The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics – Fallacy #4: “Free Will is the Power to Do Anything!!”

Related Fallacies:
Oversimplification
Strawman
False Dilemma

One of the most telling signs of the fallacious nature of Calvinist apologetics in general is its heavy reliance upon caricatures and misrepresentation of the beliefs of other Christians. There are few things more frustrating than trying to explain a concept to someone who simply takes one aspect of what is being said, and runs with it in a half-baked attempt to disprove it, heedless of any details or qualifications, yet this very tactic is something of a staple among Calvinism’s more vocal proponents.

I’ve posted before on a proper Christian description of libertarian free will, as have numerous other writers. Of note is the fact that libertarian free will, in the context of orthodox Christian theology, allows one to freely choose within a range of available options. Therefore depending upon individual contexts, the possible choices may be limited, and some options may not be possible. This concept should be fairly obvious to anyone possessing even a passing familiarity with Arminian theology, since one of its primary distinctives is that men do not naturally possess the capability to come to faith in Christ apart from the gracious work of God (prevenient grace).

Nonetheless, no matter how often or how clearly it’s repeated, many Calvinist writers either aren’t grasping the concept, or just continue to dishonestly distort it. One of the usual tactics is to frame libertarian free will as some imaginary power that lets one do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, with no restraint whatsoever.

John Hendryx, in his essay Eleven (11) Reasons to Reject Libertarian Free Will, tries to deny that God has contrary choice by using this same worn-out caricature:

In fact His choices are so wrapped up in His nature and essence that He could not do otherwise. But God’s freedom is the real freedom defined by the Bible — a freedom from sin, not a freedom to do otherwise. God is free in the compatibilist sense in that He always acts according to His nature, never against it. God does not have ‘freedom’ to do what is contrary to His nature, so He is not free in the libertarian sense (in fact no one is).

Problems With This Logic

We heartily agree that God’s choices are constrained by His nature. God’s power of contrary choice (which as we’ve shown, is essential to His sovereignty in election) doesn’t entail Him being able to violate His own Holiness, since that would be outside the limits of what actual contrary choice allows. The ‘libertarian free will’ Hendryx compares God’s will to doesn’t accurately reflect the Christian view of free will, i.e. contrary choice within certain limits; but is rather a caricature along the lines of ‘ability to choose absolutely anything without constraint’ – nothing more than an overly simplistic strawman.

Further, Hendryx’s conclusions here don’t follow: God’s choices being constrained by His nature doesn’t amount to His choices being entirely determined by His nature. The difference between constraint and determinism can be described with a more physical case: The shoulder socket constrains how far and in which directions one’s arm joint can move (without really getting hurt anyway), but it would be silly to say that the socket itself ‘determined’ which directions one’s arms moved and when, since the joint moves freely within the range of the socket. Likewise, the constraint that God cannot lie doesn’t preclude Him from having other options, since choices don’t always come down to only the two options of ‘be dishonest or don’t be dishonest;’ there can be more than one choice within the range of honesty and Holiness. As I’d pointed out in our last post, it was not essential to God’s nature that He create me, nor would He have been any more or less Holy had He chosen not to do so. God does have power of contrary choice, since both options were well within the range of His Holiness; He therefore is free in the libertarian sense, since as can be seen with the ball-and-socket joint, freedom within a range is still freedom.

Obviously, this Calvinist dilemma of ‘determinism or limitless free will’ is spurious, since one can have libertarian freedom within limits. Not that this stops them from using this fallacy to try and attack libertarian free will anyway. Some Calvinistadors go as far as to take this ‘free will lets you do anything’ absurdity to an even more ridiculous extent, asking questions like, “If you have free will, why don’t you ‘choose’ to flap your arms and fly?” (an obvious non-sequitur, since our making choices doesn’t necessarily affect any externals; or in plain English: it’s libertarian free will, not libertarian free super-powers). Such silliness is hardly worth comment except for the fact that I’ve actually confronted an educated Calvinist debater who tendered this sort of sophistry as a serious argument!

Not that this comes as any major surprise. The scriptural case for the reality of libertarian choice is so strong, that the only ‘viable option’ left for compatibilists to save face is to burn strawmen.

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20 Responses

  1. JC,

    It’s like you read my mind. I realize that at times you probably tire of covering the same old ground that you’ve covered before but its new ground to me, so thank you.

    As I was reading these posts, I began to wonder if God truly had free will. I reasoned that all of His choices are consistent with His character so I asked, “Does He really have the power contrary choice?” As I wrestled with this it dawned on me that God is just, holy, merciful, loving etc.. and that within His character He is free to choose to act justly, mercifully, lovingly etc… The way you phrased it “contrary choice within certain limits” was brilliant. All those years of Calvinism had me blinded to a simple truth LFW is freewill within limits.

    Thanks again,
    His servant and yours,

    Bob

  2. JC,

    I admit it, that was very clear.

    I also admit that I agree with J.H. in that bit you cited of some writing or article you are aware of that he is the author of, which, by the way, I bet he will be the first to admit, “he freely wrote it because he has been “set free from his inherited slavery to sin to be God’s freeman and now a slave to Righteousness! You are either one or the other, there simply is no middle ground.

    Here, however is something I would touch on with you:

    You wrote this above:

    “….there can be more than one choice within the range of honesty and Holiness. As I’d pointed out in our last post, it was not essential to God’s nature that He create me, nor would He have been any more or less Holy had He chosen not to do so. God does have power of contrary choice, since both options were well within the range of His Holiness; He therefore is free in the libertarian sense, since as can be seen with the ball-and-socket joint, freedom within a range is still freedom….”.

    First off, God created you. He created me. We both agree that God sent His Son to be the “enabler”. Jesus Christ, born of a woman, born under sin’s nature, a man, fully man is the Savior Who came to save His people from their sins. Cf. Mat. 1:21.

    I am honestly having trouble with the first bit of that citation of yours because it is moot to non existent whoevers that God has not created. Can you help me out with that?

    God, as we both agree, is Eternal, Three Persons, One. Being Eternal, anything created is inside Eternity. Nothing but God is outside eternity so choice is only an option for what God created, not Himself. Jesus clearly exercised a “choice” as the Son of Adam’s race. I know you agree with that simply because of this article and the subject matter of it, LFW.

    As for His Holiness, God is “not free” and is in bondage, so to speak, to His Eternal Holiness. Otherwise He could not be Just and then the Justifier of sinners, us, who freely obeyed Satan’s will as “slaves” to sin or our own worthless and unrighteous natures inherited from the same “flesh” source, Eve.

    There simply is none righteous, no not one!

    As I read your articles I am beginning to see more clearly, grasping your understanding of these matters and surely grateful that you are not going outside the bounds of reason and being stupid and foolish as I heartily agree with your characterization of some Calvinists who have become, in taking a stand in what they believe is the Truth, extremely stupid with the likes of the idea of having arms so flap and fly. You have to admit there are equally some extremists on your side too, yes?

    Anyway, this is a good article, thought provoking for me.

    I do have to say that there is no middle ground, either you have to stand on the side of Scripture and be a slave of sin or, stand on the side of Scripture and be set free and now become by choices and hitting and missing the target, “a slave” of His Holiness and Righteousness, just like the prophecy said:

    Luk 1:67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,
    Luk 1:68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people
    Luk 1:69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David,
    Luk 1:70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
    Luk 1:71 that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us;
    Luk 1:72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant,
    Luk 1:73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
    Luk 1:74 that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear,
    Luk 1:75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

    I agree with Bob’s comment above, that your wording is brilliant: “contrary choice within certain limits”; however I hasten to say I am agreeing with your brilliance but probably from a more Calvinist leaning than Arminian.

    Is there coming another article in this sequence?

  3. Thanks for the commentary Bob and Michael. I don’t think I can classify what I write as ‘brilliant,’ but I pray that by God’s grace it’s at least sound and understandable.

    “First off, God created you. He created me. We both agree that God sent His Son to be the “enabler”. Jesus Christ…”

    Yep.

    “I am honestly having trouble with the first bit of that citation of yours because it is moot to non existent whoevers that God has not created. Can you help me out with that?”

    I was making the point that God would not have been less Holy if He had decided not to create me, therefore it stands to reason that His Holiness would not be a constraint in such a matter.

    “As for His Holiness, God is “not free” and is in bondage, so to speak…”

    Yes, Holiness is a limitation of God’s will. He cannot choose to be unholy.

    “You have to admit there are equally some extremists on your side too, yes?”

    If by our ‘side,’ you mean folks who subscribe to Synergist/Arminian doctrine, then yes, most definitely. The only caveat is that in my experience, these kind of fallacies tend to go unchecked more within Calvinist apologetics, and have become very numerous and widespread. So to answer your last question, yes, I have more articles planned.

  4. JC

    that point is well taken and I was constructing the thought poorly.

    As I have said but some want to maintain otherwise, I do not say I am either Calvinist or Arminian.

    I do agree that my “bent” is more along the lines of John Calvin than even Calvinist apologists.

    But, in any event, I can’t hold my breath much longer! 🙂

  5. JC

    I wouldn’t worry to much about being called brilliant. You may remember an animated beer commercial from some years ago where one guy says, “And we’ve put it in these handly bottles you can drink out of” to which the other guy exclaims, “Brilliant!” So maube you’re brilliant in that beer-bottle-utilitarian way! 😉

    I’m really benefiting from this series, thanks again.

    God Bless

  6. [mistakenly posted this in the previous thread when it belongs here]

    Hello JC,

    You’ve hit the nail on another one. This very common attempt by calvinists to caricature and misrepresent Arminians is one of the strongest evidences that we are not dealing with honest people. They keep engaging in this caricature though they have been corrected over and over again. Besides falsely labeling our view as a belief that free will means that you can do anything, they also like to use the term “the autonomy of man” in reference to libertarian free will (LFW).

    In their dishonest minds if you hold to LFW you must also hold that man is “autonomous” (James White in particular seems to be in love with this term and trying to foist it on non-Calvinists), that man’s will is never interfered with and left to be completely independent by God. But which non-Calvinist claims that? To have a will that is never interfered with and left to be completely independent is certainly not to be human. Humans have all sorts of limitations (again Inspector Callahan, “Dirty Harry” got it right: “a man’s got to know his limitations”)all sorts of circumstances that impinge on our plans and our prospective choices. Things come up all the time altering our plans or making us need to adjust to reality. Anyone who has lived on this earth for even a short while is well aware that none of us is in control, none of us always gets what we wants, none of us has a will that is never interfered with and left to be independent by God. These things being true, the Calvinists continue to perpetrate their false misrepresentation of free will upon people. Again, this merely shows their dishonesty.

    I even read a secular psychiatrist recently state that to believe that free will means we can do whatever we want is to confuse free will which is always limited by context and circumstances with **omnipotence**. Only God is sovereign and can do whatever he wants in any situation. If the secular person can understand this Calvinist claim about Arminians and free will is false, why can’t Calvinists see this? The answer is they don’t want to see it, they just want to keep perpetrating their fraud on people.

    “One of the most telling signs of the fallacious nature of Calvinist apologetics in general is its heavy reliance upon caricatures and misrepresentation of the beliefs of other Christians.”

    Again in doing this they parallel the cults who do the same thing. A cult cannot take on the truth, so they try to create caricatures of the truth and attack those instead (i.e. engage straw men).

    “There are few things more frustrating than trying to explain a concept to someone who simply takes one aspect of what is being said, and runs with it in a half-baked attempt to disprove it, heedless of any details or qualifications, yet this very tactic is something of a staple among Calvinism’s more vocal proponents.”

    Again, you will experience this same thing with cults. If the trinity comes up, watch how fast the caricatures and misrepresentations jump out of the cultists mouths. If the issue of “free will” comes up watch how fast the caricatures and misrepresentations jump out of Calvinists mouths.

    “Of note is the fact that libertarian free will, in the context of orthodox Christian theology, allows one to freely choose within a range of available options. Therefore depending upon individual contexts, the possible choices may be limited, and some options may not be possible.”

    This is important to state: free will is always having choices but those choices are themselves limited as to the range of options accessible to a person as well as those choices can be effected by what other persons and God does in a given situation.

    “One of the usual tactics is to frame libertarian free will as some imaginary power that lets one do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, with no restraint whatsoever.”

    Again, if that were true then we don’t have free will, we have omnipotence and sovereignty over all of our circumstances. Yeh right! I actually like to poke fun with this notion when doing sermons and bible studies. I love to point our how often our choices can be limited by circumstances beyond our control.

    “In fact His choices are so wrapped up in His nature and essence that He could not do otherwise. But God’s freedom is the real freedom defined by the Bible — a freedom from sin, not a freedom to do otherwise. God is free in the compatibilist sense in that He always acts according to His nature, never against it. God does not have ‘freedom’ to do what is contrary to His nature, so He is not free in the libertarian sense (in fact no one is).”

    These comments by Hendrix are laughable. So since God’s choices are so wrapped up in His nature and essence he had to create the world? Or did he have a choice to either create the world or not create the world? And take the necessatarians own belief in unconditional election. Was God free to choose whom he would elect and whom he would not elect, or were these choices all necessitated so he did not have a choice he had to do what he did?

    Note the false dilemma: freedom is either freedom from sin or freedom to do otherwise? Why can’t God have both? Why can’t he be free not to sin and also have choices so that with some things that he chooses to do he also could have chosen to do otherwise (Creation again being a clear example)????

    Hendrix is also confused about compatibilism. Compatibilism is the notion that all things can be predetermined and yet the person is still acting “freely”. “Freely” in quotation marks because it is not true. If all things are predetermined and thus necessitated then the person is not acting freely at all. If all is predetermined then the person never has a choice and so never acts freely. If God were free in the compatibilist sense that would mean that all of his actions were predetermined and yet he was acting freely at the same time! Anyone really want to seriously claim that is true of God? And if not, then God experiences not compatibilistic freedom but libertarian freedom (he does one thing but also could have done otherwise, his action is not necessitated or coerced ).

    Then lastly another famous and repeated false dilemma by calvinists: either God acts consistently with His nature OR God acts against his nature if he has libertarian free will (which claims that LFW is the claim that you act against your nature). The third possibility left out is that God acts with libertarian free will consistently with his nature. And this is true of humans as well: we act with libertarian free will consistent with our nature.

    “Further, Hendryx’s conclusions here don’t follow: God’s choices being constrained by His nature doesn’t amount to His choices being entirely determined by His nature.”

    This is a good observation that must be kept in mind when discussing free will. Free will simply means that you sometimes have choices and even when you have choices you will choose in line with your nature. Human nature does not allow us to fly. But human nature allows us to rationally come up with ways of flying without using our bodies alone (like creating and operating a Space Shuttle).

    “The difference between constraint and determinism can be described with a more physical case: The shoulder socket constrains how far and in which directions one’s arm joint can move (without really getting hurt anyway), but it would be silly to say that the socket itself ‘determined’ which directions one’s arms moved and when, since the joint moves freely within the range of the socket.”

    Great illustration: limited range and yet range for some movement.

    “God does have power of contrary choice, since both options were well within the range of His Holiness; He therefore is free in the libertarian sense, since as can be seen with the ball-and-socket joint, freedom within a range is still freedom.”

    If God does not experience libertarian free will, then does this mean his actions are necessitated? What about all the talk in scripture that God does as He pleases? Doesn’t doing as you please presuppose that you have choices?

    “Not that this comes as any major surprise. The scriptural case for the reality of libertarian choice is so strong, that the only ‘viable option’ left for compatibilists to save face is to burn strawmen.”

    Great point and so very true, keep up the good work JC!

    Robert

  7. Well stated Bob. While I certainly don’t think that being Calvinist makes one cultic or heretical, aside from a few honest scholars and thinkers, mainstream Calvinist apologists have made a very convincing case that their industry, in almost its entirety, a collage of willful ignorance, poor research, faulty reasoning skills (and it’s getting hard for me to suspend the inclusion of ‘intellectual dishonesty’ to that list). The fallacies they push are so prevalent, widespread, and entrenched among their leadership (how many of them still repeat the old ‘Synergism is Pelagianism’ lie? And they’ve been doing this contra all evidence for centuries!), it’s past the point of being credible at all. They’re so desperate to win converts to their ‘truth,’ that they resort to outright distortion and wild-eyed claims that anyone who disagrees with their philosophy is actually a member of some heretical movement that hasn’t had a steady following in a millennium-and-a-half.

  8. Hello JC,

    “Well stated Bob. While I certainly don’t think that being Calvinist makes one cultic or heretical, aside from a few honest scholars and thinkers, mainstream Calvinist apologists have made a very convincing case that their industry, in almost its entirety, a collage of willful ignorance, poor research, faulty reasoning skills (and it’s getting hard for me to suspend the inclusion of ‘intellectual dishonesty’ to that list).”

    Let me be clear so that others do not misunderstand what I am saying. I am not saying that calvinists are cultists as cultists are persons who deny essentials of the Christian faith such as the deity of Christ, the trinity, justification by faith not by works, etc. I am saying that in their methodologies and their practices, their way of dealing with the “opposition” their actions perfectly parallel the actions of the cults. There is the same “us versus them” mentality, the same we are the only ones that have things right everybody else is wrong (and these others are seen as false teachers and even hell bound non-believers). The same allegiance to an authority that is higher than the scripture for them (in their case the calvinistic system of theology and interpretation). The same method of proof texting from verses taken out of context or isolated in order to “prove their preconceived notions” just like the cults do. The same twisting and reinterpretations of biblical texts that clearly contradict and invalidate their system (e.g. look at the mangling of John 3:16 and 1 John 2:2 for instance). The same authoritarian structure and commitments to certain leaders who function like gurus in cults (e.g. the allegiance to Piper, MacArthur and Sproul). The parallels with cults are all there.

    “The fallacies they push are so prevalent, widespread, and entrenched among their leadership (how many of them still repeat the old ‘Synergism is Pelagianism’ lie? And they’ve been doing this contra all evidence for centuries!), it’s past the point of being credible at all.”

    This is again exactly the kind of thing that cults do as well. They attack all others as false. They attack others by engaging in logical fallacies, false misrepresentations and caricatures (despite the fact these false misrepresentations and caricatures have been corrected repeatedly) and constantly twisting scriptures away from their original and intended meanings to meanings conducive of the teachings of the cult, meanings that fit their theological system. Cults are constantly in an attack mode against all others, this is true of Calvinists as well. If anything they are worse than cults in this area as they have been doing these things longer than the cults have even been around (the JW’s and Mormons have not been engaging in their practices for centuries as the Calvinists have done so).

    “They’re so desperate to win converts to their ‘truth,’ that they resort to outright distortion and wild-eyed claims that anyone who disagrees with their philosophy is actually a member of some heretical movement that hasn’t had a steady following in a millennium-and-a-half.”

    Again, the parallels with cults are most definitely there and are sad but nevertheless real. I have seen the same kind of hostility and hatefulness from Calvinists against their “opponents” as I have seen coming from JW’s when supporting and defending the Watchtower organization. And as you state here they are desperate to make converts, just as the cults are. Their aim is not primarily to convert people to Christianity and produce mature Christian disciples, but to convert Christians to Calvinism. It is not enough to be a Christian and be mature in ones character and producing God-pleasing fruit, they want all Christians to think and interpret just like them. And look especially at their treatment of Christians who oppose Calvinism, it is not a pretty picture at all.

    Robert

  9. Robert,

    I will delete your same comment in the other thread since it belongs in this thread.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  10. This is a great quote: “it’s libertarian free will, not libertarian free super-powers”

    It is amazing and sad that such a statement needs to be made. It shows up typical C misunderstanding of the issues and the A position. But alas, the need to clarify this is there, and this is a great articulation.

  11. I saw that Steve Hays over at Triablogue made a response to this post. In it he makes the following statement:

    Quote:

    “Arminians believe in libertarian freedom, defined as the freedom to do otherwise (or choose otherwise). But one problem with this belief is the total absence of any empirical evidence to substantiate their belief. For we only make one choice at a time. Arminians think freedom of choice entails the freedom to choose between two or more options. But we have no experience in choosing each option. Therefore, we have no evidence that the options we didn’t choose were ever in play.”

    Unquote

    Hays apparently assumes that the fact that “we only make one choice at a time” somehow vouches for his claim that there is a “total absence of any empirical evidence to substantiate” the belief that one can “choose between two or more options.” But I do not see how this follows (perhaps he might say that I’ve not been programmed to see it?).

    I personally know of numerous instances in my own life where I’ve have had “experience in choosing each option” available to me in a certain circumstance. For instance, in putting a quarter into a kiddy ride for my 2-year-old daughter, I have the option of putting the quarter face up or face down. In the many times that I’ve put my daughter on a kiddy ride, I’ve exercised the choice to do both: to insert one quarter into the machine face up and another face down at the same time, since the machine requires that two quarters be placed into the delivery mechanism at the same time. Perhaps Hays would argue that I have no choice to put both quarters face up at the same time, but I’ve done this as well. I’ve even put both quarters in face down at the same time. With each repetition, I’m given the same options, and I can vary my choices from instance to instance. I can even choose not to put any quarters into the machine, or to put something other than quarters into the machine.

    Similarly, when I’m in the grocery store, I can choose to put two packs of yogurt or four packs of yogurt into my shopping cart. Does Hays deny that I have this choice? I’m sorry for him if he does. He seems like a most miserable individual in such a case.

  12. There’s no empirical for the resurrection of Christ either, but not all evidence has to be empirical. The fact that we can choose between options (such as between sin and obedience God), is more than just intuitive, it’s plainly spelled out in scripture.

    Not that Hays hasn’t tried to ‘refute’ that as well, but his answers amounted to little more than lame and far-fetched contrivances and claiming that a credentialed scholar was fictitious.

  13. “But we have no experience in choosing each option.”

    — wow i felt stupid the second i read this. I think my intelligennce dropped 1%. See? I can’t even spelll now.

  14. Hello Benjamin,

    “Hays apparently assumes that the fact that “we only make one choice at a time” somehow vouches for his claim that there is a “total absence of any empirical evidence to substantiate” the belief that one can “choose between two or more options.” But I do not see how this follows (perhaps he might say that I’ve not been programmed to see it?).”

    Benjamin first you need to realize who you are dealing with. Steve Hays wants to believe that God has predetermined, predecided all events that occur as part of history. So Hays espouses **exhaustive determinism**(ED). ED completely precludes and eliminates us from ever having any choices. So Hays in order to protect, defend, and maintain his view, ED, feels compelled to try to come up with arguments against the reality that we sometimes have free will. Because free will/having choices is reality, Hays’ arguments will always upon close inspection turn out to be false and unpersuasive. You cannot argue with the reality that God designed and created and win!  You may try, but you will look foolish and your efforts are doomed to failure. It reminds me of what one of my mentors used to say: You cannot break God’s laws, they will break you (meaning that when you go against God’s laws you go against His design, you go against reality and you will lose).

    Benjamin you also need to remember that Hays is desperate so his arguments will be desperate as well. He wants to argue there is no “empirical evidence” for the reality of us ever having choices. What does he mean by “empirical evidence”? All of us have directly experienced numerous times when we had and made a choice in our minds. No one else say these choices, they are not external to our minds, not verifiable in a laboratory. But are they real? They are just as real as other thoughts that we have had and experienced in our minds. And again consider what Hays has to prove to prove his belief in ED. He has to prove that we never ever have and make choices in our minds! Note that he also has to in attempting to make this silly argument, argue against his own personal experience of having and making choices (in other words we are dealing with someone in denial of reality). I liken the determinist arguing against the reality of having choices to the person who argues they do not have a mind. Stop and think about it for a minute, this guy denying that he has a mind, WHAT DOES HE USE IN CONSRUCTING HIS ARGUMENTS THAT HE DOES NOT HAVE A MIND?? That’s right, he uses his own mind, the very thing he denies exists he has to use to make his denial. That is called self refuting or a stultifying argument (popularly compared to cutting the tree limb off of the limb that you are sitting on, or “shooting yourself in the foot”).

    And Benjamin when Hays makes his arguments for the non-reality of us ever having choices: does he choose which arguments he is going to use against the reality of us having choices? And the words he uses in his arguments, doesn’t he have and make choices in regards to the actual words he uses or does not use in presenting his arguments? You see he cannot escape the reality of having and making choices. He is no different than the guy denying that he has a mind and using his mind in making the denial. In Hays case he denies we ever have choices but then he has and makes choices in regards to what arguments he will use against reality and what words he will use in presenting his arguments. His false view then is self –refuting and stultifying.

    And then consider the total absurdity of what he thinks we need to prove to prove the existence of having and making choices:

    “For we only make one choice at a time. Arminians think freedom of choice entails the freedom to choose between two or more options. But we have no experience in choosing each option. Therefore, we have no evidence that the options we didn’t choose were ever in play.”

    We all make only one choice at a time because of the nature of reality as created by God. God created a rational and orderly world where intentional and freely made choices would be possible. Hays is right that we think free will “entails the freedom to choose between two or more options”. If we do not have a choice, then we are not acting freely. But notice the next claim: “we have no evidence that the options we didn’t choose were ever in play.” Due to the nature of having and making choices, when we select one option we necessarily did not select other mutually exclusive options. I say mutually exclusive because imagine what would happen if when choosing, and the options involved mutually exclusive possibilities, we could actualize both mutally exclusive possibilities.

    A world where I could at the same time in answer to a professor’s question in a class BOTH lift up my left hand and keep my left hand down at the same time would not prove we had a choice it would prove that the world was irrational. A world where we could actualize mutually exclusive possibilities would be irrational and absurd. And that is not the world that god created. He created a world where you could choose to lift up your hand in that class or you could choose to keep your hand down, but not both simultaneously. Hays also argues that for free will to be true, we would have to simultaneously choose the option we did not choose and choose the option we did choose. But that again intentionally ignores reality, the structure of having a choice. If I choose to lift up my arm, then I cannot simultaneously choose not to lift up my arm and keep it down. The fact that I actually choose to lift my arm up does not mean that I could not have done otherwise and instead chosen to keep my arm down. Hays wants to argue that since we never actualize the choice that we chose not to choose, therefore we never have any experience or evidence of having a choice. But again he is only playing semantic word games based upon the nature of choosing (by its nature if I choose A I cannot have chosen not-A , at the same time, but free will is not the claim that to do otherwise means that I can simultaneously choose A and not-A at the same time). This argument also shows that Hays likes to play dirty pool, again his argument is desperate but not convincing (unless you want to choose to accept such a weak and inept argument).

    Benjamin you then gave some good examples of mundane situations where you had a choice.

    “I personally know of numerous instances in my own life where I’ve have had “experience in choosing each option” available to me in a certain circumstance.”

    In other words you have had experiences of having and then making choices. The same kinds of experiences that we all have had (including determinists who deny their own experiences).

    “For instance, in putting a quarter into a kiddy ride for my 2-year-old daughter, I have the option of putting the quarter face up or face down. In the many times that I’ve put my daughter on a kiddy ride, I’ve exercised the choice to do both: to insert one quarter into the machine face up and another face down at the same time, since the machine requires that two quarters be placed into the delivery mechanism at the same time.”

    Good example of having and making a choice.

    “Perhaps Hays would argue that I have no choice to put both quarters face up at the same time, but I’ve done this as well. I’ve even put both quarters in face down at the same time. With each repetition, I’m given the same options, and I can vary my choices from instance to instance. I can even choose not to put any quarters into the machine, or to put something other than quarters into the machine.”

    Hays being the determinist would claim that you believed you had a choice but this belief was mistaken, illusory. He would claim that in reality you only and always did the action that God had predetermined that you would do in each instance and in every detail.

    “Similarly, when I’m in the grocery store, I can choose to put two packs of yogurt or four packs of yogurt into my shopping cart.”

    Another example most of us have experienced ourselves.

    “Does Hays deny that I have this choice?”
    Yes he does. He does so not because that is reality but because of his commitment to his deterministic beliefs. He denies and argues against reality in order to promote, defend and maintain his Calvinism/exhaustive determinism.

    “I’m sorry for him if he does. He seems like a most miserable individual in such a case.”

    I am not sure that he is miserable as he is **convinced in his own mind**, that his mind does not exist, Oh my mistake, wrong skeptic, I mean he is happy to believe in his exhaustive determinism. Where he gets in trouble is that his false beliefs contradict his own experience so he has to be in major denial of his own daily experience. His false beliefs contradict scripture so he has to mangle and reinterpret scripture so that it fits his false beliefs in determinism. He also has to go against the reality that God designed and created so he will be frustrated over and over in his attempts to prove his false beliefs to be reality. He is also doomed to be arguing against reality an argument that he cannot win.

    He also will appear to be quite foolish to others who are aware of reality and see him repeatedly shooting himself in the foot. I guess you may easily recognize him for his permanent hobbling walk. Caused by innumerable shots in the foot with his own gun! 🙂 Some people just refuse to learn that you cannot argue with reality and win.

    Robert

  15. As I expected he would do, Hays has responded to my comments above. He writes (http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2009/07/heads-up-on-heads-up.html):

    “This is a good example of somebody who lacks basic reasoning skills. He’s not inserting the same coin face up and face down at the same time. Rather, he’s inserting two different coins at two different times. Therefore, he has no experience doing otherwise in the very same situation.”

    As is typical with his type of “apologetic,” Hays first seeks to disparage the commenter. According to him, I am “a good example of somebody who lacks basic reasoning skills.” Were that so, I doubt I could navigate the web effectively enough to find his post and quote it here as I have done.

    Then he says that I’m “not inserting the same coin face up and face down at the same time.” It’s unclear how Hays can know what I’m doing, since he’s not been there with me when I’mdoing whatever it is that I’m supposedly doing. He’s assuming that I’m doing something in a certain way, but he does not say explicitly how he knows this. But why suppose that “inserting the same coin face up and face down at the same time” is the only form of empirical evidence for having a choice in the matter we should accept? Hays does not explain this either. Is he saying that I did not have a choice in placing a quarter face up or face down? If so, I’d really like to see his argument for this. His conclusion is that I have “no experience doing otherwise in the very same situation.” But how does he know this? He does not say. I’ve had many experiences. But how would Hays know what my experiences are, or are not? This he needs to explain, but he does not. Rather, as is typical with Hays, he uses this as an opportunity to take pot-shots at those who call his statements into question. I predict that he’ll do the same with my present comments.

  16. I predict that he’ll do the same with my present comments.

    Whatever he does, he can rest assured that he had no choice in the matter 😉

  17. Benjamin,

    You make a solid point here. Hays insists that we have no emperical evidence for making choices (i.e choosing among real alternatives), yet he cannot produce emperical evidence that we do not make such choices. Maybe I am underestimating him. Maybe he will produce emperical evidence that we never make real choices (without appealing to intuitive claims concerning our always choosing according to our greatest desire, etc.). Time will tell.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  18. Hello Benjamin and Ben,

    “This is a good example of somebody who lacks basic reasoning skills. He’s not inserting the same coin face up and face down at the same time. Rather, he’s inserting two different coins at two different times. Therefore, he has no experience doing otherwise in the very same situation.”

    “As is typical with his type of “apologetic,” Hays first seeks to disparage the commenter. According to him, I am “a good example of somebody who lacks basic reasoning skills.””

    He continues to engage in belittling comments and rude put downs such as the one aimed at you. Even if your argument was weak (and I am not saying that it was) it was not necessary to attack you with “a good example of somebody who lacks basic reasoning skills.”

    “Then he says that I’m “not inserting the same coin face up and face down at the same time.” It’s unclear how Hays can know what I’m doing, since he’s not been there with me when I’m doing whatever it is that I’m supposedly doing. He’s assuming that I’m doing something in a certain way, but he does not say explicitly how he knows this.”

    He is simply presenting his argument in line with his commitment to exhaustive determinism: remember that **according to him** you never ever have a choice.

    “But why suppose that “inserting the same coin face up and face down at the same time” is the only form of empirical evidence for having a choice in the matter we should accept? Hays does not explain this either.”

    Hays is intentionally creating a position that he claims is the position of those who believe in free will (i.e. libertarians who believe that we can do otherwise, who believe that we do have choices) and then attacking the misrepresentation of our position. In logic this is called the fallacy of “straw man” (you attack a misrepresentation of the other person’s position rather than what they really hold to, in attacking the misrepresentation you then claim “victory” over the real position that was intentionally misrepresented).

    “Is he saying that I did not have a choice in placing a quarter face up or face down? If so, I’d really like to see his argument for this.”

    He cannot prove this, he merely assumes it.

    “His conclusion is that I have “no experience doing otherwise in the very same situation.” But how does he know this? He does not say. I’ve had many experiences. But how would Hays know what my experiences are, or are not? This he needs to explain, but he does not.”

    Now note carefully his words that you have “no experience doing otherwise in the very same situation.” Think about how this misrepresents the claim that we have a choice. Say that you really have a choice about whether or not to put a particular quarter into the slot either up (call this option #1) or down (call this option #2). And let’s call the action that you end up doing, the choice that was actualized the actual outcome (since putting the quarter into the slot up and down concerns mutually exclusive options, you can only as an actual outcome put it in down or put it in up, you cannot simultaneously put in in up and down at the same time, that would be actualizing a contradiction, I talked about that in my previous post here that you can do either one but not both because God created a rational and orderly world where this kind of thing cannot happen). What does a proponent of free will/having a choice/libertarian free will claim then with respect to these two options? We claim that **prior to the actual outcome** (which will be either putting the quarter in up, or putting the quarter in down), up until the choice is made/the actual outcome takes place, we can actualize either option (we can put it in up or put it in down). Now once the choice is made, the actual outcome occurs, we cannot un-ring the bell (if we chose to put it in up, then we cannot go back and do it over and put it in down; nor vice versa if we chose to put it in down, then we cannot go back and do it over and put it in up). This is another way that Hays intentionally misrepresents our position: he will make claims that we only have a choice if we can do otherwise than we in fact did (so if we put it in up, he thinks we should be able to go back and put it in down instead thus proving that we had a choice, but this confuses and ignores the nature of actual outcomes, once the actual outcome occurs you cannot go back and un-do it or do otherwise than you did in fact do, but this is not an argument against free will, it is an argument against a reality where you could do things over, do things differently than you did even though what you did is an actual outcome, it is a serious misunderstanding of the nature of actual outcomes).

    “Rather, as is typical with Hays, he uses this as an opportunity to take pot-shots at those who call his statements into question. I predict that he’ll do the same with my present comments.”

    Unfortunately you are probably right, instead of engaging in your points in a rational and civil manner he just has to engage in the “pot-shots”, personal insults and put downs, snide remarks, condescending remarks, etc.

    Ben wrote:

    “Whatever he does, he can rest assured that he had no choice in the matter.”

    Actually that is quite true in regards to his own beliefs. One of my friends sees exhaustive determinism as one of the greatest cop-outs ever invented by man. Whatever you do, you can always respond that you have no choice in the matter, you were only doing what God or the fates or the laws of nature or your brain, or your upbringing or your genes or natural selection or the devil made you do. You can’t help yourself, you are only following orders from the necessitating factor that necessitates everything that you do.

    Ben continued:

    “You make a solid point here. Hays insists that we have no empirical evidence for making choices (i.e choosing among real alternatives), yet he cannot produce empirical evidence that we do not make such choices. Maybe I am underestimating him.”

    Actually Ben perhaps you are not seeing his position accurately. He does not believe that we ever have choices, so we are never “choosing among real alternatives”, we do not have access to multiple alternatives when making a choice according to this necessatarian. Instead, while we may believe that we have access to multiple alternatives, if God has predetermined our every thought, movement and action, we can and always will only choose the alternative that he predecided that we would choose. You may not agree with this Ben, but Hays believes that while we never ever have choices, we do make choices (the choices that God predetermined for us to make).

    Regarding the “empirical evidence” as most of our having and making choices occur in our minds or spirits or souls, they are not visible to any other human person, they are known only to us and to God who knows all things, they cannot be measured scientifically or observed scientifically. But that is OK, because good and evil, rational inferences, logic, planning are all things that are real and in our minds directly experienced by us and yet not accessible scientifically or empirically. Now it is true that many of our actions will be observable. But scientific empirical testing and observation cannot speak in the area of ethics, free will and the actions of immaterial souls acting through their physical bodies.

    “Maybe he will produce empirical evidence that we never make real choices (without appealing to intuitive claims concerning our always choosing according to our greatest desire, etc.). Time will tell.”

    Now Ben you bring up a very, very important point when you talk about what evidence he will provide to confirm his view. The legal maxim of proof is that he asserts must prove. So if Hays wants to assert that we never ever have a choice then HIS BURDEN OF PROOF is to show that we never ever have a choice. In logic this means that his burden of proof involves PROVING A UNIVERSAL NEGATIVE (i.e. that we never ever have a choice). And it needs to be noted that while a universal negative is extremely difficult to prove, it is easy to disprove, you only need one positive counter evidence and the theory is falsified.

    If I claim that all crows are white (that amounts to claiming that no crow is non-white) then all someone needs to do to disprove my universal negative claim is to provide one non-white crow. Just one and my universal negative is refuted. And that is the exact place where Hays finds himself. As he espouses exhaustive determinism (and exhaustive determinism includes the universal negative that we never ever have a choice), he is in effect arguing that all crows are white (or no crows are non-white) when it comes to having a choice. Since he claims that we never do, we only need one counter example of a situation where we do have a choice and his whole theory of exhaustive determinism is refuted. And do we have any instances of having a choice to appeal to? Yes, tons and tons of them. From our own experiences as well as the experiences of others to the bible passages where people had choices, the available evidence is ABSOLUTELY OVERWHELMINGLY AGAINST EXHAUSTIVE DETERMINISM. As I said to Benjamin in my previous post the guy like Hays that argues we never have a choice is like the guy who argues that he does not have a mind. The evidence is overwhelmingly against him and even when he argues his position he necessarily involves himself in the very reality that he denies exists. That is an extremely weak position to be in.

    That’s why it is not hard to identify Steve Hays as he goes limping by having shot himself in the foot yet again. 

    Robert

  19. Robert,

    You wrote,

    Actually Ben perhaps you are not seeing his position accurately. He does not believe that we ever have choices, so we are never “choosing among real alternatives”, we do not have access to multiple alternatives when making a choice according to this necessatarian.

    Yes, I understand that, and that is what I would like him to prove empirically- that we do not have access to multiple alternatives (at least two) when making a choice.

    But scientific empirical testing and observation cannot speak in the area of ethics, free will and the actions of immaterial souls acting through their physical bodies.

    Exactly.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  20. […] Thibodaux gives a useful illustration. God’s choices being constrained by His nature doesn’t amount to His choices being entirely […]

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