This volume unites established authors and rising young voices in philosophical theology and philosophy of religion to offer the single most wide-ranging examination of theological determinism-in terms of both authors represented and issues investigated-published to date. Fifteen contributors present discussions about theological determinism, the view that God determines everything that occurs in the world. Some authors provide arguments in favor of this position, while others provide considerations against it. Many contributors investigate the relationship between theological determinism and other philosophical issues, (...) theological doctrines, or moral attitudes and practices. This book is essential reading for all those interested in the relationship between theological determinism and philosophical thought. (shrink)
This Element considers the relationship between the traditional view of God as all-powerful, all-knowing and wholly good on the one hand, and the idea of human free will on the other. It focuses on the potential threats to human free will arising from two divine attributes: God's exhaustive foreknowledge and God's providential control of creation.
In Section 1, we begin by asking what, exactly, it might mean for God to “elect” people and how this relates to their agency and freedom. After getting clearer on what God is supposed to elect people to or for, we argue against the view that a person’s will is not involved in the process by which God elects her, which we identify in part as the person’s coming to have faith. But, in Section 2, we consider several reasons for (...) thinking that a person’s free will is not involved in her coming to have faith, as well as a potential problem facing this view. Then, in the next three sections (3, 4, and 5) we examine three views on which one’s free will is involved in one’s coming to faith, corresponding roughly to three systematic views of divine providence. We discuss certain objections to each of these “models of election,” as well as how each speaks to the possibility of the non-elect. In the sixth and final section, we conclude by addressing the concern that any such philosophizing about God is too anthropomorphic. (shrink)
Many proponents of libertarian freedom assume that the free choices we might make have particular objective probabilities of occurring. In this paper, I examine two common motivations for positing such probabilities: first, to account for the phenomenal character of decision-making, in which our reasons seem to have particular strengths to incline us to act, and second, to naturalize the role of reasons in influencing our decisions, such that they have a place in the causal order as we know it. I (...) argue, however, that neither introspective reflection nor the metaphysics of causation gives us reason for thinking there are such particular objective probabilities of our free choices. (shrink)
This paper argues that implicit bias is a form of sin, characterized most fundamentally as an orientation that we may not have direct access to or control over, but that can lead us to act in violation of God’s command. After noting similarities between certain strategies proposed by experimental psychologists for overcoming implicit biases and certain disciplines developed by Christians on the path to sanctification, I suggest some ways in which the Church might offer its resources to a society struggling (...) to overcome bias and discrimination, and ways in which its teaching and ministry might be informed by the latest research on implicit bias. (shrink)
In this paper I consider the view, held by some Thomistic thinkers, that divine determinism is compatible with human freedom, even though natural determinism is not. After examining the purported differences between divine and natural determinism, I discuss the Consequence Argument, which has been put forward to establish the incompatibility of natural determinism and human freedom. The Consequence Argument, I note, hinges on the premise that an action ultimately determined by factors outside of the actor’s control is not free. Since, (...) I argue, divine determinism also entails that human actions are ultimately determined by factors outside of the actors’ control, I suggest that a parallel argument to the Consequence Argument can be constructed for the incompatibility of divine determinism and human freedom. I conclude that those who reject natural compatibilism on the basis of the Consequence Argument should also reject divine compatibilism. (shrink)
This paper argues against a version of open theism defended by Gregory Boyd, which we call “limited risk,” according to which God could guarantee at creation at least the fulfillment of His most central purpose for the world: that of having a “people for himself.” We show that such a view depends on the assumption that free human decisions can be “statistically determined” within certain percentage ranges, and that this assumption is inconsistent with open theists’ commitment to a libertarian conception (...) of human freedom. (shrink)
In this essay, I argue that if we assume with free will skeptics that people lack moral responsibility, or at least a central form of it, we may still maintain that people are ‘basically’ deserving of certain treatment in response to their behavior. I characterize basic-desert justifications for treatment negatively, as justifications that do not depend on consequentialist, contractualist, or relational considerations. Appealing to attributionist accounts of responsibility as well as the symbolic value of protest, I identify protest as a (...) response that may be basically deserved even in the absence of free will, on the grounds that it is a fitting response to the intrinsic features of agents and their actions. The position defended is not a standard form of semi-compatibilism as it allows that some responses to behavior—such as punishment—that would be basically deserved were people free are not basically deserved in the absence of free will. (shrink)
In this paper I explore Peter van Inwagen’s conception of miracles and the implications of this conception for the viability of his version of the natural law defense. I argue that given his account of miraculous divine action and its parallel to free human action, it is implausible to think that God did not prevent natural evil in our world for the reasons van Inwagen proposes. I conclude by suggesting that on the grounds he provides for “epistemic humility” about modal (...) claims and value judgments “unrelated to the concerns of everyday life,” the theist should simply embrace skeptical theism and not further attempt to construct a defense of God’s permission of evil. (shrink)
Theological Determinism Theological determinism is the view that God determines every event that occurs in the history of the world. While there is much debate about which prominent historical figures were theological determinists, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, and Gottfried Leibniz all seemed to espouse the view at least at certain points in their … Continue reading Theological Determinism →.
Most incompatibilist theories of free will and moral responsibility require, for a person to count as morally responsible for an action, that specific events leading up to the action be undetermined. One might think, then, that incompatibilists should remain agnostic about whether anyone is ever free or morally responsible, since whether there are such undetermined events would seem to be an empirical question unsettled by scientific research. Yet, a number of incompatibilists have suggested that the phenomenological character of our experiences (...) already gives us good reason to believe that much of our behavior is freely undertaken, so that we are justified in believing that the free will condition for moral responsibility is often satisfied. I argue, however, that on the assumption that free will is incompatible with determinism, reflections on the character of our experiences do not provide good support for the claim that we ever act freely. (shrink)
Is it possible for God both to create a deterministic world and to act specially, to realize his particular purposes within it? And if there can be such 'particular providence' or 'special divine action' (SDA) in a deterministic world, what form can it take? In this article I consider these questions, exploring a number of different models of SDA and discussing their consistency with the proposition that the world is deterministic; I also consider how the various consequences of each model (...) accord with traditional theistic assumptions about God's action in the world. I argue that, although SDA is possible in a deterministic world, none of the models that have been offered are entirely unproblematic, but accepting any of them commits one to certain consequences that may be found objectionable; thus the potential benefits of each model of SDA must be weighed against the costs of accepting such consequences. (shrink)
In his book Personal Agency, E. J. Lowe has argued that a dualist theory of mental causation is consistent with “a fairly strong principle of physical causal closure” and, moreover, that it “has the potential to strengthen our causal explanations of certain physical events.” If Lowe’s reasoning were sound, it would undermine the most common arguments for reductive physicalism or epiphenomenalism of the mental. For it would show not only that a dualist theory of mental causation is consistent with a (...) widely held scientific principle, but also that there is some positive reason for accepting the theory. However, I argue that Lowe’s reasoning is unsound, for it requires that causation both is, and is not, transitive: a contradiction. I conclude that if Lowe succeeds in proving that a dualist theory is consistent with physical causal closure, he fails to show that it serves an explanatory purpose. (shrink)
In this paper I examine Robert Kane’s account of a self-forming action (SFA), in which an agent makes dual efforts of will to form two incompatible intentions. In addition to the frequently raised objection to this account, that such dual efforts would be irrational, I discuss a further conceptual problem, that it does not make sense to speak of efforts to form particular intentions. I then propose an alternative model of an SFA, in which an agent deliberates and selects between (...) two possible but incompatible intentions. Finally, I discuss some research on “conflicts of intention” in split-brain patients which suggests that in normal cases, SFAs do indeed involve such a selection between competing intention-possibilities, and that it is only in abnormal cases, when such selection is inhibited, that agents are led to make dual efforts of will. (shrink)
I argue, first, against the idea that Christian thanksgiving is about counting one’s blessings, or finding something specific in every circumstance which is intended by God for one’s own good. For we cannot know how God specifically intended to benefit us in most circumstances, and such knowledge is required for blessings-counting; and the New Testament models a different kind of thanksgiving which makes more sense in light of Christian theology. I also argue against the conception of Christian gratitude as a (...) positive (pleasant-feeling) emotion, given the fallen nature of the world; instead, it must be a mixed emotion, combining a pleasant-feeling anticipatory joy over God’s action of world-salvation with unpleasant feelings such as dissatisfaction, restlessness, or yearning. (shrink)