The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics – Fallacy #5: Choices Apart From Intent?

Related Fallacies:
Strawman
Begging the Question

“While libertarians uphold the philosophy that “choice without sufficient cause” is what makes one responsible, the compatibilist, on the other hand, looks to Scripture which testifies that it is because our choices have motives and desires that moral responsibility is actually established. Responsibility requires that our acts, of necessity, be intentional….” (Eleven (11) Reasons to Reject Libertarian Free Will, John Hendryx)

“And so if you ask the question, “Why did you pull the trigger?” [When] a murder is committed. Why did you pull the trigger? Well any reason you give for why the trigger is pulled, or any set of reasons you give for why the trigger is pulled is the identical reason or set of reasons for why if you hadn’t pulled the trigger you didn’t pull the trigger. So how is that an explanation for how an action is performed? This will not hold up in a court of law -people look for motives! They look for the reason why actions are performed.” (Dr. Bruce Ware, arguing against libertarian free will)

This one is quite the caricature. Libertarian free will is generally defined as ‘contrary choice’ or ‘ability to choose otherwise.’ Determinists, in response, employ a rather lame and preposterous absurdity to discredit it by trying to separate such acts of will from our intentions.

Problems With This Logic

To the assertion that ‘we choose according to our intentions,’ I can only reply: Of course we choose according to what we intend. It would be quite a feat to make deliberate choices that we don’t intend to make. To understand the logical flaw in the Calvinist argument, we first must understand their ideas about motives and intents:

In the Determinist view, our motives and intentions are not of our own independent making, but are conferred upon us or irresistibly raised within us by some stimuli; in such a scheme, we don’t really have any autonomous control over what we intend. If we can’t control what we intend, then it naturally follows that we can’t control what we choose. The Calvinist case here essentially states,

We can’t choose otherwise since we can’t intend otherwise.

Which is why Dr. Ware’s argument borders on incoherence: it amounts to stating, “if you do or don’t pull the trigger, it must be for the exact same reason.” Such a statement only makes sense if one already assumes that people have no control over their intents/reasons for how they act.

Arguing that we can’t choose differently by asserting that we can’t intend differently is nothing more than begging the question of the human will’s operation being completely predetermined. Such an argument hinges upon removing contrary choice from one of its necessary implications, namely, freedom in our intentions. The term ‘contrary choice’ describes the net effect without stating every detail (as do many concise descriptions), freedom to intend differently being a fairly obvious inference, despite the overly simplistic attempts of Calvinist apologists to divorce them. For a choice to be a deliberate or ‘willful’ choice, it must by definition be an intentional choice. Conscious choices aren’t made apart from intentions; intentions are integral and inseparable components of deliberate choices! Power to choose otherwise then necessarily entails power to intend otherwise.

The whole ‘choice apart from intention’ canard is nothing more than a rather poorly constructed strawman that doesn’t accurately reflect the biblical view of libertarian free will at all. The Bible doesn’t portray our intents as something irresistibly thrust upon us, but rather instructs us to act with good intention in our hearts rather than impure motives.

Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart…. (1 Peter 1:22)

Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men…. (Ephesians 6:5-7)

“So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:22)

It doesn’t state, “God will cause you to give willingly,” but rather commands us to give out of a willing heart. By His grace, God frees us to act in good intent towards Him.

To conclude, upon examination, these arguments that Calvinists offer against the reality of free will amount to no more than nonsensical attempts at showing how ridiculous libertarian freedom seems if one assumes determinism with regards to our intents. Such an assumption is unfounded, since a doctrine dependent upon the idea that we can’t control what we intend strains one’s sense of credulity when the scriptures plainly propose that very thing.

Advertisements

12 Responses

  1. Hello JC,

    Bruce Ware says: ““And so if you ask the question, “Why did you pull the trigger?” [When] a murder is committed. Why did you pull the trigger? Well any reason you give for why the trigger is pulled, or any set of reasons you give for why the trigger is pulled is the identical reason or set of reasons for why if you hadn’t pulled the trigger you didn’t pull the trigger. So how is that an explanation for how an action is performed?”

    This is one of the most idiotic comments that I have ever heard from a professional theologian/philosopher.

    He has made this same statement on different occasions so this is no mere accident. He is intentionally trying to caricature and misrepresent the LFW view.

    What Arminian or other proponent of LFW says that the guy pulling the trigger HAS EXACTLY THE SAME REASON TO ***BOTH*** PULL THE TRIGGER OR REFRAIN FROM PULLING THE TRIGGER????????

    Ware creates this **straw man** and then compounds it by asking: “how is that an explanation for how an action is performed?” He is right it provides no explanation for why the person pulled the trigger or didn’t pull the trigger.

    What I have seen Ware in other places argue is that when (1)we do or (2)do not do something (say choose to shoot someone with a gun or choose not to shoot someone with a gun: or say choose this ice cream flavor rather than this one) we have the ***EXACT SAME REASON*** to do either action. The reality is that that we do our intentional actions for reasons in light of what we consider to be important. Take the example of shooting someone. Say “Joe” is a gang member and in his gang one of the things you do to gain more respect is to shoot a gang member from another gang (so if it is important to him to have this respect, that is one of his importances). But Joe has also committed other crimes so he knows if he shoots the other guy and gets caught he could be facing a very long time in prison (it is important to him not to be in prison). So for each contemplated action (choose to pull the trigger or choose not to pull the trigger) he has different importances associated with each alternative. He will decide which one to do, either way he decides, he does so in light of, in consideration of, his importances (so he does not act randomly his action either way that he chooses is not chance or random or without reasons). He also has the ability to choose which choice he will actualize. Ware’s presentation is completely out of touch with what people commonly believe, what proponents of LFW believe, so why does he keep perpetuating this intentional misrepresentation of the LFW view?? Again, this is further evidence of dishonesty on the part of Calvinist apologists. If they represented our view properly and then attempted to show problems with **that**, I could respect that though I would disagree with them. But to keep on presenting these ridiculous caricatures over and over and over again, indicates massive dishonesty on the part of those who keep perpetuating these misrepresentations.

    Robert

  2. Yeah, it’s pretty ridiculous. It still amazes me how many Calvinist scholars even still perpetrate such an obvious fallacy. Intention and choice go hand in hand. What they’re arguing is akin to quibbling,

    “If you could steer the car to the right or the left, that would mean that the steering wheel would be turned exactly the same way for either direction.”

  3. Well, obviously freel will is more important to you than anything else:) So important that it leaves salvation a guessing game. The Arminian can be no more certain of salvation than the Roman Catholic who thinks salvation must be merited by good works.

    “Ware’s presentation is completely out of touch with what people commonly believe….” This about sums up the Arminian argument. Your appeal is to what people “commonly believe” rather than to what Scripture has to say on the issues. Scripture clearly points to God’s sovereignty as well as to man’s accountability. You do welll with the 2nd half but poorly on the first.

    Calvinism, otoh, accepts both the absolute sovereignty of God and human accountability.

  4. The real truth is that Arminianism is based more on common perception and philosophical interpolations than upon Scripture.

  5. Charlie,

    You wrote,

    Well, obviously freel will is more important to you than anything else:) So important that it leaves salvation a guessing game. The Arminian can be no more certain of salvation than the Roman Catholic who thinks salvation must be merited by good works.

    If any system makes salvation a guessing game, it would be Calvinism.

    Perseverance of the Saints Part 13: Salvation Assurance

    The Five Dilemmas of Calvinism Part 3: Who’s Really Holding the Daisy?

    God Bless,
    Ben

  6. Charlie,

    You wrote,

    The real truth is that Arminianism is based more on common perception and philosophical interpolations than upon Scripture.

    Assertions are fun, but prove nothing (except the fact that you have your own opinion). Of course, I would counter assert that it is Calvinism that relies heavily on philosophical arguments (and poor ones at that), rather than on sound Biblical exegesis. BTW, this series is addressing Calvinist philosophical arguments against free will. Had you noticed that?

    God Bless,
    Ben

  7. Charlie,

    Well, obviously freel will is more important to you than anything else

    Sorry, that sentence didn’t follow.

    “Ware’s presentation is completely out of touch with what people commonly believe….” This about sums up the Arminian argument. Your appeal is to what people “commonly believe” rather than to what Scripture has to say on the issues.

    If you will notice Mr. Ray, I make no appeals to what people commonly believe; I pointed out that freedom of intention is a logically necessary component of libertarian free will, which Dr. Ware’s argument implicitly denies.

    Scripture clearly points to God’s sovereignty as well as to man’s accountability.

    Quite true. The big difference being that we don’t attempt to redefine ‘sovereignty’ as ‘exhaustive micro-management.’

  8. hey, no offense intended, but, @Charlie, are you a newbie Calvinist?

  9. rex,

    I was wondering the same thing, but one doesn’t have to be a newbie to have failed to advance beyond the ”cage stage” 😉

  10. Hello Charlie,

    Your comments are just unsubstanciated rants that you are spewing out here. Ranting, and ranting off the topic of the discussion is not going to help any of us here.

    “Well, obviously freel will is more important to you than anything else:) So important that it leaves salvation a guessing game. The Arminian can be no more certain of salvation than the Roman Catholic who thinks salvation must be merited by good works.”

    What is more important for us and hopefully for you as well is to figure out what is the bible revealing about God, man, and God’s plan of salvation. Both our daily experience as well as scripture indicate that we have choices and make choices and that God holds us responsible for the choices that we make. If we think about God he also seems to have and make choices. So if “free will” is seen simply as sometimes having and making choices, then its reality seems firmly established. Looking both at God and ourselves, both He and us seem to have and make choices so it appears that we have “free will.” If we examine scripture to see God’s plan of salvation we see that God says He desires the salvation of all and provides Christ as a provision of atonement for all. We also see that the mere provision of atonement is not sufficient to save individuals. Individuals must come to the Lord and respond in faith to the gospel message. The bible also teaches that no one can understand spiritual things including the gospel, unless the Holy Spirit reveals these things to the individual. The atonement is provided for all and yet scripture also clearly teaches that not all respond in faith to the gospel. So not all are saved (i.e. universalism is false), nor is it true that none are saved (i.e., the bible makes it clear that those who trust Him, those who respond in faith to the gospel will be saved).

    “Your appeal is to what people “commonly believe” rather than to what Scripture has to say on the issues. Scripture clearly points to God’s sovereignty as well as to man’s accountability. You do welll with the 2nd half but poorly on the first.”

    The appeal to what people commonly believe only confirms that most people fully understand what we mean by free will (again, that sometimes we have and make choices). Again, both our daily experience as well as scripture provides numerous examples of situations where people ***had and made a choice***.

    Regarding God’s sovereignty there is no contradiction between God being sovereign (i.e., having the right and authority and ability to do as He pleases in any and all situations) and us sometimes having and making choices. There is no contradiction because ithe two because it is God himself who ***sovereignly designed human persons to be capable of having and making choices***. We have this capacity only because God designed us this way. Someone might argue that God could have made us creatures who never ever have and make choices, but that is not the reality we find ourselves in. Again, we find ourselves as persons capable of having and making choices and God tell us that we are accountable for the choices that we make.

    There is only a CONTRADICTION between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will if you mistakenly equate sovereignty with EXHAUSTIVE DETERMINISM (if God predecided every event and every outcome and then ensures that all of these predecided events occur as history, then of course we don’t have free will because then we would never ever have a choice).

    “Calvinism, otoh, accepts both the absolute sovereignty of God and human accountability.”

    I accept both the absolute sovereignty of God and human accountability as well. I think we both agree about the nature of human accountability (that God holds us all accountable for what we do and will judge all of us at the final judgment). So the disagreement is not there. That means it has to be in regards to how we conceive of God’s sovereignty. My study of scripture convinces me that it means that he has the right and authority to do whatever He wants in any and all situations.

    The Calvinists take it further and argue that sovereignty does not mean that he does as He pleases, but that HE HAS PREDETERMINED AND PREDECIDED EVERY EVENT THAT WILL OCCUR IN TIME, DECIDING THESE THINGS IN ETERNITY, AND THEN ENSURING THAT THEY OCCUR IN TIME. But that is **not** biblical sovereignty, that is EQUATING DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY WITH EXHAUSTIVE DETERMINISM.

    “The real truth is that Arminianism is based more on common perception and philosophical interpolations than upon Scripture.”

    I can show verses that speak of God’s sovereignty, that speak of Him doing as He pleases in any and all situation. So my view of sovereignty is based directly on scripture. The claim that sovereignty **is** exhaustive determinism is the philosophical interpolation which necessitarian Calvinists impose upon and read into scripture.

    I can also show verses that clearly present the reality that we sometimes have and make choices.

    So my views on both “free will” and God’s sovereignty are based directly on what scripture reveals. It is Calvinism and its beliefs (including TULIP) that is INTERPOLATED INTO SCRIPTURE by necessatarians attempting to “interpret” the bible by means of their necessitarian system. You’ve got the cart ahead of the horse: instead of basing your conclusions on scripture you start with an extra-biblical man-made deterministic system, you then force scripture to fit this system or reinterpret scripture so that it appears to fit this system, RATHER THAN BASING YOUR CONCLUSIONS ON WHAT SCRIPTURE SAYS.

    Robert

  11. … ok i sincerely apologize for asking that question. on with the discussion then.

  12. JC,

    I’m Just coming off of vacation so I’m a bit behind the conversation. Anyways just wanted to say thanks again, these have been very beneficial posts.

    Bob

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: