Causal Determinism and Human Responsibility

Status
Not open for further replies.

TheocraticMonarchist

Puritan Board Junior
My College philosophy class has given alot to think about lately. It's addressing Determinism, Libertarianism, and Compatibilism. While it is a "christian" philosophy class, thus far it has consistently left God out of metaphysics. The author is libertarian to boot. So, since this approach on predestination and human responsibility is new for me, I was wondering if we could get some dialogue going on the topic.

My understanding is that God has determined all that would happen before the world was created, yet man is responsible for the sinful desires of his own heart.

Would the Biblical position be deterministic or compatiblistic (or a modified version of one of these) and how does human responsibility fit? If God works through secondary causes and man's actions were determined by prior causes necessitating his current actions, how is man then responsible for his own actions?

Thanks,
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
There is a recent thread on God's sovereignty establishing Man's freedom and responsibility, although I don't think it's very enlightening:-

http://www.puritanboard.com/f15/sovereignty-establishing-free-will-62841/#post810695

Under atheism the human will is at the mercy of impersonal, irratonal and deterministic forces, which means that Man is not free in any sense. Being part of nature, his every thought, word and action are determined by the laws of nature.

With Reformed Christian Theism, irrational deterministic forces (chance and fate) are eliminated, and God somehow maintains Man's freedom and responsibility, otherwise Man would not be guilty of sin or to be commended for good.

No doubt an able Reformed scholar has expatiated on this at length somewhere in an intelligent and hopefully understandable manner. If you find his work on this, please let us know.

It seems that we know that without God's omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent sovereignty Man couldn't be free and responsible, but would be the puppet of irrational, impersonal and deterministic forces (often called "chance" and "fate" operating through "laws of nature")

So Man's freedom and responsibility is another argument for the existence of the biblical God.

But how God precisely ordains Man's free acts - or rather how God can ordain free acts, and yet they are still truly free - is a mystery. It's probably something to do with the fact that He is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent.
 
Last edited:

cih1355

Puritan Board Junior
The biblical position is compatibilistic. The Bible does not teach the kind of determinism that states that impersonal forces are the ultimate cause of all things. The Bible teaches that God ordains whatever comes to pass (Ephesians 1:11). God is in control of all things. The Bible affirms both divine sovereignty and human responsibility. For example, it was God's plan for Jesus to be crucified and at the same time, the people who crucified Him were responsible for what they did (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28). According to Isaiah 10, it was God's plan for Assyria to invade the northern kingdom of Israel and then God punished Assyria for invading Israel. The Assyrians were responsible for what they had done because they were carrying out the evil desires of their heart.

How can man be responsible for his sin if his sin is committed of necessity?

Here is a quote from Calvin's, The Bondage and Liberation of the Will , on page 37 that answers this question:

"The second argument: Why are crimes punished by the law if they are committed of necessity? Why does the judge pass sentence on the person whom God has acted? For if a murder has been committed, no punishment will be inflicted upon the sword. But the wicked when they commit their crimes are, according to Luther, in exactly the same position in God's sight as is a sword in someone's hand. I reply that there is an answer to this objection if with due humility rather than ungodly arrogance one reflects on the way in which divine providence governs human affairs. For we do not say that the wicked sin of necessity in such a way as to imply that they sin without wilful and deliberate evil intent. The necessity comes from the fact that God accomplishes His work, which is sure and steadfast, through them. At the same time, however, the will and purpose to do evil which dwells within them makes them liable to censure. Indeed, but in such a way that in a single deed the action of God is one thing and their own action is another. For they gratify their evil and wicked desires, but God turns this wickedness so as to bring his judgments to execution."
 

TheocraticMonarchist

Puritan Board Junior
Thanks for the insightful input. This does help me in the right direction. The libertarian author of my text concluded his chapter with a small section on the "Christian" view. While alluding to Open Theism as a viable alternative to Christian determinism, he concluded that the timelessness of God, which was virtually unexplained compared to the rest of his work, was supposed to eliminate the deterministic implications of God's Sovereignty. Needles to say I was more than a little disappointed with the way he presented his position.

I would be very curious to read some up-to-date works on this topic—to see the ideas presented here expounded upon in more detail. Any suggestions on where to start looking? I have several theological works that address God’s Sovereignty but none that specifically address man’s responsibility and God’s preservation of him from deterministic forces that would render him unaccountable.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
Bumping because I'd be interested in seeing such works too. I believe people have mentioned Gordon Clark and Jonathan Edwards already, but I don't know if there is a modern work on this? Maybe you could write it! =)

Another thought I had which I think came from one of Sproul's books: how do we determine responsibility? Obviously, God is the ultimate determiner of responsibility and especially responsibility for sin. However, how does this work? Is it the motive which an action is done? This isn't quite satisfactory, in my opinion, because then God could theoretically sin (ugh, so repulsive to even write a sentence like this) since He would do it with a good motive. Maybe it's the end to which an action is done? "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good" as Joseph said to his brothers. Is it the cause that causes the act and not the cause that causes the act that is responsible? But then would not someone who hired an assassin to kill not be responsible for the act while only the assassin would?

I suppose another reason why this is hard to determine is that we must use human philosophy to figure it out since the Bible is silent on how all this works, and as Richard as mentioned, God is too beyond our ways to come to a satisfying solution. I think that was the controversy with Gordon Clark since he supposedly figured a way for compatibilism to work? :think:



Edit: Oh nevermind, lol! I guess I didn't read the above post correctly. At least it bumped the thread! =p
 
Last edited:

CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
Paul Helm, in The Providence of God, tackles many of these issues, albeit at a more introductory level. His blog also addresses similar concerns, as do his other books and journal articles.
 

Calvinus

Puritan Board Freshman
I have several theological works that address God’s Sovereignty but none that specifically address man’s responsibility and God’s preservation of him from deterministic forces that would render him unaccountable.

I am quoting part of what you said above. Man in the state of sin due to the fall cannot and will not turn to Christ. He is dead in trespasses and sin. He must be made willing in the day of his salvation (regenerated). Even in his fallen nature and status he is still held responsible for his sins though. When he is a new man in Christ he is then able and willing to do the will of God but still able to sin and still responsible for his actions.

I don't believe you can fully explicate or articulate these doctrines philosophically. John Frame had to demonstrate from scriptures to Richard A. Muller that there are passages in Scripture that show that God can and does overrule secondary causes and directly intervenes in the affairs of men to the point of deterministic compulsion. Exodus 7:3 is a direct example of this when God hardens Pharaoh's heart even before Moses goes to him. Paul is aware of this and in Romans 9 quotes parts of Exodus 9:16 in his extended explication of Scriptures on God's Sovereign Choice.

I don't think you can convey these ideas in a philosophical way without getting into arguments like soft and hard determinism and the pagan sanctity of human free will in the sense of human autonomy from outside influence.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
It was looking at Marxism, and the original title to an article by Douglas Wilson that got me thinking along such lines.

I believe I've found the said article. It's just an introduction to the subject of atheism, or even arminianism, destroying free will and responsibility, and Reformed Theism upholding it:-

Antithesis at Reformed.org

Wilson may have more on this subject e.g. here:-

Monergism ::

or he may know where to find more on it.

This is no endorsement of Wilson's subsequent erroneous Visionista and NPP views.

Quote from Jonathan
yet man is responsible for the sinful desires of his own heart.

Man is responsible for the good desires of his own heart too. But the unregenerate man never wills any true good, only relative good.

God will reward the good works of the regenerate, yet all the glory will go to God for these good works, because no man would have done them unless he was regenerated by God and prompted by the Holy Spirit.

Quote from Afterthought
Obviously, God is the ultimate determiner of responsibility and especially responsibility for sin. However, how does this work? Is it the motive which an action is done? This isn't quite satisfactory, in my opinion, because then God could theoretically sin (ugh, so repulsive to even write a sentence like this) since He would do it with a good motive. Maybe it's the end to which an action is done? "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good" as Joseph said to his brothers. Is it the cause that causes the act and not the cause that causes the act that is responsible? But then would not someone who hired an assassin to kill not be responsible for the act while only the assassin would?

This is slightly off-topic but there are existential, normative and teleological aspects for a good work by a human being to be truly good. The work must conform in all these ways to God's Word. Which is why even our best works even after regeneration are stained with sin.

See e.g. John Frame and Vern Poythress's website on the subject of ethics.
 
Last edited:
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top