Do We Have Free Will?

Do humans have free will or are our decisions entirely products of chemistry, physics, and genetics? Is there a difference between the brain and the mind? Could a neuroscientist with enough knowledge of our brains know every decision that we’ll make? The answers to these questions cut to the heart of what it means to be human.

Hard Hearts & God’s Sovereignty

Pastor Todd of Crossroads Community Church deals with a very tough theological thorn of free-will and God’s sovereignty. Yes. I have believed this for years and consider it somewhat of a mystery, just like the Trinity. I added some graphics (Scripture verses read) for the casual viewer so they can follow along with Todd. As an unimportant aside, the first time Scripture explicitly mentions Pharaoh hardening his heart is in Exodus 8:15.

Here are two quotes that came to mind during the sermon:

4:21 The Bible teaches that human beings are free to make choices (Gn 2:19; 4:7; Ezk 18:2–32). God is good (Ps 25:8; 34:8; 100:5) and always acts consistently with His nature. Yet people can choose to rebel against God’s goodness, and consistent rebellion can lead to their hearts being “hardened.” As the saying goes, “The same sun that melts butter also hardens clay.” Egyptian pharaohs believed they were divine, and Pharaoh would never have been inclined to submit to the Israelites’ God. Each time God placed a demand on him, he became more determined to resist. Thus it was both God’s demands and Pharaoh’s own pride-motivated stubbornness (Ex 8:15, 32; 9:34) that led to his hardened heart. God would use Pharaoh’s stubbornness for a good end, to demonstrate His power and extend His reputation (9:16).

The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 91–92.

partII. GOD THE REDEEMER OF SINNERS

While reiterating the teaching of nature as to the existence and character of the personal Creator and Lord of all, the Scriptures lay their stress upon the grace or the undeserved love of God, as exhibited in his dealings with his sinful and wrath-deserving creatures. So little, however, is the consummate divine attribute of love advanced, in the scriptural revelation, at the expense of the other moral attributes of God, that it is thrown into prominence only upon a background of the strongest assertion and fullest manifestation of its companion attributes, especially of the divine righteousness and holiness, and is exhibited as acting only along with and in entire harmony with them. God is not represented in the Scriptures as forgiving sin because he really cares very little about sin; nor yet because he is so exclusively or predominatingly the God of love, that all other attributes shrink into desuetude in the presence of his illimitable benevolence. He is rather represented as moved to deliver sinful man from his guilt and pollution because he pities the creatures of his hand, immeshed in sin, with an intensity which is born of the vehemence of his holy abhorrence of sin and his righteous determination to visit it with intolerable retribution; and by a mode which brings as complete satisfaction to his infinite justice and holiness as to his unbounded love itself. The biblical presentation of the God of grace includes thus the richest development of all his moral attributes, and the God of the Bible is consequently set forth, in the completeness of that idea, as above everything else the ethical God. And that is as much as to say that there is ascribed to him a moral sense so sensitive and true that it estimates with unfailing accuracy the exact moral character of every person or deed presented for its contemplation, and responds to it with the precisely appropriate degree of satisfaction or reprobation. The infinitude of his love is exhibited to us precisely in that while we were yet sinners he loved us, though with all the force of his infinite nature he reacted against our sin with illimitable abhorrence and indignation. The mystery of grace resides just in the impulse of a sin-hating God to show mercy to such guilty wretches; and the supreme revelation of God as the God of holy love is made in the disclosure of the mode of his procedure in redemption, by which alone he might remain just while justifying the ungodly. For in this procedure there was involved the mighty paradox of the infinitely just Judge himself becoming the sinner’s substitute before his own law and the infinitely blessed God receiving in his own person the penalty of sin.

B.B. Warfield, Selected Short Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1970), 71-72.

The Argument from Reason ~ David Wood

(H/T ~ Debunking Atheists)

….Darwin thought that, had the circumstances for reproductive fitness been different, then the deliverances of conscience might have been radically different. “If . . . men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill  their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters, and no one would think of interfering” (Darwin, Descent, 82). As it happens, we weren’t “reared” after the manner of hive bees, and so we have widespread and strong beliefs about the sanctity of human life and its implications for how we should treat our siblings and our offspring.

But this strongly suggests that we would have had whatever beliefs were ultimately fitness producing given the circumstances of survival. Given the background belief of naturalism, there appears to be no plausible Darwinian reason for thinking that the fitness-producing predispositions that set the parameters for moral reflection have anything whatsoever to do with the truth of the resulting moral beliefs. One might be able to make a case for thinking that having true beliefs about, say, the predatory behaviors of tigers would, when combined with the understandable desire not to be eaten, be fitness producing. But the account would be far from straightforward in the case of moral beliefs.” And so the Darwinian explanation undercuts whatever reason the naturalist might have had for thinking that any of our moral beliefs is true. The result is moral skepticism.

If our pretheoretical moral convictions are largely the product of natural selection, as Darwin’s theory implies, then the moral theories we find plausible are an indirect result of that same evolutionary process. How, after all, do we come to settle upon a proposed moral theory and its principles as being true? What methodology is available to us?

  • Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, eds., Contending With Christianity’s Critics: Answering the New Atheists & Other Objections (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2009), 70.

See more at my post: Evolution Cannot Account for: Logic, Reasoning, Love, Truth, or Justice

Are Those Who Have Not Heard the Gospel Damned? Q&A (UPDATED)

This post is a response to a question posed to me via my email by an atheist.

I see that you do some apologetics. Here are a few sincere questions that I’ve tried to get answered from Christians like Greg Koukl, but I never seem to get a response. I’m not baiting you by sending you these questions. If you have any thoughts on these issues, I’d appreciate getting to read your opinion.

1. The New Testament makes it clear that its only through faith in Jesus and his sacrifice that humans can enter heaven. Anyone who lived before Jesus started his ministry had no way of having faith in Jesus. Maybe the people of ancient Israel could piece together what they needed to believe to achieve salvation, but for the gentiles or even humans who lived in North America before the birth of Jesus, they would have no knowledge of the nation of Israel. And most certainly they would have no knowledge of a coming messiah or a future person named Jesus and his sacrifice. What I can conclude is that God allowed humans to be born that would have absolutely no chance of avoiding eternal torment in the fires of hell. I’ve been told that human morality proves that God must be a moral being. However, we have an enormous contradiction here. The God in this scenario is not worthy of respect or love because he is not moral. Hitler and Stalin would have to be quite envious of the amount of torment this God would have allowed.

I brought up the idea of Native-Americas (N-A) not hearing the Gospel with my dad. It seemed, to me, unfair that they should not be afforded at least some clarity in an opportunity to be judged before their maker. My dad shared his thoughts on the matter, and it started with a reading from Romans:

  • 18 For God’s wrath  is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth,  19 since what can be known  about God is evident among them,  because God has shown it to them. 20 For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world,  being understood through what He has made.  As a result, people are without excuse. (The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. [Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009], Ro 1:18–20.)
  • But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth. But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. (Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language [Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005], Ro 1:18–20.)

He explained that the tribes that were very “war-like,” like the Comanches, acted in rejection of what they knew to be God’s creation and how they should treat their fellow man and nature via the attributes they could clearly interpret via nature. The Sioux were at other times feared as well.

Peaceful tribes – not perfect mind you, but they had a deep understanding of their Creator and how to care for their own and other Native-American tribes they encountered — would interpret nature’s revelatory aspect of Whom they were to worship, and how. The Hopi tribe is one example.

To be clear, when theologians say that God is ultimately sovereign in his decisions over his creation, I am down with this. God — in classical understanding — IS the “Good” and would have a larger view of the panoply of history (since God would be outside of it and viewing it as a whole… the Eternal Now type stuff). So His judgement would necessarily be a Just one. I am not questioning this. I am saying that there are views within orthodoxy that struggle with the boundaries of those who have lived by law seeing that redemption of nature and themselves was somehow woven into nature and never hearing the Gospel (Hebrews 11:9-11). …continuing….

So using the Romans understanding of “The Book of Nature,” and the basis for “unsaved” people seeing – yes, even God’s attributes – something metaphysical and not just material, and looked forward to this hope. Also, these stories of creation and serving a God were handed down from the beginning of mankind. Some people across the earth held close these ancient stories although changed with time.

Combine this with the story of Abraham’s Bosom (Luke 16:19-31) and what Peter tells us about Jesus preaching to these lost souls (I Peter 3:18-20). I would posit — staying within the lane-lines of orthodoxy — that those in the world [pre and post Calvary] who have not been afforded a good explanation of the Gospel message may be afforded an opportunity to respond. This is not me arguing for universalism, but for justice being metered out in some form that was communicated to the Hebraic peoples that is hinted to in the New Testament.

Some Commentary On 1 Peter 3:18-19

This verse raises the two most difficult questions in the letter. When did Jesus preach to the spirits in prison, and who were they? Some take the verse to refer to the chronological sequel to Jesus’ death, when his spirit passed into the realms of the departed. Then, with Acts 2:31 and Eph. 4:9, this verse establishes the clause in the Creeds about Jesus’ descent to the dead. In that case he must have preached to all the dead in one of three ways: to offer them a second chance of salvation; to proclaim his victory over death and triumph over the power of evil and so confirm the sentence on unbelievers and announce deliverance for believers; to proclaim release from purgatory to those who had repented just before they perished in the flood (a popular interpretation among Roman Catholic writers).

Neither the first nor the last of these can be supported from Scripture, but the second has been held by many commentators as fitting in with the NT evidence above. E.G. Selwyn (The First Epistle of Peter [Macmillan, 1949]), and others see the spirits in prison as the fallen angels of Gn. 6:1–8 referred to in 2 Pet. 2:4–10 and Jude 6 as well as in the apocryphal 1 Enoch. Peter’s aim in this context is to demonstrate that God’s purpose is being worked out even in times of suffering. So it would seem best to understand the preaching as a declaration of Christ’s triumph, in order to assert (22) that all angels, authorities and powers [are] in submission to him. Grudem (TNTC) in an appendix summarizes the views and claims that the spirits were Noah’s contemporaries who rejected the preaching of the Spirit of Christ through Noah (see 2 Pet. 2:5) and are now in the prison of the abode of the dead. The interpretation of made alive by the Spirit (18) as a reference to the resurrection, and the spirits in prison as a reference to the fallen angels is cogently argued by R. T. France in New Testament Interpretation, ed. I. H. Marshall (Paternoster Press, 1979), pp. 264–281. He claims that NT and contemporary usage favour this understanding of the word spirits when used by itself, rather than applying it to men and women who had died before Jesus came to bring the gospel.

No view is free of problems, but the use of a verb implying steady and purposeful progression (went [19] and has gone [22] are both the same Gk. word poreutheis) suggests that Peter is recounting what Jesus accomplished between his death and exaltation.

D. A. Carson et al., eds., New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1380–1381.

I marry this understanding to a view I have sympathy for via William Lane Craig, a name you may be familiar with is on the opposing side of Christian apologetics. He has a view on Molinism I enjoy a bit. Here is what he says, and I will emphasize the important aspect I wish to highlight:

The doctrine of Molinism seeks to reconcile God’s sovereign predestination with man’s free will. Through His divine middle knowledge, God can know all possible outcomes of any world that is feasible for Him to create, including all the circumstances required for an individual to come to a saving knowledge of Him. But what if the saving of one individual means the loss of another? Does Molinism provide answers to such a dilemma? In this article, Dr. Craig answers questions on the how God would act if his choices were bound by damning either person A or person B arbitrarily.

Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/molinism

I see the solution to your query in your first question in the above. [And the few videos immediately below.]

And it is the same question[s] I struggled with and struggle with. This does away with the contradiction you see. I do wish to note however, that you are taking a moral position in your premise, Saby. And without God, this cannot be the case. Jesus would HAVE to be intimately involved in all of the above scenarios… intimately. None of the above take away from this fact.

I do not know your worldview you operate from, but I can assume atheistic in its presuppositions. But truth (absolute ethical statements are included in this understanding of truth) is something of a fiction to the atheistic evolutionist. Here are some quotes and audio/videos to make my point:


Let’s consider a basic question: Why does the natural world make any sense to begin with? Albert Einstein once remarked that the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible. Why should we be able to grasp the beauty, elegance, and complexity of our universe?

Einstein understood a basic truth about science, namely, that it relies upon certain philosophical assumptions about the natural world. These assumptions include the existence of an external world that is orderly and rational, and the trustworthiness of our minds to grasp that world. Science cannot proceed apart from these assumptions, even though they cannot be independently proven. Oxford professor John C. Lennox asks a penetrating question, “At the heart of all science lies the conviction that the universe is orderly. Without this deep conviction science would not be possible. So we are entitled to ask: Where does the conviction come from?”” Why is the world orderly? And why do our minds comprehend this order?

Toward the end of The God Delusion, Dawkins admits that since we are the product of natural selection, our senses cannot be fully trusted. After all, according to Darwinian evolution, our senses have been formed to aid survival, not necessarily to deliver true belief. Since a human being has been cobbled together through the blind process of natural selection acting on random mutation, says Dawkins, it’s unlikely that our views of the world are completely true. Outspoken philosopher of neuro-science Patricia Churchland agrees:

The principle chore of brains is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive. Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing [the world] is advantageous so long as it… enhances the organism’s chances for survival. Truth, whatever that is, takes the hindmost.

Dawkins is on the right track to suggest that naturalism should lead people to be skeptical about trusting their senses. Dawkins just doesn’t take his skepticism far enough. In Miracles, C. S. Lewis points out that knowledge depends upon the reliability of our mental faculties. If human reasoning is not trustworthy, then no scientific conclusions can be considered true or false. In fact, we couldn’t have any knowledge about the world, period. Our senses must be reliable to acquire knowledge of the world, and our reasoning faculties must be reliable to process the acquired knowledge. But this raises a particularly thorny dilemma for atheism. If the mind has developed through the blind, irrational, and material process of Darwinian evolution, then why should we trust it at all? Why should we believe that the human brain—the outcome of an accidental process—actually puts us in touch with reality? Science cannot be used as an answer to this question, because science itself relies upon these very assumptions.

Even Charles Darwin was aware of this problem: “The horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the conviction of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?” If Darwinian evolution is true, we should distrust the cognitive faculties that make science possible.

Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow, Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2010), 37-38.


….Darwin thought that, had the circumstances for reproductive fitness been different, then the deliverances of conscience might have been radically different. “If . . . men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill  their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters, and no one would think of interfering” (Darwin, Descent, 82). As it happens, we weren’t “reared” after the manner of hive bees, and so we have widespread and strong beliefs about the sanctity of human life and its implications for how we should treat our siblings and our offspring.

But this strongly suggests that we would have had whatever beliefs were ultimately fitness producing given the circumstances of survival. Given the background belief of naturalism, there appears to be no plausible Darwinian reason for thinking that the fitness-producing predispositions that set the parameters for moral reflection have anything whatsoever to do with the truth of the resulting moral beliefs. One might be able to make a case for thinking that having true beliefs about, say, the predatory behaviors of tigers would, when combined with the understandable desire not to be eaten, be fitness producing. But the account would be far from straightforward in the case of moral beliefs.” And so the Darwinian explanation undercuts whatever reason the naturalist might have had for thinking that any of our moral beliefs is true. The result is moral skepticism.

If our pretheoretical moral convictions are largely the product of natural selection, as Darwin’s theory implies, then the moral theories we find plausible are an indirect result of that same evolutionary process. How, after all, do we come to settle upon a proposed moral theory and its principles as being true? What methodology is available to us?

Paul Copan and William Lane Craig [Mark D. Linville], eds., Contending With Christianity’s Critics: Answering the New Atheists & Other Objections (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2009), 70.


Even Darwin had some misgivings about the reliability of human beliefs. He wrote, “With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”

Given unguided evolution, “Darwin’s Doubt” is a reasonable one. Even given unguided or blind evolution, it’s difficult to say how probable it is that creatures—even creatures like us—would ever develop true beliefs. In other words, given the blindness of evolution, and that its ultimate “goal” is merely the survival of the organism (or simply the propagation of its genetic code), a good case can be made that atheists find themselves in a situation very similar to Hume’s.

The Nobel Laureate and physicist Eugene Wigner echoed this sentiment: “Certainly it is hard to believe that our reasoning power was brought, by Darwin’s process of natural selection, to the perfection which it seems to possess.” That is, atheists have a reason to doubt whether evolution would result in cognitive faculties that produce mostly true beliefs. And if so, then they have reason to withhold judgment on the reliability of their cognitive faculties. Like before, as in the case of Humean agnostics, this ignorance would, if atheists are consistent, spread to all of their other beliefs, including atheism and evolution. That is, because there’s no telling whether unguided evolution would fashion our cognitive faculties to produce mostly true beliefs, atheists who believe the standard evolutionary story must reserve judgment about whether any of their beliefs produced by these faculties are true. This includes the belief in the evolutionary story. Believing in unguided evolution comes built in with its very own reason not to believe it.

This will be an unwelcome surprise for atheists. To make things worse, this news comes after the heady intellectual satisfaction that Dawkins claims evolution provided for thoughtful unbelievers. The very story that promised to save atheists from Hume’s agnostic predicament has the same depressing ending.

It’s obviously difficult for us to imagine what the world would be like in such a case where we have the beliefs that we do and yet very few of them are true. This is, in part, because we strongly believe that our beliefs are true (presumably not all of them are, since to err is human—if we knew which of our beliefs were false, they would no longer be our beliefs).

Suppose you’re not convinced that we could survive without reliable belief-forming capabilities, without mostly true beliefs. Then, according to Plantinga, you have all the fixins for a nice argument in favor of God’s existence For perhaps you also think that—given evolution plus atheism—the probability is pretty low that we’d have faculties that produced mostly true beliefs. In other words, your view isn’t “who knows?” On the contrary, you think it’s unlikely that blind evolution has the skill set for manufacturing reliable cognitive mechanisms. And perhaps, like most of us, you think that we actually have reliable cognitive faculties and so actually have mostly true beliefs. If so, then you would be reasonable to conclude that atheism is pretty unlikely. Your argument, then, would go something like this: if atheism is true, then it’s unlikely that most of our beliefs are true; but most of our beliefs are true, therefore atheism is probably false.

Notice something else. The atheist naturally thinks that our belief in God is false. That’s just what atheists do. Nevertheless, most human beings have believed in a god of some sort, or at least in a supernatural realm. But suppose, for argument’s sake, that this widespread belief really is false, and that it merely provides survival benefits for humans, a coping mechanism of sorts. If so, then we would have additional evidence—on the atheist’s own terms—that evolution is more interested in useful beliefs than in true ones. Or, alternatively, if evolution really is concerned with true beliefs, then maybe the widespread belief in God would be a kind of “evolutionary” evidence for his existence.

You’ve got to wonder.

Mitch Stokes, A Shot of Faith: To the Head (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2012), 44-45.


AND THE BELOW is taken from another post of mine:

I wish to start out with an excerpt from a chapter in my book where I use two scholarly works that use Darwinian naturalism as a guide to their ethic:

  • Dale Peterson and Richard Wrangham, Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence (New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 1997).
  • Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer, A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000).

My incorporation of these works into my book (quote):

“Lest one think this line of thinking is insane, that is: sexual acts are something from our evolutionary past and advantageous; rape is said to not be a pathology but an evolutionary adaptation – a strategy for maximizing reproductive success….. The first concept that one must understand is that these authors do not view nature alone as imposing a moral “oughtness” into the situation of survival of the fittest. They view rape, for instance, in its historical evolutionary context as neither right nor wrong ethically. Rape, is neither moral nor immoral vis-à-vis evolutionary lines of thought, even if ingrained in us from our evolutionary paths of survival. Did you catch that? Even if a rape occurs today, it is neither moral nor immoral, it is merely currently taboo. The biological, amoral, justification of rape is made often times as a survival mechanism bringing up the net “survival status” of a species, usually fraught with examples of homosexual worms, lesbian seagulls, and the like.”

(pp. 7-9 of  Roman-Epicurean-ism-Natural-Law-and-Homosexuality)

Now, hear from other atheist and evolutionary apologists themselves in regard to the matter:

Richard Dawkins

(h/t: TrueFreeThinker) – A Statement Made by an atheist at the Atheist and Agnostic Society:

“Some atheists do believe in ethical absolutes, some don’t. My answer is a bit more complicated — I don’t believe that there are any axiological claims which are absolutely true, except within the context of one person’s opinion.

That is, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and so are ethics. So, why is Hitler wrong? Because he murdered millions, and his only justification, even if it were valid, was based on things which he should have known were factually wrong. Why is it wrong to do that? Because I said so. Unless you actually disagree with me — unless you want to say that Hitler was right — I’m not sure I have more to say.”

[side note] You may also be aware that Richard Dawkins stated, “What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question.”

Lewis Wolpert

From the video description: Atheists Trying to Have Their Cake and Eat It Too on Morality. This video shows that when an atheist denies objective morality they also affirm moral good and evil without the thought of any contradiction or inconsistency on their part.

Dan Barker

This is from the video Description for the Dan Barker video below:

The atheist’s animal-level view of “morality” is completely skewed by dint of its lack of objectivity. In fact, the atheist makes up his own personal version of “morals” as he goes along, and this video provides an eye-opening example of this bizarre phenomenon of the atheist’s crippled psyche:

During this debate, the atheist stated that he believed rape was morally acceptable, then he actually stated that he would rape a little girl and then kill himself — you have just got to hear his psychotic words with your own ears to believe it!

He then stammered and stumbled through a series of ridiculously lame excuses for his shameful lack of any type of moral compass.

To the utter amazement of his opponent and all present in the audience, the gruesomely amoral atheist even goes so far as to actually crack a sick little joke on the subject of SERIAL CHILD-RAPE!

:::shudders:::

Meanwhile, the Christian in the video gracefully and heroically realizes the clearly objective moral values that unquestionably come to humanity by God’s grace, and yet are far beyond the lower animal’s and the atheist’s tenuous mental grasp. Be sure to keep watching until the very end so that you can hear the Christian’s final word — it’s a real knuckle-duster!

Atheist dogma™ not only fails to provide a stable platform for objective human morality for its adherent — it precludes him even the possibility. It’s this very intellectual inability to apprehend any objective moral values that leads such believers in atheist dogma™ as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Dahmer to commit their horrific atheistic atrocities.

Any believer in atheist dogma™, given sufficient power, would take the exact same course of action that Hitler did, without a moment’s hesitation.

Note as well that evolutionary naturalism has very dogmatic implication, IF — that is — the honest atheist/evolutionist follow the matter to their logical conclusions, via the ineffable Dr. Provine:

William Provine

Atheist and staunch evolutionist Dr. William Provine (who is often quoted by Richard Dawkins) admits what life has in stored if Darwinism is true. The quote comes from his debate here with Dr. Phillip E. Johnson at Stanford University, April 30, 1994.

Sam Harris denies completely free will: “In fact, the concept of free will is a non-starter, both philosophically and scientifically.” This is important — as Stephen Hawking points out in his lecture entitled Determinism: Is Man a Slave or the Master of His Fate — who admitted that if “we are the random products of chance, and hence, not free, or whether God had designed these laws within which we are free.”[1] In other words, do we have the ability to make choices, or do we simply follow a chemical reaction induced by millions of mutational collisions of free atoms? Michael Polyni mentions that this “reduction of the world to its atomic elements acting blindly in terms of equilibrations of forces,” a belief that has prevailed “since the birth of modern science, has made any sort of teleological view of the cosmos seem unscientific…. [to] the contemporary mind.”[2]

Which is why in Hawkings most recent book he says “This book is rooted in the concept of scientific determinism, which implies that the answer to [the question of miracles] is that there are no miracles, or exceptions to the laws of nature.”[3] And hence the spiral from scientism, to determinism, to reductionism: “…so it seems that we are no more than biological machines and that free will is just an illusion.”[4] 


[1] Ravi Zacharias, The Real Face of Atheism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004), 118, 119.

[2] Michael Polanti and Harry Prosch, Meaning (Chicago, IL: Chicago university Press, 1977), 162.

[3] Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design (London, England: Bantam Press, 2010), 34.

[4] Ibid., 32.

Ethics and propositions that include ethical choice is one that rejects naturalistic origins. Some more quotes to make the point:


What merit would attach to moral virtue if the acts that form such habitual tendencies and dispositions were not acts of free choice on the part of the individual who was in the process of acquiring moral virtue? Persons of vicious moral character would have their characters formed in a manner no different from the way in which the character of a morally virtuous person was formed—by acts entirely determined, and that could not have been otherwise by freedom of choice.

Mortimer J. Adler, Ten Philosophical Mistakes (New York, NY: Touchstone, 1985), 154.


If what he says is true, he says it merely as the result of his heredity and environment, and nothing else. He does not hold his determinist views because they are true, but because he has such-and-such stimuli; that is, not because the structure of the structure of the universe is such-and-such but only because the configuration of only part of the universe, together with the structure of the determinist’s brain, is such as to produce that result…. They [determinists – I would posit any philosophical naturalist] want to be considered as rational agents arguing with other rational agents; they want their beliefs to be construed as beliefs, and subjected to rational assessment; and they want to secure the rational assent of those they argue with, not a brainwashed repetition of acquiescent pattern. Consistent determinists should regard it as all one whether they induce conformity to their doctrines by auditory stimuli or a suitable injection of hallucinogens: but in practice they show a welcome reluctance to get out their syringes, which does equal credit to their humanity and discredit to their views. Determinism, therefore, cannot be true, because if it was, we should not take the determinists’ arguments as being really arguments, but as being only conditioned reflexes. Their statements should not be regarded as really claiming to be true, but only as seeking to cause us to respond in some way desired by them.

J. R. Lucas, The Freedom of the Will (New York: NY: Oxford University Press, 1970), 114, 115.


He thus acknowledged the need for any theory to allow that humans have genuine freedom to recognize the truth. He (again, correctly) saw that if all thought, belief, feeling, and choice are determined (i.e., forced on humans by outside conditions) then so is the determinists’ acceptance of the theory of determinism forced on them by those same conditions. In that case they could never claim to know their theory is true since the theory making that claim would be self-referentially incoherent. In other words, the theory requires that no belief is ever a free judgment made on the basis of experience or reason, but is always a compulsion over which the believer has no control.

Roy A. Clouser, The Myth of Religious Neutrality: An Essay on the Hidden Role of Religious Belief in Theories (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 2005), 174.


Determinism is self-stultifying.  If my mental processes are totally determined, I am totally determined either to accept or to reject determinism.  But if the sole reason for my believing or not believing X is that I am causally determined to believe it I have no ground for holding that my judgment is true or false.

J. P. Moreland & William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2003), 241; Quoting: H.P. Owen, Christian Theism (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1984), 118.


Frank Zindler (Editor of American Atheist Magazine and Director of American Atheists Press), denies the existence of free will. In an article he wrote for the American Atheist magazine, he writes this:

Although I risk inciting to disaffection many of the people who have expressed admiration for some of my previous articles, I must now focus my ‘Probing Mind’ upon the question, “Can will be free?” Let me answer the question straightaway with a firm “no,” and then attempt to support my conclusion.

The Center for Naturalism is strongly advocating for widespread rejection of free will:

We should doubt the little god of free will on the very same grounds that atheists doubt the big god of traditional religions: there’s no evidence for it.

(Reasons for God)

I hope this helped and challenged you to know the variability within faith (while remaining orthodox) as well as bringing you face-to-face with your own premises in your worldview. Remember, if you disagree with the above ethics portion, you are not arguing against me but arguing against fellow atheists (if you are an atheist… I would hope you are a soft-agnostic). I also hope you asked your questions in a manner that is in line with you truly seeking a solution to these sticky issues. I will respond to your other challenges (honest questions) at a later date,

Finally, it is objected that the ultimate loss of a single soul means the defeat of omnipotence. And so it does. In creating beings with free will, omnipotence from the outset submits to the possibility of such defeat. What you call defeat, I call miracle: for to make things which are not Itself, and thus to become, in a sense, capable of being resisted by its own handiwork, is the most astonishing and unimaginable of all the feats we attribute to the Deity. I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside. I do not mean that the ghosts may not wish to come out of hell, in the vague fashion wherein an envious man “wishes” to be happy: but they certainly do not will even the first preliminary stages of that self-abandonment through which alone the soul can reach any good. They enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved just as the blessed, forever submitting to obedience, become through all eternity more and more free.

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York, NY: Simon & Shuster, 1996), 113-114.

Papa Giorgio

Concepts: “Free Will or Not” – That is the Question

This is a topic I know a bit about, as, it is a common feature required to make distinctions in philosophy and science (and the philosophy of science) regarding naturalism and its influence on epistemology and if we can know truth, moral truth or otherwise. As we read the article we come to a small paragraph that shows me John is traipsing into territory he knows nothing about but makes sweeping statements as if he does. We read:

  • Acceptance of an assumption that there is no free will would remove everyone’s responsibility for his or her behavior, and nobody could be condemned to jail or death. Such a thesis also would deny the influence of DNA and of experience in life.

Firstly, popular culture weighs in on this idea that somehow DNA influences free-will?

  1. “Infidelity – It May Be In Our Genes” ~ Time, August 15, 1994;
  2. “20th Century Blues” – Stress, anxiety, depression: the new science of evolutionary psychology finds the roots of modern maladies in our genes ~ Time, August 28, 1995;
  3. “Born Happy (Or Not)” – Happiness is more than just a state of mind… It is in the genes too;
  4. “Born To Be Gay?” ~ New Zealand Herald, August 8, 1996;
  5. “What Makes Them Do It?” – People who crave thrills, new evidence indicates, may be prompted at least partly by their genes ~ New Scientist, September 28, 1996, p. 32;
  6. “Your Genes May Be Forcing You To Eat Too Much” ~ Time, January 15, 1996;
  7. “Infanticide/neonaticide is caused by an evolutionary imperative” ~ New York Times, November 2, 1997.

In a lecture from Stephen Hawkings (who holds the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, Einstein’s chair) at a lecture given to a university crowd in England entitled “Determinism – Is Man a Slave or the Master of His Fate.” He discussed whether we are the random products of chance, and hence, not free, or whether God had designed these laws within which we are free. In other words: do we have the ability to make choices, or do we simply follow a chemical reaction induced by millions of mutational collisions of free atoms?

Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s maxim rings just as true today as it did in his day,“If there is no God, all things are permissible.” Without an absolute ethical norm, morality is reduced to mere preference and the world is a jungle where might makes right. This same strain of thought caused Mussolini to comment,

“Everything I have said and done in these last years is relativism by intuition…. If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and men who claim to be bearers of an objective, immortal truth… then there is nothing more relativistic than fascistic attitudes and activity…. From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable.”

Which brings me to the finishing statement from John, “I cannot see how any society could function without assuming we do have free will.” On this we agree, even an atheistic society must borrow from the theistic worldview. In a previous response to My Huizum, I noted Sam Harris’ thinking on ultimate ethics:

evolutionary psychology (for instance, atheist defender Sam Harris makes the Darwinian psychological statement that “…there’s nothing more natural than rape. Human beings rape, chimpanzees rape, orangutans rape, rape clearly is part of an evolutionary strategy to get your genes into the next generation if you’re a male.”)

So, let us see some popular positions taken by “evangelical” atheists:

Richard Dawkins

(h/t: TrueFreeThinker) – A Statement Made by an atheist at the Atheist and Agnostic Society:

“Some atheists do believe in ethical absolutes, some don’t. My answer is a bit more complicated — I don’t believe that there are any axiological claims which are absolutely true, except within the context of one person’s opinion.

That is, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and so are ethics. So, why is Hitler wrong? Because he murdered millions, and his only justification, even if it were valid, was based on things which he should have known were factually wrong. Why is it wrong to do that? Because I said so. Unless you actually disagree with me — unless you want to say that Hitler was right — I’m not sure I have more to say.”

[side note] You may also be aware that Richard Dawkins stated,

  • “What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question.”

Stated during an interview with Larry Taunton, “Richard Dawkins: The Atheist Evangelist,” by Faith Magazine, Issue Number 18, December 2007 (copyright; 2007-2008)

Lewis Wolpert

Dan Barker

Take note also that leaders in atheistic thinking and philosophers of good standing deal with the determinism found in neo-Darwinian/naturalistic philosophies and evolutionary thinking. For instance, from a debate I was in many years ago, Stan said the following:

  • “The brain works by firing electric charges that then release chemicals that make others fire electric charges.”
Robots and Cosmic Puppetry: The Scientific Challenge to Freedom

Since at least the time of Sir Isaac Newton, scientists and philosophers impressed by the march of science have offered a picture of human behavior that is not promising for a belief in freedom. All nature is viewed by them as one huge mechanism, with human beings serving as just parts of that giant machine. On this view, we live and think in accordance with the same laws and causes that move all other physical components of the universal mechanism.

According to these thinkers, everything that happens in nature has a cause. Suppose then that an event occurs, which, in context, is clearly a human action of the sort that we would normally call free. As an occurrence in this universe, it has a cause. But then that cause, in turn, has a cause. And that cause in turn has a cause, and so on, and so on [remember, reductionism].

“Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible player” ~ Albert Einstein.

As a result of this scientific world view, we get the following picture:

Natural conditions outside our control…
cause
Inner bodily and brain states,
which cause
mental and physical actions

But if this is true, then you are, ultimately, just a conduit or pipeline for chains of natural causation that reach far back into the past before your birth and continue far forward into the future after your death. You are not an originating cause of anything [this includes brain activity of all degrees, that is, love, pain, etc.). Nothing you ever do is due to your choices or thoughts alone. You are a puppet of nature. You are no more than a robot programmed by an unfeeling cosmos.

Psychologists talk about heredity and environment as responsible for everything you do. But then if they are, you aren’t. Does it follow that you can then do as you please, irresponsibly? Not at all. It only follows that you will do as nature and nurture please. But then, nature on this picture turns out to be just an illusory veil over a heartless, uncaring nature. You have what nature gives you. Nothing more, nothing less.

Where is human freedom in this picture? It doesn’t exist. It is one of our chief illusions. The natural belief in free will is just a monstrous falsehood. But we should not feel bad about holding on to this illusion until science corrects us. We can’t have helped it.

This reasoning is called The Challenge of Scientific Determinism. According to determinists, we are determined in every respect to do everything that we ever do.

This again is a serious challenge to human freedom. It is the reason that the early scientist Pierre Laplace (1749-1827) once said that if you could give a super-genius a total description of the universe at any given point in time, that being would be able to predict with certainty everything that would ever happen in the future relative to that moment, and retrodict with certainty anything that had ever happened in any moment before that described state. Nature, he believed, was that perfect machine. And we human beings were just cogs in the machine, deluded in our beliefs that we are free.

 (Tom Morris, Philosophy for Dummies, 133-134)

[….]

Evil, say, infanticide is reduced to determinism.  (Brain function [choice, action] reduces to chemical reactions, which are caused by a physical process, which in turn are caused by a physical [reduced] cause… etc ad infinitum.)  And when a person says, “I reject the thought of an ultimate being. So how do I determine ‘right’ from ‘wrong’? I don’t. I simply base things on choices. It is my belief that that the only moral system is a system that let’s everyone make their own choices, and live their life as they wish” [Giddion is another person involved in this old debate] they do not realize what they are thus accepting as the rule of life, as I will now refute.  And one would have to admit if he or she rejects God, physicalism is all that is left.

Mind/Body Physicalism Refuted (the following is from Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity, by J. P. Moreland, pp. 90-92)

A number of philosophers have argued that physicalism must be false because it implies determinism and determinism is self-refuting.  Speaking of the determinist, J. R. Lucas says:

If what he says is true, he says it merely as the result of his heredity and environment, and nothing else.  He does not hold his determinist views because they are true, but because he has such-and-such stimuli; that is, not because the structure of the structure of the universe is such-and-such but only because the configuration of only part of the universe, together with the structure of the determinist’s brain, is such as to produce that result….  Determinism, therefore, cannot be true, because if it was, we should not take the determinists’ arguments as being really arguments [say, whether or not homosexuality is a right or not] as being really arguments, but as being only conditioned reflexes.  Their statements should not be regarded as really claiming to be true, but only as seeking to cause us to respond in some way desired by them.  (Freedom of the Will, by John Lucas)

H. P. Owen states that:

Determinism is self-stultifying.  If my mental processes are totally determined, I am totally determined either to accept or to reject determinism.  But if the sole reason for my believing or not believing X is that I am causally determined to believe it I have no ground for holding that my judgment is true or false.  (Christian Theism, p. 118)

… if one claims to know that physicalism is true, or to embrace it for good reasons, if one claims that it is a rational position which should be chosen on the basis of evidence [as one does when they reject theism], then this claim is self-refuting.  This is so because physicallism seems to deny the possibility of rationality.  To see this, let us examine the necessary preconditions which must hold if there is to be such a thing as rationality and show how physicalism denies these preconditions.

At least five factors must obtain if there are to be genuine rational agents who can accurately reflect on the world.  First, minds must have internationality; they must be capable of having thoughts about or of the world.  Acts of inference are “insights into” or “knowings of” something other than themselves.

Second, reasons, propositions, thoughts, laws of logic and evidence, and truth must exist and be capable of being instanced in people’s minds and influencing their thought processes.  This fact is hard to reconcile with physicallism.  To see this, consider the field of ethics.  Morality prescribes what we ought to do (prescriptive); it does not merely describe what is in fact done (descriptive).  Objective morality makes sense if real moral laws or oughts exist and if normative, moral properties like rightness, goodness, worth, and dignity exist in acts (the act of honoring one’s parents) and things (persons and animals have worth) [this all applies to the debate over homosexuality].  If physicalism is true as a worldview, there are no moral properties or full-blooded oughts.  Physical states just are, and one physical state causes or fails to cause another physical state.  A physical state does not morally prescribe that another physical ought to be.  If physicalism is true, oughts are not real moral obligations telling us what one should do to be in conformity with the moral universe.  Rather, “ought” serves as a mere guide for reaching a socially acceptable or psychologically desired goal (e.g., “if one wants to have pleasure and avoid pain, then one ‘ought’ to tell the truth”).  Moral imperatives become grounded in subjective preferences on the same level as a preference for Burger King over McDonald’s….

[….]

ReductionismThe theory that every complex phenomenon, esp. in biology or psychology, can be explained by analyzing the simplest, most basic physical mechanisms that are in operation during the phenomenon. (Random-House Webster)

C.S. Lewis pointed out that even our ability to reason and think rationally would be called into question if atheistic evolution were true:

“If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our thought processes are mere accidents – the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts — i.e. of Materialism and — are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give a correct account of all the other accidents.”

Which brings C.S. Lewis to mention how he was not able to connect the idea of “evil” to the world as an atheist:

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too–for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist–in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless -I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality–namely my idea of justice–was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco, CA: Harper San Francisco, 1952), 38-39.

William Lane Craig, who debated Sam Harris, works through this in his post, “Navigating Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape.” One can see from Sam Harris that ethics is not something that “ought” to be adhered to. In an article and from a debate between theist William Lane Craig and Same Harris, we can zero in on what naturalism says

First, objective moral values:

So how does Sam Harris propose to solve the “value problem”? The trick he proposes is simply to redefine what he means by “good” and “evil” in non-moral terms. He says we should “define ‘good’ as that which supports [the] well-being” of conscious creatures.” He states, “Good and evil need only consist in this: misery versus well-being.” Or again: “In speaking of ‘moral truth,’ I am saying that there must be facts regarding human and animal well-being.”

So, he says, “Questions about values … are really questions about the well-being of conscious creatures.” Therefore, he concludes, “It makes no sense … to ask whether maximizing well-being is ‘good’.” Why not? Because he’s redefined the word “good” to mean the well-being of conscious creatures. So to ask, “Why is maximizing creatures’ well-being good?” is on his definition the same as asking, “Why does maximizing creatures’ well-being maximize creatures’ well-being?” It is simply a tautology — talking in a circle. Thus, Harris has “solved” his problem simply by redefining his terms. It is mere word play.

Second, objective moral duties:

Does atheism provide a sound foundation for objective moral duties? Duty has to do with moral obligation and prohibition, what I ought or ought not to do. Here reviewers of The Moral Landscape have been merciless in pounding Harris’ attempt to provide a naturalistic account of moral obligation. Two problems stand out.

Natural science tells us only what is, not what ought to be, the case. As philosopher Jerry Fodor has written, “Science is about facts, not norms; it might tell us how we are, but it wouldn’t tell us what is wrong with how we are.” In particular it cannot tell us that we have a moral obligation to take actions that are conducive to human flourishing.

[…]Second, ”ought” implies “can.” A person is not morally responsible for an action he is unable to avoid. For example, if somebody shoves you into another person, you are not to blame for bumping into this person. You had no choice. But Harris believes that all of our actions are causally determined and that there is no free will. Harris rejects not only libertarian accounts of freedom but also compatibilistic accounts of freedom. But if there is no free will, no one is morally responsible for anything. In the end, Harris admits this, though it’s tucked away in his endnotes. Moral responsibility, he says, “is a social construct,” not an objective reality: “in neuroscientific terms no person is more or less responsible than any other” for the actions they perform. His thoroughgoing determinism spells the end of any hope or possibility of objective moral duties on his worldview because we have no control over what we do.

William Lane Craig Discusses Sam Harris’ book, “The Moral Landscape”

So we can see that even the person mentioned in John Van Huizum’s article, Sam Harris, in reality rejects his premise that free will exists. John does say though, that we must (we meaning any society, secular or not) must assume it to be true. Thus, John is borrowing from the Judeo-Christian worldview and really arguing for the coherence of it (and the incoherence of the opposite), and not of atheism… unbeknownst to him! John neglects to tell us “the rest of the story” (Paul Harvey), or more likely doesn’t know the story to begin with.

  • Simple enough… as above. REMEMBER, Dr. Provine is an evolutionist… a neo-Darwinian proponent following his worldview to its logical ends/consequences.

Do You Have Free Will? ~ PragerU (Frank Pastore)

Video Description:

Do you have free will? Do you have the ability to shape your own destiny? Is there a difference between your mind and your brain? Or is free will just a convenient delusion? Are you really just a product of physical forces beyond your control? Best-selling author an acclaimed theologian Frank Pastore frames the debate the outcome of which may reshape the way you look at your life.

Divine Providence-Molinism,Calvinism,and libertarian free-will

William Lane Craig discusses the book “Four Views of Divine Providence,” to which he defends Molinism. I tend towards the ground between Calvinism and Molinism. Here are some great resources to start delineating where you stand:


 

A good response to deepen your understanding of this perplexing and fun theological issue is this by Gregory Koukl: