that promise involves the salvation of sinners. But Arminians would have us believe that man has to be cooperative with God; they have to be willing to be saved. Therefore, it is possible that Christ die and no one believe, if men have free will. But in that case God would be failing, and God cannot fail, being omnipotent and omniscient, so that scenario is impossible; therefore no free will.

Let A = Christ dies to atone for the sins of mankind, F = God can fail, G = God exists, H = human beings have free will

If (A&H), then F (see above)
If G, then ~F
G
Therefore ~F
Therefore ~(A&H)
 

Ask Mr. Religion

Flatly Unflappable
An opponent, usually an open theist, will argue that God voluntarily limits His attribute of omniscience and omnipotence. Hence your "God exists" premise ignores this fact as is claimed as a defeater to your logic.

The open theist claims to possess the liberty of indifference (“to do otherwise”, libertarian free will). To hold to this claim open theists must therefore limit God’s omniscience, for they believe God must not know the choices persons make before they have made them in order to hold persons responsible for sin. Necessarily, this also limits God’s omnipotence/omniscience, and God becomes the probabilistic Survivor® God: outwitting, outplaying, and outlasting, attempting to end-run His creatures’ actions. There is no warrant in the Scriptures to support any of these humanistic beliefs by the open theist. As in humanism and paganism, persons believing in libertarian free will think original sin did not affect them and they tend to believe they have more moral powers than they actually possess, ignoring the fact that our hearts are filled with evil desires (Matt 5:19; Mark 7:21; Romans 1:24; 1 Pet 2:11). Indeed, libertarian free will (the liberty of indifference) implies we could acceptably choose to receive Christ without having a desire to receive Him, despite the clear teachings of the Scriptures to the contrary.

Therefore, free will, choosing according to our most desired inclination, accurately reflects what the process of choosing is all about. It is also biblical, for the un-regenerated sinner chooses only to sin more or sin less, while the regenerated elect can choose to glorify God, which the lost (un-regenerated) can never do.

Rather, mankind’s freedom stems from our natures, connected to our instincts and our emotions, and is determined by our intellectual considerations and character. Man’s freedom is a liberty of spontaneity, or a self-determined freedom—for we choose to do what we are most inclined to do at the moment we so choose. Unlike the notions of open theism, freedom is not arbitrariness. In all rational acts underlies a ‘why’—a reason which decides the act. To be otherwise, to embrace the liberty of indifference, is to be the uncertain, incalculable, and unreliable imaginary man of open theism—which is where claims to the liberty of indifference must ultimately lead—a human will that is autonomous even unto itself.

The mind’s desire always precedes the mind’s choosing. This is precisely why libertarian free-will is impossible. It alleges a choice that is bereft of desire or want. People just choose because they can, rather than because they want. But if that were the case, either no choice would ever be made (no desire would win the contest) or the decision would be completely random, arbitrary and thus have no moral consequence. Even American jurisprudence assumes a motive in a given crime. It is only common sense. Yet if libertarian free-will is true, determining motive is a fool's errand. Why? Because desire is not linked in any way to choice. (Of course, those with common sense know better.)

Now I and other classical theists maintain we choose according to our desires, for we are self-determined. There is no conflict between self-determination and God's foreknowledge. It's called compatibilism. We cannot thwart God's holy will with our actions, for we are not as "free" as unsettled theists would like to be.

But, open theists think that determinism implies no human freedom. They will maintain that if determinism is true, we just aren't free. So they deny determinism. But does such denial really mean oen theists are free? It simply does not automatically follow from their denial of determinism that they are actually free. Just as a compatibilist (me) must explain what compatibilist freedom is, why compatibilist freedom should be considered to be genuine freedom, and how we can possess this freedom if determinism is true, so do libertarians like the open theist need to make an account of freedom that shows how they can possess freedom if indeterminism (the opposite of compatibilism) is true and why their incompatabilist ideas should count as any notion of genuine freedom.

Let's see if we can help these open theists out.

The open theist will argue his action is caused by himself. Then if he caused his own decision what event led to that decision? Is this even uncaused or caused? The open theist will have to argue that the event is uncaused, for to accept a cause is to accept he is not in control and therefore not "free".

Moreover the open theist will argue, well, the event that caused his action must have been caused by some previous event that was also under his own control. All right, that means we have yet another event, and we must again ask what event led to that action (decision). That event must also have been caused by some other event under the open theist’s control. (I hope everyone sees where this is headed.) If we keep going, the open theist either lands in an infinite regress, with this infinite past set of events all within his control, or else at some point something outside their control enters into the process. Infinite regress seems an absurdity – that any one choice a person makes requires an infinite past series of events that are all under his control. The second alternative is bad for libertarianism – for it clearly implies that something outside the open theist’s control caused what he does. Only a compatibilist, like myself, could say that.

What then can the open theist say to account for his notion of libertarian freedom? At best he must appeal to "mystery", in that the event discussed above that caused him to decide was really not an "event" as strictly defined. It must be something else, a "non-event" existing within himself. In other words, the open theist will argue that the event of his decision was caused by himself. And that the event of its being caused by himself is not really an true "event" at all. Hmm, it is a mystery.

Given the obvious incongruities of libertarian free will, not to mention the Scriptural evidence to the contrary, one concludes that we choose according to our strongest inclinations of the moment. Not that we may choose, but we must choose for we cannot do otherwise. No one makes a decision outside of their strongest inclined motivations of the moment they so choose.

AMR
 

steven-nemes

Puritan Board Sophomore
Thank you for your reply, but I'm not sure that the bulk of it is particularly relevant.

My argument is that if humans possess free will, then there is some possible world where everyone, absolutely everyone, deny the gospel call, which somehow by some miracle is still being passed on throughout the years, and God never fulfills his promise to Abraham that through him the nations would be blessed, and Christ would have died for no reason at all. He'd be an utter failure. But such a world is not possible. So therefore no free will.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
I think Calvin, Edwards, and Luther would utterly disagree that we do not possess free will. They affirmed the doctrine of free will just as fervently as they affirmed that of predestination.

It is not a negation of free will (defined by Edwards as simply the ability to choose between options) to say that God will always be faithful. The locus of the will is the heart and it is the heart that God directs as He pleases. The will follows the directions of the heart. It is this misunderstanding of what we mean by free will that has led to the twin errors of hard determinism and libertarianism.
 

steven-nemes

Puritan Board Sophomore
Firstly, I remember reading explicitly and distinctly in both Luther and Calvin that we do not posses free will, post-fall.

Secondly, I mean libertarianism. No Arminians believe in compatibilism, so far as I know, but libertarianism, if true, would lead to the problem I've outlined.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
Libertarianism is, indeed, false, but merely because it's an absurdity.

Libertarian freedom is defined as an unconditioned ability to choose.

Unconditioned means that there would be no factors involved other than the choice itself. However, this would be to choose randomly, since, without any other factors, there is no basis for choice. Thus, libertarianism would advocate a belief in chance, which the Bible denies.

I think Luther and Calvin are operating using the term "free will" rather vaguely and without the careful definition that Edwards gave it.
 

dbh

Puritan Board Freshman
I really don't much care for debate on this theme, but I thought I'd share, in Spurgeon's words, the view that gives my mind rest on it. Maybe it will be useful to some simple minded ones like myself, so I give it for that reason. "The system of truth revealed in the Scriptures is not simply one straight line, but two; and no man will ever get a right view of the gospel until he knows how to look at the two lines at once. For instance, I read in one Book of the Bible, “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that
heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will,
let him take the water of life freely.” Yet I am taught, in another part of the
same inspired Word, that “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that
runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” I see, in one place, God in
providence presiding over all, and yet I see, and I cannot help seeing, that
man acts as he pleases, and that God has left his actions, in a great
measure, to his own free-will. Now, if I were to declare that man was so
free to act that there was no control of God over his actions, I should be
driven very near to atheism; and if, on the other hand, I should declare that
God so over-rules all things that man is not free enough to be responsible, I
should be driven at once into Antinomianism or fatalism. That God
predestines, and yet that man is responsible, are two facts that few can see
clearly. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory to each
other. If, then, I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is
foreordained, that is true; and if I find, in another Scripture, that man is
responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is only my folly that leads
me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict each other. I do
not believe they can ever be welded into one upon any earthly anvil, but
they certainly shall be one in eternity. They are two lines that are so nearly
parallel, that the human mind which pursues them farthest will never
discover that they converge, but they do converge, and they will meet
somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth
spring."
This quote is from his autobiography that I've been reading and so was written late in his life. It follows a paragraph where he defends Wesley as being one of two (Whitefield being the other) most worthy of being called an apostle since the days of the apostles, and one of whom the world was not worthy.
Another way I look at it, from my simple view, is that God gives me some measure of "free" will, but He by the Spirit is so persuasive and as the poet puts it is as a "Magnet all divine" that I, if I am chosen of Him, really didn't ever stand a chance to resist him in the end. A little like with my wife, her charms were just too great for me to stand up to. But I don't regret either defeats on my part, they've both worked out quite well in the end (17 years with the Lord so far, and near 8 with my darling wife). Anyway, for what its worth.
 

Whitefield

Puritan Board Junior
Libertarianism is, indeed, false, but merely because it's an absurdity.

Libertarian freedom is defined as an unconditioned ability to choose.

Unconditioned means that there would be no factors involved other than the choice itself. However, this would be to choose randomly, since, without any other factors, there is no basis for choice. Thus, libertarianism would advocate a belief in chance, which the Bible denies.

I think Luther and Calvin are operating using the term "free will" rather vaguely and without the careful definition that Edwards gave it.
You will have to define "vague" in light of two lengthy books on the subject, one by Luther De Servo Arbitrio and the other by Calvin: Defensio Sanae et Orthodoxae Doctrinae de Servitute et Liberatione Humani Arbitrii.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
The problem is more fundamental Steven. Arminian theology errs all the way back to Man in the State of Innocence by underestimating the state of blessedness possessed. This is then carried through into the Fall by underestimating the nature and extent of the Fall as well as denying the imputation of Adam's sin and guilt.

Consequently, you cannot import an external system of doctrine to their un-Biblical system and demonstrate they are incoherent. Rather, you need to pull out their foundation and start from scratch.
 

steven-nemes

Puritan Board Sophomore
Hey Rich,

I think this argument is a down-and-dirty way of proving that libertarian free will introduces difficulty when speaking of the atonement; rather than go through lengthy and complicated scriptural debate, why not just go ahead and argue that their position, no matter how persuasive it may seem to them and others, can't be right because it entails impossibilities?
 

Whitefield

Puritan Board Junior
Hey Rich,

I think this argument is a down-and-dirty way of proving that libertarian free will introduces difficulty when speaking of the atonement; rather than go through lengthy and complicated scriptural debate, why not just go ahead and argue that their position, no matter how persuasive it may seem to them and others, can't be right because it entails impossibilities?
First you have to find out if the other person agrees with the premise (If G, then ~F). The open-theist and some Arminians don't start with that premise as a given.
 

steven-nemes

Puritan Board Sophomore
Well if they think that God can possibly fail: what could I possibly say to that? They want to worship an impotent wealking child-like God, they can do that; fine by me. But let's say that the atonement, incarnation, resurrection, and salvation of sinners involves fulfilling a promise to Abraham (as is my understanding of Paul in Galatians). Then they'd be worshipping a potential liar-God. God cannot be a liar; therefore, God cannot fail in fulfilling his promise to Abraham. But that involves people being saved. Therefore salvation cannot be (in each and every case) a matter of the free choice of humans.


But that's not the typical Arminian, I should think, and probably not the sort I discuss with.
 

steven-nemes

Puritan Board Sophomore
Well if they think that God can possibly fail: what could I possibly say to that?
Well since you do not want to go through a "lengthy and complicated scriptural debate", then probably nothing.
I think there are probably some clever open theists who can get around verses like "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand." If a person is willing to accept any view that paints God as being some sort of real buff guy in heaven who is just hoping and praying that some of those darn human beans down there on earth would just be good already and cooperate--he's probably not going to be swayed by any scripture at all; and doubtful that he's going to be swayed by anything, actually. But this argument may be a sort of short-hand.

But also, I noted that the position also leads to the possibility of God lying. You didn't comment on that, though...
 

Whitefield

Puritan Board Junior
Well if they think that God can possibly fail: what could I possibly say to that?
Well since you do not want to go through a "lengthy and complicated scriptural debate", then probably nothing.
I think there are probably some clever open theists who can get around verses like "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand." If a person is willing to accept any view that paints God as being some sort of real buff guy in heaven who is just hoping and praying that some of those darn human beans down there on earth would just be good already and cooperate--he's probably not going to be swayed by any scripture at all; and doubtful that he's going to be swayed by anything, actually. But this argument may be a sort of short-hand.

But also, I noted that the position also leads to the possibility of God lying. You didn't comment on that, though...
I'm not entering into a debate on this. I fully agree with your syllogism. I'm just pointing out some responses you might get from those who disagree with the syllogism, and why they might disagree with it.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
You will have to define "vague" in light of two lengthy books on the subject, one by Luther De Servo Arbitrio and the other by Calvin: Defensio Sanae et Orthodoxae Doctrinae de Servitute et Liberatione Humani Arbitrii.
Vague, as I am using it, would indicate that they were not using a simple concise definition of the term. Edwards provided this by defining free will as the ability to choose between valid options and then explaining how this truth about man fits in with God's sovereignty (e.g. man is not in control of his desires).
 

kvanlaan

Puritan Board Doctor
Sorry to sort of interject in the midst of this, but I play tag with an Arminian on this regularly and he can never get around this one: (Rom. 7:18) "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but [how] to perform that which is good I find not."

Thus unregenerate man can never have free will: if he chooses, he will choose wrongly, as he is a slave to sin. He will not choose God, because he cannot choose the good.

The regenerate man can never have free will as he is an agent of the Holy Spirit (and when he does wrong it is a concession to indwelling sin).

Thus neither the regenerate nor the unregenerate man has free will in a classically Arminian sense.

(If I am off-base with this, let me know!)
 

Ask Mr. Religion

Flatly Unflappable
Thank you for your reply, but I'm not sure that the bulk of it is particularly relevant.
My response is on point with your "If G, then ~F" for your G implies (I assume) God is fully exhibiting His omnipotence and omniscience, that is, God does not voluntarily limit any of His attributes. The latter is the tactic taken by the open theist, claiming God "wants a relationship" with His creatures and will never "force" Himself upon His creatures. My point is that your G premise needs an additional qualifier to assert God cannot be a little omnipotent or a little omniscient (as in a little bit pregnant), as this is an absurdity. Knowledge without power is weak and power without knowledge is dangerous.

AMR
 

Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
The argument is basically this: God has something to accomplish in the atonement, the salvation of sinners as well as fulfilling a promise to Abraham. Fulfilling that promise involves the salvation of sinners. But Arminians would have us believe that man has to be cooperative with God; they have to be willing to be saved. Therefore, it is possible that Christ die and no one believe, if men have free will. But in that case God would be failing, and God cannot fail, being omnipotent and omniscient, so that scenario is impossible; therefore no free will.

Let A = Christ dies to atone for the sins of mankind, F = God can fail, G = God exists, H = human beings have free will

If (A&H), then F (see above)
If G, then ~F
G
Therefore ~F
Therefore ~(A&H)
An Arminian will usually respond(in my experience) with the counter "But God knew that that wouldn't happen. He infallibly foreknew that some people would respond, and so wasn't really taking any chances."
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Hey Rich,

I think this argument is a down-and-dirty way of proving that libertarian free will introduces difficulty when speaking of the atonement; rather than go through lengthy and complicated scriptural debate, why not just go ahead and argue that their position, no matter how persuasive it may seem to them and others, can't be right because it entails impossibilities?
An internal critique can, indeed, show a position to be incoherent but we have to remember not to import external definitions. Some Arminians are content, however, to call incoherence "mystery". Hence, we would still need to labor to begin from first principles and undermine each premise of their system to demonstrate that man's will is enslaved to sin, that sin and guilt are Federally imputed, and that God's grace is necessary for regeneration that we might embrace Christ and be united to Him in His death and resurrection.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I would also add that F is explained by the idea that God hasn't failed. His goal, for many Arminians, is that man love God on his own terms and is not "forced" to do so. Hence, God has succeeded, in their estimation, by God giving everybody a chance to love Him and, if they don't love Him, then He's happy with those that do.
 

Exiled_2_God

Puritan Board Freshman
Thank you for your reply, but I'm not sure that the bulk of it is particularly relevant.

My argument is that if humans possess free will, then there is some possible world where everyone, absolutely everyone, deny the gospel call, which somehow by some miracle is still being passed on throughout the years, and God never fulfills his promise to Abraham that through him the nations would be blessed, and Christ would have died for no reason at all. He'd be an utter failure. But such a world is not possible. So therefore no free will.
Are you anti-free will... or do you just disagree with the Arminian definition of free will?

Free will is basically a misnomer (it is only free within defined parameters)... and must be defined, or else all sides present and defend a caricature of free will, but never discuss the same thing.

Maybe I've misunderstood you, or looked to deep into your syllogism. Just a thought... :D
 
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