The Freethinking Argument was first crafted at Biola University in Scott Smith’s philosophy classroom. I had been playing around with the idea for some time, but it was Dr. Smith’s teachings that provided the catalyst to complete the argument. The Freethinking Argument (FTA) has received much attention ever since — especially since freethinkingministries.com was launched not long ago.
Since that time I have spent countless hours defending the FTA both online and offline as well as teaching it in live settings around the country. Not only does it logically show the incoherence of naturalism, but it deductively argues for the existence of libertarian free will — which people have debated for centuries.
The Freethinking Argument
The syllogism is comprised of four simple and easy to remember premises which lead to three powerful deductive conclusions as well as one abductive conclusion. It goes as follows:
- If naturalism is true, the immaterial human soul does not exist.
- If the soul does not exist, libertarian freedom does not exist.
- If libertarian freedom does not exist, then it is impossible to either rationally infer or rationally affirm knowledge claims.
- It is possible to rationally infer and rationally affirm knowledge claims.
- Therefore, libertarian freedom exists.
- Therefore, the soul exists.
- Therefore, naturalism is false.
- The best explanation for the existence of libertarian freedom and the soul is [the biblical view of] God.
Consider a quick defense of each premise: The first step of the syllogism is synonymous with “if naturalism is true, nature is all that exists.” That is pretty noncontroversial. Premise (2) is tantamount to “if all that exists is nature, then all that exists is causally determined via the forces of nature, the initial conditions of the big bang, and things external to human control.” This is what “naturalism” by definition seems to imply, and it seems to be the view of the majority of academic naturalists in the world today.
Premise (3) is equivalent with “if all things are causally determined, then all thoughts and beliefs are causally determined.” If our thoughts and beliefs are forced upon us, and we could not have chosen better thoughts and beliefs, then we are simply left assuming that our determined thoughts and beliefs (which are not up to us) are good and true. Therefore, we could never rationally affirm that our belief — based upon “our thinking” — really is the inference to the best explanation – we can only assume.
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 typically and minimally defined as “justified true belief.” One can happen to hold a belief that happens to be true, but, if there is no justification for that specific belief, that belief would not qualify as a reason-based 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, reason-based knowledge goes down the drain. All one is left with is question-begging assumptions (a logical fallacy).
Obviously humans can rationality infer and affirm claims of knowledge. Premise (4) must be true because to argue its negation would actually affirm it — as one would have to offer knowledge to the contrary. Moreover, if a person rejects knowledge, why should anyone listen to his or her ideas? If these four premises of the syllogism are true, one can rationally and deductively conclude that libertarian freedom is possessed by humans, that the soul (or some immaterial aspect of humanity) exists, and finally, that naturalism is false.
Conclusions (5-7) are all deductive. This means they must be true if the premises are true. Conclusion (8), however, is an example of an abductive conclusion (the inference to the best explanation). I cannot show this is true with the same force as a deductive conclusion, but, given my libertarian freedom to examine and evaluate the data, I do believe it is the inference to the BEST explanation.
I typically stop with the final deductive conclusion (7) while merely mentioning the final abductive conclusion (8) in passing. The remainder of this article, however, is devoted to demonstrating why the biblical view of God is the inference to the best explanation for the existence of the immaterial human soul (not to mention human libertarian freedom).
All the previous discussion has been argued without appealing to the Bible or any religious book. It has been based on logic alone. Having then deductively argued that the immaterial human soul exists, the question raised is: “What is the best explanation of an immaterial, non-physical, supernatural soul?” Naturalistic evolution seems to be an unlikely candidate to account for the existence of a supernatural (other than nature) soul, thus, a better explanation is required. Specifically, what is the best explanation for the human soul?
The Kalam Cosmological Argument
The Kalam, in my opinion, is one of the most intriguing arguments for the existence of God. I have written about this argument and defended it against many objections here on the FTM website. Only a brief overview is necessary here:
The Kalam consists of two premises that lead to a logically deductive conclusion. The syllogism goes as follows:
1- Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2- The universe began to exist.
3- Therefore, the universe had a cause.
Since a lengthy defense of the two premises can be found elsewhere on this website. Focus here, then, will be on the final step of the syllogism. If the two premises are true, it leads us to a startling but logical conclusion: Therefore, the universe has a cause. The universe is anything and everything that is in time and space — including time and space — everything that is physical, material, and can be tested scientifically. Given this description, the “cause” of the universe cannot be anything that fits within the definition of “the universe.” To argue otherwise, one is left affirming logical incoherence like: “the universe existed before it began to exist.” But, what could have caused the universe to exist logically prior to the existence of all nature?
“Nothingness” is causally impotent, and therefore, could not have caused the universe to “bang” into existence. That being the case, two very important questions demand answers: (1) What could exist apart from space-time and matter and still have a causal relation with the material universe? And (2) What attributes or properties must this cause possess?
The Rational Inferences
If the cause of the universe transcends space and time, then, logically, it must be “timeless.” This means that whatever was the cause of time would have had no beginning, because a beginning necessitates time. If the cause existed apart from time and had no beginning, it can be inferred logically that this cause had no cause of its own, as it logically never began to exist, and seems to exist necessarily. It exists outside of time or exists eternally.
Moreover, as the big bang was the beginning of space-time, then it logically follows that the cause of the universe also had to have been “spaceless.” This means that the cause would have no size or shape. It was utterly immaterial. Accordingly, the Kalam takes naturalism off the table as a possible model of reality, because this argument has provided evidence that a supernatural cause of the universe exists.
Beyond this ultimate cause being outside of time and being immaterial, another inference is that it must be enormously powerful. What could require more power than creating a universe from nothing?
Moreover, not only did the cause of the universe have to have been apart from time and space, it also must have had the ability — the power — to spontaneously bring the world into existence without anything causing it to do so — because then, whatever the cause of the cause was would be the cause. But since this cause exists outside of anything physical, temporal, or material, none of these things could logically cause or force this ultimate cause to do anything. Therefore, this ultimate cause seems to have its own volition or libertarian free will. Apart from anything abstract (which would be causally impotent anyway), only an unembodied mind (or soul) could logically exist “in nothingness,” transcending space-time and all nature.
Think about this: persons are the only types of things that could possibly possess immaterial minds with free will (which is supported by the Freethinking Argument); therefore, we can decipher that the cause of the universe was a personal being. If the cause of the universe is personal, then it is at least possible that “it” can have a personal relationship with other personal beings. You and I are personal beings. Therefore, it is possible that you and I can have a personal relationship with the cause of the universe.
I call the cause of the universe “God,” but one is free to call this cause whatever they’d like; however, as Shakespeare said, “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
The Biblical View of God
The Kalam simply appeals to logic and science and does not touch any religious book whatsoever. Be that as it may, the attributes we have drawn from the conclusion correspond perfectly with the way the Bible describes God’s properties. The Kalam provides evidence of the Ultimate Mega Mind behind the universe, which also makes perfect sense regarding immaterial mini minds that humans seem to have based on the Freethinking Argument.
That is to say, the human soul fits quite nicely in a theistic worldview. But I have not simply argued for God; rather, I have suggested that the “biblical view of God” is the inference to the best explanation of the existence of the immaterial human soul. This is because the biblical view of both God and soul are clear. Consider both the Old and New Testaments:
Genesis 1:26-27 “Let us make man in our image.”
2 Corinthians 5:8 “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
With the Kalam in mind (not to mention Bible verses like, “God is spirit“), we know that God is not composed of anything physical. It follows that God is not the kind of “thing” that photons would bounce off of to then penetrate the retina to stimulate our optic nerves providing an image to our brains. No, this could not be what the author had in mind when he spoke of humanity being created in the “image of God” in the first chapter of Genesis. This “image” is better described as a “likeness.” God is an immaterial and supernatural mind — and so is the human soul!
Moreover, in 2nd Corinthians, Paul tells us that we can exist apart from the body. Based on the logical law of identity, if a person can exist apart from his body, then he is not identical with his body. Paul is referring to YOU — an immaterial human mind — that has a body, but can continue to exist apart from it. This immaterial mind is the human soul created in the image of God.
Given the fact that we have argued both (i) that immaterial minds exist in the universe and that (ii) we have evidence of a “mega mind” behind the universe without touching a Bible, perhaps we should take the Bible seriously when it affirms the exact same things. This is why the biblical view of God is the best explanation of the immaterial human soul.
Stay reasonable (Isaiah 1:18),
 Since completing my MA thesis on this topic several years ago I have found other philosophers who have made similar arguments based on the same “big idea.” Be that as it may, the Freethinking Argument is unique in that I worded it and structured it on my own (with a little help from Scott Smith) and I have never seen an argument structured in the same manner.
 Justification is often recognized as an essential ingredient if one is to possess propositional knowledge. Many affirm that although justification is required for knowledge, sometimes more is also required. However, if one is willing to bite the bullet and reject the idea that justification is required for this kind of knowledge, then the vital premise of the FTA can be amended to the following (or something similar) and still possess force:
1*- If humans do not possess libertarian freedom, then humans do not possess rational justification for their beliefs.
A good discussion regarding epistemology and related issues (What is knowledge?, What is justification?, Internalism vs. externalism, etc.), can be found here: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epistemology/