LFW vs. Scripture

One of my readers, Magnus, wrote in a previous combox here (link):

This whole idea that we make choices independent of our nature is foreign to Scripture.

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. Luke 6:45

Yet if one holds to LFW you must deny this truth, even though it is revealed throughout the pages of Scripture. So if I have to choose between a philosophical construct [LFW] or what the Bible clearly teaches, I will stick with the Bible.

I mostly agree with what Magnus has to say, but I want to offer a few additional comments.

1) The fact that there is a causal explanation for human actions (including decisions) negates the idea that human actions (including decisions) are uncaused.

2) One attempted evasion of the conclusion that causal explanations negate Libertarian Free Will (LFW) (as opposed to simple, compatible free will) is to claim that causal explanations are ex post only. That is to say, if we pick up the donut, the cause is our hunger, but if we leave it on the table, the cause is our vanity: we could have gone either way, and we call the desire the cause, if it prevailed in that instance. Such an evasion, though, doesn’t jive with the “fruit of the tree” analogy in Scripture. No one would say that the tree becomes a pear tree by bearing pears. Instead, we all know that the tree bears pears because it is a pear tree – the nature of the tree is the causal explanation for the species of its fruit – an ex ante explanation.

3) Another attempted evasion of the conclusion that such causal explanations negate LFW is to provide a counter-analogy in which the nature serves as some sort of guardrails, limiting choices but not actually determining specific choices (the precise choices being the expanse of road between the guardrails). Thus, in the counter-analogy, we can choose to drive in the right or left lane, even if we cannot drive over the cliff.

The primary problem with the counter-analogy is that one of the usual accompanying principles and intuitive grounds for accepting LFW is the claim that “free will” is connected with moral responsibility. The “fruit of the tree” analogy from Scripture indicates that “good” vs. “bad” is a function of nature. Even if there is “free will” (of some libertarian kind) among different good options or different bad options, if there is no libertarian free will (LFW) between good and bad, then LFW is clearly not relevant to the issue of moral responsibility – a conclusion that practically eviscerates LFW, even if it theoretically permits the continued existence of some form of partial libertarian free will.

A secondary problem with the counter-analogy is that it seems to be simply a new example of special pleading. If the “choice” between good and bad is a nature-determined choice, why would we expect that the morally less significant choice between “greater good and lesser good” or between two indifferently good options is not also somehow determined? If the answer, is “but they could be” or “but you haven’t proved they aren’t,” so be it. The burden of proof of the existence of supposed LFW is on its advocates, not the other way ’round.


8 Responses to “LFW vs. Scripture”

  1. Magnus Says:

    Said so much better than I ever could, thank you for taking the time.Mag

  2. Turretinfan Says:

    Dear Magnus,You’re very kind. I certainly liked what you wrote and how you wrote it, which is why I quoted you and put your comments in the first place.-TurretinFan

  3. rgmann Says:

    If God is eternal (Genesis 21:33; Psalm 41:13; 93:2) and immutable (Numbers 23:19; Psalm 33:11; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17), then His will is eternal and immutable and cannot be other than it is. Moreover, since God is absolutely Holy and Righteous (1 Samuel 2:2; Isaiah 40:25; Revelation 15:4), He cannot choose to do evil. Hence, God Himself does not possess “Libertarian Free Will.” Yet Scripture plainly portrays God as being “free” in the sense that He does whatsoever He pleases (Proverbs 21:1; Psalm 115:3; Daniel 4:35). How do the proponents of “Libertarian Free Will” get around these facts?

  4. Turretinfan Says:

    rgmann, I don’t think they can.

  5. natamllc Says:

    Can we “know” God by Biblical stated “facts” about Him?Deu 32:4 “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he. God is a Rock then!No, wait,Rth 2:12 The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” God is a Bird, then!Num 7:89 And when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with the LORD, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and it spoke to him. Deu 4:12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice. No, wait, God is a ventriloquist and speaks out of air and fire!1Ti 6:16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. No, wait, God dwells in unapproachable light and no one can see Him!LO, God comes as a Man too, from time to time.Gen 18:1 And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; Gen 18:2 And he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, Gen 18:3 And said, My Lord, if now I have found favor in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: Gen 18:4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: Gen 18:5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. I just don’t understand it.God clearly is a Rock, a Bird, a Voice, a Man.God is God.We are but mortal creations of Them.Psa 46:8 Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth. Psa 46:9 He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Psa 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. Psa 46:11 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

  6. Magnus Says:

    I thought what you wrote below was an excellent point-Even if there is “free will” (of some libertarian kind) among different good options or different bad options, if there is no libertarian free will (LFW) between good and bad, then LFW is clearly not relevant to the issue of moral responsibility – a conclusion that practically eviscerates LFW, even if it theoretically permits the continued existence of some form of partial libertarian free willI know that there are some LFW advocates that believe that you can choose between good and bad and have the power to actualize either one, only this is acceptable to them, but did Christ ever have that ability? If we believe in the impeccability of Christ then we would have to say no. If this is the only kind of freedom that is “truly free” (choosing between good and bad and being able to actualize it) then we would also have to conclude that God is not “truly free”. I wonder if you have ever heard a response from a LFW advocate that answers this question? It seems that people get hung-up on the “choices” and the “foreknowledge”. If our understandings of these things are wrong then we will be out in the middle of the forest. It’s truly amazing to me to see how having the wrong idea or definition can lead to all kinds of mischief. Mag

  7. Turretinfan Says:

    Mag,It seems to me that advocacy of LFW while maintaining that the Bible is true creates a hopeless mess.For a non-Christian, the impeccability of God (and specifically of Christ) wouldn’t necessarily pose a problem for LFW: they could reject such a doctrine.Ultimately, the attempted explanations I’ve seen tend to get very abstruse.I’m waiting to see if any LFW advocate can provide a clear and reasonable answer.-TurretinFan

  8. Magnus Says:

    I agree that belief in LFW while maintaining that the Bible is true creates all kinds of problems. It seems that when we read-And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve [Mathew 4:9-10]The LFW advocates would maintain that Jesus could’ve chosen to worship someone other than God. YIKES!It seems to me that the LFW advocate who holds to the impeccability of Christ is in an even greater pickle. Because if Jesus could not have actualized a bad/sinful option then we get the very scenario that you brought up (no LFW between good and bad), yet Christ is still morally praiseworthy. I have been thinking, always dangerous, about the question posed to you by Dan-If it rained this afternoon. Was it absolutely impossible for God to create a world which didn’t include rain this afternoon?I keep going back to if it rained this afternoon then I believe that God had a good reason for it. After all we are told that He works all things after the counsel of His own will. So knowing that I would say that it doesn’t seem right to say that it is impossible, instead I would say that if it rained today than this is exactly what God wanted. I may not know the reason, but I know that His ways are good and way beyond my feeble mind, and I trust in His eternal plan. I know that there is a better way to say it, but as usual I’m at a loss as to how:)Mag

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