Calvinist Free Will

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Continuing in his series on the five points of Calvinism, Jollyblogger explains nicely why it's a mistake to think Calvinists deny free will. Key summary of his position (and mine):

So, the whole point of all this is to say that Calvinists shouldn't be afraid to admit that man has a free will. On the other hand, non-Calvinists need to understand that there is not a moment when, in their freedom, they are acting apart from or contrary to the will of God. And I hope that all of us would realize that the only reason that any of us can be saved His through a divine violation of our free will, in causing us to believe savingly on Christ.

In other words, he's siding with the weight of philosophical consensus on the matter, compatibilism, not that his argument rests on that at all. For the scriptural arguments, see his post.

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So, it's time to sum up. Man has a will, that is undeniable. Whether that will is free or not depends on who is master of that will. There are actually four different "states" that a person's will can be in. The only time a person's will is not free ... Read More

[For more on the free will, human responsibility, God's sovereignty discussion see these other pieces: Total Depravity and Free Will (Jollyblogger); Calvinist Free Will (Parableman); There's no such thing as "Free Will" (Adrian Warnock); Reformed Fr... Read More


Well, Warnock is back and this time he is even daring to differ. I for one dont believe that our wills are "totally free", do pop by to my blog and see my thoughts on this.....

It depends on whether you're using a libertarian or compatibilist definition of freedom. You're using a libertarian account, and David and I are using a compatibilist account. I think the latter corresponds more closely to the ordinary usage of the term 'free'. I think the Epicurean philosophers invented the libertarian notion, which the Stoics admirably responded to. Real choices don't require such a notion.

O.K., help me out, Jeremy. I'm only a recent convert to Calvinism. Can you define "compatibilism" for me?

It's just the view that I expressed in the post. We're free, and yet things that caused us to do it go back to things that were not under our power, either through scientific laws in a closed physical system, as naturalistic determinists have it, or via God's control over the whole universe, as theological determinists say. Compatibilism says that freedom is compatible with being caused to do it in that kind of way, and the reason to think so is that even though things outside our control lead us to do things we're still the ones who made the choices. We made them the way we did because we were caused to do it by those things, but we also made them the way we did because those causes led to our reasoning through the options and picking one option because it seemed best to us.

Libertarians, on the other hand, say we're not free unless our action is not guaranteed by anytthing prior to our choice, which means our actions aren't entirely based on our character but on some randomness, which seems to me to be equally outside our control.

If you want to delve into the reasoning on this in more detail, you can see my post Why I'm Not a Libertarian, where I've laid out the philosophical issues more completely and more expplicitly but without trying to assume any philosophical background.

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