Follow by Email

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Liberty, the Seat of Moral Accountability


The question that always lurks behind the objection to the Edwardsian view of God’s determination of the human will is how can man be morally accountable for choices that are necessary and not free? In other words, if it is true that God knows the future choices of men because he has determined them and that free will is a philosophical surd, then how can man be held responsible for any choices whatsoever? The solution lies in the distinction between ability and liberty.

There are four states of man. (1) Man in the garden prior to the fall; (2) man after the fall yet prior to conversion; (3) converted man; and (4) glorified man. In all four states man does not have free will; for man cannot choose contrary to his is strongest inclination at the moment of choice; nor can man choose contrary to the truth of how he will choose. It is not as if prior to the fall Adam had free will and then lost it with sin, regaining it upon conversion, etc. Neither man nor God ever has free will.The seat of moral accountability is (a) liberty (the ability to choose what one wants), AND (b) the want of being able to choose contrary to how one will. With respect to liberty, man is morally accountable when he has the ability to choose as he wants; which is to say, man is morally accountable when he has liberty to act, which presupposes no prohibitors, whether they be economic, intellectual, physical, etc. Given liberty, it is necessary that man always choose according to his intentions and never contrary to them; for to act contrary to an intention is not to choose but to act irrationally, without intention. Accordingly, man is morally accountable when he has liberty yet no free will.

A man crippled in his legs from birth cannot be held responsible for not running around the back yard with his children. The reason being, he could not do so if he wanted. He has no liberty in other words, which is again the ability to choose as one wants. With respect to coming to Christ, God’s election of reprobates unto damnation does not prohibit them from acting according their desires and intentions. A reprobate does not lack liberty, the ability to act according to his desire or want of desire for Christ. Consequently, the reprobate is not at all like the crippled man who is prevented from running even given a desire to do so; for the crippled man cannot act according to a desire to run, whereas the reprobate can and does act according his intention toward Christ. A reprobate chooses to reject God, yet could embrace God if he so desired; whereas a crippled man cannot run with his children given a desire to do so. The difference is obvious. The reprobate has liberty, whereas the crippled man has none.

I’ve addressed the matter of the reprobate coming to Christ only because it is the most important choice one makes in his life. However, one should not become confused and think that some real choices are not determined and not according to one’s intentions and, therefore, "free." Some Calvinists wrongly think that reprobates are "free" except with respect to coming to Christ. That is false. No person is free to choose contrary to how he will, whether in the area of the gospel or in common life.
One last point:
Of course liberty is a sufficient condition for responsibility, which is not to say it is a necessary condition for responsibility. With respect to the former, if one has liberty to choose what he wants, he is responsible before God. If one due to his own sinful choices loses liberty, then of course he can still be held responsible for what he no longer has liberty to do. For instance, if one's sinful choice(s) prevents him from providing for his family, his lack of liberty to work due to having to serve prison time does not negate his responsibility to provide for his family. Accordingly, liberty is not always a necessary condition for moral responsibility but it is always a sufficient condition.

Ron

Related links from this Blog:

On free will: http://reformedapologist.blogspot.com/2006_03_01_reformedapologist_archive.html

On choosing contrary to what God knows:
http://reformedapologist.blogspot.com/2006/03/arminianism-in-light-of-future-tense.html

Counter since: 9/6/2006

Free Website Counter



Hit Counters

14 comments:

razzendahcuben said...

I like the new layout, though I think your blog could stand some more creativity with the picture and the title. :D

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Choosing the new layout was more out of necessity than preference I'm afraid. For some strange reason, the old template started pushing the table of contents for recent entries along with my profile to the bottom of the page. Also, the latest post could not be placed at the top of the page, leaving a huge blank, which made it necessary to scroll down to read the post. Oh well.... The new template seems to present a more soothing, gentler Ron. :)

Anonymous said...

Lol, yes you do seem more light hearted. I like the change though.

Good post. Though, I was wondering if you could expound upon, "(b) the want of being able to choose contrary to how one will." Are you speaking of two contrary desires? Such as me wanting to eat ice cream and a cookie but in the end only choosing the cookie (overriding desire)?

P.S. I'd love to see some posts regarding Covenant Theology.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

"I was wondering if you could expound upon, "(b) the want of being able to choose contrary to how one will." Are you speaking of two contrary desires? Such as me wanting to eat ice cream and a cookie but in the end only choosing the cookie (overriding desire)?"

Hi Anonymous,

What I was trying to say is that to choose contrary to one's intention is impossible. For to *choose* presupposes acting in a manner consistent with one's stongest inclination at the moment of choice. Consequently, to be morally accountable one cannot be able to choose contrary to how he will.

"P.S. I'd love to see some posts regarding Covenant Theology."

I hope to satisfy that desire soon! :)

Warmly,

Ron

razzendahcuben said...

With respect to liberty, man is morally accountable when he has the ability to choose as he wants; which is to say, man is morally accountable when he has liberty to act, which presupposes no prohibitors, whether they be economic, intellectual, physical, etc.

Wouldn't God's blinding of one's heart be an prohibiter? Seems quite prohibiting to me.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

God's hardening of one's heart prohibts the ability to choose x over ~x, but it does not prohibt man from choosing as he wants, which is the essence of liberty.

Ron

razzendahcuben said...

So the lost are unable to choose God but it doesn't destroy accountability because the lost will never desire to make such a choice, correct?

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Kind of. Let's take the choice for Jesus out of the equation since one can be damned without ever hearing of Jesus and, therefore, without ever having the option of choosing to receive Him as Lord and Savior.

People are guilty for the sin they choose, even though they are unable to choose contrary to how they do choose. What makes them guilty for their actions when they are unable to choose contrary to to them? That's the question, isn't it? The answer is that their actions are a result of their own intentions. They choose according to their own desires; they are not forced to choose godlessness. They choose godlessness "freely" - which is to say according to their God given freedom to act as they so desire, which is "liberty." It's the "liberty" to choose that makes men culpable for their actions. Which is to say, it's "the ability to act as one wants" that makes one culpable for what he chooses.

I think that's what you are saying above.

Also keep in mind that we are condemned in Adam apart from our own personal actions. Adam's sin is imputed to us (Romans 5). In the like manner, Jesus' righteousness is imputed to us (and our sin was imputed to Jesus upon the cross). Accordingly, apart from our acting according to our sin nature, we are condemned by union with our federal head, Adam. If one doesn't like that notion, then how can he like the notion of the imputation of Christ's righteousness?!

Ron

K said...

Another question:

Sin violates God's law.
God foreordains sin.
Therefore God is violating His own law and is internally inconsistent.

I have been answering this objection for some time now by pointing out that God doesn't cause the sin directly. He causes the desires in human BEINGS that choose to sin. A being has to be involved. (Hence my computer virus analogy fails, if you remember it.)

Am I on to something? What about that other question I sent you? Am I annoying or what?

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

"Another question:"

Shoot!

"Sin violates God's law.
God foreordains sin.
Therefore God is violating His own law and is internally inconsistent.
"

The argument has an invalid form. But to get to the point, ordaining sin is not sin.

"I have been answering this objection for some time now by pointing out that God doesn't cause the sin directly. He causes the desires in human BEINGS that choose to sin."

The sinful desires upon which we act is sin; so if God is causing those desires, God is causing sin.

"A being has to be involved. (Hence my computer virus analogy fails, if you remember it.)"

I vaguely remember...

"Am I on to something?"

No, I don't think so. You might be *on* something though! :)

"What about that other question I sent you? Am I annoying or what?"

Was the other question "am I annoying?" Or are you referring to another question than that one? No need to answer...

Yours, whoever you are.

Ron

razzendahcuben said...

I have never seen you expound, then, on how God avoids sinning when he "creates circumstances that cause desires" (to paraphrase something you've written before). Have you done this already or would you mind doing it now? (Briefly.)

And why is that form invalid?

razz

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

The form is invalid because it's missing some premises. The conclusion goes way beyond the premises.

You would need something like this:

1. Sin violates God's law

2. To foreordain sin is sin

3. To foreordain sin violates God's law

Now that would be valid, but I don't think you would find it sound.

(1) God does not sin. And (2) it is impossible for that God being uniquely eternal, omniscient and omnipotent not to determine all that occurs. Both are true. Accordingly, you must allow the latter point to inform your definition of sin. In other words, if God cannot sin and cannot help but determine all that comes to pass, then it cannot be sin to determine all that comes to pass, which includes the sin that occurs.

Ron

razzendahcuben said...

Well, yes, I'm aware that contained in that syllogism was the premise that foreordaining sin = sin because THAT is the issue I'm trying to hit at. Do you just leave it at "It must not be a sin" and end there? Seems like a cop out. (I'm not saying its wrong, I'm saying that we are supposed to give an answer... And you have always railed against invoking mystery.)

Remember, you wrote in another post, Doesn’t God providentially orchestrate circumstances that come before the souls of men thereby moving them by secondary causes to act in accordance with new inclinations that are brought into existence according to God’s providence that He decrees?

The only thing different between saying "God caused sin" (which would make God a sinner, I think you would agree) and "God caused the desire in Keith to sin" is Keith, a human being, hence my point in an earlier comment that in order for sin to occur it must occur in a being (a creature with a soul). And in the instance of Keith sinning it is the being named Keith and not God.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Keith,

When did I ever "rail against invoking mystery"? The Christian faith is full of mystery, jut not logical contradiction that's all. As for your syllogism, you asked why it was invalid so I told you.

Now for your other issues... God causing sin does not make God a sinner, or else God is a sinner for he certainly causes sin. Every human that God causes to exist is a sinner by nature. God creates sinful natures every second of every day. Are you too going to say: "The thing molded will not say to the molder, 'Why did you make me like this [a sinner]' will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?"

Keith, God caused you to begin to exist in your sinful state and that sinful state is in and of itself sin. So please, whatever you do, don't try to get God out of the perceived problem you find him in, for he makes no apologies for causing sin. In fact he says, "who are you, O man, who answers back to God?"

God causes sin and is not ashamed of it, so don't you be ashamed of it lest you be ashamed of God. Love God for He is and let the Scriptures tell you about Him.

As for reconciling all of this, it's easy but not unless you presuppose the Scriptures in your reasoning. Your understanding of sin needs to be informed by Scripture, not unaided reasoning.

With respect to the particular sins one commits, isn't God within his rights as God to cause hearts to harden (which is to cause sin since a hardened heart is itself sin) and then attribute the sin of the hardened heart to the creature?

Ron