“Could you please give a response to this atheist’s comments regarding free will?”
This is the objection that Shawn quoted from an atheist:
“I don’t know that I consider “Do what I say our I’ll torture you with fire,” free will.
Also, there seem to be some plot holes with the angels. If they don’t have free will, then they couldn’t have fallen. And why would people wish to go to heaven just to have their free will stripped from them, if it’s a good thing to have? But if it’s not a good thing to have, then why were we created with it?
A guy walks up and puts a gun to the head of your closest loved one. He says, “Do exactly as I say and no one gets hurt. Otherwise I’m going to hurt you in ways you can’t even imagine, then I’ll kill you.”
Do you thank him for giving you this free will? Would you honestly call this a legitimate choice?
If his demands are met and he leaves you unarmed, do you praise him for his mercy? Perhaps, but that is called Stockholm Syndrome and it’s a very sad condition.”
Evan Osborne responds:
To begin my response to this objection, I’d like to begin by describing the three primary theological positions regarding the will of man.
THREE VIEWS ON GOD’S PROVIDENCE
1.) Libertarianism: the belief that man has free will. This can follow a number of forms. There is a more general libertarianism, which says that God is in control of all things, yet limits his will for the sake of having free creatures. There is also the perspective of Molinism, which basically asserts that God knows all possible choices a person may make in any given situation, and that he even knows what happens given the choice a person will make, but, in order to have free creatures, out of the number of choices a person can make in an instance, God does not know which choice the human will make. In this case, man is free due to God’s ignorance regarding a particular choice. Finally, there is Open Theism, which, in order to reconcile free will with God’s foreknowledge of what his creatures will do, denies that God knows the future exhaustively. Therefore, God doesn’t have foreknowledge in order to control what humans do. This view, adhered to primarily by Arminians, believes in FREE WILL.
2.) Compatibilism: This, the official position of Answers For Hope on this topic, teaches that God’s absolutely sovereign will is “compatible” with man’s will. According to this view, since God is sovereign (in control of all things), then this would consistently include man’s will. In that case, man’s will is not free, but is itself limited by God’s sovereign will. However, according to compatibilist thought, man still has a will, and God ultimately works human actions through the choices of human beings, therefore having us as secondary causes of events. This view, adhered to primarily by Reformed Christians, still believing in A will, ultimately believes in LIMITED WILL.
3.) Determinism: This perspective takes compatibilism further, limiting man’s will by God’s sovereignty to the point where man has no will at all, and is simply a puppet or a machine completely controlled by God (notice, that this description is for determinism, and therefore the charge of “fatalism” or “humans being robots” does not apply to compatibilism). On this view, God is the author of sin, and there is no point in human actions, such as prayer, evangelism, etc. This view, adhered to mainly by Hypercalvinists, believes in NO WILL.
Now that we’ve given an introduction into the three perspectives, let’s look at the objections raised in the question above, and give a reasonable response. Since Answers For Hope holds to Reformed theology, I will be giving a compatibilist response to the question above (For those intersted, Ben has given a biblical case for compatibilism in his article, “A Presentation of the Sovereignty of God,” and the comments following it will be very helpful as well).
“I don’t know that I consider “Do what I say our I’ll torture you with fire” free will.”
This at the outset isn’t a problem for compatibilism, since we don’t believe in free will. However, to clarify some things, the language used here makes God sound as if he’s threatening sinful humans. This is not the case. In reality, the reality of Hell and Judgment is to be a warning, not a threat (would anyone really consider the watchman of Ezekiel 33 to be someone who was threatening people?), there is a difference.
“There seem to be some plot holes with the angels. If they don’t have free will, then they couldn’t have fallen.”
For those interested, the fall of Satan and his angels can be read in Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-17; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6. Also, as a side note, I believe that 1 Timothy 5:21, which refers to the “elect angels” reinforces the teaching of the above texts, in that, since the predestination of elect humanity ensures that we won’t fall into judgment (Ephesians 1:4-6,11; Romans 8:29-9:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:13), the election of certain angels ensured that they wouldn’t fall, which would imply a fall of angels.
But anyway, back to the objection. First, according to compatibilism, the angels still exercised their will, even though it was ultimately controlled by God, so I can see why determinism may have a plot hole here, but not compatibilism. Second, if God is absolutely sovereign, if he foreordained the fall of the angels to take place, then it would absolutely take place, and no one could thwart it (cf. Daniel 4:35).
“Why would people wish to go to heaven just to have their free will stripped from them, if it’s a good thing to have?”
Compatibilism doesn’t believe in free will, so this isn’t a problem for us. However, this objection shows a lack of knowledge about libertarianism as well. Libertarians don’t believe that our free will will be stripped from us in eternity, I don’t know where this person got such a notion.
If it’s not a good thing to have, then why were we created with it?”
Here, free will is being addressed, as it was in the last objection. Well, compatibilism has no problem with this objection, since we would say, “we weren’t created with free will, so this objection is meaningless.”
“A guy walks up and puts a gun to the head of your closest loved one. He says, “Do exactly as I say and no one gets hurt. Otherwise I’m going to hurt you in ways you can’t even imagine, then I’ll kill you.” Do you thank him for giving you this free will? Would you honestly call this a legitimate choice? If his demands are met and he leaves you unarmed, do you praise him for his mercy? Perhaps, but that is called Stockholm Syndrome and it’s a very sad condition”
To begin, the analogy of an armed criminal seems to imply that God is threatening man. That is not the case, as I discussed above (he is warning, not threatening). Continuing on, I do not thank God for giving me free will, because according to compatibilism, he has only given me, a mere creature, limited will. Finally, this persons comparison of a love for God to Stockholm Syndrome is ridiculous. Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological disorder in which a captive will tend to feel empathetic or sympathetic to his captor, to the point where he will defend him. This is a gross misrepresentation of Christianity, since we believe that we in and of ourselves are worthy to be destroyed for our sins. It is God who is good by allowing a way out for his people. He is not a captor, by any stretch of the imagination.
So, this person’s objections have been dealt with point by point, and the truth of the Christian faith shines forth over error.
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