Science in Christian Perspective
Determinism vs Free Will
From: JASA 28
(June 1976): 76.
The determinism-free will controversy is a pertinent one in theology, psychology and philosophy. It revolves around the question whether people are to be viewed as responsible choice-making individuals or as victims of deterministic forces. In this article definitions are given of each position along with their supporters. After identifying five distinct views about the controversy, support is given for each position. In a discussion section various illustrations are considered as attempts to resolve the controversy. In conclusion, it is suggested that the matter may never be settled in this life. The Christian may nevertheless aim to know and do Gods good, acceptable and perfect will.Introduction
Hugh T. Kerr tells the story of a young philosophy teacher who attended his first scholarly conference. The topic for discussion was free will and determinism. The young teacher, during a lapse in the program, wandered over to the determinist group. The leader said to him, "Who sent you over here?" He replied, "No one. I came of my own free will." Politely but firmly he was shoved in the direction of the free will group. The leader of this group asked him, "How did you decide to come over here?" He replied "I didn't decide at all; I was sent over here against ;~y will (Lapsley, 1967, p. 88)."
The young philosopher could just as easily have been a theologian or psychologist because the topic of free will and determinism is a pertinent one in theology, psychology, and philosophy. It has been written about to such an extent that anyone who sets for himself the task of reading it all will surely die before he completes the job. (A very helpful bibliography can be found in Barbour, 1966, pp. 273-316.)
Since Lucretius (died 55 B.C.) every noteworthy philosopher, theologian, and psychologist has taken part in the perennial and perplexing dispute. It centers around this question: Is man "a puppet of necessity and a toy of circumstances, or the captain of his soul and, within limits, the master of his fate (Lamont, 1967, p. 15) ?" Or to put it another way, "Is man treated as a responsible choice-making person or as a victim of deterministic forces (Dolby, 1968, p. 34) F'
(1968) at the height of the Renaissance wrote: "Among the many difficulties
encountered in Holy Scripture-and there are many of them-none presents a more
perplexed labyrinth than the problem of the freedom of the will (pp. 3,4)."
D. D. Whedon (1864) wrote that this is "the most difficult of all
psychological and moral problems . . . (p. 3)."
Determinism synonyms include foreordination, predestination, necessitarian, and mechanism. Free will synonyms include chance, contingency, indeterminism, fortuity, tychism, voluntarism and libertarianism. Lamont (1967) prefers the term freedom of choice "because of the theological connotations and confessions associated with the term 'free will' and because there is nothing identifiable as the will which is responsible for a man's choice (pp. 9, 10)." The most frequently used terms, however, are determinism and free will.
What is the basic idea of free will? The following quotations are attempts to define the concept:
... a man who consciously comes to a decision between two or more genuine alternatives is free to do so and is not completely determined by his heredity, education, economic circumstances and past history as an individual (Lamont, 1967, p. 17).
(Man's) actions are not predetermined by external forces, nor are they undetermined in that they are due to motives formed in the past. They are determined from within, by choice, not by compulsion. His acts are those of a free being (Stevens, 1967, p. 140).
(Free will is) the term for the concept that man is free to dispose of his own will; that he can choose between alternatives in such a manner that the choice is entirely uninfluenced by factors not consciously controlled by him (Hinsie and Campbell, 1970, p. 310).
What is the basic idea of determinism? The following quotations are attempts to define the concept:
determinism is based on the type of psychology which sees the individual as
controlled entirely by his history (Bridgewater and Sherwood, 1950, p. 533).
This is the assumption that the universe is an orderly place where all events occur in keeping with natural laws. Everything follows cause-and-effect relationships. In essence, the universe is a sort of giant machine which functio.ns according to certain built-in principles (Coleman, 1969, p. 23).
"Determinism" means that each event in the universe is completely given or defined by a finite number of other events in the universe. Therefore, if all these other events are known, the event under discussion can be completely deduced (Kaufmann, 1968, p. 23).Preferences Which view has biblical support, free will or determinism? Or does the Bible support both positions to some degree and in some sense? Thinkers do not agree in answering these questions. The controversy has elicited some classic disputes in the history of Christianity: Augustine vs. Pelagius in the early church; Martin Luther vs. Erasmus in the Reformation era; and Jonathan Edwards vs. the Arminians in the colonial days. Interestingly, as Hugh T. Kerr has observed, in each argument the determinists won out (Lapsley, 1964, p. 94).
Gerstner (1967) thinks that a fundamental objection to Christianity comes from determinism (p. 197). Hammes (1971) believes that determinism "makes of divine justice a mockery, and portrays God as fiendish rather than benevolent (p. 86)." Buswell (1962) writes that "the denial of free will seems to be purely arbitrary philosophical dogmatism, entirely contrary to reasonable evidence and to the biblical view (p. 267)."
Another writer (What then is man?, 1958) thinks determinism both a scientific and moral stumbling block (p. 173).
On the other hand, Turner (1966) sees few instances where determinism clashes with religious faith (p. 960). Dolby (1968) lists five kinds of determinism and concludes that any of them could be held by a Christian (p, 35). Whedon (1864) writes that "freedom (is) wholly non-existent and even inconceivable (p. 14)."
Despite the opinion that there is a lack of final scientific evidence for either view, scientists commonly espouse the deterministic over the free will view. For instance, John Watson, a behavioral psychologist, believed that "if psychology is ever to become a science, it must ... become ... deterministic . . . (Heidbreder, 1933, p. 235)." B. F. Skinner, America's most influential and famous psychologist, believes that mans actions must be considered determined if the scientific method is to be used in the study of human behavior (1953). Finally, Carl A. Rogers, founder of client-centered therapy, believes that "In the minds of most behavioral scientists, man is not free, nor can he as a free man commit himself to some purpose, since he is controlled by factors outside of himself (1964, p. I)."
Favoring determinism are Whedon (1864), Freud (Braceland and Stock, 1966), Skinner (1956), Menninger (1968), Democritus (Heidelbreder, 1933), Marcus Aurelius, John Calvin, Spinoza, Voltaire, Hegel and Bertrand Russell.
Psychoanalysis and behaviorism are deterministic (Coleman, 1972, p. 67). Deterministic views are presented in such books as The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, and A Mummes Tale by Anatole France. The Greek tragedies of Aeschylus and Sophocles are pervaded by the belief that man is a pawn of fate. Oedipus unwittingly illustrated determinism by killing his father and marrying his mother, just as the oracle prophesied.
Perhaps the most famous philosopher who held to determinism was Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677). Frederick Mayer (1951) believes that the keynote of Sponoza's thinking was determinism (p. 140). Spinoza firmly rejected freedom of the will. He wrote: "In the mind there is no absolute or free will, but the mind is determined by another cause, and this last by another cause, and so on to infinity (Hinsie and Campbell, 1970, p. 209)."
Abraham Lincoln probably never heard of Spinoza but nevertheless came to the same conclusion. A. A. Brill (1938) illustrates Lincoln's view by the following story. Lincoln was discussing with his partner Herndon, as they were pulled along a muddy road in a carriage, whether there were such a thing as a disinterested, altruistic and undetermined act. Herndon said yes but Lincoln argued no. just then they passed a pig caught in a crack of an old rail fence, squealing for his life. A little further down the road, Lincoln decided to go back and release the pig. After letting the pig go he climbed back into the buggy. His feet were muddy, his clothes wet, his hat dripping. "There," said Herndon, "in spite of your fine logic you have proved my point. Why did you get out in the mud and let that silly pig loose when he would have wriggled out anyhow?" "It was a purely selfish act," said Lincoln. "If I hadn't, I wouldn't have slept a wink tonight; his squeal would have echoed in my dreams. He might have wriggled his way out, but I wouldn't have known it. I win the case (p. 615)."
The Calvinists have commonly been identified as holding to determinism while the Arminians hold a free will position. To illustrate this dichotomy, Corliss Lamont (1967) told the story of a Calvinist who met an Arminian on his way to church one Sunday morning and remarked, "You were foreordained to go to church today." The Arminian replied, "Is that so?" and turned around and went home (p. 21). This story perhaps draws the line a little too straight in identifying the Calvinists as determinists and the Arminians as free willers.
Most Christians believe in some type of free will. For instance, an Arminian (Pentecostal) theologian writes: "The Bible affirms the freedom of the human will (Shank, 1960, p. 344)." The Free Will Baptists bold that "God has endowed man with the power of free choice, and governs him by moral laws and motives; and this power of free choice is the exact measure of man's responsibility (A Treatise of the Faith and Practice of the Original Free Will Baptists, 1962, pp. 8, 9)." A Calvinistic (Presbyterian) statement on free will is in essence the same as the ones coming from Arminians: "God hath endued the will of man with the natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor by an absolute necessity of nature determined to good or evil ... (The Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, 1956, p. 71)."
Corliss Lamont (1967) after forty years of reading, writing and debating, has come down strongly on the side of free will. So have Hammes (1971), Kant (Durant, 1953) and Attshuler (Brill, 1938). Humanism adheres to free will. Other indeterminists include Aristotle, Epicurus, William James, Henri Bergron and John Dewey.Viewpoints
Five distinct views about the determinism and free will argument can be identified. One view holds that the two positions cannot be reconciled. As W. W. Stevens (1967), theology professor at Mississippi College, has written: "The sovereignty of God (determinism) and the freedom of man are two factors which simply cannot be reconciled in finite thought (p. 212)."
A second view states that there is in reality no controversy but only a semantical problem. John Stuart Mill, Mority Schlick and David Hume hold this position. Schlick called the argument a "pseudo-problem." John Stuart Mill believed that "the whole controversy has hitherto turned merely upon words (Hume, 1927, p. 161)."
Third, some writers have taken a pragmatic approach toward the determinism and free will controversy. In essence, this view states that both views are relevant at times. For instance, Barbour (1966) suggests that within science determinism is a useful postulate but in daily affairs a free will approach is more useful (p. 311).
Bube (1971) argues for a multilevel description of reality which would allow for both views (pp. 177, 178). William James (Durant, 1953) thought that in choosing between the two views "our vital and moral interests should make the choice (p. 516)." Donald Hebb observed that free will is the control of behavior by thinking. Thought is shaped by heredity and environment. "Hence, one can believe in free will and still be a determinist (Hebb, 1973)."
some believe that the whole controversy is unimportant. Beach (1973) concluded
after spending long hours with a beer in his hand and a pained look upon his
face that the most valuable component of these sessions was the beer. This is
because it has gradually dawned on me over the years that my own behavior,
either as a psychologist or a private person, probably would not change very
much no matter how I decided the issue. Now it seems to me that if the answer to
a question is inconsequential, the question itself may be inconsequential. (p.
A fifth position holds that the whole controversy is a dead issue, at least in its older form. Hugh T. Kerr holds this view: "The classic dispute about free will and determinism . . . appears to belong to the past ratberthan to current discussions.... The older debate about free will and determinism has not been solved; it has been shelved (Lapsley, 1967, pp. 89, 90)."
Contrariwise, William James (1923), an exponent of free choice, believed that it was a mistake to consider the controversy a dead issue. He wrote in 1884: "A common opinion prevails that the juice has ages ago been pressed out of the free-will controversy, and that no new champion can do more than warm up stale arguments which every one has heard. This is a radical mistake (p. 145)."
William James believed that the problem of determinism and free will was outside the province of science. He was eager to show that free will was reputable, and that human life is not the "dull, rattling off of a chain (Heidbreder, 1933, p. 157)." However, be did not think that science could validate either position (Heidbreder, 1933, p. 197). R. S. Woodworth (Heidbreder, 1933) concurred with James. He wrote that free will and determinism 'is a metaphysical problem and is therefore quite outside the province of psychology or of any other natural science (p. 291)."
As Kaufman (1968) has pointed out, ultimately both determinism and free will are assumptions (p. 48). However, logic is brought forth in the presentation and defense of both positions. It seems that those who write on the subject are often more persuasive in criticising the opponents position than in lucidly presenting their own. In the following pages, however, the discussion will center on the arguments advanced in favor of each position.Support for Free Will
Arguments assembled in favor of the free will position include the following:
(1) Without free will, man would not be responsible for his behavior. As Lamont (1967) has written; ". . . God is transformed into a devil incarnate, unless man has true freedom of choice and therefore moral responsibility for a large measure of the ills that plague him (p. 22)." If man is not responsible for his behavior, then the concepts of heaven and hell, reward and punishment, have no basis. As Hammes (1971) has observed: "The concept of God as being essentially good and just and the concept of divine reward and punishment necessarily imply human freedom (p. 87)." Hodge (1952) says that determinism precludes the idea of responsibility (vol. 2, p. 281).
(2) Man has
free will because of the subjective experience felt in deciding. As Kant viewed
We cannot prove this freedom by theoretical reason; we prove it by feeling it directly in the crisis of moral choice. We feel this freedom as the very essence of our inner selves ... we feel within ourselves the spontaneous activity of a mind moulding experience and choosing goals. . . . In a way which we feel but cannot prove, each of us is free (Durant, 1953, p. 277).
Hodge (1952) argues that every person 1.4; convinced from the very constitution of his nature that he is a free agent (vol. 2, p. 293). Shibutani writes: "Each person believes that he is able to exercise some measure of control over his destiny.... It is this widespread belief that provides the basis for the doctrine of free 'Will . . . (Coleman, 1969, p. 23)."
(3) God has decreed that men have free will. L. S. Chafer (1947) quotes John Dick who says this: "God has decreed, not only that men should act, but that they should act freely, and agreeably to their rational nature ... (vol. 1, pp. 242, 243)."
(4) The gospel appeal assumes that men have free will. Miller Burrows (1946) writes: "All the (N.T.) writers consistently assume freedom and responsibility.... The primary constant appeal to repentance and faith and the frequent reference to judgment presuppose freedom of choice and action (p. 231) . " Bube (1971) has observed that if man does not have free will why invite him to accept Jesus Christ as Saviour? This would be to base reality on fantasy (p. 161).
A. H. Strong (1907) observed that "Jonathan Edwards, determinist as he was, in his sermon on pressing into the Kingdom of God ... appeals to the sinner as if he had the power of choosing between the motivesr of self and of God. He was unconsciously making a powerful appeal to the will. . . . (p. 504)." Charles Hodge (1952) believes that free will is affirmed by the Bible (vol. 2, p. 293).
(5) Man conducts his affairs as though he believes in free will. Herbert J. Muller writes: "Whatever we believe in theory, we continue in practice to think and act as if we were not puppets (p. 42)." Strong writes (1907): "It is always a man's fault when be becomes a drunkard: drink never takes to a man; the man takes to drink. Men who deny demerit are ready enough to claim merit. They hold others responsible, if not themselves (p. 507)."
(1967) illustrates free choice in daily recision making:
If we then flip a coin to decide the matter we are exercising freedom of choice by assigning responsibility for the decision to the caprice of chance. The very fact that in such a situation we decline to take direct responsibility points to the reality of free choice under ordinary circumstances (p. 34).
Bube ( 1971) says, "We do not believe that there should
a more accurate view is to acknowledge the paradox involved in attesting both
determinism and free will, even with the result of inevitably
experiencing cognitive dissonance.
be freedom of choice for the light when we throw the switch, but we do believe that there should be freedom of choice on whether or not we turn it on (p. 160)."
(6) Free will is the only rational position. "The Christian determinist is usually driven to an inscrutable paradox (Buswell, 1962, p. 267)." Determinism is fatalistic (Braceland and Stock, 1966, p. 262), extraordinary, troublesome, paradoxical, and extreme (Lamont, 1967, pp. 35, 36). Deterministic "views are more sinister perhaps than Calvinism, for at least in the theology of Calvanism there is some hope that some of us will be the selected ones, but in this deterministic philosophy, no one can be saved (Ira M. Altshuler in Brill, 1938, p. 618)." Finally, the determinist is irrational: "If the determinist will insist on speaking, we shall, I am afraid, have politely to disregard him until he returns to the canons of rationality, must we not (Gerstner, 1967, p. 205)?"Support for Determinism
(1) Determinism is more consistent with the nature of God. If God is omnipotent and omniscient, determinism naturally follows. Lamont (1967) says that those holding to free will have not "succeeded in making it consistent with the idea of an almighty and omniscient God (p. 21)," and "anyone who believes in human freedom of choice must, if he is consistent, reject credence in the omniscient, prescient gods of traditional supernaturalism (p. 91)." If God knows the future, it must be determined (Bridgman, 1959, p. 170 .
2) A scientific view must be deterministic. A. Rosanoff quoted in Braceland and Stock (1966) says that "the scientific point of view presupposes on irrevocable comittment to the concept of determinism in nature as an article of faith (pp. 263, 264)." B. F. Skinner (1956) says that "If we are to use the methods of science in the field of human affairs, we must assume that behavior is lawful and determined (p. 6)."
Psychoanalysis is strictly deterministic (Coleman and Broen, 1972, p. 56; Severin, 1965, p. 69; Braceland and Stock, 1966, pp. 82, 83; Menninger, 1968, p. 96). Psychology (Durant, 1953, p. 179), psychotherapy (Coleman, 1969, pp. 23, 24) and education (Durant, 1953, p. 185) are based on determinism.
Kaufmann (1968) argues that if the assumption that the world exists and is knowable is accepted, so is determinism (p. 42). Francis Bacon "demands a strict study of cause and effect on human action, and wishes to eliminate the word chance from the vocabulary of science. 'Chance is the name of the thing that does not exist.' And 'what chance is in the universe, so will is in man' (Durant, 1953, p. 122)." Democritus believed that "Man's thoughts and deeds, all the events of his life, are determined as rigidly as the courses of the stars (Heidbreder, 1933, p. 23)."
(3) Determinism is more humanistic than free will. Spinoza (Durant, 1953) says:
... determinism makes for a better moral life: it teaches us not to despise or ridicule any one, or be angry with anyone, men are "not guilty"; and though we punish miscreants, it will he without hate; we forgive them because they know not what they do (pp. 185, 186). Nobody can be held responsible for his deeds; punishment and blame have no justification (Barbour, 1966, p. 306).
(4) The deterministic view accounts for unconscious motivation. Man has a sense of freedom because he "is not conscious of any necessity being imposed upon him (Chafer, 1947, vol. 1, p. 240)." However, Freud refers to this feeling of freedom from necessity as "an illusion of psychic freedom (Braceland and Stock, 1966, p. 263)." Immerglueck (1964) believes that the experience of freedom is a distorted percept and perhaps an inescapable illusion (pp. 270-281). Bube (1971) states that the determinist believes that "the appearance of choice is only an illusion; the decision is completely determined by a confirmation of . . . factors over which the individual has little or no control (p. 161)."
Spinoza compares the feeling of free will to a stone's thinking, as it travels through space, that it determines its own trajectory and selects the place and time of its fall (Durant, 1953, p. 179). E. J. Jones points out that a conviction or feeling that one is free is not incomparable with determinism (Hinsie and Campbell, 1970, p. 310).
(5) Determinism is more in harmony with God's election, sovereignty, foreordination and foreknowledge.
Divine election is absolute. If this seems to be taking things out of the bands of men and committing them into the hands of God, it will at least be conceded that when thus committed to God, things are in better hands and this, after all, is God's own universe in which He has sovereign right to do after the dictates of His own will (Chafer, 1947, vol. 1, p. 242).
Plainly it was God's will that sin should enter the world, otherwise it would not have entered, for nothing happens save as God has eternally decreed. Moreover, there wasmore than a bare permission, for God only permits that
. . . God's purpose is always accomplished . . . God has chosen all those who are to be saved by grace ... solely according to the pleasure of His will and the manifestation of His glory (Bube, 1955, pp. 200, 201).
(6) Determinism enables man to accept whatever happens as being in God's will and therefore ultimately good. Spinoza thinks that determinism "fortifies us to expect and to bear both faces of fortune with an equa', mind; we remember that all things follow by the eternal decrees of God (Durant, 1953, p. 186)."
The arguments advanced for free will and determinism could be discussed in greater detail The above presentation is by no means exhaustive. The controversy is sometimes less clear than desirable because of the relationships of free will and determinism to such concepts as election, predestination, decree, foreknowledge, foreordination, and sovereignty.Discussion
The main difficulty in the controversy is how God can be completely sovereign, decreeing all that comes to pass, and how man can be free to choose his destiny in a responsible way. The harmonizing of God's eternal decree and man's freedom is the gordian knot of theology. The difficulty may be dealt with by denying free will, denying God's decree or accepting both.
A. W. Tozer has given the following illustration which seeks to affirin God's sovereignty while at the same time doing justice to man's freedom.
Perhaps a homely illustration might help us to understand. An ocean liner leaves New York bound for Liverpool. Its destination has been determined by proper authorities. Nothing can change it. This is at least a faint picture of sovereignty.
On board the liner are several scores of passengers". These are not bound in chains, neither are their activities determined for them by decree. They are completely free to move as thy will. They eat, sleep, play, lounge about on the deck, read, talk, altogether as they please; but all the while the great liner is carrying them steadily onward toward a predetermined port.
Both freedom and sovereignty are present here and they do not contradict each other (Tozer, 1961, p. 118).
The above illustration would not satisfy a "hard" determinist. Hard determinism assumes that all things are determined; freedom is the absence of determinism and therefore freedom is illusory. Soft determinism says that all events are determined, freedom is self-determination and compatible with determinism (Barbour, 1966, pp. 305, 307). The basic problem is that the decree which sends the ship inexorably on its course to Liverpool does not differ in kind from the decree which sends each of the ship's inhabitants about the ship on individual but nevertheless predetermined courses. The only difficulty in seeing this clearly is that man knows what determines the course of a ship. He does not know what determines the course of a person. A complete knowledge of the past experience of a person would result in an accurate prediction of what he will do on a ship or in any given situation. As A. W. Pink (1965) has written:
On a certain Lord's day afternoon a friend of ours was suffering from a severe headache. He was anxious to visit the sick, but feared that if he did so his own condition would grow worse. . . . Two alternatives confronted him: to visit the sick that afternoon and risk being sick himself, or to take a rest that afternoon (and visit the sick the next day), and probably arise refreshed. . . . Now what was it that decided our friend in choosing between these two alternatives? The will? Not at all. True, that in the end, the will made a choice, but the will itself was moved to make the choice (pp. 162, 163).
The determinist holds that the will is moved, not by indeterminate, chaotic, or capricious forces, but by unique configurations, of memories, attitudes, and pur poses. The mind is affected by various influences and motives many of which may be unconscious. Behavior is largely unpredictable becauEe so many of the variables involved in decision making are obscure.
Gerstner (1967) protests "when someone says that by a knowledge of backgrounds we can completely explain how man acts as he does . . . (p. 198)" That is precisely what determinism claims. Even those who are not determinists but who believe that election is based on foreknowledge hold that complete knowledge of a person enables God to predict bow that individual will respond. M. R. DeHaan (n.d., p. 17) illustrates this point by telling a story about inviting twenty boys for refreshments on a hot summer's day. When be returned from the store with the refreshments, he found that his wife had set twenty places. He informed her that eight of the boys would not accept the invitation. "How do you know only twelve will come?" said Mrs. DeHaan. "Because I happen to know every one of the boys. I know their thoughts, their sentiments, and their reactions," responded Mr. DeHaan.
The determinist believes that free will is merely a term used to cover man's ignorance of operative causes. Only when the causes of an act are unknown is it attributed through ignorance to free will. Man's volitions are invariably determined by pre-existing circumstances.Acts are determined by motives, and motives are determined by earlier events.... Could I have acted otherwise than I did in a particular situation? Yes, if I had had different motives. But from the motive I had, the action followed unalterably (Barbour, 1966, p. 307). Thus, I have "free choice," or an opportunity to commit murder, but being what I am, the product of my particular experiences (which may include not only high moral values, but the learned expectation that murderers often suffer painful es of their acts), I refrain from the crime (Kaufmann, 1968, p. 45).
"If we cannot show what is responsible for a man's behavior, we say that he himself is responsible for it," writes B. F. Skinner (1956, p. 283). If the psychologist knew all the laws governing human behavior, 100 percent accuracy in predicting human behavior would be possible.
Hammes (1971) argues that in spite of his culture, man intellectually chooses freely among offered alternative courses of action (p. 93). Of course, social scientists have linked man's behavioral preferences with his culture. Furthermore, determinism holds that man chooses among offered alternative courses of action. To say that man chooses freely means that there was no external compulsion or constraint, not that there were no motives. "Freedom is not the absence of causation, but the absence of any interference in carrying out one's intentions (Barbour, 1966, p. 307)."
John H. Gerstner (1967) writes that determinism argues that "truth is whatever one has been taught is the truth. It is as simple as that (p. 197)." However, truth is objective and not subject to change. Determinism teaches that what one believes to be true is subjective and is subject to change.
Hammes (1971) in espousing a free will position writes that "The experimental method ... must remain silent concerning the relationship of the chooser to his decision (p. 87)." This statement is inaccurate and rather fantastic coming from a psychologist, Lee Roy Beach (1973) has written a general psychology textbook which takes a solid scientific approach. The entire book is built around the theme of decision-making and what psychological variables are important in choosing.
From the deterministic point of view, Adam and Eve did not have free will. Unless Adam and Eve were created with a propensity toward sin, there would have been no fall. Buswell (1962) writes that "If a perfect sphere rests on a perfect horizontal plane, it can never move except by some external force. Hence free will is inconceivable (p. 266)." As Nicolas Biel has observed in his poem entitled "Adam," God 11 could have made that woman so she wouldn't bite no apple (Osborne, 1973, p. 20)."
Buswell continues that whatever happens is in God's eternal decree, but that sin must be in the decree in a sense in which God is not the author of it (p. 267). To have created a sinful man would have made God the author of sin, an intolerable thought (Bancroft quoting Keyser, 1960, p. 179). L. Berkhof (1959) writes that "God's relation to sin remains a mystery for us, which we are not able to solve (p. 108)."
However, if election is due "merely and entirely, to the sovereign will and determining pleasure of God (Zanchius, 1970, p. 75)" then the Fall may be accounted for in the same way. Why God should receive pleasure from man's fall remains a mystery, however.
Thus, determinism holds that God accomplishes His purpose by using man's will as an instrument. God is then the originator of all circumstances, controlling every thought and emotion and consequently every act. The parsimony of the deterministic view makes it more appealing from a scientific standpoint. Free will tends to be an "add-on" and contaminates the purity of God's decree.
decreed all things and man is not a free agent. Responsibility merely means that
the consequences of man's acts accrue to himself.
Responsibility for one's action, far from implying that they are undetermined, requires that actions be determined by one's own motives. To say of an act, "I did it freely," means that there was no external compulsion or constraint-not that there were no motives for doing it. Freedom is not the absence of causation, but the absence of any interference in carrying out one's intention. . . . (Barbour, 1966, p. 307).
Charles Haddon Spurgeon suggested that one way to handle the free will-determinism controversy was to deny one view and affirm the other. This would allow for cognitive consonance. But to do this, suggested Spurgeon, was something like putting out one eye in order to see more clearly with the other. Perhaps after all a more accurate view is to acknowledge the paradox involved in attesting both views, even with the result of inevitably experiencing cognitive dissonance.
matter cannot be settled by appeal to the Bible or personal experience and
intuition, perbaps it can never be resolved in this life. It may be one of those
many questions in life that does not have to be answered in order to be
"filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual
understanding. (Colossians 1:9)."
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