Drinking Deeply

Wednesday, February 08, 2006 at 7:43 PM

Defining "Free" (2)

The traditional Reformed response to Libertarian Free will (as described last post) is "compatibilist free will":

Defined from monergism:

Compatibilism is the belief that we make choices for a reason, that the will is not independent of the person and we will always choose what we want (Deut 30:16,17,19; Matt 17:12; James 1:14). It means that we can act freely (without coercion), not independent from God or free from our desires, but free to act according to our desires and nature. In other words, a self-determining will (to chose to act as we please) is compatible with determinism. The Scripture itself testifies that

“…no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:42-45)

Figtrees, of necessity, grow figs, not thorns. According to Jesus, then, nature produces a necessary result or fruit at the exclusion of something else. One cannot produce a result that is contrary to nature. While libertarians uphold the philosophy that “choice without sufficient cause” is what makes one responsible, the compatibilist, on the other hand, looks to Scripture which testifies that it is because our choices have motives and desires that moral responsibility is actually established. Responsibility requires that our acts, of necessity, be intentional, as I will further demonstrate later in the essay.

Compatabilists gain their name from the claim that "free will is compatible" with God's sovereignty. Man is "free to choose according to his desires." Where the will is limited is not in the choice, but in the desires. Natural man does not come to God, but it is God who comes to him. If God changes one's heart (removing a heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh, raising us from the dead, opening our eyes), then he will bear fruit in keeping with the changed heart, coming to repentance, faith, and glorification.

A quick note on this:

1) This is entirely biblical as I understand it.

2) The "compatibilist" aspect of it strikes me as a compromise. "Well, you don't really have free will as you define it, but if we change the definition, then you have free will." Of course this isn't a problem if we are open about it, but it seems to cause unnecesary trouble. "Why are you changing the definition?" "Well, because you wanted the term "free will.""

3) The chief question of "where do the desires come from?" should still be answered: "Everything is given to us sovereignly by God, to the praise of His glory." There is no room for "rogue molecules." Every action, thought, and will is all in accordance to our desires, and all of these are completely under the sovereign hand of God.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The issue is: why should I accept the definition put forth by the philosophers? If we apply Sola Scriptura, our terms must be in line with scripture. This means that it's not really a matter of changing the definition, but it's about defining our terms. But by who's authority? Not webster; Not secular philosophers.  

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Blogger mxu said...

I was actually thinking the very same thing last night and I was going to post on this.

I think the reason we are asking this question (and it isn't just a frivolous question like "what if Jesus was a cucumber?") is because the question is asked with the presupposition "man must be free in order to be held responsible."

I must take back part of my post, because I think (now) that the redefinition of terms for the complementarian occurs at this level.

AKA the complementarian and the libertarian both say "Man must be free in order to be held responsible" but they give two definitions of freedom to satisfy the truth that Scripture teaches responsibility.

Of course, what we should do is reject the idea that responsibility presupposes freedom and proclaim that God is sovereign over all.  

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

is there anything wrong with the non-calvinist perspective of free will except that they also believe that someone can come to God of their own free will?  

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Blogger mxu said...

I'm not entirely sure what you mean by your question "Is there anything wrong with the non-Calvinist perspective of free will except that they also believe that someone can come to God of their own free will?"

1) If something is unbiblical, that is all the justification to reject it as falsehood.

2) A belief in free will, taken to an extreme, will lead to open theism, a denial of God's foreknowledge of all that will happen. Though the same could be said of calvinism taken to the extreme leading to hypercalvinism, of which one form is a denial that the gospel should be preached to all people.

3) One's perspective on "Free will" also changes how you view history, how you view evangelism, how you view pretty much everything. How we respond to disaster, to suffering, to miracles, it's all in there, impacted directly or indirectly by how sovereign we view God.  

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