New York Minute

We’re using the “Handbook of Apologetics” by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli to go over the arguments for the existence of God.  Today, we will be covering the above referenced subject in relation to the existence of God. Dr. Kreeft teaches logic in two major universities, so his arguments tend to be clear, concise and very helpful.

Free Will

Perhaps the clearest way to define our second crucial term, free will, is to contrast it with the philosophy that denies it. That is determinism.

According to determinism, everything we do can be totally accounted for by two causes: heredity plus environment. Free will adds a third cause to our actions: our wills, which in turn are not entirely the result of heredity plus environment. Thus the formula for determinism is:

H + E = A

That is, heredity plus environment equals the human act. The formula for the alternative philosophy of free will is:

H + E < A

That is, heredity plus environment together are less than the human act. Instead,

H + E + FW = A

Heredity plus environment plus free will equals the human act. Heredity and environment condition our acts, but they do not determine them, as the paints and the frame condition a painting but do not determine it. They are necessary causes but not sufficient causes of freely chosen acts.

The simplest argument for the existence of free will is observation of how we use words. We praise, blame, command, counsel, exhort and moralize to each other. Doing these things to robots is absurd. We do not hold machines morally responsible for what they do, no matter how complicated the machines are. If there is no free will, all moral meaning disappears from language—and from life.

There is another form of determinism that denies free will. This is divine determinism, as seen in some (but not all) forms of Calvinism. According to this Calvinism we are pots and God is the potter; we are only instrumental causes, like the mud in the potter’s hands, totally determined by the First Cause. Other Christians have taken the more pervasive scriptural image of the parent-child relationship as closer to the truth—we are not God’s artifacts but his children—and ascribed free choice to the human will. In other words, God’s created causal chains include one link—the human will—which is more than just one more link in a one-directional vertical chain. It hops “sideways,” so to speak, and creates its own new chains of effects.

C. S. Lewis had one of the simplest and clearest ways of expressing the doctrine of human free will and moral responsibility that is implied in the Genesis 3 account of our “free fall.” He said, “If there are other intelligent beings on other planets, it is not necessary to suppose that they have fallen like us.”

The next question is: Why did God give us free will and allow us to misuse it? The question is misleading. One gives a polish to a table, or a pony to a schoolboy, but one does not give three sides to a triangle or free will to a human being. Free will is part of our essence. There can be no human being without it. The alternative to free will is not being a human but an animal or a machine.

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