The Freethinking Argument VS a Presuppositional Apologist



(The FreeThinking Theist)


April 20, 2020

When debating the FreeThinking Argument with naturalists (those who presuppose nature is all that exists), they often accuse me of being a “presuppositionalist” (a.k.a., “a presupper”)! This means that they incorrectly believe that I am assuming naturalism is false to conclude the supernatural exists. If this were the case, I would be committing a textbook example of begging the question — a logical fallacy! I was glad to hear that some “presuppositional apologists” have come to my defense to set the record straight. They correctly point out that the FreeThinking Argument is NOT presuppositional in nature. Thus, not only do naturalists despise the argument, presuppositional apologists often do not like it either.[1]

It is vital to note that there are different methodologies when it comes to Christian apologetics. They are not all created equal. The classical and evidentialist approaches seem to be the most effective to show what one knows to be true, but some “presuppers” have a different opinion. I do not care what approach one uses as long as it is effective in leading people to Christ.[2] I have personally seen the classical approach to be quite effective in strengthening the faith of believers, and also in respectfully challenging the faith and presuppositions of atheists and non-Christians in general.

While I have no problem with a brother/sister in Christ who prefers a different methodology, I do have a “problem” when one “side” of the Church attacks the character or motives of other Christians who are trying to advance the gospel.

Recently, I was made aware that a well-known presuppositionalist wrote an article attempting to discredit the FreeThinking Argument. Poor objections to my argument are a dime a dozen on the internet and I simply do not have the time to respond to all of them. This article, however, seems to be an objection worthy of response since it is the first article that appears after one Google searches the “FreeThinking Argument.”

Consider the words of Sye Ten Bruggencate:

“Stratton’s argument, would be the evidentialist’s version of the fizzing pop argument Doug Wilson used in his debate with Farrell Till. While it is indeed the case that atheists cannot account for free thought, the evidentialist goes about exposing this fact in a far different manner than a presuppositionalist would.”

I am happy that Ten Bruggencate affirms that “the evidentialist exposes the fact” that atheists cannot account for free thinking. It seems that the argument is thus quite successful in achieving its intended purpose. Ten Bruggencate might attempt to expose this fact via a different method, but if the classical apologist still “exposes this fact,” then I do not see why a presuppositionalist should complain if he cares about truth.

However, Ten Bruggencate does complain regarding a short video I made explaining the Freethinking Argument in a nutshell:

“Tim starts off his video by saying: ‘If these atheists happen to be right that God does not exist, it’s also highly implausible that the immaterial aspect of humanity, called a soul, exists.’ Note that at this point Tim is not formulating his argument but laying the rationale behind his formulation of the argument. While presuppositionalists can employ hypotheticals in their argumentation, we do not take the position that God’s existence is only probabilistic and would not lay the groundwork for our argumentation in this fashion.”

Let me reiterate that I take no issue with Christians attempting to defend the Christian worldview via different methodologies (if it works for them and people are coming to Christ then more power to ’em)! However, no premise of the Freethinking Argument says anything about the “probability of the existence of God.” In fact, none of the deductive conclusions of the argument mention God at all. It is not until the final abductive conclusion that the “biblical view of God” is stated as the inference to the best explanation of human libertarian freedom and the existence of the human soul. Examine the argument as it was originally worded in the video.[3]

1- If naturalism is true, the immaterial human soul does not exist.
2- If the soul does not exist, libertarian free will does not exist.
3- If libertarian free will does not exist, rationality and knowledge do not exist.
4- Rationality and knowledge exist.
5- Therefore, libertarian free will exists.
6- Therefore, the soul exists.
7- Therefore, naturalism is false.
8- The best explanation for the existence of the soul is God.

The argument simply begins by stating the obvious: that if nature is all that exists, then supernatural (“other than nature”) substances do not exist. It is no different than the following non-controversial statements: “If insects do not exist, then mosquitos do not exist,” or “If mammals do not exist, then dogs, cats, and dolphins do not exist.”

Ten Bruggencate’s article took a while to actually interact with my argument — he did try (and failed) to properly interact with my Omni-Argument, and complained about “levels of certainty.” Multiple mistakes were made demanding multiple responses. To keep this article relatively short, however, I will only deal with his direct interaction with the FreeThinking Argument.

Premise 1- If naturalism is true, the immaterial human soul does not exist.

Although Ten Bruggencate tacitly affirmed the soundness of the FreeThinking Argument (as noted above), he begins his odd objection to the sound argument by merely stating his personal preferences:

I do not like formulating the argument in such a way as to even hypothesize the possibility of naturalism, but I have heard presuppositionalists do this as well. It troubles me more though, when the rest of one’s theology seems to be consistent with belief in a probable “god.”

Ten Bruggencate might not personally “like” formulating arguments in this manner, but his subjective tastes are irrelevant to the objective truth of the proposition in question. Moreover, this premise simply articulates a proposition that based on logic is either true or false. In fact, this statement is synonymous with, “If naturalism is true, then nature is all that exists.” That is straight forward, non-controversial, and true by definition.

Now, a presuppositionalist might assume that naturalism is false. One is free to assume whatever he would like, but that is not what many (if not most) find interesting. For the sake of a charitable conversation, I do not want to assume or presuppose a certain view (even a view I know to be true); rather, I want to deductively conclude statements that correspond to reality. That is to say, “I WANT THE TRUTH!”

I digress and reiterate: all the first premise does is state the obvious. It basically says, “If naturalism is true, then things that are other than nature do not exist.” This non-controversial statement simply provides a launching point for the deductive argument.

It is important to note that Ten Bruggencate has done absolutely nothing to refute premise (1) of my argument. All he has offered is his personal preference and distaste of syllogisms like these. This is not a reason to doubt the truth of the premise in question, and thus, the FreeThinking Argument is still intact.

He moved to the second premise:

Premise 2- If the soul does not exist, libertarian free will does not exist.

I do not believe in libertarian free will, but I even disagree with Mr Stratton’s definition of it: “The notion that we are genuinely responsible for at least some of our beliefs and behaviors.” . . . I affirm that we are responsible for ALL our beliefs and behaviors but deny libertarian free will. Even so, Mr. Stratton’s argument is with Scripture, not with me as we will see in the next point.

This is a confusing objection for multiple reasons. First, it seems odd to affirm a deterministic view that says that something or someone always causally determines everything about a person, and also affirm that this person is also responsible for ALL her beliefs and behaviors. After all, would Sye be morally responsible if he was somehow overpowered and manipulated into punching an innocent old woman? Are those with  Tourette syndrome responsible for all of their actions? Would Sye be responsible for his thoughts and actions if he was unknowingly put under the influence of drugs? Clearly, it is nonsensical for Ten Bruggencate to exclaim that we are always responsible for all our beliefs and behaviors.

Second, I have clearly defined what I mean by libertarian freedom on my website and in my published work. I do not “define” libertarianism as “the notion that we are genuinely responsible…” Be that as it may, Ten Bruggencate proclaims that he disagrees with this definition, but then oddly goes on to seemingly agree with the definition. This is the case because I said that when I refer to libertarian freedom, I mean that humanity is responsible — as the source — for at least some of our thoughts, actions, beliefs, or behaviors. The words, “at least some” means that it could be all of our thoughts and beliefs but not necessarily so. Ten Bruggencate then affirms what I have argued is only possible if one possesses libertarian freedom and exclaims: “I affirm that we are responsible for ALL our beliefs and behaviors!” If he really believes that he is choosing ALL of his beliefs and behaviors, and that these are not causally determined by God — but that he is the source — then he holds a stronger view of libertarian freedom than I do! If he sticks to his presuppositions that God causally determines everything about humanity, then it is difficult to see how any human is responsible for anything.

So, once again, Ten Bruggencate has done nothing to invalidate the premise in question. In fact, one might think he tacitly supports a particular definition of libertarian freedom. With that said, I suspect he is attempting to offer a distinction between a categorical ability and a conditional ability when it comes to responsibility (See my interaction with Guillaume Bignon on this topic here).

Moreover, it is important to point out that Ten Bruggencate is merely responding to a short pop-level video made for the purposes of reaching mass audiences. I have multiple articles and podcasts on explaining exactly what philosophers and theologians mean by the term Libertarian Free Will.

In fact, an entire article was devoted to this topic: “What is Libertarian Free Will?” 

To clarify: libertarianism is the view that (1) free will is incompatible with determinism, and (2) that some of our thoughts and/or actions are free. Some maintain that an agent is free in a libertarian sense, only if they possess the freedom to think or act otherwise. However, if an agent is ever uncaused — and is simply the source of his or her thought or action (even if the agent cannot think or act otherwise for some weird reason) — then they are still free in a libertarian sense.

We can distinguish between the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP)/the “ability to do otherwise” version of libertarian freedom and the source version. Both appear true. But, while the PAP is sufficient for libertarian free will, I do not claim that it is always necessary. The source version of LFW, on the other hand, is necessary. Be that as it may, I typically defend a specific definition of libertarian freedom that seems to entail both versions:

Libertarian Freedom: The ability to choose between or among a range of alternative options each of which is compatible with one’s [“image of God“] nature.

I encourage Ten Bruggencate (who denies that humans occasionally possess libertarian freedom) to answer the “Questions for Calvinists.”

So far, the Freethinking Argument has been left unscathed. All this objector has offered to this point is that he merely prefers a different style of argument and then unwittingly seems to affirm a particular view of libertarian freedom. So far, so good!

For the sake of clarity: I do affirm that there are some things that we do/think/believe which are not directly willed by us (e.g. hunger, feelings of pain, etc).

Premise 3- If libertarian free will does not exist, rationality and knowledge do not exist.

Ten Bruggencate notes:

In supporting this point, Tim offers a quote from Sam Harris, but denies an entire segment of Christianity which affirms God’s determining of all things and man’s complete responsibility for their free choices.

There are several problems with Ten Bruggencate’s objection. First, the Freethinking Argument simply points out that if libertarian freedom does not exist, then one cannot rationally affirm anything they think or believe to be true. This is the case because if all beliefs are determined via natural forces or God (if they could be otherwise or not) then one has no ability to evaluate their thoughts and beliefs as good, bad, better, or worse than other thoughts and beliefs because those evaluative thoughts are also causally determined by someone or something else.

To clarify, consider a thought experiment:

Suppose a mad scientist exhaustively controls (causally determines) all of Sye Ten Bruggencate’s thoughts and beliefs all the time. This includes exactly what Sye thinks of and about and exactly how Sye thinks of and about it. All of Sye’s thoughts about his beliefs and all of Sye’s beliefs about his thoughts are caused and determined by the mad scientist. This also includes the next words that will come out of Sye’s mouth.

Question: How can Sye (not the mad scientist) rationally affirm the current beliefs in his head as good, bad, better, the best, true, or probably true (note the range of options from which to choose) without begging the question?

Good luck with that… it is impossible!

Replace the mad scientist with “physics and chemistry,” “God,” or anything else and one has the exact same rationality problems but for different reasons.[4]  As epistemologist Kelly Fitzsimmons Burton aptly notes:

“Proper function of our cognitive faculties must first rule out the [deterministic] influences of outsiders such as Alpha Centurion, cognitive scientists, Cartesian evil demons, and also internal influences such as a brain lesion or even the influence of mind-altering substances. All of these influences may cause one’s faculties to fail to function properly” (Reason and Proper Function, p 23).

Indeed, there does not seem to be any “functioning” at all if something or someone else causally determines exactly what one thinks of and exactly how one thinks about it.

However, since Sye does possess the ability to rationally infer and affirm knowledge claims (for Sye to argue otherwise is to affirm it), we know that he possesses the libertarian freedom to think and take certain steps while deciding what he ought to affirm and believe. As I explain in the video, if rational affirmation is lost, then proper justification for a belief is non-existent. If proper justification for a belief does not exist, then the belief in question does not qualify as a knowledge claim (even if it happens to be true).

Now, Ten Bruggencate’s response (or rather, the mad scientist’s response) might be something like the following: “Because we serve a God that knows all things infallibly and the only way you can know anything is if you know someone who knows all things infallibly.” Sure, but that misses the point. This omniscient being is still causally determining all thoughts and beliefs all the time. As long as this is the case, then this thought experiment demonstrates the absurdity of Sye’s view of exhaustive divine determinism (EDD).

Second, I never explicitly denied an “entire segment of Christianity” in the premise whatsoever. This argument is dealing with the specific beliefs of the vast majority of naturalists. Period!

Indeed, it seems Ten Bruggencate is the one ignoring “entire segments” of scripture. The Apostle Paul — the same guy who wrote Romans 9 — affirms the definition of libertarian freedom in 1 Cor 10:13 and elsewhere (click here).

Moreover, this premise simply points out that if all things are causally determined by natural forces and events of nature, then all thoughts and beliefs are causally determined by natural forces and events of nature. If our thoughts and beliefs are forced upon us and could not be otherwise, then we could not ever have chosen better beliefs. If that is the case, then we are simply left assuming, not that we could do otherwise, that our determined beliefs are good (let alone true). Therefore, we could never rationally affirm that our beliefs really are the inference to the best explanation – we can only assume (and this assumption is causally determined and forced upon us as well).

A sense of vertigo is warranted!

Here is the big problem for the naturalist: it logically follows that if naturalism is true, then one cannot possess reason-based knowledge. Knowledge is traditionally and minimally defined as “justified true belief.” One can luckily happen to hold a belief that happens to be true, but, if there is no warrant or justification for that specific belief, that belief would not qualify as a knowledge claim. If one cannot freely infer the best explanation, then there is no justification that a given belief really is the best explanation. Without justification, knowledge goes down the drain. All one is left with is question-begging assumptions (a logical fallacy).

Now, if Sye’s belief in Calvinistic determinism runs into the same problem as those who affirm atheistic naturalism, then that is a big problem for Sye’s Calvinistic beliefs! Indeed, philosopher and Calvinist Guillaume Bignon recently noted that the FreeThinking Argument Against Naturalism also “hits the theological determinist [Calvinist].” However, a rejection of Calvinism wedded to a philosophical assumption of determinism is not a rejection of Christianity or scripture.

One is free to note that some Christians who hold to Calvinistic determinism disagree with the truth of the third premise, but that is far from a refutation of the premise. There are entire swaths of Christianity that affirm human libertarian freedom — including some Calvinists (like Greg Koukl, Alvin Plantinga, Oliver Crisp, etc.)! Sye is free to ignore those “entire segments of Christianity.” The point is this: I am simply stating the problems that follow from naturalistic determinism. Assuming one “segment of Christianity” to argue against this premise does nothing to refute it. A sound argument is required — not assumptions.

Ten Bruggencate continued:

//It is clear in Acts 2:23 that Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was according to God’s determined plan: “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” At the same time, in Matthew 26:24, we see that Judas was 100% responsible for his actions: “The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Yes, the compatibility of God’s ordination of all things and our free choices is a difficult, perhaps humanly impossible concept to grasp, but to argue against it is to argue with Scripture.//

These are some of the proof texts for Molinism (which explains exactly how God’s ordination of all things are compatible with the libertarian freedom of “lawless men”). This passage of scripture states nothing about exhaustive divine determinism, however, it does state that Jesus was delivered up based upon: (i) God’s definite plan, and (ii) God’s foreknowledge. This is Molinist language!

The “compatibility” that scripture teaches is that God is completely sovereign and predestines all things, and man is genuinely responsible for some things. Where are the words “causally determines” in those Bible verses Ten Bruggencate offered? Many Calvinists PRESUPPOSE and ASSUME that God’s predestination of all things means that God causally determines all things. However, we have good reason — based on logical deduction — to believe this assumption is false and that predestination and causal determinism ought not be conflated. Consider the final deductive conclusion of the following argument:

1. If irresistible grace (the “I” of T.U.L.I.P.) is true, then for any person x, if God desires to, has the power to, and knows how to cause x to go to Heaven and not suffer eternally in Hell, then x will go to Heaven and not suffer eternally in Hell.

2. If God is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient, then for any person x, God desires to, has the power to, and knows how to cause x to go to Heaven and not suffer eternally in Hell.

3. There is at least one person who will not go to Heaven and suffers eternally in Hell.

4. Therefore, one cannot affirm both (i) that irresistible grace is true and (ii) that God is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient (a maximally great being).

5. God is a maximally great being.

6. Therefore, irresistible grace is false.

7. Therefore, divine determinism is false (God does not causally determine all things).

8. God is completely sovereign and does predestine all things (Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:5,11).

9. Therefore, predestination and determinism are not to be conflated.

The final conclusion is deductive and provides evidence that determinism should be rejected by rational Christians. In addition to the argument above, consider the words of Jonathan Thompson in his response to Paul Helm:

The Greek word used for ‘predestined’ in Romans 8:30 is proōrisen (προώρισεν) which denotes that something has been predetermined or foreordained. Now, because the word ‘determine’ is a constituent of the word ‘predetermine’ some D-C [deterministic Calvinist] adherents might insist that predestination analytically entails causal determinism. This, however, fails to consider that the word ‘determine’ is a homonym, having multiple meanings, some of which are consistent with Molinism. For example, while it’s true that the word ‘determine’ can denote causal determinism it can also just mean ‘to cause something in a particular way’ or ‘to decide something’. Furthermore notice that Molinism isn’t necessarily at odds with saying that God causes our free choices in a particular way. This is because Molinism maintains that the way in which God causes our choices is by His weakly actualizing them.[5]

All things considered, since the word ‘predetermine’ is a homonym having meanings that are consistent with Molinism, the D-C adherent would therefore be begging the question by assuming without argument that these alternative interpretations to the word are false. Of course, the failure of the D-C adherent to prove their own view obviously doesn’t imply that the Molinist understanding of the word ‘predestine’ is correct, only that the relevant use of the word is underdeterminative and so is compatible with Libertarian interpretations. In short, with respect to Romans 8:30 the Molinist could maintain that this verse (and verses relevantly like this) doesn’t imply that grace is impossible to resist, but only that it won’t be resisted by the individual who receives it.

Thus, we have two reasons to reject a necessary conflation of predestination with causal determinism. The Bible does not teach that God causally determines all things and that humans are responsible for some things. This so-called “compatibility” is nonsensical. No, the compatibility the Bible teaches is that God is completely sovereign, ordains all things, and predestines all things, along with the proposition that humans are genuinely responsible in a libertarian sense for some things (See Molinism Is Biblical). The former attempt at compatibility is logically incoherent. The latter attempt at compatibility is both logical and biblical.

One last note on Ten Bruggencate’s above quote. He asserts that “the compatibility of God’s ordination of all things and our free choices is a difficult, perhaps humanly impossible concept to grasp.”

Well why think a thing like that? Why think it is difficult, let alone “impossible,” to grasp that people’s free choices correspond to God’s perfect knowledge and definitive plan? After all, if God has Middle Knowledge (which a maximally great being must possess), it is not difficult to grasp at all. To the contrary, what I find “difficult to grasp” is that a human could be fully causally determined to think and act (by outside forces) and still be held responsible (morally or otherwise) for the thoughts in his brain and the actions of his body.

At last, Ten Bruggencate finally affirms the final premise:

Premise 4- Rationality and knowledge exist

This premise means the following: “humans possess the ability to rationally infer and affirm claims of knowledge.”

He agrees and says,

//No problem here.//

While I am happy that Ten Bruggencate affirms the pivotal premise of my argument, I take issue with him agreeing with it. That is to say, if he really believes that God causally determines all things, then he must also affirm that God causes and determines all thoughts of all people all the time and that no thought can ever be otherwise or “up to us.” If that is the case, then we are left with a God who determines some people to think correctly while forcing the majority to think incorrectly. However, if one affirms that God forces most people to think false thoughts, then how can the determinist rationally affirm — or know — if God is forcing him to think incorrectly?

Assuming does not count as knowledge.

A presuppositionalist cannot rationally affirm his own thoughts as correct at this point, as his current so-called “evaluative thoughts” regarding this proposition would also be causally determined by God (as the mad scientist thought experiment demonstrated above). In fact, on his view, God could be forcing Ten Bruggencate to hold incorrect thoughts all the while also determining him to think how good and true his objectively false thoughts are! There is no way for Ten Bruggencate to rationally affirm his thoughts are good or better than mine since his thoughts (according to him) are not his own and could not be otherwise. He is only left with question-begging assumptions — a logical fallacy. Any argument based on a logical fallacy is no argument at all.

In his article, Ten Bruggencate mistakenly refers to the first deductive conclusion as a premise. Here is how it should read:

5- Therefore, libertarian free will exists.

Sye misunderstands key terms in my argument and asserts:

//Does not follow. Surely God could place knowledge into anyone He so chooses.//

God can place true beliefs into anyone He so chooses, but I have argued that true belief without justification is NOT knowledge. I made this clear in the video he is responding to and I have gone into depth explaining this throughout many articles on my website. Even if Sye’s assertion is true, this is not what I am arguing for or against. The argument is that without the libertarian freedom to think/judge/evaluate, one cannot rationally reach any conclusions which would count as knowledge. This is the case because one would not have rational justifications for one’s beliefs.

Eric Hernandez made another observation:

“… further, one could add that IF Sye’s argument succeeds, then it would succeed ONLY IF he possessed [libertarian freedom] in order to rationally analyze the argument and then come to his own conclusions. Hence, if Sye’s argument/objection is successful, then it follows that he possesses [libertarian freedom] and the conclusion of [the] argument stands!”

Bottom line: this is a deductive conclusion that follows if each of the premises are true. Although Sye previously affirmed the soundness of the syllogism, he oddly has attempted to take three of the four premises down. To this point, all the premises are standing strong and left unscathed. Thus, this deductive conclusion follows: humans do possess libertarian freedom!

Another deductive conclusion follows…

6- Therefore, the soul exists.

Sye says,

//Depending on how you define it, many professed atheists would not deny the existence of the soul; they would just define any religious aspect out of it.//

Sye ignores clear definitions above, but now appeals to definitions when it comes to the soul. Yes, “depending on how I define it” is vital! I have taken great pains to define my terms elsewhere. If one examines my other writings they will clearly see that I do not argue merely against “atheism.” No, I specifically argue against naturalism, physicalism, and materialism (this is a point that Sye seems to be missing).

So, for the purposes of the FreeThinking Argument, it is irrelevant if some “professed atheists would not deny the existence of the [supernatural] soul.” Indeed, it is non-controversial to say that the vast majority of atheists in the western world affirm naturalism. However, no consistent naturalist would affirm that nature is all that exists and some things that are other than nature also exist.

Another deductive conclusion follows…

Premise 7- Therefore, naturalism is false.

Ten Bruggencate retorts:

//Again, this does not follow, and as an apologetic this simply does not cut it.//

Ten Bruggencate talks out of both sides of his mouth. As noted above, he affirmed that “the evidentialist exposes the fact” that atheists cannot account for free thinking. That is great because that was the goal and primary purpose of the FreeThinking Argument Against Naturalism. However, after Sye affirms the argument, he says that it “simply doesn’t cut it.”

Well which one is it? Sye cannot both say that the argument succeeds in its goal and fails at its goal at the same time.

Notice that it logically follows as a deductive conclusion. Sye is free to assert that this deductive conclusion “does not cut it” as “an apologetic” (whatever that means), but that does absolutely nothing to refute the conclusion as logically deductive.

Ten Bruggencate continues:

//Alvin Plantinga has made wonderful contributions to apologetics, but I was greatly disappointed in his debate with philosopher Dr. Steven Law (Unbelievable Radio program Nov. 10, 2010). When asked if his conclusion showed that naturalism was not true, or unlikely to be true, he responded: “No, that’s not the conclusion. The conclusion is rather that it’s not a belief one can rationally accept.” Sorry, but big whoop. If our argument, like Dr. Plantinga’s and like Tim’s here cannot show that naturalism or atheism is false, it is not an apologetic for THE God who says it is false.//

First of all, I am honored to be compared to Alvin Plantinga! However, Plantinga’s argument and the Freethinking Argument, while sharing some similarities, are vastly different. The atheistic naturalist who espouses determinism is left with non-thinking laws of nature (such as chemistry and physics) causally determining all thoughts and beliefs. This is much worse than Plantinga’s EAAN, because at least on that paradigm beliefs are aimed at survival. But deterministic physics and chemistry are not “aimed” at anything.

Moreover, if Plantinga’s EAAN concludes that naturalism is not a view that can be rationally accepted, and the Freethinking Argument concludes, “Therefore, naturalism is false,” then we have a difference worth noting. In fact, this difference should alleviate Sye’s disappointment as the Freethinking Argument now seems to “cut it” as far as “an apologetic” as he asserts.

8- The best explanation for the existence of [libertarian freedom and] the soul is God.

Ten Bruggencate seems to have problems with concluding the existence of God. He complains:

//If one were to grant this, it would be an argument which the professed unbeliever would have used his autonomous reasoning to conclude some generic deity, not the God of the Bible.//

If Sye were to do a little research, he would see that I do not merely conclude that God is the best explanation of the existence of the immaterial soul, but rather, I argue specifically for the “God of the Bible” (See The Image of God: The Kalam & Freethinking Arguments)!

He continues:

//The very conclusion concedes the very thing we want the professed unbeliever to deny, that they are able to reason without God. God is not a “god” we can reason to, He is THE God we can’t reason without.//

Ten Bruggencate seems to be improperly equivocating between the following propositions: (i) reasoning without a (presupposed) BELIEF in God, VS. (ii) reasoning without God’s existence. The FreeThinking Argument, at most, commits the former, but that is because to do otherwise is called “begging the question” (a fallacy one must avoid to properly reason). Ten Bruggencate would have to show how the FreeThinking Argument commits the latter, to defend his assertion.

With that in mind, if Ten Bruggencate admits to meaning the former, then I encourage him to be clear from this point forward and explicitly state: “that they are able to reason without BELIEF in God.”[6] As my colleague John Lilley noted:

Since Sye never states this position as “belief in God,” but rather always just states it as “God,” he adds an implicit pseudo-piety to his position — as if the one who disagrees with him rejects the necessary existence of God.

Sye’s assertion is strange. The mere fact that God provides humanity with an ability to reason, does not mean that humanity cannot logically conclude the existence of the one who gave us the ability to reason.

The FreeThinking Argument logically concludes what the presupper presupposes!

Stay reasonable (Isaiah 1:18),

Dr. Tim Stratton


[1] Christian apologists do not always agree as to what the best approach (or method) is to argue. Indeed one is free to choose between a range of options: Classical, Evidential, Presuppositional, Reformed Epistemology, and Cumulative Case. The book “Five Views on Apologetics” examines each of these different approaches in more detail. Although I do not personally appeal to the presuupostional approach, I do like the approach taken by a few certain presuppositionalists. Doug Powell (PhD cand.) is a good friend and a presuppositionalist. He utilizes both a presuppositional approach along with evidence and the cumulative case.

[2] Some do not take methodology as a pragmatic approach to “what works.” My colleague, Eric Hernandez says this is the case for several reasons but notes that this is predominantly the case because “if one comes to Christ on bad arguments, then they are likely to leave the faith because of bad arguments.”

[3] The FreeThinking Argument has been revised multiple times in the past few years. Although I offer the version in the video to popular audiences the following is often used when more precision is required:

  1. If naturalism is true, the immaterial human soul does not exist.
  2. If the soul does not exist, libertarian freedom does not exist.
  3. If libertarian freedom does not exist, then it is impossible to either rationally infer or rationally affirm knowledge claims.
  4. It is possible to rationally infer and rationally affirm knowledge claims.
  5. Therefore, libertarian freedom exists.
  6. Therefore, the soul exists.
  7. Therefore, naturalism is false.
  8. The best explanation for the existence of libertarian freedom and the soul is [the biblical view of] God.

[4] Replacing the mad scientist with “physics and chemistry” is problematic since the forces of nature are non-rational. If non-rational forces are causally determining all the thoughts and beliefs in your head, including the thoughts and beliefs about your current thoughts and beliefs, then you (the thing you call “I”), stand in no position to rationally affirm your current thoughts and beliefs as good (option #1), better (option #2), the best, (option #3), or true (option #4).

If God is the one who is causally determining all the thoughts and beliefs of all people all the time, then the exhaustive divine determinist runs into the same rationality problems but for different reasons. After all, merely changing the label from “mad scientist” to “maximally great being” changes nothing. The enormous problem still remains.

Moreover, since all humanity holds some false beliefs — and some false beliefs have horrible eternal consequences, a version of the Omni Argument is waiting around the corner for the one who affirms exhaustive divine determinism (EDD). Thus, the EDD advocate will (at least tacitly) deny the maximal greatness of God. If this is the case, then there is not much difference between “god” (note the little “g”) and the mad scientist. If one affirms that God (note the big “G”) is a maximally great being, as I do, then they must reject EDD.


[6] This would be similar to how William Lane Craig notes that an atheist can act according to objective moral values and duties without *believing* in God. However, if God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist. The beginning of this short video makes it clear.

*Special thanks to Eric Hernandez, Doug Powell, and John Lilley for examining this draft and making a few important clarifications.


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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