Sunday, March 6, 2011

Free Will

Calvinists are often accused of denying human free will, because of their belief in unmerited election and irresistible grace. Along with this, it is claimed that such doctrines make man a puppet who can do nothing but what is specifiably determined by God, and if that is true then God unjustly condemns men to Hell. Here is where a Calvinist will usually reply that men do have free will. The problem is that man is so corrupted that he will never exercise his will in such a way that will bring him to God apart from God's grace. Then from here we have a long debate going in circles between the Calvinist and the Arminian. This occurs because there is a problem that the Arminian is not addressing and in here lies the problem, and why Calvinists don't even have to waste their breath in debate with an Arminian until this problem is answered. In order for an Arminian to claim that free will is not possible within Calvinism they must first define what Free will is.

Without the defining of that term the entire debate is pointless, because no matter what the Calvinist says the Arminian can reply that is not true free will. However, that is not fair to the argument because they are not presenting an actual alternative to the Calvinists understanding of free will. Its more of a rebuttal than a refutation. Its like a child that stands up and says, "I don't like it." Then the child sits down and expects to get his way, but how unwise that is. For one it doesn't change anything and two it doesn't present and alternative to the matter at hand. If the Arminian wishes to argue that Calvinism denies free will then he needs to have a means by which he can refute the Calvinist's claim that he doesn't, and that is not possible without understanding the foundation of the argument. So here is what an Arminian must do if he wants to hold that Calvinism does not allow for free will: define free will. Not only define it, but define it in such a way that does not in any shape or form fit under Compatibilism.

However, the Armenian has another problem that arises after that. If they can somehow think of a definition of free will that doesn't fit with Compatibilism, some have, then they must show that is a working definition of free will that is to say it is true to the human experience. And even more importantly than that the Armenian has to show that that definition is held up by the foundation of scripture, otherwise it is entirely irrelevant.

This might be argued against, but the conclusion that the Arminian draws is not one that is born out of scripture. They might believe it to be so, but what is really being spoken of his from the hand maid of theology, philosophy. Man's understanding of Philosophy does not dictate what the scriptures actually teach. The problems that it might create, are irrelevant if they are contrary to what scripture teaches, because the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of man. Not only this, but because the Arminian is drawing his problem from philosophy, whether he realizes it or not, he must live by the rules of philosophy, and one of the key parts of an argument is the defining of terms. Other wise you end up in a never ending battle of semantics, that is anything but beneficial. Until this is done a Calvinist has no reason to argue with an Arminian using this argument.

  • if an Arminian claims that the Calvinist denies free will then the Arminian must have a definition of free will that does not fit within Compatibilism.
  • the Arminian does not give a definition of free will that does not fit within Compatibilism
  • Therefore the Arminian cannot claim that the Calvinist denies free will.