A Free Will Wager

By Phillip A. Mast

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December 5, 2017

The discussion concerning Libertarian Free Will vs Divine Causal Determinism continues as it has for quite some time. Many people I come across in discussions tend to have an idea of where they already lean on the issue, even if related questions still linger. What of those who do not know much on the issue or have come to no definite conclusion? Personally I think the debate is far from uncertain but if one is uncertain on the question of Free Will/Determinism and feels that they do not have adequate/sufficient information to settle the matter for themselves, what would be the best route? (I suggest starting with What is Libertarian Free Will?) What if we considered a different approach to this longstanding debate that is not so much concerned with the immense amount of details but on the fair generic circumstances of it?

For that I wanted to present a wager of sorts that involves Libertarian Free Will and Divine Causal Determinism. A wager is by definition a bet or something risked or staked on an uncertain event. It can also be described as a plan or an option considered with regard to its probable consequences. Naturally we should prefer consequences that are of greatest expected desirability or value over outcomes that are undesirable or valueless. For instance when placing a wager you try to minimize loss while attempting to achieve the greatest gain. In situations of uncertainty between two options preferring the option with arguably greater desirability or value would be a better wager. Let me put the issue of Free Will and Determinism into a similar framework for understanding. For the sake of succinctness I will display the following acronyms “LFW” for Libertarian Free Will and “DCD” for Divine Causal Determinism.

Free Will Wager

The wager options begin like this:

  • If LFW is true and DCD is false but one thinks LFW is true then one has used LFW to believe it to be true.
  • If LFW is false but DCD is true but one thinks LFW is true then one was determined (via DCD) to believe LFW to be true.
  • If DCD is false but LFW is true but one thinks DCD is true then we have used LFW to believe DCD to be true.

Now of the three options the first is obvious. If LFW is true and we believe LFW to be true then there is no objection to believing LFW to be true overall (See Can We Choose Our Beliefs?). The second and third options seem to be where contentions are along with the crux of the wager.

It is Arguably Better to Think LFW is True & Be Wrong.

Now why is this so? If DCD is true you were causally determined to believe LFW true and could not have thought otherwise (See A Revised FreeThinking Argument). On this position you cannot be held morally accountable for your thoughts (and therefore your ‘decisions’) because your thoughts and subsequent actions were caused for you, similar to that of a robot merely following its scripted programming (See A Lesson About Free Will & Responsibility). In essence Ultimate Responsibility (UR) cannot fall on the created person because Ultimate Responsibility indicates the ultimate origin of decision.

On DCD that ultimate origin of decision is made solely by God for the person not by the person. What can a person do but think that which God makes him think? DCD also inherently poses a problem for the DCD advocate because it logically posits God as the origin of evil and sin (See Calvinism Implies Atheism). Now I affirm what scripture demonstrates which is that God is righteous and holy and therefore has utter hostility, disgust, and dislike for sin and evil. If DCD is true though ultimate responsibility lies with God because people do not freely make decisions. In the end if DCD is true and I am to be forcefully made wrong in thought and action I would rather be forced into a position that gives LFW even if illusory and as well does not place UR on God.

It is Arguably Worse to Think DCD is True & Be Wrong

Now by comparison to the previous position it is worse believing DCD to be true and be wrong. The reasoning behind this is that in believing DCD to be true but being wrong a person actually freely thinks but denies it. They can freely think but believe they were causally determined to think (and therefore act) as they do when in fact they could have thought otherwise (See Semi-Compatibilism & Responsibility). This appears to try to propagate a delusion of the self. This also serves my previous point where I mentioned that DCD inherently poses a problem because it logically posits God as the origin of sin.

On this option people willfully believe DCD and its logical conclusions about God in relation to evil and sin. Now this does not mean all those who hold to DCD believe God to be the origin of evil and sin. Many I know who hold to DCD do not think of God as the origin of evil and sin (and rightly so) but logically that is the entailment of the view. It is inescapable. In consideration of this view people also appear to try and avoid them as being the ultimate origin of their thoughts and decisions when in fact they are by positing God as the arbiter of their thoughts and actions. I find this position to be inconsistent overall with scripture and what it says of the character of God which is why it is arguably worse to think.

Points to Ponder

It is comprehensively better that LFW be true over DCD both in desirability and value. The main reason is is due to Ultimate Responsibility and Agent Causation. With LFW being true there is a coherent and biblical basis for Ultimate Responsibility lying with mankind. On LFW being true mankind is the ultimate origin of their decisions because of Agent Causation. Man, being a causal agent, is the source and origin of his choices alone. Causal agents themselves may experience influences toward decisions they make but man is the final determiner of those decisions. On DCD God alone is the ultimate responsibility and the only agent causing anything to occur whether thoughts or actions. LFW is also preferable because evil and sin originate solely from mankind while on DCD the only logical conclusion not defended ad hoc results in God being the origin of evil and sin.

Conclusion

The former decision (believing LFW is true when it is actually false) one has no control over if you were wrong but were made to believe it. The latter decision (believing DCD is true when it is actually false) one has control over if one were wrong but abdicated that control in favor of believing you had no control when in fact you had it. Free thinking is tied directly with the idea of agents being morally responsible which only coherently can be done if LFW is bestowed. This certainly gives us cause for valuing — and freely choosing — LFW over DCD.

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About the Author

By Phillip A. Mast

Phillip Mast is an aspiring Christian apologist with special interest relating to soteriology after becoming a Molinist approximately two years ago. Currently he pursues various personal studies while being active in a local church body in which he leads the ‘Sheepdawg’ ministry. He is a Husband to his beautiful wife Courtney of 11 years, Father of 5, and has an active career in Law Enforcement. He also admins on the Facebook page “Theist Thug Life” which focuses on highlighting evidence for God’s existence, God’s Sovereignty, and Human Freedom.