Debate on Calvinistic Compatibilism Part 13: Derek Responds


This reply is well written, well argued, and very strongly stated. I am reeling with the force of it. Downright impressive, actually! Nevertheless, a few clarifications are in order, and I think I can escape the main thrust of your argument in the following manner:

For starters, I have not invoked paradox in our discussion. I generally relegate this term to those cases where we can state at least two apparently contradictory propositions from Scripture. I do not use the term to indicate that there is no way to reconcile the propositions; rather, that the Bible itself does not offer a reconciliation. Thus we have an authoritative/inerrant/infallible paradox without an authoritative/inerrant/infallible resolution. I do not invoke paradox in the manner you suggest, as if it was a “get out of logic free” card. Rather, it indicates a special need for the application of logic–as well as a caution lest we rely on our logic more than the Word and elevate our own thoughts above Scripture.

Your comments steer us in the direction of defining human freedom. This is a great angle. I need to mention that I have not at all defined freedom in the manner you suggest. Rather, I have been careful to define it both in terms of classical compatibilism (voluntary, uncoerced choice based on our own volition) and in terms of our actual experience of free choice(thus, “genuine” because it is our undeniable experience of real freedom–no special definitions here).

So, as an example, when I chose my socks this morning, I am certain that I selected them with absolute freedom, in the followings ways:

-I chose exactly the socks I wanted
-No one forced me to choose the socks I chose
-No one chose my socks for me (in the sense that the person’s choosing would prevent my choosing)
-I could have chosen a different pair of socks (i.e., I possess the ability to choose a different pair of socks, or no socks at all for that matter)

All of these things are clear from my experience of choosing socks, and I do not at all deny the power of contrary choice. However, I can further state the following based on a lot of Scripture:

-God pre-determined which pair of socks I would choose this morning (in a way that does not contradict any of the above).

Although I have not specifically invoked paradox, I have mentioned mystery. How all of those statements work together is certainly a mystery to me, since God has not revealed it. If asked, “Who chose your socks this morning, you or God?”, I would simply answer: “I chose my socks and God chose them.” The question presents a false dichotomy, and is akin to the question, “Who hardened Pharaoh’s heart, God or Pharaoh?” Scripture makes it undeniably clear that Pharaoh hardened his own heart … and yet God hardened Pharaoh’s heart as well. The same is said of the sin of Joseph’s brothers. Who meant for it to happen? Joseph states: “You meant IT for evil; but God meant IT for good.” The same event (“it”) is described as having two free agents choosing to make IT happen, and for two different and opposing moral reasons. Biblical Compatibilism preserves both the absolute freedom of God to choose everything, and, within that, the derived freedom of man to choose whatever is within his domain. Both Pharaoh’s hardening and Joseph’s betrayal present a mystery of divine sovereignty and human freedom, do they not?

Notice that Joseph’s brothers weren’t somehow let off the hook because God “meant it for good.” No, they were responsible and they chose freely. Equally, the evil (the brothers’ sin) wasn’t celebrated, while the good outcome (God’s work) was. This is, to me, a perfect illustration of Romans 8:28. That verse, by the way, applies to “all things.”

William Lane Craig (whom I respect greatly, by the way) overlooks the fact that multitudes have accepted determinism without any “vertigo” setting in. How can this be, given the strength of his point? In the case of Calvinistic theologians, it is avoided by holding to a Biblical balance and allowing the Scriptures to hold sufficient sway to prevent a false dichotomy from taking over.

Some intelligent philosophers from Stanford University have defined compatibilism in this way: “Compatibilism offers a solution to the free will problem. This philosophical problem concerns a disputed incompatibility between free will and determinism. Compatibilism is the thesis that free will is compatible with determinism. Because free will is typically taken to be a necessary condition of moral responsibility, compatibilism is sometimes expressed in terms of a compatibility between moral responsibility and determinism.”

Are you willing to accept this as a standard definition? I accept it as a paraphrase of my own working definition, which is admittedly more theological in its framing.

In light of the Stanford definition, could you not just as well say that compatibilism “collapses into free will”? It actually “collapses” into neither, but upholds both. As discussed above, there is abundant Biblical backing for this idea that free will and determinism are both employed by God in His administration of the universe. What is more, all the Scriptures that seem to support “free will” fit nicely into compatibilism; and all the Scriptures that seem to support determinism fit into it. Thus a true compatibilist can avoid awkward and obviously slanted exegesis.

On that note, Robert’s comment displays an uncharacteristic ignorance in its denial of the existence of a robust Moderate Calvinist stream in Reformed theology. The many Moderate Calvinists have historically agreed with “Arminian” exegesis of passages like John 3:16 (i.e., “world” means “world”) and I John 2:2 (i.e., “whole world” means “whole world”). Robert thus declares non-existent those multitudes of Calvinists who would actually support him in his own interpretation of key verses. It is an ironic twist! However, it gives me great hope that he may gain more knowledge of this important area of historical theology and warm up to a whole stream of Calvinists he was apparently unaware of. Maybe with some new understanding he will even choose to become one, as I did. :)[bracing for Robert’s next fiery blast]

I am examining the referenced article on I Cor. 10:13, and have found it interesting thus far. Thank you for the challenge.


About StriderMTB

Hi, I'm Matt. "Strider" from Lord of the Rings is my favorite literary character of all time and for various reasons I write under the pseudonym "StriderMTB. As my blog suggests I seek to live out both the excitement and tension of a Christian walk with Christ in the 3rd world context of Asia. I started my blog as an unmarried man who was blessed to oversee an orphanage of amazing children in South-East Asia. As of 2022, I am a happily married man to an amazing missionary wife serving together on the mission field. I hate lima beans and love to pour milk over my ice-cream. I try to stay active in both reading and writing and this blog is a smattering of my many thoughts. I see the Kingdom of God as Jesus preached it and lived to be the only hope for a broken world and an apathetic church.
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