Thursday, March 22, 2012

Some Verses Regarding Compatible Free Will

The Bible teaches compatible, not so-called "libertarian," free will.  That means that men choose what God has foreordained or determined that they will choose.  It's the kind of free will that Calvinists speak about, and it is the kind of free will that is referred to when the Scriptures speak about "Freewill offerings." (See, for example, Ezra 3:5 "And afterward offered the continual burnt offering, both of the new moons, and of all the set feasts of the LORD that were consecrated, and of every one that willingly offered a freewill offering unto the LORD.")

The verses that describe Calvinistic or compatible free will are almost too numerous to recite.  Here are some examples:

1 Samuel 2:25
If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall intreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the LORD would slay them.

2 Samuel 17:14
And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel. For the LORD had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the LORD might bring evil upon Absalom.

1 Kings 12:15
Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from the LORD, that he might perform his saying, which the LORD spake by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

Exodus 7:4
But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt, and bring forth mine armies, and my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments.

Exodus 11:9
And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you; that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 2:30
But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him: for the LORD thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand, as appeareth this day.

2 Chronicles 25:20
But Amaziah would not hear; for it came of God, that he might deliver them into the hand of their enemies, because they sought after the gods of Edom.

Romans 11:32
For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

2 Chronicles 25:16
And it came to pass, as he talked with him, that the king said unto him, Art thou made of the king's counsel? forbear; why shouldest thou be smitten? Then the prophet forbare, and said, I know that God hath determined to destroy thee, because thou hast done this, and hast not hearkened unto my counsel.

Daniel 11:36
And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done.

See also the book of Job.

I could go on and on, but these should do for now.


Natamllc said...

With just slight levity I say what irony that to have liberty to will one must have compatibility and:::>

"...Isa 2:22 Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?"

Dan said...

Hi TFan,

That [compatibilist free will] means that men choose what God has foreordained or determined that they will choose.

Not exactly. Molinists believe that God foreordains all human choices and that men have libertarian free will. It's true that some who are inclined to the libertarian perspective think that this kind of exhaustive divine providence would rule out genuine human freedom/responsibility; but that wouldn't even be a debatable point (which it is) if libertarian free will by definition ruled out divine ordination of libertarian choices. I think a better definition would turn on an answer the question of whether free/responsible choices can be causally determined by factors outside the chooser's control. The libertarian/incompatibilist denies that any choices so determined can be free; the compatibilist affirms that such choices can be free (free will and causal determinism are compatible).

With that said, I think that most of the verses you've mentioned strongly suggest that compatibilism is true (especially when considering them all together and the general pattern to which they attest). Some of them seem to be more amenable to a Molinist interpretation than do others, but I don't think that any of them are more amenable to a Molinist interpretation than to a compatibilist one. The cases in Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Romans seems particularly damning for the incompatibilist, since in the first two God seems to be described as ordaining the choices partly by acting directly on the agent's faculties, and in the third Paul contrasts divine ordination with human effort (whereas the Molinist rejects this dichotomy). I don't see the merit of 2nd Chronicles 25:16 being on the list, and I don't know what it is about Job that you have in mind (the evil brought on Job by God through the Sabeans/Chaldeans?).

turretinfan said...

Dan: I know for a fact that some (most? all?) Molinists are uncomfortable with saying that God foreordained in the sense of "God determined." They may be ok with the term "fore-ordained," but it's the "determined" part that they would be uncomfortable with. In fact, if you go back to my blog post responding to Molinist objections recently, you will find such comments in the comment box.

Dan said...

Some Molinists are and all Molinists should be happy to say that God "foreordains" all human choices. Molinism was designed to integrate creaturely libertarian freedom with exhaustive and active divine providence; and 'ordains' is a natural word to use to express a concept of such providence/control/decree that is neutral with respect to the manner in which what is decreed is brought to pass. I would agree that 'determines' is less appropriate, because it is often used to imply causal determination. Perhaps you meant 'determined' to imply causal determination, and for 'foreordained' to be understood in that kind of way, but it seemed more natural to me that 'determined' was being constrained by 'foreordained' (such that God "determines" what happens in the sense of ordaining/decreeing/planning/deciding it).

The Molinist may want to use language that is evocative of the idea of "determination" (in a general/broad sense) in addressing precisely the kinds of verses you've produced. He may say something like the following. God wanted to judge Eli's sons. So, He brought about circumstances in which He knew they would (freely) refuse to repent. In this sense, God "determined" their reaction to the admonition.

turretinfan said...

Non-causal determination, eh?

Dan said...

In a context where ordination is in view, yes, one might legitimately speak of a kind of non-causal determination. Causal determination is not included in the meaning of 'determination', which is why the phrase 'causally determined' is not a pleonasm and is used by Molinists (see e.g. Thomas Flint's Providence book p. 22). An obvious example of a form of non-causal determination is logical determination (e.g., John's being a bachelor determines his being male). There is also "determination" in the senses of judging/deciding (as in "the jury determined that John was guilty").

Suppose that God wants Eve to eat from the fruit, and that He knows whether or not she would freely (in a libertarian sense) do so in an innumerable number of circumstances that are very similar to each other. For example, He knows that were she placed in the exact circumstance in which she was placed, she would eat. He may also know that were the Tree slightly to the left, she would refrain, that were it slightly to the right, she would refrain, that were it a little more to the right, she would accept, etc. God wants her to eat, and so He chooses one of the circumstances in which she would eat and places her in that circumstance. There is a natural and intuitive sense in which God can appropriately be said to "determine" her choice. Of course, this propriety is context-sensitive. If the mechanics of Eve's agency is the topic of discussion, for example, then it will be inappropriate to speak of God as "determining" her choice; since 'determines' in that context naturally takes on a causal sense.

I've claimed that the word 'determines' can be appropriately used in a non-causal sense, but the more general/important point, with which I think you agree, is that the Molinist needs some words or other in the semantic vicinity of 'ordains' in order to express his own view, a view on which libertarian free choices are ordained by God. Molinists are incompatibilists about freedom and causal determination, but compatibilists about freedom and exhaustive foreknowledge, as well as about freedom and exhaustive providence.

Natamllc said...


for what it is worth, it brings me some joy reading your comments in here!

Here's some verses maybe you might be inclined to comment on that, for me in my view, enhance the idea TFan puts forth for his students to contemplate as we sort these things out?

Consider determination and the compatibility with one's future from each of these historical points of view and explain how LFW is applied to them:

2Sa 22:24 I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from guilt.
2Sa 22:25 And the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in his sight.
2Sa 22:26 "With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
2Sa 22:27 with the purified you deal purely, and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
2Sa 22:28 You save a humble people, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them down.
2Sa 22:29 For you are my lamp, O LORD, and my God lightens my darkness.

1Ki 15:1 Now in the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam the son of Nebat, Abijam began to reign over Judah.
1Ki 15:2 He reigned for three years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom.
1Ki 15:3 And he walked in all the sins that his father did before him, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father.
1Ki 15:4 Nevertheless, for David's sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem,
1Ki 15:5 because David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.

It would be fair to say, I believe, without God's predetermination and determination to bear with David's own sons as they sat to reign over Judah, none of us would have a leg to stand on?

Also, we see the two vines from this perspective: [Psalm 80:1-11, Isaiah 14:22-26 and I am wondering if you see them, too, Christ's and Satan's?

At the end of the day, Christ's are left either passing into Him from here or in Him here waiting for Him to come from there:

Heb 9:27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
Heb 9:28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Dan said...

Hi Natamllc,
Why don't you concisely state a specific proposition you take these passages to support? I'm not seeing the connection between the passages and TFan's opening post.

Natamllc said...



Let's narrow it down to these two verses and tell me if, in your view, they establish LFW or compatibility:

2Sa 22:29 For you are my lamp, O LORD, and my God lightens my darkness.

1Ki 15:4 Nevertheless, for David's sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem,

Dan said...

They don't establish either libertarianism or compatibilism. They don't seem overly relevant to this issue. If you think they are relevant, then perhaps you can explain.

Natamllc said...


they establish predetermination, God's Will that works in, through and regardless of man's will in the world He created.

Would you agree to that much regarding those verses?

Dan said...

Would you agree to that much regarding those verses?


stevej911 said...

Hi, first time I've been to this site. I recently adopted Reformed theology as my overall framework of understanding God and His salvific actions expressed in His Word. I won't call myself a Calvinist yet until I understand concepts like compatibilism. Could you please recommend a relatively simple (and non-voluminous!) book on the subject to help me understand this concept better? Thank you, --Steve J.

ChaferDTS said...

Hi Steve and welcome over here. You Should check out Dr. Charles Hodge Systematic Theology 3 volumes. It is on sale for $ 19.99 at . It has a very good treatment on the doctrine of election. It will have information for what you are asking for. It is always important to always remember that God's sovereignity and human responsibility are equally taught in Scripture. We see this in the text John 6:44 of God the father's irresistable drawing of the elect prior to their belief. And yet each person must believe or have faith in Jesus for salvation as Acts 16:31 teaches. We likewise see this also in 2 Thes 2:13-14.