Is Libertarian Free Will a Myth?

I recently debated the relationship between libertarian freedom and God’s sovereignty with a dean of a reformed seminary in Colorado Springs. During our discussion He told me that libertarian freedom is a myth. Here’s my response:

To claim that libertarian free will is a myth is to introduce a logical paradox in that we disagree, where do our disagreements and confusion come from if not from our own free wills/minds? Either we (and everything) is causally controlled (not just determined from eternity past) or we aren’t. If we are, and if you maintain that God is the puppeteer1, then God becomes the one who essentially disagrees with himself.

You also seem to be confused (as evidenced by the host of straw men you’ve managed to manufacture) as to the motives behind the desire of people like myself to uphold the doctrine of libertarian freedom2. You seem to think, along lines common to many Calvinists I’ve noticed, that my motives are to lower God or exalt man. Nothing could be farther from the truth which is quite the opposite. If we slaughter libertarian freedom (which includes the power to act against God’s wishes/will) then you end up pinning all sin, destruction, evil, etc. on God which, as Job’s friends quickly found out, brings God no glory.

The bottom line is that while not verse in Scripture trumps another3, it is our sacred duty to uphold all of the tenets of Scripture (including libertarian freedom and God’s predestining) with equal tenacity. If we uphold one aspect of God’s character above others we bring God no glory and do not do justice to a faithful and honest search for truth. God’s love or creative choice to allow conscious beings other than himself to exist is in no conflict with his sovereignty, omnipotence, or omniscience.

  1. Calvinists whine about this comparison all the time claiming it is an unfair characterization. Unfortunately, the shoe fits and I haven’t heard a reformed person (who doesn’t hold to Molinism, which excludes them from being classically reformed) offer any reason why such a characterization is not warranted yet. I’m always open to rebuttals, though, so if you can offer a reason as to why this characterization doesn’t fit, feel free to comment below! []
  2. Unfortunately many people who hold to reformed doctrine assume that opponents to the notion of causal determinism (like me) hold their positions out of willful defiance or stubborn pride. Sadly, this shows how poorly educated even many proponents of reformed theology are. Sadder still is the fact that the existence of credentials (like a Phd.) makes little difference when it comes to willful ignorance of the honest philosophical difficulties detractors may have to their position. []
  3. For the life of me I don’t understand why reformed proponents can’t accept that our differences lie not in the text, but in our interpretation of the text which includes our philosophical presuppositions. For this reason I loathe the challenge of “Oh yeah? Show me that in scripture!” []
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32 responses to “Is Libertarian Free Will a Myth?

  1. Wow, so in your mind, God caused both my authoring this post and your denial of it? Fascinating!

    Your logic above simply doesn't hold because you seem to presuppose what you are arguing for, namely that the only form of determinism that is valid is causal determinism in that all choices are not only predetermined beforehand (which is true) but that those choices are made by God (which is rather absurd).

    1. Choices are not caused or uncaused, they are not events in themselves but a state of affairs. One can't even argue that all states of affairs are causally determined by God since many states of affairs are predicated upon preceding sinful choices.

    2. This seems to completely steamroll over the entire argument that God gave us the ability to make choices which, by definition, means such choices are made from a mind akin to God's. The trap you fall into from this point on is a misunderstanding (either willfully or not) of what it means to be an independent (but limited) causal agent, able to make choices contrary to the original agent (God).

    3. Where did you get this leap? My choice of sauteed Korean beef instead of Japaneese sushi for lunch today was hardly a moral decision.

    4. Choices are not events, see 1.

    5. Doesn't make sense how you've worded it here, but it sounds like a problem stemming from a misunderstanding of point 1.

    6. What? See point 1 again.

    7. Very true, but a straw man stemming from *gasp* a misunderstanding of point 1.

    8. Choices are made by free creatures which were created by an uncreated being (who, himself, has the power to choose).

    9. LFW does not contradict your 8th point simply because it is incoherent.

    I suggest you do some more reading on the subject as it doesn't appear your arguments are very clearly refined. Then again, i suppose in your view God caused you to write what amounts to jibberish on my post and I suppose he also caused you to think your jibberish made sense.

  2. As muddled as the last time I stopped by, Wes.

    1. Choices are either caused or uncaused.

    2. If a choice is uncaused, then it springs from nothing and is, therefore, morally irrelevant.

    3. Choices are morally relevant.

    4. Therefore, choices are caused (and therefore necessary).

    5. The causes of choices are either chosen or not chosen.

    6. If the causes of choices are chosen, then an infinite regress of choices and causes must precede any choice.

    7. An infinite regress of causes and choices is impossible, therefore, the causes of choices are not chosen.

    8. From 4 and 7 –> Choices are causally necessitated by something not chosen.

    9. LFW contradicts 8, therefore, LFW is false.

  3. I'm certainly humbled to know that God predetermined and caused you to write all that you wrote above.

    Perhaps He will further cause you to ignore the irony of your disagreement with me over whether we posses libertarian freedom (which includes the ability to think and disagree independent of God).

    Tell me, in our conversation and disagreement, where does the conflict lie? Between two beings with creaturely freedom (aka limited freedom) or is this a puppet-show God is putting on (for no purpose whatsoever)?

  4. The underlying point is that I am the causal agent behind my comments, not God. What you fail to grasp in my preceeding comments is how a causally deterministic view of God degenerates into an untenable logical paradox.

    It can really be boiled down to this: Who is making my comments here? Me or God? Am I using my libertarian freedom to comment which causes you, in turn, to use your libertarian freedom to become annoyed with me or is this whole scene causally predetermined by God?

    You see, either we have libertarian freedom or we are scripted puppets, and if we are scripted puppets, why so serious?

  5. Just because you don't understand the logical paradox inherent in the position you are arguing for doesn't mean I am "changing the channel". Then again, one must ask, in your world view, whether I am changing the channel of my own libertarian freedom to choose to do so or whether God is causing me to.

    But alas, I see that God has caused you to become angry so I'll decide of my own libertarian freedom not to rattle your cage much more here.

  6. "I present you with an argument against LFW. You don't interact with the argument and don't even understand the argument by your own admission. I address your response to my argument point by point and do not even receive the courtesy of a response to the concerns I've raised."

    – Amen to that Joel.

  7. God determining things means that God Himself is doing those same things?

    We are "puppets"? ::Looks around for his strings.::

    Yikes. I think I will pass.

  8. FREEDOM IS A MYTH!

    WE ARE PRISONERS OF SOCIETY!

    A constant battle between 6 and 2 that never ends!

    NEVER have I ever been FREE! To do what I want or how I want to live! I have always had to do what my parents, teachers, employers, local governments and police tell me to, or ELSE!

    If I were FREE, I would not want to work everyday, I would just like to live in my own house and own property in which I did not have to PAY every month, else have my home taken away from me!

    We are SLAVES, NO ONE IS FREE!!

    Anyone that thinks otherwise is an ignorant gullible FOOL!!

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