Can Man Be Free If Determinism Is True?

compatibilism 1The doctrine of freedom of the will is a very important theme in Christian thought. For many, it is the primary method of explaining how there is evil and suffering in the world. However, many have pointed out that there are other core doctrines of the Christian faith that seem to compromise freedom of the will. How could God truly be sovereign over all of our actions if in fact we are free? How could predestination be true if man is free? Can man truly be free if divine determinism is true? Reformed thinkers recognize that freedom of the will is compatible with divine determinism. This is known as the doctrine of compatibilistic freedom, as contrasted against libertarian freedom which is the doctrine that man can make choices free from constraints, such as human nature or God’s decree.

compatibilism 2Those who have wrestled with these issues have felt the force of this objection. It seems counter-intuitive to think that determinism could be compatible with freedom. God has ordained everything that has come to pass. There is not a movement of quantum particle or a leaf falling from a tree that does not fall under God’s jurisdiction. It would then seem that God is controlling our actions. The writing of the words on this page are controlled by God as part of his sovereign plan. But if that is the case, then how could I truly be free in writing the words on this page?

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