Compatiblist freedom isn’t freedom at all. The compatiblist will say “You’re free because you do whatever you want to do” but the fact is, you can’t control your wants. Your desires have been programmed into you by God at least on the Calvinist (or hypercalvinist) version of compatiblism. Atheism ascribes the determining to natural cause and effect in the brain coupled with environmental factors (molecules in motion)|. You do what you want to do, but your wants are determined.
This is my definition of freedom and I think it’s the common sense definition that most people think of when they hear the term “free will”. You have the choice between A and B. Let’s say you choose A. You chose A, but you didn’t have to choose A. You could have chosen B and refrained from choosing A. But the compatiblist says you had to choose A because your desire to choose A was stronger than your desire to choose B, and we always go along with whatever our strongest desire is. So, it wasn’t really possible for you to choose B and refrain from choosing A since choosing A was your strongest desire. Only if you were determined to desire B and refrain from choosing A could you have chosen B. I have a hard time seeing how you’re free if you’re determined to choose something, thus removing any possibility of you choosing the alternative. In order for man’s will to be truly free, it must be entirely possible for him to choose something other than he actually chooses. If it is not at all possible for a man to choose the alternative of what he actually chose, I don’t see how we can say he was “free” in any meaningful sense of the word.
This has negative theological implications if Calvinism (which must affirm compatiblism since the T.U.L.I.P is absolutely incompatible with the libertarian definition of free will) is true. Since if it were true, it would mean God is the author of evil. Try to imagine the conversation between God and the unbeliever on judgment day;
God: “I’m sending you to Hell because you rejected my offer of salvation and continued living in sin and doing evil. If only you had repented, I would let you into Heaven.”
Unbeliever: “But God, I conversed with some Christians who tried to convert me a while back when I was alive and they said you are sovereign over all things and determine our actions, so doesn’t that mean all my evil deeds and my rejection of the gospel was your fault, not mine?”
God: “Yes, I determined all of your actions. But you wanted to do those things, so you did them of your own free will. I did determine your desires though, which caused you to take the actions that you took. But since you desired to do the things you did, you did them freely.”
Unbeliever: “You determined my desires? Then it really was your fault that I did all those things, right?”
God: “Who are you O man to question Me?”
Unbeliever: “I’m just saying, it seems like if I did all those evil things because I wanted to, and according to the compatiblists, we all act according to our strongest desire, and you determined that my strongest desires were to do evil things, how can I possibly be held responsible? If only you had determined my strongest desires to be to do only good things, I wouldn’t be standing here today guilty before you. How is it just then, for you to condemn me since it was your sovereign will that I desire to do evil and therefore actually do evil?”
God: “Umm….uhh….who are you O man to question Me?”
Determinism and free will are not compatible. You can believe in determinism or free will, but not both. It is logically impossible to force someone to freely do something. Even if someone isn’t doing something “against” their will, even if their will is determined rather than their actions directly, that doesn’t mean they’re free.
I’m not in this post defending libertarian freedom. I’m simply pointing out that libertarian freedom is the only real form of free will that there is. Compatiblism isn’t compatible as the name would suggest. Determinism might be true for all we know (I don’t think it is though). But you can’t affirm determinism and also affirm free will. If libertarian free will is false, then free will is false and sheer determinism is true, since there isn’t any other kind of free will that is truly free. Theologically, the loss of free will has a devastating impact of how we view God. If God determines everyone’s actions, how can he justly punish someone for doing something that He Himself determined them to do? That would be like a mother spanking her child for obeying! The loss of free will would reduce God to an evil puppet master who burns people for eternity for doing the very things He made them do. Flip Wilson used to say “the devil made me do it”. Perhaps he should have instead said “God made me do it” or “God made the devil make me do it.”
What compatiblism shows is that having some force or factors control you is compatible with you having the desire to do the very thing you’re being determined to do. But that’s not free will. That’s a programmed desire. Whether God/Nature is determining your desire or forcing you to do something against your will, either way, you’re not free.