J.C. Thibodaux, “If Our Actions Are Inevitable, Do We Really Have Free Will?”

, posted by JC_Thibodaux

Calvinists reject the idea that God bases His divine election on His foreknowledge of people, as well as the idea that God has given men free will. One tactic used to refute these concepts is to try to confuse the issue:

“For example, before the foundation of the world, God knew that Joe would make a free decision to become a Christian. Somehow, then, before Joe was born, God knew of his free decision. So even at that time, Joe’s free decision must have been inevitable. Why was it inevitable? Not because of Joe’s free will, for Joe was not yet born. Not because of God’s predestination, because the Arminian denies that possibility from the outset. It would seem that the inevitability in question had some source other than either Joe or God.”

Excerpt From Apologetics to the Glory of God by John Frame pp. 44-45 (P & R Publishing)

A clever sounding, but ultimately meaningless argument. The critical error in this reasoning is the changing of the meaning of a key term. Mr. Frame tries to take a logical line of reasoning then suddenly switches the key term which has been conveniently interpreted with Calvinist bias. Observe:

* Premise 1: Man has free will

* Premise 2: God knows what the decisions he will make are

* Conclusion: What God knows man will do is inevitable (i.e. will come to pass, despite the other possibilities)

Then he takes the conclusion, interprets it to fit his Calvinist prejudices, and uses it as a premise for the next argument:

* Premise 1: What God knows man will do is inevitable (i.e. must come to pass with no other possibilities)

* Premise 2: God did not make man’s decisions for him

* Conclusion: Something else must have caused that to be the only possible choice that God knew about

The term ‘inevitable’ is changed from its meaning in the first argument (what will happen) to fit the Calvinist mode of thinking (what must happen, with no other possibilities). The syllogism with premise 1 corrected turns out much differently:

* Premise 1: What God knows man will do is inevitable (i.e. will come to pass, despite the other possibilities)

* Premise 2: God did not make man’s decisions for him

* Conclusion: Despite numerous other possibilities, God knows perfectly which one a man as of yet uncreated will freely choose

God can, thanks to His divine omniscience, know perfectly what will happen regardless of the possibilities, so our beliefs, actions, decisions, etc. are inevitable in the sense that they will occur, they are not inevitable in the sense that they must occur (no other possibilities, or by ‘fatal necessity’ as it were). That is, after all, the definition of free will. Mr. Frame argues from the free will point of view, then suddenly pretends there is no such thing and switches the meaning of ‘inevitable’ from ‘what man will freely* do’ to ‘what man must do.’ This is simply begging the question, as changing of the meaning of the ‘inevitable’ requires that you assume that free will does not exist. Such a switch would then naturally raise the question “Why must it occur?”, and the reasoning from two mutually exclusive paradigms inevitably (in the Calvinist sense) produces a contradictory answer. Whereas understanding that God can know with 100% accuracy what men will freely choose and do even before they are born does not conflict with the idea of free will at all, nor does it require some mysterious external force to yield the ultimate conclusions that God the Father has always known will be.

Bottom Line:

* God foreknows men’s lives, actions, thoughts and decisions

* Man’s actions that God foreknows are inevitable in the sense that they will occur, not that they by necessity must