Tuesday, March 25, 2008

On Freedom In Choices - Response to "Orthodox"

I had written: The fact that men do make choices, and that some of those decisions are free, does not mean that they are free in the sense required by Arminian, Molinist, or Open Theist interpreters.

"Orthodox" responded: If you admit that some decisions are free, you have a lot of work to do to prove a special category of non-free decisions.

I answer:

I think O's comment provides an example of a typical failure to understand free will in its conventional sense: the Calvinistic sense.

What is the will? It is a name we give to the decision-making functionality of a man. The will functions to make choices, decisions, selections, elections, and judgments. We generally call such acts of man, acts of a man's will.

Sometimes those acts are free, sometimes they are not.

We do not consider a choice made under extreme duress to be a "free" choice. It is still a choice, certainly. Nevertheless, the man who hands over a wallet because a gun is pointed at his head is exercising his will in an un-free, constrained way.

You see, when we speak of something being free, we ordinarily speak of freedom from external constraints. Thus, for example, we say that a woman is free to marry when her husband is dead. Occasionally, we also speak of something being free when it is free from dominating internal constraints. Thus, for example, we typically do not view an alcoholic as "free" in this occasional sense, and it is in this sense that Luther was writing in his famous book, "Bondage of the Will." The will of fallen man is not free from the bondage of sin. Instead, man's will is enslaved by sin before God's grace of regeneration is poured forth in a man's heart.

Nevertheless, when we speak of the will's freedom, we normally only refer to the former, external, constraints. In that sense, we say that man's will is usually largely free. Many and perhaps most of man's decisions are made without any or with minimal external coercion or compulsion.

Some choices are not free, but are - instead - coerced. We could provide examples, but perhaps the most obvious is the choice to pay one's taxes. The government normally provides coercion in the force of threat of fine and/or imprisonment to those who fail to pay, which prevents us from choosing freely. Certainly, some people choose to ignore the threat, just as sometimes people refuse to hand over their wallet at gunpoint. Nevertheless, we do not view such externally compelled choices to be "free."

We object to the philosophical importation by Molinists, Arminians, Open Theists, and others of a non-conventional definition of "free will," as an "ability to do otherwise." This odd ability, which is - by definition - never ever used, is made up from thin air. It is itself the conclusion and the premise of many anti-Calvinistic arguments. Oh well. There is no need to delve at great length into that subject at present.

Hopefully, the above presentation will help to set "Orthodox" and others straight on the will and its various kinds and senses of freedom.

May God bless our wills with grace to do His will,



orthodox said...

So why did Adam sin? Because God made him bad?

Turretinfan said...

My answer in a new post here.