Can libertarian free will exist?

Monday Musings for March 21, 2022

Good morning, Musers,

People stand on their heads to challenge free will for good reasons: the Bible says that we are foreordained, predestined and elected — and I believe in all these things. But the free will of human beings is self-evident. And if all truth is God’s truth, we must weigh self-evidentiary truth with that in view. Are these things true... or is God suborning deceit? It’s one or the other.

Now, things like free will that are self-evident are also self-revealing. So, although some doctrinal language militates against it on the surface, the libertarian free will of humankind stands as true with or without the Bible. As such, it has equal revelatory weight as some other metaphysical entities... like the indwelling Holy Spirit or the human conscience.

The fact that we proceed through our day exercising free will without thinking about it shows it to be a properly basic assumption about human life. In fact, it is a platform for every other activity — including esoteric activities like interpreting Scripture.

You see, when it comes to libertarian free will, the question, “Can it exist?” is too weak. Why? Because it must exist. Without volitional beings like us who can appreciate (or reject) God’s creation as God’s creation, why would he have created anything? I mean God certainly knows he can create things. And entities like rocks, trees and elephants simply don’t care! Or do they?

Scripture tells us that the trees will clap their hands because of God’s decree (Isaiah 55:12). This is imagery, of course — but it is telling: God created each entity with the optimal ontological package for the role they will play in his kingdom. Your dog, for example (who is high in the hierarchy of lesser-yet-soulish creatures), helps protect your house. But there is more: he adores you — and you love and care for him too! This relationship models our relationship with God.

But we are not merely different by degree. We are different by category. By degree, no other creature comes anywhere near our mental capacities and achievements. But by category, we alone are self-aware... we alone can reach for God or ignore him... we alone make choices that are moral (not just instinctual) ... we alone are much more than our biology.

What trips people up about free will is thinking that an “omnipotent” God can make volitional creatures... yet also “make” (elect, predetermine, foreordain) these creatures to “choose” him. That is illogical... and even God is bound by logic. You see, God cannot do absurd things like make a square circle or a married bachelor... not in this universe, anyway.

There is a saying about politics that all politics is local. Well, all Christianity is local too. It doesn’t matter what God could do in other universes, and it doesn’t matter what he could do differently in this one. The only thing that matters is what he did do in this universe... and one of the things he did was create human beings with free will.

It is an insult to God’s purposes to ask, does libertarian free will exist? The important question is, what are you going to do with yours ... because God has a few suggestions.


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