Sometimes on some days, something out of the blue, something good just happens. You have to just thank the Lord, offer up a “praise Jesus” and pass the ammo. The other day I was making the blog rounds and peeking into various venues to see what what going on. I popped on to James White’s blog to find him taking a crack at Bill Craig.
White has taken issue with a reported statement by Craig to the effect that Calvinism denies a legitimate opportunity to those who would repent. White responds that there never has been such a person that could repent apart from monergistically operating grace so that Craig is just misrepresenting Calvinism.
That may be so or it may not be so. I really don’t care one way or the other. Whatever disagreements I have with Craig, he is a genuine scholar and a good philosopher. He is an effective communicator and has done quite a bit for the cause of Christ. All the times I have met him, he has always been gracious, almost to a fault. And besides, he seems like a genuinely nice guy.
I suspect that he knows how Calvinists will respond and that he has some reason ready to wollop their response. But either way, it doesn’t matter to me. I am not a Molinist and I don’t think Molinism is compatible with Libertarian conditions on free will, nor with Trinitarianism and a host of other things.
But what I just had to thank James White for was the following line.
“Let it be fully understood. The Bible teaches absolute libertarianism—the free will of God. Man’s will is a creaturely will, that, since Adam, is the slave of sin.”
Well thank you James. No, really, thank you. Thank you very much!
I don’t think James White really means this. I waited to see if anyone else would pick up on White’s comment, but to my knowledge, no one else caught this slip. But I did. I think if he knew what Libertarianism was, he wouldn’t be talking like this. I’ve sketched it here before, but roughly, Libertarianism is a thesis about the conditions on free will which entails two conditions, UR and AP where the former implies the latter. UR stands for ultimate responsibility. In order for an act to be free the agent must be the source and hence cause of the action. This doesn’t exclude other antecedent causes outside or inside the agent, but what it does imply is that such causes can’t be sufficient causes. They could be jointly sufficient though.
In order for the agent to be the source of their actions, a terminus for the action, the agent has to be responsible for the action exercising the approprite kind of control over not only the things that they will but the kind of will that they end up having. These are designated as self forming willings.
But to fulfill the UR conditions, the agent has to be able to select between alternative possibile wills and hence characters. This means that in order for an action to be freely willed the agent has to have alternative possibilities open and accessable to them. That is, they could bring about either option if they so willed.
This does not mean that every action needs to be so freely willed in order for an agent to meet the conditions on freedom that libertarians advocate. Some agents could be determined by antecedent character states or choices made by the agent at some earlier point in time. Just so long as the determining actions were freely willed, then the determined actions can be considered free since the trace back to the freely willed act. Fixity of character isn’t incompatible with the libertarian conditions on free will.
Now that is a thumbnail sketch of what Libertarianism is. Is that what James White thinks God has? I don’t think so, but he said it nonetheless. I think he has confused the supremacy of will and externally unfettered volitional action that Calvinists think that God has with libertarian freedom. But just because God wills without any external constraints, that of itself doesn’t imply that the willing is free or free under the conditions entailed by Libertarianism. A lack of constraints in willing doesn’t imply a non-determined act of willing
But the real gift from White was claiming that the Bible teaches it. That just warms my little libertarian heart. That means that White thinks that Libertarianism is a coherent concept, since after all, nothing directly contradictory or incoherent can be ascribed to God or taught by the Bible. That excludes all of the arguments from White’s apologetic arsenal all of the arguments from critics of Libertarianism that it is an incoherent concept. You can kiss Martin Luther’s Bondage of the Will, Jonathan Edwards On Free Will, and Harry Frankfurt’s Covert Counter-Factual Controllers, bye bye, Dorthy.
The disagreement then is not over whether Libertarianism is a coherent concept or even if it is true. If its true of God, then its true and a coherent concept. It is not even if the Bible teaches the concept. The disagreement between Libertarians and White is who fulfills the conditions on freedom. White restricts it to God. The underlying reasoning is fairly common among Calvinists-the actions of human persons is determined by human nature. With a corrupted human nature, human persons can then only do corrupt acts. Therefore they can never of their own natural power choose faith which is a naturual good.
There are a couple of flops to stop and take notice of here. First, even if it were true that nature determined the acts of the person that subsisted within that nature, it doesn’t follow that if humans have a corrupt nature that there is one single act that the nature picks or singles out. It would only circumscribe the options to all corrupt ones.
It is also important to keep in mind the distinction between willing otherwise and doing otherwise. It may be true that agents with a corrupt will cannot do the good, but it doesn’t follow that they cannot will it. (Romans 7:19)
More directly it isn’t a metaphysical truth in the first place that natures determine the actions of agents. It is certaintly not true in the case of the Trinity. It also seems not to be true in the case of pre-fall angels and humans. Their natures were entirely good and yet they fell. In order to get from the idea of circumscribed options to determined option we’d need to add some other thesis. But even with circumscribed options being according to nature, this doesn’t always seem to be true, particularly in the case of pre-fall angels and humans. Their natures were good, but some of their options were evil. To get circumscription of options relative to nature we’d need to add some other thesis.
But as I noted above, the real gift is White’s claim that the Bible teaches Libertarianism, albeit with respect to God. Given White’s determination to ground his beliefs in Scripture alone and his adherence to Sola Scriptura, where does White think the Bible teaches that God fulfills the conditions on Libertarian free will? I would just love to see him put forward an exegesis of assorted texts or any texts at all for that matter of where he thinks the Bible teaches that God fulfills the conditions on Libertarian free will. That is just a precious gift.
Where James in the Bible does it teach this? Where is the exegetical demonstration that God enjoys Libertarian free will?