Does Libertarian Free Will Imply That We Can Stop Sinning Altogether?: A Response to Monergism Books

Jonathan

Thompson

(The Holistic Apologist)

|

December 29, 2017

Monergism Books (hereafter, MB) posted the following on Facebook:

Source: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10150964832184949&id=15086969948

Just in case MB’s Facebook post gets compromised I will reproduce their statement here:

“You think you have a free will? Then demonstrate it: in your own power, stop sinning altogether.

The fact that no person can choose to live a sinless life is proof positive that he has no free will. He is held captive under the yoke of sin and thus he sins willingly and of necessity … and cannot do otherwise.

Jesus said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. …(but) if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’ John 8:34, 36”

MB’s argument can be schematized as follows:

1. If man has free will, then man has the ability to stop sinning altogether.

2. Man does not have the ability to stop sinning altogether.

3. Therefore, man does not have free will.

This argument is logically valid in that it exhibits a modus tollens structure. Therefore, the relevant question is whether or not the argument’s premises are true. Before I appraise the argument I should first note that I will be understanding this argument to be referring to libertarian free will (hereafter LFW). I do this because MB is a part of a Calvinist ministry and Calvinists are typically compatibilists.

Let’s restrict our concerns to premise (1). Concerning it, why believe it? Notice that MB provides no justification for the view that LFW asserts or else implies that one has the ability to stop sinning altogether. MB has therefore begged the question in favor of this premise by assuming to be true what they are supposed to be proving, namely that LFW asserts or else implies that one has the ability to stop sinning altogether.

At this point I will define LFW in order to demonstrate that it does not assert that libertarianly free agents, in their sinful natures, possess the ability to stop sinning altogether. Simply put, LFW is the view that we possess “freedom of moral and rational responsibility”1 and “that the freedom necessary for responsible action is not compatible with determinism”.2 Notice that such a definition does not stipulate, nor have we been given any reason to believe, that this definition implies that there are no factors which delimit our freedom. Thus, LFW would seem to be compatible with the claim that there are factors, such as our sinful natures, which delimit our freedom in such a way that we cannot stop sinning altogether.

In short, MB’s argument isn’t “proof positive” that we possess no libertarian free will. However, in some sense, the argument does provide evidence that MB doesn’t understand LFW (at least if that’s what their argument is intending to refer to).


Notes

1William Lane Craig & J.P. Moreland, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, p. 268

2William Lane Craig & J.P. Moreland, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (2nd Edition), pg. 303.

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Jonathan

Thompson

(The Holistic Apologist)

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