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How can there be human moral culpability without libertarian free will?

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  • How can there be human moral culpability without libertarian free will?

    This question was raised in my mind by some of RBerman's posts saying that humans are morally responsible for their actions even though they lack LFW. I'm wondering how that can be.

    Consider the following to perhaps help the discussion along:

    1) If a rock falls and lands on a human, killing them, we do not say that the rock is morally culpable for murder. It is simply the result of the inexorable laws of physics (or was proximately caused by God or some other agent).

    2) Suppose that while falling through the air the rock is given consciousness and is aware that it is about to kill the human. It seems that this would not make the rock culpable for the death, because the rock doesn't cause it to happen (it's just the laws of physics).

    3) Suppose that while falling and conscious, the rock likes the idea that it is going to kill the human and desires that it happen. Now the rock may be culpable for its immoral thoughts, but not for the death itself, because the rock did not cause it to happen.

    4) Suppose the previous scenario except that the rock gains its consciousness and desire just before the rock falls. Again not culpable for the death, because the rock did not cause it to happen. Even though the rock does what it most desires, which seems to be the common non-libertarian definition of "free will". Thus doing what one most desires is not sufficient for moral culpability.

    5) Suppose the previous scenario except that there is some causal connection between the rock's desire and the rock falling (e.g., the rock falls because of its desire to fall). But also suppose that the rock's desire/will is not LFW. The rock does not have any ability to choose or desire otherwise than it does. Thus the rock's choice is determined by something other than the rock's will (e.g., the inexorable laws of physics or caused proximately by God or some other external agent). Thus the situation seems morally the same as (1): the rock is not morally culpable, because the event is the result of external forces: the inexorable laws of physics or proximately caused by God. The insertion of the rock's desire in the chain of causation seems to be just the insertion of one more domino in the causal chain of the laws of physics. It doesn't imply that the rock caused the event any more than in scinario (1).

    Thus I don't see moral responsibility for the death in any of these cases. And I don't see how we can get there without giving the rock LFW.


    Possible objection: I recall seeing a post of RBerman's where he was saying that LFW is a modern invention. However, it seems to be an ancient concept. Aristotle (in Nicomachean Ethics 3.1) recognizes that moral praise or blame requires voluntary action that (1) originates in the agent and (2) who has knowledge of the circumstances of the action. This doesn't exist if the sufficient cause is external to the agent, which is the case without LFW so that the agent's desire/will is not determined by the agent but by external causes.

    And Boethius (in The Consolation of Philosophy) addressed the conflict of free will and foreknowledge. He seems to assume LFW, otherwise there would be no apparent conflict to resolve. He proposes the solution that God exists independently of time and sees all of space-time in an eternal present. (As far as I know Boethius was the first to explicitly state this solution.) The problem he sees and the solution he gives imply that he has LFW in mind.

    I give these examples to perhaps ward off the objection that the problem only exists in modernist thinking because one supposes that the concept of LFW and its connection to moral responsibility are modern inventions.


    I would ask anyone who responds to explain/define what their alternative to LFW is and then explain how there can be human moral culpability.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Joel View Post
    I recall seeing a post of RBerman's where he was saying that LFW is a modern invention. However, it seems to be an ancient concept. Aristotle (in Nicomachean Ethics 3.1) recognizes that moral praise or blame requires voluntary action that (1) originates in the agent and (2) who has knowledge of the circumstances of the action. This doesn't exist if the sufficient cause is external to the agent, which is the case without LFW so that the agent's desire/will is not determined by the agent but by external causes.
    As a Christian, I can only approach this question from Christian presuppositions. A rock cannot murder because murder is sin, and a rock is not created in the image of God and thus cannot sin. A hurricane or a mountain or a mountain lion can kill but cannot murder, but a mountaineer can murder. The choice to murder can originate proximately within a man's will, making him blameworthy or praiseworthy. That itself seems insufficient to distinguish whether the human will we're talking about is libertarian or not. As I understand it, libertarian will includes the concept of contrary choice, so that from an identical set of circumstances, diverse decisions might ensue. We have no way to test this concept observationally, since each decision is unique, and we don't get to rewind the circumstances and replay them even once (let alone infinitely, as we'd have to do) to see if a different choice was made. Lacking such observational opportunities for proof, you could try to construct a biblical proof that free will must be libertarian in order for other biblically demonstrable conditions to be met.

    And Boethius (in The Consolation of Philosophy) addressed the conflict of free will and foreknowledge. He seems to assume LFW, otherwise there would be no apparent conflict to resolve. He proposes the solution that God exists independently of time and sees all of space-time in an eternal present. (As far as I know Boethius was the first to explicitly state this solution.) The problem he sees and the solution he gives imply that he has LFW in mind. I give these examples to perhaps ward off the objection that the problem only exists in modernist thinking because one supposes that the concept of LFW and its connection to moral responsibility are modern inventions.
    I haven't read him, so I can't comment whether he assumes LFW, or whether LFW is simply read into his argument by those who believe in it. But to clarify: I have not intended to say that, prior to modern times, no one in the history of the world has ever discussed LFW. However, it's my impression as an amateur academic that questions about the libertarian (or not) nature of free will have not seemed so important to so many Christians until the last 200 years of Western civilization. I think of people like Charles Finney, whose frothing opposition to Calvinism was one of the main planks of his speeches. I think of the not-uncommon threads on this board in which someone says they could never believe in a God who would send people to Hell if LFW did not exist. (Indeed, a growing number of people find Hell unfathomable under any circumstances, though I am not among them.)


    I would ask anyone who responds to explain/define what their alternative to LFW is and then explain how there can be human moral culpability.
    We seemed to be headed this direction in the other thread as well. Which thread would you like to discuss it in, and what follow up questions do you have after the answers I gave above?

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by RBerman View Post
      As a Christian, I can only approach this question from Christian presuppositions. A rock cannot murder because murder is sin, and a rock is not created in the image of God and thus cannot sin.
      So what if hypothetically, in scenario (2) (from the OP), not only consciousness but the image of God is added to the rock (or even the rock is turned into a human being)? Is it morally culpable murder in that case?
      (I certainly believe that man was made in the image of God, but I don't personally know what exactly that is. I've encountered some people suggest that it is our ability to reason. Or that our souls are eternal. If it is necessary for your argument, perhaps you can shed some more light? Are angels made in the image of God too? They seem to be able to sin/fall too.)

      Also people generally (Christians too as far as I know) affirm that there are certain requirements for human culpability (such as the ones Aristotle lists). E.g., a person purely accidentally falling on another killing the second is not thought to be murder. Or if person B physically grabs person A's hand and manipulates it to make A's hand do something wrong, then A is said to be not the one to be blamed. Or in general if a person must to do something, because constrained by something beyond the person's control (we say the person is forced). In such cases, the person is like the rock, in that the event is caused/determined by external causes. Yes?

      That is the kind of thing I was trying to get at in my "rock" scenarios. We could adjust them slightly so they each involve a human being instead of a rock.

      Or perhaps consider it this way: How are humans not just puppets controlled by God? If God were to make a human puppet do evil, why would the puppet (rather than God, using a tool) be blamed? If God were to also cause the puppet to desire whatever it is that God controls the puppet to do, then the puppet's motions and desires would happen to coincide, but I don't see how that would change the moral judgement.

      The choice to murder can originate proximately within a man's will, making him blameworthy or praiseworthy. That itself seems insufficient to distinguish whether the human will we're talking about is libertarian or not.
      I'm not sure that is sufficient to make him blameworthy or praiseworthy. I addressed this in my scenario (5), in which, although the desire/will is the proximate cause, the desire/will is fully cause/determined by something else--some external cause. And thus it seems to be morally equivalent to those cases where a person is not culpable because of an external cause. The external cause is to blame. Yes?

      As I understand it, libertarian will includes the concept of contrary choice, so that from an identical set of circumstances, diverse decisions might ensue. We have no way to test this concept observationally, since each decision is unique, and we don't get to rewind the circumstances and replay them even once (let alone infinitely, as we'd have to do) to see if a different choice was made. Lacking such observational opportunities for proof, you could try to construct a biblical proof that free will must be libertarian in order for other biblically demonstrable conditions to be met.
      My goal here is not necessarily to prove that we have LFW, but to consider whether it is necessary for human morality.

      LFW may have multiple equivalent definitions. The relevant quality so far in this thread is that the choice originates in the agent and is not fully caused/determined by any external cause(s). That quality seems to imply and be implied by the ability of contrary choice. If the choice is fully determined by external cause, then the choice cannot be otherwise. And in the other direction, if an agent has no ability to choose otherwise, the agent must be constrained/caused (by something beyond the agent's control) to choose the one particular way. Thus the two seem to be equivalent.

      We seemed to be headed this direction in the other thread as well. Which thread would you like to discuss it in, and what follow up questions do you have after the answers I gave above?
      Go ahead in this thread, let me know how you define free will (and thus also what is unfree will), and how there can be moral praise/blame, and how you deal with my objections above.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Joel View Post
        So what if hypothetically, in scenario (2) (from the OP), not only consciousness but the image of God is added to the rock (or even the rock is turned into a human being)? Is it morally culpable murder in that case?
        (I certainly believe that man was made in the image of God, but I don't personally know what exactly that is. I've encountered some people suggest that it is our ability to reason. Or that our souls are eternal. If it is necessary for your argument, perhaps you can shed some more light? Are angels made in the image of God too? They seem to be able to sin/fall too.)
        The Bible doesn't say a lot about angels, and to my knowledge never applies the concepts of either "sin" or "image of God" to them. The two would seem to go together as best I can tell. I would understand "the image of God" to refer to the capacity of men to interact spiritually with God, whether in faith or in sin.

        Also people generally (Christians too as far as I know) affirm that there are certain requirements for human culpability (such as the ones Aristotle lists). E.g., a person purely accidentally falling on another killing the second is not thought to be murder. Or if person B physically grabs person A's hand and manipulates it to make A's hand do something wrong, then A is said to be not the one to be blamed. Or in general if a person must to do something, because constrained by something beyond the person's control (we say the person is forced). In such cases, the person is like the rock, in that the event is caused/determined by external causes. Yes?
        "Beyond the person's control" wants of clarification. For instance, if you hold a gun to your head and tell me to eat mud, have I lost my free will in the sense that we mean here? Does it violate my free will that I would not choose to eat mud if you were not threatening me in such manner?

        Or perhaps consider it this way: How are humans not just puppets controlled by God? If God were to make a human puppet do evil, why would the puppet (rather than God, using a tool) be blamed? If God were to also cause the puppet to desire whatever it is that God controls the puppet to do, then the puppet's motions and desires would happen to coincide, but I don't see how that would change the moral judgement.
        A puppet is inanimate and not created in the image of God. A puppet never acts; it is only acted upon.

        I'm not sure that is sufficient to make him blameworthy or praiseworthy. I addressed this in my scenario (5), in which, although the desire/will is the proximate cause, the desire/will is fully cause/determined by something else--some external cause. And thus it seems to be morally equivalent to those cases where a person is not culpable because of an external cause. The external cause is to blame. Yes?
        Scenarios 2-5 are nonsensical because they involve rocks which possess distinctly non-rock qualities, rendering the scenarios as meaningless as ones involving square circles. I cannot render an opinion on a nonsensical scenario.

        My goal here is not necessarily to prove that we have LFW, but to consider whether it is necessary for human morality. LFW may have multiple equivalent definitions. The relevant quality so far in this thread is that the choice originates in the agent and is not fully caused/determined by any external cause(s). That quality seems to imply and be implied by the ability of contrary choice. If the choice is fully determined by external cause, then the choice cannot be otherwise. And in the other direction, if an agent has no ability to choose otherwise, the agent must be constrained/caused (by something beyond the agent's control) to choose the one particular way. Thus the two seem to be equivalent.
        The existence of the power of contrary choice is the very thing I doubt. At worst, it seems to involve wanting that which you don't want. At best, it involves an appeal to a black box view of volition which cannot be demonstrated to be so, and cannot be understood. If people do not choose things for sufficient reasons, then it seems to me that volition reduces to randomness, and I have difficulty assigning moral value to random choices, which seem like the very opposite of the intentionality you said was essential for a choice to be moral.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by RBerman View Post
          The Bible doesn't say a lot about angels, and to my knowledge never applies the concepts of either "sin" or "image of God" to them.
          "For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but threw them into hell..."

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Paprika View Post
            "For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but threw them into hell..."
            I stand corrected; thanks!

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by RBerman View Post
              "Beyond the person's control" wants of clarification. For instance, if you hold a gun to your head and tell me to eat mud, have I lost my free will in the sense that we mean here? Does it violate my free will that I would not choose to eat mud if you were not threatening me in such manner?
              It is generally affirmed that if someone holds a gun to your head and orders you to do X, and you do X, then your moral culpability for doing X is lessened or even eliminated (as opposed to doing X without the gun to your head).

              But in such a case you do have a choice that is in your control.
              But what I meant was that without LFW it seems that your actions are fully determined by causes external to you, and thus entirely beyond your control. (Because all that is supposed to be in your control is actually fully determined by causes external to you, and thus nothing is really in your control.)

              A puppet is inanimate and not created in the image of God. A puppet never acts; it is only acted upon.
              A mad scientist might create a device to similarly control another human being as a puppet. The human puppet would still be a human created in the image of God. Indeed the puppet (human or otherwise) can never really said to act and is only acted upon. Indeed. And what I'm asking is how are humans different from that if they lack LFW and therefore do nothing of their own but are fully controlled by external causes?

              Scenarios 2-5 are nonsensical because they involve rocks which possess distinctly non-rock qualities, rendering the scenarios as meaningless as ones involving square circles. I cannot render an opinion on a nonsensical scenario.
              God made man out of dirt (which is what rocks are made of) and gave him "distinctly non-rock qualities". I don't see this as too much of a stretch of the imagination.
              And, like I said, with slight modification the rock in those scenarios could be replaced by a human being. I hope you are able to make such a substitution on your own.

              The existence of the power of contrary choice is the very thing I doubt. At worst, it seems to involve wanting that which you don't want. At best, it involves an appeal to a black box view of volition which cannot be demonstrated to be so, and cannot be understood. If people do not choose things for sufficient reasons, then it seems to me that volition reduces to randomness, and I have difficulty assigning moral value to random choices, which seem like the very opposite of the intentionality you said was essential for a choice to be moral.
              Again, my goal here is not necessarily to prove the existence of LFW. I could respond to these things and we can discuss them later on if you wish. But right now I want you to tell me what is the alternative, and how it still leaves room for moral responsibility.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Joel View Post
                It is generally affirmed that if someone holds a gun to your head and orders you to do X, and you do X, then your moral culpability for doing X is lessened or even eliminated (as opposed to doing X without the gun to your head). But in such a case you do have a choice that is in your control. But what I meant was that without LFW it seems that your actions are fully determined by causes external to you, and thus entirely beyond your control. (Because all that is supposed to be in your control is actually fully determined by causes external to you, and thus nothing is really in your control.)
                Well, this opens the question of what "your control" consists of. If it requires a libertarian concept of random choice, then no, I guess there's no control. But randomness seems to me like the exact opposite of control in the first place.

                A mad scientist might create a device to similarly control another human being as a puppet. The human puppet would still be a human created in the image of God. Indeed the puppet (human or otherwise) can never really said to act and is only acted upon. Indeed. And what I'm asking is how are humans different from that if they lack LFW and therefore do nothing of their own but are fully controlled by external causes?
                As you say, a puppet has no internal motive forces at all; it moves only when acted upon by externally, by brute force. Humans do have an internal motive, whether you believe in LFW or not. That is, they have desires, and attempt to act in accord with them.

                God made man out of dirt (which is what rocks are made of) and gave him "distinctly non-rock qualities". I don't see this as too much of a stretch of the imagination.
                And, like I said, with slight modification the rock in those scenarios could be replaced by a human being. I hope you are able to make such a substitution on your own.
                Let's just leave the rock aside and talk about humans, then.

                Again, my goal here is not necessarily to prove the existence of LFW. I could respond to these things and we can discuss them later on if you wish. But right now I want you to tell me what is the alternative, and how it still leaves room for moral responsibility.
                The alternative is what I just said above: Humans have desires and agendas which arise from the nature that has developed within each of them over time, and they make choices according to who they are, and the circumstances in which they find themselves.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by RBerman View Post
                  Well, this opens the question of what "your control" consists of. If it requires a libertarian concept of random choice, then no, I guess there's no control. But randomness seems to me like the exact opposite of control in the first place.
                  LFW does not imply randomness. But regardless, the actual distinction being made here is between
                  (1) the causal chain having a beginning in the agent or
                  (2) the causal chain having its beginning external to the agent

                  As you say, a puppet has no internal motive forces at all; it moves only when acted upon by externally, by brute force. Humans do have an internal motive, whether you believe in LFW or not. That is, they have desires, and attempt to act in accord with them.
                  A marionette certainly has internal forces.
                  And a puppet can also have internal motive forces. Such as in the case of a puppet driven by motors controlled by an operator via remote control.

                  And as I said, a human puppet would still have desires. And, as I said, we could imagine God (or the mad scientist) to also cause the puppet to desire whatever it is that he controls the puppet to do, and then the puppet's motions and desires would happen to coincide.
                  There may even be a causal connection, such that the desires (that the puppeteer causes) cause the motions. The desires would be analogous to the motors in the remote-control puppet. The human in such a situation would be nonetheless a puppet.


                  The alternative is what I just said above: Humans have desires and agendas which arise from the nature that has developed within each of them over time, and they make choices according to who they are, and the circumstances in which they find themselves.
                  To help me understand your alternative:
                  - If this is free will, what then is unfree will?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Joel View Post
                    LFW does not imply randomness. But regardless, the actual distinction being made here is between
                    (1) the causal chain having a beginning in the agent or
                    (2) the causal chain having its beginning external to the agent
                    The "regardless" is the important question as to whether (1) is possible under any scenario than randomness. When people act, do they act for a reason, or for no reason? If for no reason, I find it difficult to see how one can assign moral value to their actions, just as the flip of a coin cannot be either good or bad, except with regard to the consequences we assign to its results. Surely you don't think that you yourself act for no reason, do you?

                    A marionette certainly has internal forces. And a puppet can also have internal motive forces. Such as in the case of a puppet driven by motors controlled by an operator via remote control.
                    It sounds like we're in robot territory rather than puppet territory as soon as we begin talking about internal motors. Is the robot conscious and created in the image of God?

                    And as I said, a human puppet would still have desires. And, as I said, we could imagine God (or the mad scientist) to also cause the puppet to desire whatever it is that he controls the puppet to do, and then the puppet's motions and desires would happen to coincide. There may even be a causal connection, such that the desires (that the puppeteer causes) cause the motions. The desires would be analogous to the motors in the remote-control puppet. The human in such a situation would be nonetheless a puppet.
                    We've strayed far from any puppet I've ever seen when we talk about a person being given desires by God and then acting according to them! It sounds more like you are making a value judgment that if God were to give a person desires upon which the person then acted, that would make the person no more than a puppet in your eyes. But my question remains: On what biblical foundations does such a valuation rest? Where does the Bible encourage us to see LFW as so important that God would rather there be LFW and sin, than no LFW and no sin? Do you think we're going to have LFW in heaven, for instance? And if so, will or will not there be sin in heaven?


                    To help me understand your alternative:
                    - If this is free will, what then is unfree will?
                    We earlier looked at the example of an external constraint upon your will: someone holding a gun to your head. Or chaining you to the wall, for that matter. Your choices have been externally constrained so that you may not act according to your desires. Those seem to be examples of a limitation of one's free will. (I wonder, do Arminians think that the threat of Hell is analogous to God holding a gun to our heads if we don't follow Christ? If so, what does that threat do to our free will?)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by RBerman View Post
                      Originally posted by Joel
                      LFW does not imply randomness. But regardless, the actual distinction being made here is between
                      (1) the causal chain having a beginning in the agent or
                      (2) the causal chain having its beginning external to the agent
                      The "regardless" is the important question as to whether (1) is possible under any scenario than randomness. When people act, do they act for a reason, or for no reason? If for no reason, I find it difficult to see how one can assign moral value to their actions, just as the flip of a coin cannot be either good or bad, except with regard to the consequences we assign to its results. Surely you don't think that you yourself act for no reason, do you?
                      I personally don't believe that there exists such a thing as randomness. But I don't think it matters for this discussion. Someone (like the DC Comics villain Two Face) may decide by flipping a coin whether to murder someone. But no one thinks that absolves him of the guilt of any murder he commits.

                      Secondly, people can choose rationally or irrationally. A person who spontaneously (or apparently "randomly") chooses to murder without thinking of a reason is still generally considered guilty of at least second-degree murder.

                      Thirdly, acting for a reason is not the same thing as being caused by the reason. Just as a logical implication is not the same thing as causation.

                      When God acts, the causal chain of that event has its beginning in the agent (God). And I presume that you agree that that does not imply that God acts randomly or without a reason.

                      Thus I think we can safely conclude that (1) is possible under a scenario where the agent acts purposefully and rationally.


                      It sounds like we're in robot territory rather than puppet territory as soon as we begin talking about internal motors. Is the robot conscious and created in the image of God?

                      We've strayed far from any puppet I've ever seen when we talk about a person being given desires by God and then acting according to them!
                      Puppets with motors remotely controlled (e.g., moving a character's mouth and facial features) are used in film and tv. The Muppets sometimes use this. If you want to insist that such a "robot" cannot be a "puppet" then that's a matter of definition of terms, and we can use a different term if we need to, to refer to the larger class of creatures controlled by someone (whether via strings, cables, electronic remote control, etc).

                      The point is that without LFW it seems that the person's desires are manipulated by God which in turn control the person's movements, just like a puppeteer controls a puppet via cables or remote control. Only the mechanism is different--desires, instead of cables. If the causal sequence of desire-actions is fully deterministic (thus fully controlled by the external operator), like that of the cables-action or remote-control-action, then it seems to be equally a puppet.

                      Thus far this is not a value judgment, but an attempt at a value-free examination of the nature of things.
                      (Whether creating and controlling puppets is better or worse than creating autonomous creatures is a different question, and doesn't seem to be required for the thread topic.)


                      Originally posted by Joel
                      To help me understand your alternative:
                      - If this is free will, what then is unfree will?
                      We earlier looked at the example of an external constraint upon your will: someone holding a gun to your head. Or chaining you to the wall, for that matter. Your choices have been externally constrained so that you may not act according to your desires. Those seem to be examples of a limitation of one's free will. (I wonder, do Arminians think that the threat of Hell is analogous to God holding a gun to our heads if we don't follow Christ? If so, what does that threat do to our free will?)
                      Interesting, so your understanding of freedom of the will is really power/ability--a question of whether someone's will is efficacious (based on what options are within your power). This concept seems independent of the concept of LFW. I cannot fly like Superman, no matter how much I desire to. Under your concept of free will, my will is unfree, to that extent, yet that doesn't reduce my LFW at all (supposing that I have any to begin with). Thus the combination of these two concepts yields 4 possible combinations:
                      • LFW and your "free will" (e.g., Superman LFW chooses to fly and does so.)
                      • LFW and your "unfree will" (e.g., Lex Luthor physically debilitates Superman with kryptonite--e.g. so he can't fly.)
                      • not-LFW and your "free will" (e.g., Braniac controls Superman, causing him to fly.)
                      • not-LFW and your "unfree will" (e.g., Braniac controls Superman the same time Lex Luthor debilitates him with kryptonite.)


                      (Trying to add levity with some comic book references. )

                      It seems the two concepts of "free will" are independent/orthogonal axes, and not different kinds of the same concept. (i.e., they are not species of the same genus, and not mutually exclusive. Nor is either a species of the other.)


                      Or considered another way, LFW (if it exists) is thought to be a faculty of the soul, and thus is not eliminated by an external human enemy, who can only harm or constrain my body. An enemy may physically reduce my options, but not my faculty of choosing among options. ("Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul" Matt 10:28). Whereas your concept of "free will" seems to have to do with bodily constraints.

                      I'm not really familiar with what "Arminian" means, but my understanding was that Hell is about Justice. It is a matter of Just deserts or consequences of sin. Analogously, God created the natural law of gravity, and death may be the consequence of jumping out a window, but people don't really think of that as being a "threat" as in "don't jump out that window, or I'll kill you".
                      Moreover, a human might justly subdue a bandit/murderer at gunpoint and bring him to the police department. The question of whether physical force (or threat) is being used is different from the question of whether that particular use of force is Just/unjust. And, as I said, threats don't remove LFW, though it does make you less free in your sense. So your concern that the threat of hell reduces free will applies only to your concept of free will.

                      When it came up before, my point was that it is recognized that someone is not (or is at least less) morally blameworthy for doing wrong under threat of gunpoint. (Assuming the person wouldn't have done it without the threat.) But God doesn't send people to hell for doing good, but for sinning, right?

                      Or in the case where someone grabs my hand and physically manipulates it to make it do something wrong (and thus he and not me is to blame), that doesn't eliminate my faculty of LFW, but neither was that particular motion a result of my LFW. Similarly, perhaps we could imagine a situation in which a person literally has only one option (thus no option). Then it doesn't mean the person lacks the faculty of LFW, but only lacks anything to exercise it upon. (And it is generally recognized that the person is not morally culpable in such a case.) In an imaginary (and unrealistic) situation in which a person never faced multiple options, then he'd never have an opportunity to use his LFW, in which case LFW would be irrelevant.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Joel, your post is quite lengthy, and we are now discussing similar topics in two different threads, so I do not intend to respond point-by-point. You say that "acting for a reason" is not the same as the reason causing the action. it is difficult to see how the reason matters at all if not causally connected to the action.

                        You are correct that I believe that the Bible teaches that, by giving us a certain nature which is confronted with certain circumstances, God ordains the choices of our lives. Sometimes beyond the natural course of events, God intervenes specially to harden or soften a heart, which is what we pray for our unsaved family without any scruples as to whether this violates their free choice to go to hell. As for me, I would be delighted if God violated my alleged LFW, to save me from my sins.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by RBerman View Post
                          You are correct that I believe that the Bible teaches that, by giving us a certain nature which is confronted with certain circumstances, God ordains the choices of our lives. Sometimes beyond the natural course of events, God intervenes specially to harden or soften a heart, which is what we pray for our unsaved family without any scruples as to whether this violates their free choice to go to hell. As for me, I would be delighted if God violated my alleged LFW, to save me from my sins.
                          I have never heard of or even been able to imagine the concept of a “free choice to go to hell”. That is an unbiblical teaching. I think that 2 Thess teaches us why men are condemned to hell. (Pleasure over truth.)

                          If we believe that the bible teaches a certain doctrine; it stands to reason (to me at least) the concept would be incorporated into our pattern of thought as well as something that our speech patterns would constantly affirm.

                          Ergo, for a person that whole heartedly supports exhaustive determinism, (as indicated by your implication that God ordain everything) it sounds strange to me to hear that person say things like “God ordains the choices of our lives. Sometimes beyond the natural course of events, God intervenes specially to harden or soften a heart,”. For me determinism eliminates the phrase “God intervenes” as a logically viable concept. As “intervenes” logically indicates a time prior to some event when God was not actively involved. He was first a spectator, then he actively interveaned.

                          “I would be delighted if God violated my alleged LFW, to save me from my sins.” Not a LFW’er, but so would I. My problem is that the concept of unconditional election leaves me without any reasonable grounds as to why God would bestow this blessing upon me and exclude the next person.

                          Unconditional election is also by its very nature a contradiction in terms… Oops, going off topic,

                          Why would God intervene to soften a heart when he has already intervened to {ordain} harden said same heart. God here appears to lack omniscience and appears confused...

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by dacristoy View Post
                            I have never heard of or even been able to imagine the concept of a “free choice to go to hell”. That is an unbiblical teaching. I think that 2 Thess teaches us why men are condemned to hell. (Pleasure over truth.)
                            I was speaking from the perspective of someone who holds to LFW, not my own persective. I'm not clear on the distinction you are drawing between pleasure and choice, however. An LFW proponent would say that our choices are not determined entirely by what pleases our nature. I can't tell what side of that particular question you are defending.

                            Ergo, for a person that whole heartedly supports exhaustive determinism, (as indicated by your implication that God ordain everything) it sounds strange to me to hear that person say things like “God ordains the choices of our lives. Sometimes beyond the natural course of events, God intervenes specially to harden or soften a heart,”. For me determinism eliminates the phrase “God intervenes” as a logically viable concept. As “intervenes” logically indicates a time prior to some event when God was not actively involved. He was first a spectator, then he actively intervened.
                            All verbs imply action, thus the passage of time. That's how we perceive God acting within history. We have to be careful about extrapolating from that, to how God thinks about things, including the things that we call actions. It may not match up well to our experience.

                            “I would be delighted if God violated my alleged LFW, to save me from my sins.” Not a LFW’er, but so would I. My problem is that the concept of unconditional election leaves me without any reasonable grounds as to why God would bestow this blessing upon me and exclude the next person.
                            I certainly wouldn't claim to know why God saves the people that He saved. It's enough to know that He is wise and good.

                            Why would God intervene to soften a heart when he has already intervened to {ordain} harden said same heart. God here appears to lack omniscience and appears confused...
                            When I wrote that, I wasn't thinking of God both hardening and softening the same heart simultaneously. I was thinking of hardening one person and softening another, though it could have just as easily been the same person in two different circumstances, according to an unfolding plan. I hope you don't consider me confused that sometimes I put on a bathing suit, and sometimes a raincoat, and sometimes a heavy winter coat.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by RBerman View Post
                              When I wrote that, I wasn't thinking of God both hardening and softening the same heart simultaneously. I was thinking of hardening one person and softening another, though it could have just as easily been the same person in two different circumstances, according to an unfolding plan. I hope you don't consider me confused that sometimes I put on a bathing suit, and sometimes a raincoat, and sometimes a heavy winter coat.
                              My conclusion is still out on that one. What kind of bathing suit is it, one piece, two piece, I hope it's not a thong.

                              Need more time for thought before I seriously reply...

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