See, right there, that lame joke just about sums up what I know about Free Will. Which means I need to read Paul Manata’s new primer Free Will, Moral Responsibility, and Reformed Theology: A Contemporary Introduction. Paul is a long time friend of this blog and myself, and has done the Reformed community a service in compiling this introduction to this question which must inevitably dog every generation of Predestinarians.
To get you interested with a taster (and maybe even start a discussion), let me share with you the “Reformed perimeter fence” that Paul distills (p. 30) from the confessions:
- Whatsoever happens in creation happens because God has decreed it.
- If God decrees that something occur, then it will certainly occur; it must occur given the decree.
- God could have decreed otherwise than he did, in which case we would have done otherwise (or maybe not even existed).
- God knows all that will happen in creation because God has decreed it to occur. His knowledge here is based on his decree, and not vice versa.
- Though God decrees whatsoever comes to pass, man is responsible for his actions.
- The ultimate source of our actions is God’s decree grounded in his will. God is ultimately responsible for all that occurs (note a distinction: being ultimately responsible for something does not necessarily imply that you are morally culpable for thing).
- Given God’s decree, we cannot do otherwise than he has decreed. Given identical decrees, identical decreed results will always happen.
- This is a kind of determinism, a kind of necessity to our actions, but it is a conditional necessity and not an absolute one.
- God executes his decree in history by his providential governing of all things to their appointed ends. How he does this is not known but may be speculated on.
- Affirming determinism does not entail affirming a specific model of how God makes sure whatsoever he has decreed comes to pass. Reformed believers are free to develop and work out models so long as they are consistent with the above.
So go get yourself a copy of the PDF, and learn something already!