Monday, January 7, 2008

Compatiblistic Freedom (Part 1): Abundant Examples from the Scriptures

God willed that Absalom lie with David’s wives.

[Speaking to David] “Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun’” (2 Samuel 12:11-12). [Note: Though God hates fornication and adultery, He is said to have raised Absalom up to do exactly that. Also note, God says, "I will do this."]

God willed that Jesus should be crucified.

“This man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death” (Acts 2:23). “For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur” (4:28). (Note: the crucifixion of Christ was the greatest of all mankind’s sins, for Christ was the only innocent person in all of the world, and yet these verses show us that God willed that the crucifixion take place.)

What man determines never comes to pass unless God determines it.

“Who is he who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?” (Lamentations 3:37).

God is said to determine a man’s life, and also the length of his life.

“Is not man forced to labor on earth, and are not his days like the days of a hired man?” (Job 7:1). “Since his days are determined, the number of his months is with you; and his limits You have set so that he cannot pass” (14:5). (Note: “If the limits of men’s lives are determined, men’s free actions must be determined, and even their sins; for their lives depend on such acts.” Jonathan Edwards)

King Sihon’s folly of attacking Israel was willed by God.

“But Sihon king of Heshbon was not willing for us to pass through the land; for the Lord your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, in order to deliver him into your hand, as he is today” (Deuteronomy 2:30). (Note: Sihon’s opposition to Israel was a sin, yet it was willed by God.)

God ordered the sin and folly of the kings of Canaan in their opposition to Israel.

“For it was of the Lord to harden their hearts, to meet Israel in battle in order that he might utterly destroy them, that they might receive no mercy, but that he might destroy them, just as the Lord had commanded Moses” (Joshua 11:20).

God willed that the Egyptians should hate God’s people.

“He increased His people greatly, and made them stronger than their enemies. He turned their hearts to hate His people, to deal craftily with His servants” (Psalm 105:25). (Note: God willed that they hate His people, and yet God judged them for this great sin.)

God willed that Jacob’s brothers sell him into slavery.

“God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God” (Genesis 45:7-8). “[God] sent a man before them – Joseph – who was sold as a slave” (Psalm 105:17). (Note: Though God hated the sin of Joseph’s brothers, He still willed that Joseph be sold into slavery.)

God causes disasters.

"Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?" (Amos 3:6). This doesn't demonstrate compatiblism, but it is, nonetheless, a hard saying of Scripture with regard to God's providence.

There it is. The Scriptures teach over and over and over again that free agents act of their own accord AND by God's command, simultaneously. Their sins are judged independently, irrespective of their ultimate source. This IS what compatiblistic freedom teaches, and my confidence in the truth of it is reinforced when I see the sort of things Scripture says regarding God's dealings with men. Remember: the question is not whether or not people make choices; the question is "Why do people make the choices they make?".

Compatiblistic freedom (or "soft determinism") teaches that God is sovereignly in control of everything in this world, including the thoughts and actions of men. But it also teaches that when men think and act, they are responsible for those actions, because they are free to do whatever they want. Some may not like that all men want to do is sin, and therefore are judged accordingly [*cough* "Heretic" *cough*]. However, we all, nevertheless, act as we want. No one does anything against their wills. Boom. Compatiblistic freedom. Booyashakah. You best check yourself before you wreck yourself.

Coming Soon: A Philosophical Presentation of Compatiblism.


  1. Thanks for tackling Compatibilistic Freedom. I've struggled with this. I believe it, but have difficulties fully grasping the concept. I think reformed preachers do also. They speak either from the perspective of man's will or God's will. And if they switch from one point of view to the other in the middle of the sermon, most of the listeners are thinking that this sounds more like incompatibility. Aren't there ways that both perspectives could be conveyed simultaneously? Or does this concept need to be taught from preschool onward-- as is the doctrine of the Trinity?

    I'm new to your site, but so far I have found all posts profitable. Thanks for all your work.

  2. I do think distinctions are important, and sometimes that leads people to infer that two things being discussed are incompatible. I think most Christians grasp this quite easily (unbeknownst to them). For example, I have numerous acquaintances whom I have heard say, "Someone gave me some money to help with my bills. God is just really blessing me!" Or another example, "I've been praying for Dave to come to Christ." These are examples, I think, of Compatiblistic philosophy being practiced on a daily basis. Of course there are more nuances, but your average churchgoer has no cognition of such things.

    Thanks for the encouraging response as well, dec.

  3. First of all, just so you know I'm not going to get into a verse tossing competition with you.

    Second of all, the verses do not imply compatibalistic freedom in any way, although if you interpret them incorrectly they support predestination. This is because predestination does not inherantly imply compatablism. There are plenty of people out there who accept predestination and the doctrine of libertarian freedom, and therefore they believe they have no free will. This is the converse of my philosophy which says because libertarian freedom is the case, and becaus every one has free will, predestination is not the case. I'm an imcompatiblist who believes in libertarian free will and rejects predestination, but there are also incompatiblists who believe in predestination and reject free will.

    So in other words nothing in the post even remotely touches on the idea of compatibilistic freedom. But hey, if you can find a verse that says predestination is the case AND people have compatibilistic freedom... then great... you're only problem will be bad interpretation.

  4. Okay, verse tossing won't happen here, but maybe we can look at just one of my examples?

    The very first one, for example: God tells David, "someone else is going to take your wives and sleep with them, and I want you to know that I, the Lord, an the one who will do this." Perhaps you have some sloppily constructed view of predestination which allows for an event like this to take place, but I'd like to see what such a model of freedom actually looks like. How can Absalom sleep with David's wives by God's decree, and God can actually say "I did this" while at the same time still judging Absalom for this sin.

    Now, my view of freedom allows me to make sense of such events, but I am very interested in how your view can coherently interpret something like this.

  5. Once again confusing predestination and compatibalism. You haven't addressed my objections.


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