Thread: Calvinism v Materialism
July 28th 2004, 07:05 AM #1
Calvinism v Materialism
I have seen Calvinists argue that a materialist worldview doesn't provide the preconditions for free will. I would like to know how they reason this. How is it that God foreordaining everything (even electrons, etc., are under providential control) provides the preconditions for free will but 'foreordination' by physical determinism does not?
Commentary by FiveSolas particularly encouraged.
July 28th 2004, 07:21 AM #2
Re: Calvinism v Materialism
Point of order: Calvinists believe in free moral action, not free will.
Free will posits the idea of unrestrained action, and acausal action. We are free to act, and we are free to act contra-causally.
Free moral action posits the idea of unrestrained action alone. We are free to act.
Materialists, like Theists, are divided on the place and actuality of free will, so that writers like Robert Kane argue for it, and writers like Ted Honderich argue against it.
Theistic determinism is not the same as mechanistic determinsm in which C follows B which follows A, ad infinitum, in an unbroken chain which theoretically could be investigated. Theistic determinism says, God causes or lets things happen by an act of will. Whether that means micro-managing electrons is not included in the biblical witness, since his foreordaining of things generally relates to human beings, and sinful ones at that. The doctrines of foreordination, foreknowledge, predestination, etc are there for our comfort (Article 17, Church of England articles), to remind us that things never get out of control. Calvin put it in Book 3 Christian Life, of his Institutes, and only later Refomred writers moved it up to the loci on God's decrees.
July 29th 2004, 02:19 AM #3
Re: Calvinism v Materialism
It's not just Calvinists who argue that a materialist worldview doesn't provide the preconditions for freewill. C.S. Lewis wrote a chapter on it in his book on Miracles. I think it's the second or third chapter. He basically argued that if the materialist worldview is true, then everything, including our actions and beliefs, are deterministically caused. Only if the will resides outside of this causal chain (like in an immaterial soul) can we have free will.
The difference between God's forordination and material determinism is that one is blind and mechanical while the other based on the will and decision of a sentient being.
Solly is right that strictly speaking, Calvinists do not believe in acausal libertarian free will. Most Calvinists are compatibalists (Jonathan Edwards wrote an excellent book on the topic, The Freedom of the Will). There are some who believe in free will regarding non-moral choices, such as the choice to drink Dr. Pepper rather than Sprite or something like that. But none believe we have free will in regards to our choice to accept or reject Christ.
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