It will be my undertaking in this post to expose the inconsistencies of my fellow Christians who hold to the libertarian Free will position, so as to help them be more consistent by replacing that concept for the more scriptural and logical position of Compatibilism. Before providing my arguments, let me start by explaining the two positions first.
What is Libertarian Free Will?
Freedom as understood on libertarianism means that persons are fully able to perform some other action in place of the one that is actually done. This is further understood as being wholly apart from any prior predetermination of circumstances such as desires, human nature, or any sort of God or divine plan. One of the strongest arguments used in support of this view is in the area of moral responsibility. Libertarians reason that if our choice is determined, foreordained, or caused by anything like our own desires, human nature, or God, it cannot properly be called our free choice. So on this view responsibility means that we could have done otherwise. So in summary, on this scheme only the kind of freedom, which has the ability to choose the contrary of what is actually chosen, is genuine freedom. Clark Pinnock an open theist holding this view says, “It views a free action as one in which a person is free to perform an action or refrain from performing it and is not completely determined in the matter by prior forces---nature, nurture or even God. Libertarian freedom recognizes the power of contrary choice. One acts freely in a situation if, and only if, one could have done otherwise.” (Most Moved Mover pg. 127) The theological positions that hold this view include Molinists, Arminians, some Semi-Pelagians, Open Theists, and Universalists. This is probably the most popular view in evangelical churches today. When most people use the phrase "Free Will" this is the view they usually have in mind. While these synergists usually rely on un-biblical reasons they will raise certain verses that all have to be examined very carefully. For example every verse that uses the phrases "Whosoever" or "Whoever" like the all too familiar passage John 3:16.
What is Compatibilism?
Compatibilism is the view that Human choices are "compatible" with prior predetermination of circumstances such as desires, human nature, and God's divine plan. This is further understood as the ability to make genuine choices in accordance with our nature, desires, and God's divine plan of redemption. Compatibilists will point out that nobody really has a concept of freedom that has no strictures. Even the libertarians for example will recognize that we cannot will to make ourselves the size of the sun etc. There are various reasons for adopting this view. Many libertarians have admitted that their view relies heavily on philosophy rather than divine revelation in scripture. For example Jerry Walls and Joseph Dongell in their book "Why I am not a Calvinist" write that on this very issue "... “…Arminians rely on contested philosophical judgments at this point.”. They then use the tu quoque fallacy stating that Calvinists must use philosophy too. While in a sense what they say is true because everybody has a philosophy, even if your philosophy is that you don't have a philosophy; the Calvinistic philosophy is the axiom of God's Word (Sola Scriptura) rather than mans depraved experience and reason (Sola Ratio) due to the noetic effects of sin accrued in the fall (Prov. 28:26). It is for this reason alone that I hold to compatibilism. This position is also sometimes called biblical determinism, and is mostly held by the Reformed stream of Christianity. I will now turn to the scriptural support for compatibilism and then provide some philosophical reasons for rejecting libertarianism.
Where is Compatibilism in scripture?
While there are many examples that could be furnished, I would like to point out two examples for brevity sake, then show some scriptural support for various elements of Compatibilism. In Isaiah chapter ten we find God using the Assyrians like an axe to Judge Israel. Then later God holds them responsible for what they did. How can a libertarian make sense of such a pericope? I maintain that he or she cannot, but it is in scripture and every bible-believing Christian has to struggle with such texts. God’s intent in the Assyrian invasion is to inflict His righteous judgment against sin, and the intent of the Assyrians is to “destroy and cut off many nations.” Two different purposes, two different entities acting to bring about this purpose, in one, single action. Listen to the very strong language in this passage.
Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger And the staff in whose hands is My indignation,
I send it against a godless nation And commission it against the people of My fury To capture booty and to seize plunder, And to trample them down like mud in the streets.
Yet it does not so intend, Nor does it plan so in its heart, But rather it is its purpose to destroy And to cut off many nations. (Isa 10:5-7 NAU)
The second example is found in Genesis chapter fifty. This is the familiar story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers. Joseph clearly says that it was God who caused his brothers to sell him to bring about something good even though his brothers did so intending it for evil. Again we see two different entities (God and Men), with two different intentions (One evil and the other good) fulfilling one purposeful plan ordained by God.
The most startling example that caused me to ponder this situation for years is none other than the crucifixion of our God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13). I would invite you to look at those passages and reflect on them in your own time (Acts 2:23-25; Acts 4:23-28; Isaiah 53:10). One element of compatibilism is that we make choices which while voluntary, are only consistent with our nature, desire, and strongest inclinations. Scripture most clearly states this in the Gospel of Luke chapter 6. It reads:
“…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)
Theocentric Philosophical arguments against Libertarian Freewill
1. Demanding more Freedom than God himself.
One of the strangest phenomena I have run into and struggled with myself for years when I was a non-reformed Christian is precisely how to define libertarianism without compromising God's freedom. If libertarianism is taken as the ability to choose other than what is actually done (Contra-causation) combined with freedom in choice only being genuine if all the options are equally available, how are we to makes that same sense of God's freedom? As a Christian I would read passages like 2 Timothy 2:13 which clearly say God cannot choose to not be God. But if that is true and God has no capacity whatsoever on this issue, how can we praise him since this would mean God has no ability to be the devil or refrain from such? In our human experience we might very well reason that we cannot praise someone for being a hero if it was not possible for them to be a villain. It was here that I realized that in order to be Christian in my philosophy I must recognize the creator/creature distinction. That is to say that I must define freedom of the will in such a way that compromises man's will in light of preserving God's will. This was the beginning to my journey into compatiblism. I began to reason that God cannot choose to be the devil because his nature is such that it is impossible. In other words his nature is what provided the strictures for his inclinations and dispositions. In light of that I began to think about human nature. My reasoning went something to this effect. God's nature is holy so he cannot be inclined to unholiness. Human Nature is unholy and consequently sinful, therefore until regeneration by God we will only freely choose between sins due to our nature causing sinful inclinations and desires. It would be a strange notion of freedom indeed that would allow more freedom for man than for God. Long story made short I began to understand that put simply while God's nature limits his dispositions and desires they do not do so in the same way with regard to our human nature. It is only our ontology that requires change, and that is not so with God. It is probably not a good thing to define qualities of the will in such a way that would denature God (John 3:30), and this is precisely what libertarian freedom does.
2. Begging the Question
It is not uncommon for dialogues on the nature of the will to utilize presuppositions within the proof or proof-texts. This is in fact to be expected as normative in worldview analysis. I cannot count the number of times I have heard certain phrases being used in formal debates on this very issue. Phrases like "real choice", "authentic decision", and "genuine choice". This happens very often to myself when talking to folks who hold to libertarian freedom. This is stacking the deck in a sense because the implication is that the opposing view has a false notion of freedom in light of the proponent's understanding, and this is the very thing yet to be established. This is a classic case of circular reasoning. This can be seen further when analyzing texts such as Mark 1:15. Many Christians who hold to libertarianism will point to such passages which declare to unbelievers that they ought to repent and choose Christ and then deduce that it makes no sense for Mark 1:15 to call for a decision when the decision is not available to all. Thus they will surmise that everyone can repent and believe who ought to repent and believe. This is a logical fallacy known as "ought implies can". For example in Matthew chapter 5 we are told by Christ himself that we ought to be perfect just as our heavenly father is perfect. Following the libertarian's logic in Mark 1:15 we would have Christ himself making a huge blunder here by telling us we ought to do something he knew we cannot do, or committing a logical fallacy. I do not think the incarnate Logos of John 1 would be so illogical. Another example of this can be found in 1 Peter 1:16 where we are commanded to be holy because God is holy. In summary on this point it was Martin Luther who pointed out the error quite well in his work The Bondage of the Will saying:
"Even grammarians and schoolboys on street corners know that nothing more is signified by verbs in the imperative mood than what ought to be done, and that what is done or can be done should be expressed by words in the indicative. How is it that you theologians are twice as stupid as schoolboys, in that as soon as you get hold of a single imperative verb you infer an indicative meaning, as though the moment a thing is commanded it is done, or can be done? pg 159
3. Discarding Imputation in a Most Amoral Way
The greatest philosophical impetus for my concluding that Compatibilism is most logical was also the very reason I held to Libertarianism. Recall earlier that on Libertarianism I noted that one of the strongest arguments for the view is in the area of morality. On the libertarian view it is usually reasoned that in order for someone to be held responsible, the individual committing the action or refraining from such can only be held accountable for their own actions. Moreover the events of the individual must not be restricted or caused by prior circumstances. But how can the doctrine of Imputation be understood on Libertarianism in light of it's accompanying moral system? When I was thinking about this in light of the biblical implications I began to ask myself how can one man pay for another mans sin? Or how can Jesus pay for another person's sin? Many who hold to the libertarian view more consistently have completely abandoned the notion of original sin when thinking about this issue. In light of such questions and a devout adherence to libertarianism these individuals also abandon the penal substitution theory. You see if it is immoral for one man's sin to be imputed to another, it is logical to conclude that imputation of righteousness from one man to another also be deemed immoral. If both are the case then there is no atonement and the Gospel becomes amoral or what one author called "therapeutic theistic moralism." And wouldn't you know it there exists just such a model of the atonement called "Moral influence theory".
So what other option is there? I would first point out that the definition of responsibility is usually broadly taken as providing an answer of justification to another person for one's actions. Understood this way on both a deterministic view and libertarian view responsibility is satisfied with regard to causes and effects whether or not all options are equally available. This would also mean that since God is the highest, supreme being he necessarily answers to no other person. It is my position which I derive from scripture that the libertarian view conflates causes with reasons. Similarly if choice is defined as a mental activity undertaken to bring about a further cause, many of the difficulties for both views go away. More importantly then is what is a better foundation of morality than the option of making every person an un-caused causer? I would maintain that the foundation of morality is found in God's omniscience. In other words knowledge. So the more a man knows it seems to me the more he is held responsible. Since whatever is a fact is a fact because Jesus made it a fact all are responsible to God (Colossians 1:15-18). The scriptures do seem to teach that knowledge like salvation is also a gift. The unbeliever like the skeptics would rather go without truth as a gift from God and like the tower of babylon fallen man builds their way up to God or Godhood rather than accept the gift. The history of philosophy and apologetics shows that men would rather construct a system of truth based on their autonomy and intellect rather than submit to revelation and they all fail. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7 and in 2 Timothy 2:25 we read "In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth"
4. The Utter Demand of Arbitrariness
Many libertarians will reason that if God is absolutely free in the libertarian sense to elect anyone based on the kind intention of his own will (John 1:12,13; Eph. 1:5), rather than foreseeing anything in man, it means God's choosing is arbitrary. They will reason that it is like God flipping a coin and randomly choosing or passing over. The odd thing about this scenario is that it confuses fatalism with the reformed doctrine of predestination. Fatalism is what is arbitrary because it contains no causes, nor a personal deity interacting with means through a purposeful decree or plan. The reformed view contains causes, means, and one eternal and purposeful plan being worked out by a personal God. This is also to make the mistake of equal-ultimacy or Hyper-Calvinism which I and many others vehemently reject. For an explanation of that see this video here. The strange thing, returning back to the coin example, is that if God's having libertarian freewill is what is being called arbitrary; why not replace the coin with human autonomy and say that like that coin, human autonomy causes God to make his decisions. This is to point out that what the cooperative salvationist is denying God he will not deny himself (Matthew 16:24). This is a clear case of special pleading since the criterion for one is not being applied to the other. How is this any different from those garden dwellers listening to the serpent in order to become as God? When this objection is raised what the objector is demanding is that there be some higher authority than God. This is logically equivalent to saying God needs a God. Or put another way it is essentially to un-God God! Oh the utter arrogance of the creature telling the creator what he must do. We could all learn a lesson from Job whom after receiving a litany of reprimands in chapters 38 and 39 concludes in 40:1-8 that it is utter nonsense. Our God is in the heavens and he does whatever he pleases in all places (Psalm 115:3; 135:6), and he does not share his glory of autonomy, it alone belongs to him (Isaiah 42:8). God does not choose arbitrarily at all. In Ephesians 1:5-11 God clearly tells us that his principle for choosing is in accordance with his kind intention of will in Love. Furthermore we know righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne (Psalm 97:2), and since there is no created man that is righteous (Romans 3:10-18), nobody receives injustice, instead all receive justice or mercy and only justice can be demanded. If the complaint against God having absolute freedom in his decisions is is that such freedom renders God arbitrary, the will worshiper (which is what the Apostle Paul calls them) having absolute freedom is by definition arbitrary.
5. The Libertarian Trilemma of Eternal Security
One question I would ask the reader of this post who holds to libertarian freedom in conjunction with eternal security to consider is the following:
Did you have more freedom of the will before accepting Christ, after accepting Christ, or is it the same freedom for both?
This is an important question to ask because the ability of humans to sin according to scripture has four historical stages. First, Adam and Eve were initially able to sin. Second, after their fall, all unregenerate humans [i.e., those who are spiritually dead] are not able not to sin. Third, regenerate humans [i.e., those whom God has given spiritual life] are able not to sin. Fourth, glorified regenerate humans are not able to sin.
6. Irony of Irony
Many libertarian freewill theists will utilize the Kalam Cosmological argument to demonstrate the existence of a Creator God due to everything having a cause.
P1 Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
P2 The universe began to exist.
Conclusion: The universe has a cause
The irony is simply that one can replace the word universe with the word choice to show that every choice is caused. This is something Libertarianism denies by making every person an un-caused causer. This is simply a Greek Pagan idea, which is nowhere found in scripture and is instead read into it. Here is just one example by the hedonistic pagan philosopher Epicurus.
"The prudent person thinks that with us lies the chief power to determine events.......that which is in our control is subject to no master" (Epicurus to Menocceus, 133-35, and Principal Doctrines, 4)
I have yet to get a response to my argument, so feel "free" to contact me and give me your reply. This is my argument against Libertarian Freedom:
P1 Everything that begins to exist has a cause
P2 Choices began to exist
Conclusion: Choices are caused
7. The infinite Regress of Libertarian Free-will
One of the most ironic things about libertarian proponents is the way they charge the other views with arbitrariness and caprice as the ultimate starting point. I will argue here that the reverse is actually the case. To put this in a nutshell Libertarian freedom involves an infinite regress with regard to intention which can only be terminated by appeal to arbitrariness, caprice, and fatalism . Let me lay out some definitions and give you the argument to consider.
Libertarian Freewill: The notion that an agent must be an unmoved mover,uncaused causer, free from external causation
Intent: a purpose or designed plan in mind
Arbitrary: Unprincipled or purposeless and random
Caprice: Unmotivated mood or behavior
Fatalism: Powerless to do anything other than what we actually do
This argument goes something like this. In order for libertarian freewill agent to intentionally bring about what it does, it must have also intentionally brought it about that it is the way that it is. But to intentionally bring about a certain state N, it must have had a prior state N-1 which led to the intentional development of its state N (if N is an arbitrary state in the sense that it had no state prior to N which intentionally brought about state N, then it can hardly claim that state N was brought about intentionally, can it?). But this also means that state N-1 must have been brought about intentionally in a similar fashion, which means there must have been some prior intentional state N-2…… and so on ad infinitum. Free Will thus entails an infinite regress of intentional states. The only escape from such regress is to postulate either some arbitrary intentional starting state (in which case our intentions are ultimately not of our own making, which is inconsistent with the concept of metaphysical libertarian Free Will), or that the FWA is somehow magically and mystically able to pull itself up by its own bootstraps, the original causa sui (cause of itself).
(Taken from http://forums.philosophyforums.com/threads/the-problem-of-free-will-intent-and-infinite-regress-30490.html)