Friday, August 11, 2017

Expensive Will

On the BioLogos forum, a participant asked about how one reconciles God's sovereignty with free will. 

<sarcasm>That's such an easy question</sarcasm> that I responded.

Here was my short reply (slightly edited). It is nothing I haven't written about before:

Hmm. If anyone can answer this they will win whatever the equivalent of a Nobel Prize is for theology!

I am partial to the first order solution provided by the some Calvinists (no surprise, since I'm one of 'em) who, contrary to the accusation they they deny the free will, actually have the most libertine view. To wit: you will always choose according to your strongest desire at that moment. They don't deny free will, they deny self-denial. You don't want to pay taxes, but you pay them, because at that moment your desire to pay taxes and avoid prison is stronger than your desire to risk prison.

They often put it in terms of moral ability or moral inability. So before God converts you, you have no desire for God; you have a moral inability to choose God. After he converts you, you have a desire, a moral ability, and you choose God. (Yes we Calvinists do actually claim that the elect choose God-- but only after He gives them a heart of flesh.).

This view of free will is a form of determinism--but not via God the puppet master, rather your will is self-determined. You are a slave, not to any external force, but to your desires.

This view of free will tells us that our moral ability to choose God came at a high cost, hence the title of this post. We are granted this moral ability, by grace, solely on the merit of Christ's finished work and His atoning sacrifice.

Here is a crude example of moral inability. A mother, with no mental illness, and no extraordinary circumstances, is sitting in the kitchen with her infant. She has free will. There nothing stopping her from putting her child into the microwave. But she literally can't do it (even though she has free will) because she is morally incapable.

So in this view sanctification is some sort of bootstrap wherein through prayer and grace your desires are changed, and then your actions follow along lockstep.

This view breaks down in 2nd order, in my opinion, and I don't know how to fix it, but it is still the best I can grasp.

Now, here is a strong opinion that I'm guessing many [on the BioLogos forum] will disagree with. There are three generic views of free will:
A) Deterministic (the universe's differential equation is marching along time step by time step. It's on a path in phase space, and nothing you can do can divert that path.) 
B) Theistic (whatever free will is, it's a supernatural gift.) 
C) Compatibilism (The non-supernatural belief that free will and determinism are compatible.)
In my opinion, which ain't worth much, one of these is dishonest. That would be C. (The answer is always C.) Take a look at what uber-compatibilist, uber-atheist, one of the "four horsemen" of new atheism, Daniel Dennett says:
The model of decision making I am proposing has the following feature: when we are faced with an important decision, a consideration-generator whose output is to some degree undetermined, produces a series of considerations, some of which may of course be immediately rejected as irrelevant by the agent (consciously or unconsciously). Those considerations that are selected by the agent as having a more than negligible bearing on the decision then figure in a reasoning process, and if the agent is in the main reasonable, those considerations ultimately serve as predictors and explicators of the agent's final decision.
This is, in my opinion, utter woo, as much woo as any religious woo. New-agers would would be proud of the wooiness of this explanation.  But it is given a free pass because it sounds a bit sciency. But there is no mechanism presented for how this mythical, magical consideration generator produces nondeterministic considerations.

Those who choose A, while I disagree, are at least honest. Their poster child is biologist William Provine:
Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear -- and these are basically Darwin's views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That's the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.
Awesome! (Provine, who died in 2015, is testing his theory.)

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