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Compatibilism

In Compatibilism we find a wonderful land where words don’t mean what you think they do. Compatibilism is a position held by some Calvinists.

Here is what Compatibilism holds: 1) Determinism is true in that all human behavior is caused and determined, 2) voluntary behavior is nonetheless free to the extent that it is not externally constrained, 3) the causes of voluntary behavior are conditions within a person like acts of the will.  Compatibilism does not combine libertarian and determinist positions. It does not hold that humans are “a little bit” free or that they have “limited free will” or some free will. Compatibilism is determinism with a position taken to preserve the idea that man is responsible for his behavior.

At the risk of oversimplification, I will restate what is implied in the definition. A person is free if he is not externally constrained. He is free to chose to do what he wants to do. God does not constrain a person from making those choices. However, God determines what a person wants to do.

In Calvinism God saves some and he doesn’t save others. Some are elected and others not. He accomplishes this by issuing an effective call to the elect and an ineffective call to those He does not elect. Those not called have a fallen will that will always reject God. Those called are regenerated and given a will that will always accept God. God determines what a man wills, while man chooses to act based on that determined will.

Calvinism has a serious problem. To preserve God’s sovereignty, all things must be determined by Him. This creates an issue concerning moral responsibility. A person cannot be held responsible for something he cannot avoid doing.

The issues faced by the determinist can be expressed logically.

Hard determinism creates a situation where the person is not morally responsible:

Premise 1: If we are morally responsible for our actions, then we must be free.

Premise 2: We are not free. (determinism)

Conclusion A: Therefore, we are not morally responsible for our actions.

                                modus tollens: If P, then Q. Not Q. Therefore, not P.

Libertarians make the following argument against determinism claiming we are indeed free (rejecting the second premise above):

Premise 1: If we are morally responsible for our actions, then we must be free.

Premise 2: We are morally responsible for our actions.

Conclusion B: Therefore, we must be free.

                                modus ponens: If P then Q. P is true therefore Q is true.

The Calvinist doesn’t like the logical consequences of these arguments. The Calvinist wants to hold mankind responsible for his actions, even while preserving God’s control of his actions. Conclusion A must be rejected, we are responsible for our actions. The Calvinist now must find a way within determinism to assert that conclusion B, man is a free agent, is true in order to continue to hold man responsible for his actions. How can man be free, God be sovereign in that He determines all things, and humans be responsible for their actions

The response to this dilemma is varied and complex, but the prevalent move is to redefine freedom. It is said that God does not constrain man externally, but he determines our willingness to act. Man is free in the sense that he is not externally constrained in any way from acting freely as his will or wants dictate. Man chooses to do what he wants, what he wills to do. At the same time man cannot do other than what his will demands and God determines what that will is. We are externally free while we are internally constrained. In order to hold free will and human responsibility as true, the determinist changes the plain meaning of freedom and a number of other key concepts.

The following is one persons expression of Compatibilist freedom:

Although a man is considered unable to choose against his desires, which are caused by his sin nature or God’s intervention, the moral responsibility of sin lies with him. He chose to do it, therefore he is held responsible. Not what caused him to choose, but he that chooses is held responsible. Compatibilsim

We are free to choose to do what we want and thus are responsible for what we do. God determines what we want, what we are willing to do, but He is not responsible for causing our actions. Determinism has not been abandoned, the definition of free will has been changed. We are free because there is no external constraint against our action, while at the same time we have a willingness to act that is determined by God. There is no room here for our normal concept of free will where one can chose either A or not A. Libertarian free will is the unencumbered ability to do otherwise.

As a side note, notice what is said, “…man is considered unable to choose against his desires, which are caused by his sin nature or God’s intervention…” This is a distinction without a difference. God leaves some men in their “sin nature” thus God is responsible for their sin. Saved or not saved, God is determining the state of a person’s will. Again the Calvinist doesn’t want to deal with the plain meaning of his determinism.

One writer exposes the tortured word play that is involved in compatibilism:

Ultimately, theistic compatibilism can only be logically consistent by redefining certain very key terms such as “free will,” “goodness,” and “sin.” Outside of these radical redefinitions there can be no logical consistency. In order for free will and Divine determinism to be compatible, one needs to understand “free will” as “free action in accordance with a determined will;” “goodness” as “anything that occurs;” and “sin” as “that which God chooses to call sin.” All of these redefinitions, though necessary for the logical consistency of compatibilism, are in themselves, illogical. “Free will” that is not free is nonsensical. “Goodness” that manifests as evil is illogical. “Sin” that is in accord with the will of God is spurious. Compatibilism, theistic or otherwise, is a logically untenable position. In order for freedom to be, determinism cannot be. The freedom of compatibilism is determinism under the guise of free will. Fundamentally, compatibilism is a determinist view which is, by nature, contrary to the concept of human freedom. Compatibilism a Critique by Brandon Canning

“In order for freedom to be, determinism cannot be.” The Compatibilist says that we are free to do what we want to do. We are free with no external constraint to choose to act based on our willingness. God determines what that willingness will be. Because there are no outside constraints, we are therefore free. But the reality is that I cannot do other than what my determined will allows. I cannot chose to do otherwise and I can do nothing to change my willingness. This is not freedom, thus Compatibilism fails to change the logical conclusions stated above. Under determinism God is the cause of all our actions, sinful or otherwise and man cannot be held responsible for what he does because he is not free.

Compatibilism is word play. It does not accomplish what the Calvinist wishes to accomplish.

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Categories: Calvinsim, Compatibilism
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