The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics – Fallacy #1: “If we have libertarian free will, what makes us choose one way or the other?”

Related Fallacies: Begging the question

Calvinists often pose questions along the lines of, “If 2 people are given the same grace, why does one receives it and another reject it?” This question was popularized on the internet by John Hendryx at monergism.com, who in one rendition of this particular fallacy states: “If prevenient grace places us in a neutral state, then what motivates one man to believe and not another? … What principle in him made him choose what he did?” [A Prayer That a Synergist Won’t Pray (An Open Challenge to All Synergists), John Hendryx]

The problem:

Hendryx’s wording is very telling, he asks ‘what made him choose?’, when the defining property of a libertarian decision is that nothing caused it to be one way or another except the person’s own will. While free will certainly is subject to influence, if some external principle coerced, impelled, or simply necessitated a specific decision, then the choice could no longer be called ‘libertarian.’

To break down Hendryx’s question:

The context (note the title I listed above) is that Hendryx is addressing the question to Synergists (people like myself who believe that there are at least some non-necessitated choices), trying to show what he perceives as problems in our beliefs. His putting forth of the question, “What principle in him made him choose what he did?”, amounts to him asking what necessitates our decisions, since anything that makes someone choose a specific way would constitute necessitation of that choice.

So given that,

1. The question is posed to people who believe in libertarian (non-necessitated) decisions

2. The question challenges the libertarian view by asking what necessitates peoples’ specific choices

Hendryx’s question effectively boils down to him asking,

“What necessitates choices that aren’t necessitated?”

This line of questioning is not only logically absurd, but also requires assuming that all of our decisions must be necessitated, when that is in fact the proposition he is trying to prove. This fallacy is more formally known as ‘begging the question,’ a form of circular reasoning.

Calvinistic apologists often employ such fallacies in attempts to prove that libertarian free will is nonsensical, but looking to God as an example of how the will functions, we can see that a being with a free will can make choices without them being necessitated by something outside of its own will. For example, there was no principle in God that impelled Him to save anyone, but He chose to anyway. If God is truly free, then it’s absurd to argue that there are conceptual problems with the very idea of free will, and hence no tenable logical basis to argue that it couldn’t exist in human beings.

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27 Responses

  1. JC,

    Great post. Calvinists certainly beg the question with this argument. Some Calvinists make a big deal out “why” questions, “Well, why did you choose that?”, apparently believing that if we have a reason for choosing something, then the reason irresistibly caused our choice (which simply doesn’t follow). Daniel Whedon does a good job dismantling that sort of logic in his book. Also, the Calvinist (at least those who follow Edwards) begs the question with regards to choosing according to our greatest desires. Well, how does the Calvinist know this? How do they know we never make choices according to an inferior motive or desire? The answer: the choice always reflects the greatest desire, or else the choice would not be made, since we choose according to our greatest desire (which is circular and reveals a tautology, “the prevailing desire always prevails” or “the prevailing desire is the prevailing desire”, etc.- which isn’t saying much).

    It reduces to a bare assertion. It is our greatest desire because we choose it, and we choose it because it is our greatest desire. Therefore, “choice” and “greatest desire/strongest motive” become conflated so that the claim is simply “we choose because we choose”, or “we choose according to our choice”. And yet Calvinists try to paint Arminians as illogical because they believe the Arminian position amounts to “we choose because we choose”. That is not an accurate description of the Arminian view, while it is essentially what the Calvinist, who lodges the objection, actually believes.

    It is also interesting that many Calvinists complain that Arminians base their arguments for free will on intuition, while appealing to intuition concerning the belief that we always choose according to our greatest desire (Sproul, for instance, tells us to just think about it and ask ourselves if we have ever made a choice that didn’t amount to our greatest desire [assuming, of course, his tautological claim to be true and seemingly hoping no one will notice the tautology]). I’ll see if I can find the exact quote later today. Anyway, I plan on doing a post on the subject sometime soon.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  2. Oh, and your observations about God saving freely are excellent. If God does not choose or act of necessity, then there is nothing illogical about non-necessitated choices and actions. God created freely. If He did not, then creation was a necessary act, and that plainly threatens His aseity (God’s self-sufficiency). I have actually heard Calvinists make this claim.

    Furthermore, Calvinists often say that we need to focus on election rather than reprobation and marvel that God saved any at all, since he could have left us all in damnation. But if God’s choices and actions are necessitated, then God actually chose some of necessity. He had to elect those he elected. He had no choice (which has serious ramifications for the Calvinist view of “grace” as well). Must be really hard for a Calvinist to not boast in the fact that God had to choose him for salvation, while reprobating his neighbor. Anyway, the question boils down to whether or not God or necessity is ultimate (is necessity a sort of bigger God that God must yield to?).

    Arminians say that God is ultimate and does not make choices of necessity (at least choices like: to create or not create, elect or not elect, which are not necessarily dependent on His eternal holy nature, etc.). Arminians see God as far more free than the Calvinists (despite the objections by Calvinists that say Arminians are always trying to limit God’s sovereign freedom). We also see the argument from the incoherence of free will crumbling in the face of God’s freedom.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  3. The Sproul quote will have to wait as I don’t have the book here. Hopefully, I will have it posted by Monday at the latest.

  4. This website has some of the clearest-thinking Arminianism out there. Keep it up!

    Kyle

  5. Good post JC

    Jnorm888

  6. This question was popularized on the internet by John Hendryx at monergism.com, who in one rendition of this particular fallacy states: “If prevenient grace places us in a neutral state, then what motivates one man to believe and not another? … What principle in him made him choose what he did?”

    —-

    One clear fact overlooked in this question is that there is no such thing as a neutral state. Grace* does not eradicate the effects of all of our experience, education and everything else that shapes our choice making. Everyone is different in personality and character because of countless variable factors. These variable factors result in different choices being made when different people face the same decision.

    *I dislike that non-biblical term “prevenient” as much as I dislike “irresistible” when applied to grace.

    In scripture grace is grace!

  7. Very helpful post! I am very recently an x-Calvinist and this question has been a puzzler for me. As the Calvinist throws up his hands and cries “Mystery” when faced with the dilemma of the origins of sin, I found myself crying “Mystery” when faced with the question of why one chooses while another rejects. I had never considered that the question itself was faulty and illogical in that it assumes something must necessitate one choice over another. If it was necessitated then it wasn’t free. Brilliant! Your reminder of God’s free choice in creation was also brilliant. Thank you!

  8. Hello guys,

    Ben speaking of Jonathan Edwards thinking on the will wrote:

    “How do they know we never make choices according to an inferior motive or desire? The answer: the choice always reflects the greatest desire, or else the choice would not be made, since we choose according to our greatest desire (which is circular and reveals a tautology, “the prevailing desire always prevails” or “the prevailing desire is the prevailing desire”, etc.- which isn’t saying much).”

    This is a major, major problem with Edwards’ thought: his assertion that we always choose according to our strongest desire is a tautology, a truism, it REALLY DOES NOT SAY ANYTHING SIGNIFICANT as to why we make one choice rather than another.

    Ben continued:

    “It reduces to a bare assertion. It is our greatest desire because we choose it, and we choose it because it is our greatest desire.”

    Again, the response to Edwards’ claim that we choose it because it is our greatest desire could be SO WHAT! What does that explain? Nothing.

    A big problem that I have with Edwards’ view is that he speaks of the strongest desire being the one that we choose. Ok, this implies that some desires are the “weaker” desires while one desire becomes the preeminent or “strongest” desire. Ok, then the key question becomes: why is one desire the strongest and others are weaker? Edwards really does not deal with this adequately.

    Some necessatarians parroting Edwards’ view will claim that our “nature” necessitates that one desire become the “strongest”. But again how does this really work? No one explains it or shows it to be true, they merely assume it to be true. Another problem with this **nature necessitates desire necessitates action** view is that our “nature” does not do anything or necessitate anything when it comes to our having and making choices. “Nature” is a term we use, a description of the attributes or properties that we believe something has or does not have. There is no such thing as an acting entity called our “nature” that DOES ANYTHING in this universe. Put another way and put more simply: our nature does not **do** any of our actions, WE DO OUR ACTIONS. We can speak of something having a certain nature, but that **nature** does not **do** anything. At the final judgment, God will not be judging the actions of **our natures**, he will be judging US and what actions WE did.

    I would suggest that human nature means that human persons, when we do intentional actions do so for reasons in light of what is important to us. Edwards view being tautological explains nothing and is useless in explaining how we end up making the choice that we make when competing alternatives are present.

    Robert

    PS- If you look at current literature in philosophy on the free will issue (people like John Martin Fischer, Robert Kane, etc. Etc.) no one speaks of Edwards’ view or even cites it in footnotes. There are reasons that Edwards work and thinking has been completely by-passed in current discussions: his truism, his tautological thinking does not explain anything, and the discussion has progressed way beyond his material. Not explaining anything, his theory is useless, insignificant, and so easily ignored today. It is as if he were an extinct dinosaur and yet a few necessatarians enamored by his view and tautological thinking and believing it to be the “best material on the will ever produced” (a gigantic overstatement and also a false claim) still dig him up and present him as if he had significance for today. But we still sometimes have to contend with this theological dinosaur/Edwards’ view on the will, because some just refuse to let the dead remain dead! 🙂

  9. Robert,

    The thing is that it does not seem like just a few who still adhere to Edwards. It seems like most of the Calvinist leaders and thinkers out there. It may be that the professional philosophers have come to regard Edwards as passe, and maybe even the Calvinist ones, but the influential Calvinist scholars and authors, often more biblical scholars of one sort or another, still hold to Edwards and appeal to him as the standard who remains unanswered (e.g., John Piper).

  10. Hello again,guys,

    I want to share on one of the greatest ironies concerning calvinism and another good reason to reject Calvinist thinking.

    Ben wrote:

    “Arminians say that God is ultimate and does not make choices of necessity (at least choices like: to create or not create, elect or not elect, which are not necessarily dependent on His eternal holy nature, etc.).”

    So Ben sees, correctly, that God acts freely, His actions are **not necessitated**.

    Ben continued:

    “Arminians see God as far more free than the Calvinists (despite the objections by Calvinists that say Arminians are always trying to limit God’s sovereign freedom). We also see the argument from the incoherence of free will crumbling in the face of God’s freedom.”

    A common accusation made by calvinists is that Arminians and other non-calvinists deny or reject God’s sovereignty. And another claim made by innumeralbe calvinists is to attack the ordinary understanding of free will (i.e., what in philosophy is technically called “Libertarian Free will”, LFW) as being: (1) nonexistent, (2) irrational, and (3) incoherent.

    Now we come to the irony, something that is absolutely incredible but true: THE CALVINIST WHO DENIES THE REALITY, RATIONALITY AND COHERENCE OF FREE WILL (LFW) *****DENIES THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD.

    Or put another way, if you believe in the sovereignty of God then you **must** believe in LFW, you must believe that LFW exists and you must believe that LFW is coherent. Or put yet another way, if you deny the existence, rationality and coherence of LFW and claim to believe in the sovereignty of God (which is exactly where the calvinist is at), then your position is itself affirming a contradiction, irrational and incoherent.

    Allow me to explain how this is true.

    The biblical definition of God’s sovereignty is that: HE DOES AS HE PLEASES. Psalm 115:3 states this well: “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.” In Daniel 4:35 is another clear statement of God’s sovereignty: “And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth, And on one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, “What hast thou done?” Again the concept is easy to state: He does as He pleases in any circumstances. A great acknowledgement and statement of God’s sovereignty comes in Daniel 3 where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are persecuted for their faith and threatened with death if they do not forsake the God of the bible and engage in idolatry (3:8-15). Note their response to the threat made by Nebuchadnezzar: “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O King. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (3:17-18).

    Understand what they are claiming here. They believe that God **is** sovereign, that He does as He pleases in any circumstances. So because they believe this and acknowledge this to be the actual reality, they are saying that we know that if God chooses to deliver us, He can and will do so. And if He chooses not to deliver us, that is OK too, either way the choice is up to Him, because He **is** sovereign and he does as He pleases. This way of thinking of God’s sovereignty is similar to the Christian today who believes that God is sovereign,and is praying for the healing of a seriously ill person (i.e., we believe that God can heal this person if He chooses to, He may also choose not to heal this person, either way, the choice is up to Him and He will do as He pleases in the situation).
    Now it is critical to see that the biblical conception of God’s sovereignty PRESUPPOSES THE REALITY, RATIONALITY AND COHERENCE OF FREE WILL as ordinarily understood/LFW. With the men in Daniel as well as with the contemporary believer praying for a healing, both are absolutely convinced that God **is** sovereign. Both believe that God’s sovereignty means that His actions are NOT NECESSITATED (so his choice is made **freely**), that His action involves a choice (he has a choice between doing this or doing that and then will make a choice from the alternatives) and this choice is up to him. Now what **is** this describing? This is a clear description of libertarian free will. What this means is that if you have a biblical view of sovereignty then you do in fact believe that LFW exists, that it is rational and that it is coherent (so all those Arminans and other non-calvinistic believers who believe in the biblical view of God’s sovereignty are correct while all the calvinists who mistakenly define and equate God’s sovereignty with exhaustive determinism are in error).

    I have never heard a Christian (who held to the biblical conception of sovereignty) ever claim or doubt or question that God’s sovereignty involves God having and making choices choices that are not necessitated so He is acting freely, or that this SOVEREIGNTY IS INCOHERENT OR NON-EXISTENT.

    Can anybody see the irony now?

    Some necessatarians in trying so hard to deny the Arminian or non-Calvinist view on free will, by attacking the existence, rationality and coherence of LFW, are in fact attacking the very sovereignty of God which THEY CLAIM TO SO STRONGLY ENDORSE AND SUPPORT!! And not only is this a great irony, in attacking LFW, they are maintaining a position which is itself AGAINST REALITY, IRRATIONAL AND INCOHERENT. This is true, because you cannot claim that LFW does not exist, is irrational, and is incoherent, when in fact LFW goes to the heart of the biblical and correct conception of God’s sovereignty!

    Any calvinist/necessatarian who ***denies LFW*** then, is ***denying God’s sovereignty***.

    I thought it was interesting that both JC and Ben were noting that the Calvinist cannot rationally and coherently deny the existence and rationality and coherence of LFW because GOD HIMSELF EXPERIENCES LFW. So God himself disproves their attacks on the reality and nature of free will. I am just taking this one more step further and pointing out that not only does the necessitarian’s arguments against LFW get wiped out by the fact God Himself experiences LFW: ANY ATTACK ON THE REALITY, RATIONALITY AND COHERENCE OF LFW is ALSO SIMULTANEOUSLY AN ATTACK ON THE VERY SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD. The consistent Calvinist then, in denying LFW or attacking the reality of LFW, or claiming that LFW is not coherent or does not make sense, is denying and contradicting God’s sovereignty.

    Amazing, simply amazing, how far the Calvinist’s affirmation of their false theology will take them away from the truth, in this case the truth about the reality, rationality and coherence of free will.

    Robert

  11. God created freely. If He did not, then creation was a necessary act, and that plainly threatens His aseity (God’s self-sufficiency). I have actually heard Calvinists make this claim.

    Indeed. A theology in which God is effectively compelled of necessity to create, save, and glorify specific individuals is, if you’ll pardon the borrowed quote, horrifically man-centered.

  12. Hello JC,

    Good post that got this discussion going, well done.

    You wrote:

    “Indeed. A theology in which God is effectively compelled of necessity to create, save, and glorify specific individuals is, if you’ll pardon the borrowed quote, horrifically man-centered.”

    This is a very good point, if God’s actions are all necessitated, and he **has to do** what he does in every instance, if he never has a choice, then he has to save us, he has to have mercy on us, and He is no longer sovereign.

    Again, if everything God does is necessitated then he does not have free will Himself. This does not fit the biblical presentation of God being sovereign at all.

    To take one of the favorite Romans 9 **proof texts** from necessatarians: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy . . .” That means that He **has a choice** about whom he will have mercy upon. And if he has a genuine choice then his action in “mercying” is not necessitated but is freely chosen. And if it is freely chosen then God experiences free will as ordinarily understood. The Romans 9 passage does not tell us **whom** he has mercy upon (that is answered in Romans 11:32). Rather, the passage tells us that He **is** sovereign, that He has the sovereign right to do as He pleases (and so He has mercy upon whom He pleases). All of this makes sense in an Arminian framework, and supports both the sovereignty of God (i.e. if properly conceived and so including LFW) and the reality, rationality, and coherence of LFW/the ordinary understanding of free will. None of this makes sense in a calvinistic framework that denies the reality, rationality and coherence of free will/LFW.

    Robert

  13. Hello Arminian,

    You wrote:

    “The thing is that it does not seem like just a few who still adhere to Edwards.”

    I meant “few” with respect to **everybody** both believers and nonbelievers. If you restrict yourself only to believers and so include all Christian traditions (Protestant, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Independents) even then very, very few hold to or espouse Edwards’ views of the will.

    “It seems like most of the Calvinist leaders and thinkers out there.”

    I hope so, 🙂 because his view and arguments are very weak. It is true that many of the current Calvinist leaders (e.g. Piper who just adores everything done by Edwards) may think that Edwards just has this devastating critique of the ordinary free will. But if He is the best they’ve got, then they are in deep trouble. Lots of problems can be shown with traditional compatibilism (which Edwards view would fall under in the spectrum of compatibilist belief). It is because of problems and inadequacies of traditional compatibilism that a person like John Martin Fischer developed his semi-compatibilism (I can also provide the example of a certain calvinist we both know who has adopted Fischer’s semi-compatibilism in an attempt to salvage his compatibilism, I hope he **continues** with that project as semi-compatibilism has some real problems as well). Ted Honderich is another example of a contemporary philosopher who sees real problems with the traditional compatibilism. So there are good reasons to abandon the traditional compatibilism espoused by Edwards and his parrots! 🙂

    So I really **hope** they place all their bets on the Edwards horse because that horse is lame and cannot win this race!

    “It may be that the professional philosophers have come to regard Edwards as passe, and maybe even the Calvinist ones, but the influential Calvinist scholars and authors, often more biblical scholars of one sort or another, still hold to Edwards and appeal to him as the standard who remains unanswered (e.g., John Piper).”

    Again, with regard to a certain group of Calvinists (including John Piper and Bruce Ware for instance), Edwards may be their hero and standard bearer, the be-all and end-all of their views on free will but he is just completely ignored in contemporary discussions of free will by philosophers because he has nothing significant to say. It is also amusing to actually read Edwards and see all of the straw men he engages in, all the question-begging arguments. My understanding is that reason based/agent causation explanations of libertarian free will are the strongest versions of libertarianism. And Edwards does not deal with them adequately at all. Instead he is engaging in windmills and taking on the weakest possible versions of LFW, like the theory that freely made choices do not involve any causes at all (and what libertarians are advancing that nowadays?). I could go on, but Edwards book on the will is passé, full of weak arguments, explains very little and neglects the strongest versions of libertarian free will. Alvin Plantinga who holds to libertarian free will in his famous message to Christian scholars used the free will issue as an example and spoke openly and explicitly about how weak determinism is (if you would like to see his comments I can reproduce them here if you’d like). I will take Plantinga over Edwards any time on the issue of the freedom of the will! 🙂

    Robert

  14. The Sproul quote I promised above is quite lengthy, so I will just quote portions of it. First, it is important to note that Sproul is arguing against a view of freedom that few, if any, Arminians hold (that we essentially choose for no reasons or without any inclinations- Arminians do not deny that we choose according to reasons, etc.). The thing to notice is that Sproul appeals to our intuitions to make his point,

    “Think for a minute about your own choices. How and why are they made?”

    “Every decision you make, you make for a reason [which no Arminian denies]. The next time you go into a public place and choose a seat…ask your self why you are sitting where you are sitting….We always choose according to our strongest inclination at the moment [there’s that question begging tautology again]…Think, if you can, of any choice that was ever made that was not according to the strongest inclination you had at the moment of decision [and again]. (Chosen by God, pp. 54-58)

    Notice that one could just as easily ask someone to “think” about a recent decision and ask themselves if they could have chosen something other than they actually chose. Most people would quickly answer, “of course I could have chosen otherwise than I did”. This is just as intuitive (if not, more intuitive), than any “thinking” about choosing according to inclinations, etc. Yet, the Calvinist complains that we can’t trust our intuitions with regards to choice, and then tells us to examine our intuitions concerning choosing according to our strongest desire, etc.

    Sproul later says,

    “To say that we choose according to our strongest inclination at the moment is to say that we always choose what we want.”

    And how is that different than saying we “choose what we choose” or that we “choose because we choose”? It isn’t.

    At any rate, Sproul is arguing against the “neutral view” of free will (a “straw man” view that Edwards attacked, as Robert pointed out) which says that we do not choose according to our desires. Of course, we choose according to desires. That is not the question. The question is whether or not our desires irresistibly cause our choices. To that the Arminian answers “no”. Any choice we make will be in accordance with a desire or reason, but that doesn’t mean that any particular reason or desire necessarily and irresistibly determined our choice (i.e. we could have inclined our will in a different direction and chosen in accordance with a different desire or reason).

    Anyway, more could be said on that, but the main point has to do with an appeal to intuition that the Edwardsian is just as guilty of as the ones he tries to criticize.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  15. You seriously should make a fallacy post about that Ben. I think these determinists often miss the point in assuming that what we desire is conferred upon us while we’re just passive ‘victims’ helpless to control them. I don’t think this view is biblical,

    “Now set your heart and your soul to seek the LORD your God. Therefore arise and build the sanctuary of the LORD God, to bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD and the holy articles of God into the house that is to be built for the name of the LORD.” (1 Chronicles 22:19)

    “Do not trust in oppression, Nor vainly hope in robbery; If riches increase, Do not set your heart on them.” (Psalm 62:10)

    “And may not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not set its heart aright, And whose spirit was not faithful to God.” (Psalm 78:8)

    You shall burn the carved images of their gods with fire; you shall not covet the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, lest you be snared by it; for it is an abomination to the LORD your God. (Deuteronomy 7:25)

    Do not eat the bread of a miser,* nor desire his delicacies….(Proverbs 23:6)

    And he did evil, because he did not prepare his heart to seek the LORD. (2 Chronicles 12:14)

    What we desire is often also a matter of our will, part of the process of choosing is setting and prioritizing our desires. If it were something that just hit us from the blue that we were powerless to control, it would make little sense to say, “you shall not covet.”

  16. Hello Ben,

    Ben stated:

    “First, it is important to note that Sproul is arguing against a view of freedom that few, if any, Arminians hold (that we essentially choose for no reasons or without any inclinations- Arminians do not deny that we choose according to reasons, etc.).”

    Sproul is parroting Edwards and making the same argument/straw man (the claim that Arminians believe we choose for no reason). Again this is why Edwards is such a waste of time: he is constantly picking on and arguing against the weakest possible representative positions possible. He does not deal with agent causal theories in which the person chooses to do what they do for reasons.

    “The thing to notice is that Sproul appeals to our intuitions to make his point,”

    I believe that what you mean by intuitions is to look at your own person experiences of how you make choices.

    “Think for a minute about your own choices. How and why are they made?”

    This comment by Sproul directly appeals to our personal experiences and that is fine. Because if you do some introspection and examine your own thought and experience when it comes to having and making choices, you will find that you constantly operate according to the ordinary understanding of free will (technically called libertarian free will, LFW)throughout your day. You will find that when you believe that you have a choice, that you consider the various alternative possibilities that you believe you could actualize (while also believing that while various alternatives are accessible to you, by the nature of the situation you will have to choose one alternative and exclude or not choose the other alternatives that you believe are available and accessible to you; in a word you believe that you have a choice). You will consider the different alternatives in your mind (i.e. deliberation) and then you will also consider the different reasons and importances attached to each alternative possibility. If I want to go to the movies (that gives me a reason to get in my car and drive to the theater); if instead I want to celebrate the Lakers victory in the NBA finals, yeh (that gives me a reason not to go to the theater, a different reason to get in my car and drive to my friends house where we will have the victory party and watch taped highlights of the game together).

    In addition to these different reasons attached to or associated with different alternatives, there are also different importances attached to and associated with each different alternative (an importance attached to the movie may be that I have been waiting months to see this particular movie; and importance attached to the victor party may be that spending time with friends is very important to me). My point is that different alternatives have different reasons and different importances attached to them. Our decision will be based upon but not necessitated by these reasons and importances (so in fact we do not do intentional actions for no reason; again this is a caricature by Edwards and perpetuated by his modern puppets, er proponents).

    “Every decision you make, you make for a reason [which no Arminian denies]. The next time you go into a public place and choose a seat…ask yourself why you are sitting where you are sitting….We always choose according to our strongest inclination at the moment [there’s that question begging tautology again]…Think, if you can, of any choice that was ever made that was not according to the strongest inclination you had at the moment of decision [and again]. (Chosen by God, pp. 54-58)”

    Again, Edwards defines our actual choice that we make as the one that is according to the “strongest desire”(but the key question the question completely neglected and having the real importance is: why is the “strongest desire” the strongest desire when other competing (and “weaker”) desires are also present in your thinking?). My own answer to this is that God created us with the capacity for having and making our own choices. Choices that are not necessitated but are freely chosen.

    If they are not necessitated then when it comes to our having a choice, we actualize which alternative will be actualized (and since our intentional action was free, though we do in fact actualize one possibility we also could have done otherwise and actualized a different possibility instead; and again we all know about this personal experience firsthand because we have all experienced it, we have all done it). In a sense I am stating the obvious, but it needs to be stated because the calvinist necessatarians deny free will, deny that we ever have a choice. And they have looked hard and wide to find some sort of justification for their erroneous position, with some believing Edwards provides that justification (that universal denial of free will/LFW). But in fact Edwards does not provide that justification as none of his arguments touches or even threatens agent causal theories that involve doing intentional actions for reasons. Again, the necessitarian is appealing to a dinosaur (Edwards)long dead and gone who does not refute the reality and coherence of free will.

    “Notice that one could just as easily ask someone to “think” about a recent decision and ask themselves if they could have chosen something other than they actually chose. Most people would quickly answer, “of course I could have chosen otherwise than I did”.”

    All people experience free will directly (though a few, for example calvinist necessatarians, deny it with their words but not with their actions). In fact all people have directly experienced free will because God made us to have that capacity. Only those who are in denial (i.e., necessatarians who want to believe that all of our actions are necessitated by the exhaustive predeterminism of God) would even question or say/deny this daily reality that we ALL experience daily. It must be remembered that the necessitarian is in ***serious denial*** of common sense and daily reality as well as the biblical evidence for free will. People in denial are in denial about some aspect of reality (in the case of the necessitarian the denial is of both God’s sovereignty which presupposes free will [which was pointed out earlier] and their own free will which they daily experience).

    “This is just as intuitive (if not, more intuitive), than any “thinking” about choosing according to inclinations, etc. Yet, the Calvinist complains that we can’t trust our intuitions with regards to choice, and then tells us to examine our intuitions concerning choosing according to our strongest desire, etc.”

    ***Great, Great, Great point Ben***, they are like the guy who says he does not have a mind when he is using his mind to tell you that he does not have a mind! 🙂 They refute themselves with their own “reasoning”. To an outside observer it can also be quite comical. Sort of like the dog going in fast circles trying to catch its tail! 🙂

    “To say that we choose according to our strongest inclination at the moment is to say that we always choose what we want.”

    OK another great truism, tautology, that SAYS NOTHING SIGNIFICANT. Of course when we intentionally do something we do it because WE WANT TO DO IT. That again is not the key question, the key question is again, why did we want to do X rather than Y, when in fact we could have done either alternative? The “why” question gets to reasons and importances which are at the heart of intentional actions.

    “And how is that different than saying we “choose what we choose” or that we “choose because we choose”? It isn’t.”

    Right, or like saying: I wanted to do X because I wanted to do X. So what, I want to know WHY you wanted to do X instead of wanting to do Y.

    “At any rate, Sproul is arguing against the “neutral view” of free will (a “straw man” view that Edwards attacked, as Robert pointed out) which says that we do not choose according to our desires. Of course, we choose according to desires. That is not the question. The question is whether or not our desires irresistibly cause our choices. To that the Arminian answers “no”.”

    Again we choose what we desire to do, but why did we desire that alternative rather than the other ones that were available and accessible to us?

    “Any choice we make will be in accordance with a desire or reason, but that doesn’t mean that any particular reason or desire necessarily and irresistibly determined our choice (i.e. we could have inclined our will in a different direction and chosen in accordance with a different desire or reason).”

    Right despite the claims of necessatarians, our desires, our reasons, our importances, our “natures”, our “sin nature”, etc. (all the necessitating factors they keep trying to come up with) do not necessitate or cause our actions. We cause our own intentional actions and we will all be judged for those freely chosen actions.

    “Anyway, more could be said on that, but the main point has to do with an appeal to intuition that the Edwardsian is just as guilty of as the ones he tries to criticize.”

    The necessitarian makes a big mistake when they try to appeal to intuitions, to the personal experiences that we actually have in our minds and in the process of making choices (they become like the guy on the boat on the ocean who says let’s dive off the boat so that we can prove that the ocean doesn’t exist! 🙂 I want that guy to dive off so that he will directly confront reality). Because when they do so they directly confront the very reality which they so desperately and foolishly deny.

    Robert

  17. J.C.,

    I think you should post on it. Just continue the series. I have a few verses saved on Word that say similar things. Probably some of them are the same as you mention, but I think there might be a few others as well. I will check and post them here ASAP. You could then combine them and do a part 2 in your series.

  18. You could then combine them and do a part 2 in your series.

    Heh heh, there was a reason I labeled this one “#1.”

  19. O.K., certainly any command against coveting would suggest being able to control our desires. We could add Deut. 5:21 to your list. Here are a few others,

    Job 36:20 “Do not desire (long for) the night.” [Elihu]

    Proverbs 24: 1 Do not desire the company of wicked men.

    1 Cor. 14:1 Eagerly desire spiritual gifts. Also 12:31; 14:39

    1 Peter 2:2 Crave (desire) pure spiritual milk.

    James 4:1-10 (entire section assumes ability to control desires)

    Oh, and from the recent debate with Hays, we should add 1 Cor. 10:6 (do not “crave” or “set your heart on” evil things)

    Also, 2 Cor. 7:37 plainly teaches that we can control our own wills and desires.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  20. Oh, and Col. 3:2 is a good one as well,

    “Set your minds on things above”

  21. Hey guys,

    You guys make a good point, we do have some control over our own desires and how we will act upon them. I have said for the longest time that Calvinism breaks down in daily life when local church pastors are calling their people to do the right things based upon what the Lord desires. This is so because when we exhort people to do the right thing in our messages we are challenging them, exhorting them, pleading with them, to MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICES. And this of course presupposes that they are facing choices, they have a choice between doing the right thing and doing something else that is wrong. You guys are talking about doing the right things with desires (acting on godly desires and choosing not to act on the wrong desires, again presupposing that people have a choice between doing the right thing and doing the wrong thing with respect to a given choice). I went over and checked out PYROMANIACS today to see the latest calvinist propaganda at that site (it is a great source to see what thinking calvinists believe). And Dan Phillips has a post on women using discretion in how they dress in front of men. Now I find this hilarious, not because the scripture does not talk about this issue (in fact it does and this is what Phillips is talking about). But because Phillips is exhorting people to MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICES with respect to how they dress. But you can only be urging them to make these right choices if you believe that people HAVE A CHOICE about how they dress. And if they HAVE A CHOICE about what they will wear or will not wear, then EXHAUSTIVE DETERMINISM is false. So Phillips the committed and staunch necessatarian Calvinist presupposes (just like the rest of us) when urging and exhorting people to make the right choices rather than the wrong choices (in this case when dealing with dressing, but it could be anything the bible talks about and calls believers to do or not do) THE EXISTENCE OF LIBERATARIAN FREE WILL (because you cannot have choices unless people have libertarian free will, and everything he says presupposes that people have choices about how they will dress). So him urging the making of right choices, makes his calvinism and necessatarian beliefs ring very hollow.

    Note this excerpt from his post as an example:

    ————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

    And he’s not in a nightclub, he’s not at a singles’ bar, he’s not at the beach. He’s in church.

    Now, some very direct disclaimers:
    • Every man’s sin is his own, and every man’s struggle is his own (Proverbs 14:10)
    • No one makes a man think or feel anything (Proverbs 4:23)
    • It is each individual’s responsibility to guard his own heart (Proverbs 4:23)
    • Beauty is a wonderful gift of God (cf. Exodus 28:2; Song of Solomon 1:8, 15, etc.)

    Notice those disclaimers: every man’s sin is his own? Doesn’t that mean that we are responsible for our own actions? But how can we be responsible for our own actions if exhaustive determinism is true and we are just like puppets with God controlling our strings and dictating our every thought, action, movement? If ED is true, then we have the struggle that God wanted us to have and the action we do is only what he controlled our strings to have us do. If God alone has free will and no one else does, then He alone is responsible for everything that occurs.
    The next disclaimer is even more comical: no one **makes** a man think or feel **anything**? Not true, if his exhaustive determinism is true, then GOD MAKES US THINK AND FEEL EVERYTHING WE THINK AND FEEL. I think Phillips means other people don’t make us think and feel the way we do (with the exception being God who does in fact pull all the strings of every puppet so that every puppet thinks and feels exactly what God wants them to think and feel. And he appeals to Proverbs 4:23 which says: “Watch over YOUR HEART with all DILIGENCE For from it flow the springs of life.” Wait a minute, he is now making the same point that you guys are making: namely, that we need to make the right choices in regards to our heart. We need to choose to watch over our heart, we need to choose to use diligence in this watching over our own hearts. Choices, Choices, Choices, we have these choices and we need to make the right ones (and yet his theology his Calvinism his necessatarian beliefs WIPE OUT THE REALITY OF US EVER HAVING CHOICES).

    Again Phillips the necessatarian is presupposing people **having choices**, presupposing something that his own beliefs do not allow for. He is taking money out of our bank to fund his gambling, when it’s not his money that he is playing with, it is ours! 🙂

    The Calvinists are so fond of telling us that God is totally in control so that we don’t control anything even ourselves. But then when it comes to practical matters where we have real choices where we need to make the right choices to please God, then all of their talk about God totally controlling us, their talk about human autonomy suddenly goes out the window. I say it again, as I have said before this shows once again how weak Calvinism comes when it comes to issues of sanctification. To be a mature Christian, to be an obedient Christian, to be a growing Christian, to be a fruit producing Christian you have to make the right choices with respect to the choices that you have. So watch the Calvinist preacher or pastor or evangelist or any other Calvinist speaking to a group when they get to talking about making the right choices: THEY HAVE TO ASSUME OUR VIEW OF FREE WILL. And in assuming our view, taking money from our bank, they completely discredit their own view and show the bankruptcy of their own position.

    Robert

  22. Robert,

    Great comments. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree with you concerning the practical problems Calvinists face on a daily basis (Walls and Dongell do a good job exposing such practical problems with Calvinism in Why I Am Not A Calvinist). They really need to temporally shelve their theology in their minds in order to say the things they say. They seem to exist in a constant state of contradiction, but refuse to acknowledge it or let it bother them.

    I think a clever C would respond to some of your comments by saying that such admonitions are the “means” by which God causes some to do what they should do (and even the word “should” is strange considering C presuppositions). I don’t think it holds much water, but that is what the standard C response would be. What is especially interesting is what the “means” mean for the ones who do not heed the warning. Not all believers heed such warnings, at least not consistently. Would it then be the “means” for judgment? If so, then God would use warnings as a means for judgment upon those that He controls in such a way that they cannot possibly heed the warnings. But that is another whole mess.

    Anyway, the comments about us guarding our hearts are no less ridiculous, when you consider the other Calvinist claim that God directs our hearts like a water course (understood by them to mean that He irresistibly directs and controls out thoughts and intentions). As you said, we cannot guard or protect our hearts if we have no control of our hearts. If God controls our hearts irresistibly as the Calvinist asserts, then such admonishments to guard our hearts become truly ridiculous. All such concepts as self-control, self-denial, commitment, etc., become meaningless in a world where our desires irresistibly control us.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  23. I think one side of looking at the sort of error that JC describes (besides from being a formal logical fallacy), is to see the human error of not looking beyond our own particular spheres of thought.

    When we take a different hypothetical situation into consideration, we need to judge it by its own terms and the hypothetical constraints of its own consequences rather than our limited sphere of previous thought. This is what hypotheticals are all about.

    The atheist who asks, “If God created the world, then who created God?” makes this error. The formal logical fallacy arises for essentially asking, “who created the Uncreated?” – whilst hypothetically assuming the Uncreated did create.

    The more human side of it is that they did not trouble to go beyond their limited sphere of thought for consideration the question at hand; to consider arguments that lead to first cause, of the concept of timelessness for one who exists outside of time, or that time is considered in modern thought a property tied in with created space and thus began at creation etc. Most of all they did not judge their question upon its own merits.

    The Calvinist who asks, “What made a libertarian free will choose one way or the other?” denies the very nature of the assumption they are asking (the logical fallacy). The more human side is that they simply aren’t taking themselves out of their own shoes for long enough to assess another’s argument on its own merits and own consequences.
    We cannot judge libertarian free will as internally inconsistent of itself because it contradicts something external like the five points of Tulip. Neither could we simply judge a Calvinistic tenant as internally inconsistent simply because it doesn’t fit within an Arminian framework.

    ** An example that happened to me:

    A Calvinist once said to me, “Why don’t Arminians think that God is a failure? If we imagine that Arminian unlimited atonement is true than God would be a failure because not everyone is saved! So clearly limited atonement has to be true.”

    The Calvinist in this situation, while trying to hypothetically consider Arminian atonement, was unable to free themselves from their narrow Calvinistic sphere of thought for long enough to make an honest judgement.
    Even though they tried to fairly imagine Arminian atonement and granted (hypothetically) that the atonement was for all, they automatically assumed Calvinistic irresistible grace and Calvinistic election – that the atonement leads to someone being forced to believe.

    One can only fail at something if one intends to do it in the first place. Of course no Arminian believes that God is a failure because Jesus died to offer Salvation to all, because no Arminian believes that this was ever intended to inherently force all men to be saved.

    It’s like coming only half way in honesty to something, before turning right back around again.
    It’s like being able to consider hypothetical issues with only one variable, but never being able to consider more honest and complex issues with two or more as most meaningful hypothetical issues require.

    This kind of numb thinking always leads to logical fallacies. As a result we must be all the more diligently aware of our too often occuring, human short-sightedness.

  24. Very insightful post Jay. I’ve actually had an Atheist ask me that very question of “Where did God come from?” I pointed out that in either philosophy, something has to be self-existent, hence his question was akin to someone asking him (a Naturalist) ‘where did the Universe come from?’

    “The more human side is that they simply aren’t taking themselves out of their own shoes for long enough to assess another’s argument on its own merits and own consequences.”

    Quite true. Such inconsistency in reasoning sadly appears to constitute a majority of Calvinism’s dealings with Arminian theology.

  25. […] The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics – Fallacy #1: “If we have libertarian free will, … […]

  26. […] The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics – Fallacy #1: “If we have libertarian free will, … […]

  27. […] “assumptions” amount to little more than tautology, as I described in the combox of another post: Also, the Calvinist (at least those who follow Edwards) begs the question with regards to choosing […]

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