Sunday, 31 October 2010

Freewill or libertarian freewill

Arminians use the term freewill to describe their view of men's decisions. I note that some Calvinists also claim that man has freewill. Their view they call compatibilism which I admit struggling to grasp. It seems to me that compatibilism is determinism with the claim that the person is also choosing this path.

Arminians think that people can make free choices that are contrary to God's desires. That is men have the power of contrary choice. God can say that a man should do A and that he desires A, and that his purposes would best be fulfilled by doing A, and yet a person can still choose not to do A.*

To distinguish such freedom oftentimes the term libertarian freewill is used. I take this to mean that a person can make a choice of their own accord. While a man may have several influences on his decision, such a choice is ultimately at the level of the person—his will, his decision making centre. The libertarian adjective is to identify that the decision is sourced in man, as opposed to a compatibilist claim that the man's decision is sourced in God. It does not mean that a man can make any decision whatsoever! Clearly it does not mean that a person can choose to fly. But nor does it necessarily mean that he make any choice that another person is potentially capable of. He cannot make decisions based on knowledge he does not have. If unredeemed man is unable to make decisions to follow God, he still can make a variety of decisions in rejecting him. And he can refrain from making some bad decisions.

This falls under item #4 of my top 10 Calvinist annoyances. The extremes are that freewill is either essentially God's decision (compatibilist) or man has the full capacity to make all and any good or bad decision.

The middle position is that man has the power of contrary choice, though his decisions will be limited in capacity by various things.


*Note that this does not mean that God is unable to force the person to do A. But in doing so God has removed their freewill.

I am not intending to misconstrue compatibilism. It is a Calvinist term and I am happy that they define it. Feel free to correct me.

5 comments:

  1. Of course, there are those of us who say that free will is completely incompatible with determinism. In other words, incompatibilists. The consequence argument is, I think, sound in showing this.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The problem I have is that we're looking at this (usually) from a human perspective, and trying to envisage how this works for God.

    If I know what you will do in any (a particular) circumstance, I have in no way "determined" that action. Causation is, in my opinion, not a property of foreknowing. You will make a choice "freely" regardless of whether I know what/when/where/why/how.
    So, for me there is, as far as I can see it, no real problem with compatibility. The human chooses, and God knows, its all about perspective.

    I would be considered Calvinist, probably, at least, I have been accused of this particular theological bent. But, if I agree with Calvin it's just co-incidence, and a pleasant confirmation of what I believe :P

    ReplyDelete
  3. bossmanham, I agree that the logic of the situation means that if determinism exists, then it is primary, and hence there is no freewill. Therefore I think compatibilism is logically incoherent. We can allow the term if one wants to argue compatibilism is not logically incoherent. However we strike a problem using the term freewill when the Calvinist reads it (subconciously?) as compatibilism freewill. The term libertarian freewill removes the possibility of this confusion, but then is misconstrued into something it isn't.

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  4. Geoff So, for me there is, as far as I can see it, no real problem with compatibility. The human chooses, and God knows, its all about perspective.

    This is compatible with the Arminian perspective, that God knows our future but does not (exhaustively) cause it.

    This is the most difficult part of the Arminian system to explain. If the choice is truly ours, how does God know our future certainly? I am not yet convinced this is illogical though.

    You may well be a Calvinist, but nothing you have written insists on this.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think the relationship between God and man is .. a relationship. Both have wills (which are by definition "free" and "libertarian"). God, however, is in the position of authority. Thus anything we do outside His will is rebellion. He may set up situations where it is very difficult or impossible for us to choose other than what He wills.

    Simple. :)

    ReplyDelete

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