3 Reasons Why Exhaustive Divine Determinism (EDD) Is Not Redundant



(The FreeThinking Theist)


September 7, 2021


Dear Dr. Stratton,

JD Martin has said that saying “exhaustive Divine determinism” (EDD) is redundant (“they don’t know what they’re talking about” he says) because on determinism everything is causally determined (I tend to agree it is redundant). I know that you have sought to make a distinction as you explain “Mere Molinism”, etc. 

How would you respond? Why do you think including the word “exhaustive” is important? 

– Drew

Dr. Tim’s Response

Hi Drew! Thank you for asking this clarifying question. 

I use the word “exhaustive” for multiple reasons. Here are three to consider:

#1- Stealing from Freedom

Based on numerous discussions with determinists, it seems that many of these folks unintentionally assume limited libertarian freedom while asserting this freedom is illusory. This reminds me of Frank Turek’s book “Stealing From God,” where he points out that atheists often tacitly assume God exists in an attempt to argue against His existence. Similarly, it seems to me that many determinists (both Calvinists and naturalists) “steal from libertarian freedom” to argue against libertarian freedom. 

I see this quite often, for example, when determinists appeal to “guidance control” in an attempt to maintain desert responsibility. The determinist often assumes that he/she has the power to “guide” thoughts (guidance control) even if he/she had no ability to actually pull the otherwise off (which would require “regulative control”). Be that as it may, if determinism entails the word “exhaustive” (and thus it is not needed to use the word), then this means that the way one supposedly “guides” thoughts and actions is also causally determined by things other than the agent in question. After all, if how one guides is ultimately under the control of something or someone else, then one does not seem to have the control condition required for moral and rational responsibility.

That “control condition” is in the hands of something or someone else. Using the word “exhaustive” helps those asserting or attempting to argue for determinism see they need to consistently apply it to everything.

#2- One Sense vs Another

I am a determinist in one sense. However, I reject it in another sense. The word “exhaustive” allows me to explain. 

It is perfectly coherent to say “determinism is true” in the sense that the vast majority of events in the universe are causally determined. Indeed, I affirm that all things in the universe might have been causally determined for over 14 billion years — from the initial conditions of the Big Bang until relatively recently. As I explained in the final chapter of Human Freedom, Divine Knowledge, and Mere Molinism, since the dawn of humanity (thousands of years ago) not all things in the universe have been causally determined. That is to say, humanity is not always causally determined.

I am a “determinist” in the sense that I believe humanity is probably causally determined the vast majority of the time — just not always (this is why Libet’s experiments are inconsequential to the free will debate). This is why I argue for limited libertarian freedom. The words “limited” and “exhaustive” provide clarification. 

#3- Matters Above vs Matters Below

It is also important to use the word “exhaustive” when talking to Calvinists such as Greg Koukl, Richard Muller, Oliver Crisp, and Sean Luke. Koukl, for example, affirms that soteriological matters are completely causally determined. He is a 5-point Calvinist but goes on to argue for libertarian freedom when it comes to rationality (just as I do).

Koukl clarifies in his book Tactics:

“The problem with [determinism] is that without freedom, rationality would have no room to operate. Arguments would not matter, since no one would be able to base beliefs on adequate reasons. One could never judge between a good idea and a bad one. One would only hold beliefs because he had been predetermined to do so…. Although it is theoretically possible that determinism is true—there is no internal contradiction, as far as I can tell—no one could ever know it if it were. Every one of our thoughts, dispositions, and opinions would have been decided for us by factors completely out of our control. Therefore, in practice, arguments for determinism are self-defeating.”

Koukl is exactly right. This 5-Point Calvinist is clear that it is self-defeating to argue for determinism. So, obviously Koukl is NOT an exhaustive divine determinist, although it is fair to say that he is a “divine determinist” when it comes to salvation issues. Indeed, as pointed out in Mere Molinism, the Reformers Luther, Melanchthon, and Calvin would likely take Koukl’s view as they affirmed a distinction between no freedom in “matters above” (soteriological issues) and some freedom in “matters below.” Melanchthon made it clear:

“You yourself have experienced that it is in your power to greet or not to greet him, to put on this coat or not put it on, to eat or not to do so.”

The word “exhaustive” provides clarity and an opportunity for one to clearly state what position they affirm and advance. I find it odd when certain Calvinists balk at this attempt at clarity. Perhaps some prefer muddy waters. 

Bottom line: before one asserts that I “don’t know what I’m talking about,” perhaps one should seek to find the reasons as to why I seek to purify the muddy waters by making careful distinctions. I have explained exactly why the word “exhaustive” allows interlocutors to see clearly. 

Scott Olson provides some nice insight into the topic of exhaustive divine determinism in our recent series interacting with Matt and Taylor from The Free Will Show. Here is the link:


Stay reasonable (Isaiah 1:18) and oppose EDD. 

Dr. Tim Stratton


About the Author



(The FreeThinking Theist)

Timothy A. Stratton (PhD, North-West University) is a professor at Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary. As a former youth pastor, he is now devoted to answering deep theological and philosophical questions he first encountered from inquisitive teens in his church youth group. Stratton is founder and president of FreeThinking Ministries, a web-based apologetics ministry. Stratton speaks on church and college campuses around the country and offers regular videos on FreeThinking Ministries’ YouTube channel.

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