Jeremy Christian's Take on Free Will

Okay. Don’t get me wrong, I expect and appreciate challenge. I don’t want anyone to just swallow what I’m saying at face value. I learn more from people who disagree with me than people who do.

I just didn’t anticipate having to spend so much time and effort explaining things like what free will is. While I too look to theologians of the past and the early days of the church, I do so with the mindset that the information available to them was much more limited. Not to discount, but just I feel an important consideration.

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Before agreeing on a definition of free will, would it be good to agree on whether there is coherent concept at all?

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Yes. Forgive me if I’m struggling at this point so far. I’m just now finding out there’s uncertainty on that front.

Not meaning to attack any particular person’s concept. I think any concept of free will that isn’t “compatibilist” is incoherent, and compatibilist free will isn’t free will in any satisfying or useful way.


Do we have any choice in the matter?

@Jeremy_Christian the issue, as many have said, is that you have an a different meanting behind the word “free will” than the rest of us. If you were to drop that term, and choose another. What would it be? If you don’t know the term yet, how would you pose the problem you are trying to solve with it?

I think you are trying to explain what was different about Adam and Eve’s descendents that made them capable of sin in a new way, over and above that of their peers. You settled on the language of “free will”, but your idea is actually better expressed in traditional theology in a different way. If you are willing to let go of the term itself, there may be a way to explain it that gets people on the same page right away.

I’ve been considering this, but I keep coming back to the same problem. Using the term “free will” associates it exactly the way I mean it. Calling it something else I feel would only make it more confusing. You keep saying that I have a different meaning than the rest of you, but haven’t yet heard what exactly is different.

  1. Free will is the freedom to make your own choices/decisions
  2. Free will gives us the ability to do evil/sin
  3. Free will is a will apart from God’s will
  4. Free will is the opposite of determinism

This is my definition of free will. All the behavioral changes I’m speaking of relate back to these. How is any of yours different?

Please explain. You’ve got my full attention.

I disagree. Everything we know scientifically strongly suggests determinism with no possibility of a free will.

But if that is true then we are all actually just biological drones, passive participants, with no control in our lives. Without any willful control in life, life has no meaning. Which means our perception of freedom of will that we’re actively controlling our decisions is a delusion as the process of making a decision that made us think we were in charge is actually the only choice we could have physically made in each instance.

The element in all of this that makes free will possible is God/the spiritual plane/soul. There’s no physical evidence of a soul because it’s not physical. Being that it’s not physical it’s not beholden to natural law. It can behave free of it. Making us something more than deluded drones.

I would contend that this is in fact an incoherent definition. Then again, I find all definitions of free will incoherent. This may be a bit more so than most, though.

Again, I find this incoherent. Sorry.

Then please give me your definition of free will that you find coherent. Or at least tell me how mine differs from everyone else’s.

I don’t find any definitions coherent. “Free will” is an incoherent concept.

Then how do you explain this comment of yours:

Are you now saying that any concept of free will that is compatibilist is incoherent?

I’m sorry. I don’t accept this answer. I’m beating my head against the wall trying to explain this only to find out that you find any explanation of these elements incomprehensible, no matter how they’re explained? So there’s literally nothing I could have said to address your objections?

You understand determinism, right? That any way you respond to given stimuli is basically determined by your genetic and biological make-up and is not a willful choice? Well, free will is the opposite of that. You do have a willful choice. What’s confusing about that?

Keep in mind that @John_Harshman is an atheist scientist who is generally suspicious of any claim that Christianity is compatible with science.

That just confuses me more. As a scientist he should understand the concept of determinism exactly, and should be able to understand free will in that context at least.

I don’t get it.

Once again, your definition of free will is idiosyncratic. I understand it makes a ton of sense to you. However, the way you define it is very different than how the rest of us have encountered the concept.

Still waiting for how your (or anyone’s) definition differs from …

    Free will is the freedom to make your own choices/decisions
    Free will gives us the ability to do evil/sin
    Free will is a will apart from God’s will
    Free will is the opposite of determinism

@Jeremy_Christian (@swamidass):

There is not much point to devising a new scenario unless it solves some problems:

One or two Genealogical Adam scenarios simultaneously resolve the following:

  1. who did Cain marry;
  2. for whom he built a city;
  3. a plausible way to have an historical Adam and Eve;
  4. while not having to overturn all of modern science.

These same models imply that the only plausible flood is a regional flood (since the point of the scenarios is to provide for a historical Adam/Eve, not a historical global flood).


As just a couple examples:

Actually, indeterminism is the opposite of determinism.

There is a massive multicentury debate about whether determinism and free will are compatible. It seems that Molinism demonstrates that they, in principle, are compatible.

In physics there is a similar and unresolved debate about whether the universe is deterministic or indeterministic.

Taking this formulation literally, when whenever we are doing God’s will, it is not by free will.

Then why would God allow it? Why God create the opposite of God’s will?

It very much appears my dog has free will. It is hard to imagine Homo sapiens without a sense of free will that is not exactly identical to ours.

I will get to this when I can. I suspect it will take a while. I’m also not sure how helpful it will be to you until you let go of the “free will” term, and can introspect a bit on how your arrived here. I think there was a wrong turn along the way, but until you back out of it, it will be hard to see.

As a clue, that I doubt will make sense to you yet, I think you are trying to explain what makes Adam’s sin the first transgression. I think the answer is that he was the first to receive a command. You can’t break a command if you never received it. Aligned with this, Adam acquires knowledge we can increase the types of evil he can do. It is not that he has new free will, but that he know nows how to exert his will in transgressive consequential ways. Those two lines, it seems, give you what you are trying too get at in a more grounded way.

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