An online friend of mine whom has a real interest in the concept of free will, and all the problematic baggage it brings with it. He has a proclivity for producing adverts for newspapers and publications like Free Inquiry that concern themselves with this erroneous philosophical belief. Here is one such piece from the Free Inquiry which does a good job of summing up the issues with an account of libertarian free will, and how that works in the context of Christianity. Let me know what you think.
FREE WILL: THE ACHILLES HEEL OF CHRISTIANITY
Changes from Price Version
Undermining belief in Christian free will, will go a long way to promoting the cause of secular humanism.
Saint Paul is said to have said: “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.”
He could have added that if man is not free to choose between right and wrong then there can be no sin, no need for atonement and no need for Jesus Christ, and your faith is also in vain.
What is Christian free will? The Catholic Encyclopedia states, that a “free volition is a causeless volition.” Thus, “causeless” means not even influencedby the obvious and enormous disparities in genetic endowment, upbringing and environment between people, if that influence causes a choice to be otherwise than it would have been.
Consider the breathtaking enormity of that: nothing your parents taught you, nothing you learned from experience, nothing you learned in church or school has any decisive effect on your free will decisions!
Nevertheless, this magical faculty is absolutely indispensable to the Christian salvation story; and it is an unexploited weak spot — with the likelihood of getting weaker with new scientific advances. Wonderful studies in conditioning have already been done that cast real doubt onChristian free will. More can be expected.
Countless arguments have been adduced over the centuries showing the absurdities in the Christian story; they have got us to this point. They are great and will continue. But, can we expect anything new to be said to deny the resurrection, upon which Paul says the Christian faith rests — especially which will impact the larger public? Certainly no new scientific developments are likely to do it.
But not so with the Christian free will claim. Although free will in all its permutations has been explored thoroughly by philosophers, psychologists and lately, neuroscientists, they speak a professional language. They are not heard by the masses of intelligent people such as Robert Ingersoll regularly reached.
What is needed is a common sense argument in plain language which every person can relate to from personal experience and understanding.
I think there is one at hand. Here it is in its essential elements. It surely can be improved by people reading this, and I hope someone will do it.
There is no doubt that if you are not a child or mentally impaired; and not under physical or mental compulsion, you make choices all the time; and those choices are the ones you decide to make — even if you might not like them. In that sense, you have free will.
But did you, and could you, have free will in the sense that in making your choices you made them free of all that went into making you the person you are?
And to what extent did you choose those crucial factors?
1. Being born — and into a world where the chances for eternal suffering are “many” as Jesus said.
2. Your genetic inheritance.
3. Your life in the womb, shaping your genetic self.
4. Your time and place of birth.
5. Your parents, relatives, race and gender; your nurture and experiences in infancy and childhood.
6. The mutations in your brain and body throughout life.
7. Your natural physical stature, looks, smile and voice; your intelligence; your sexual drive and proclivities; your personality and wit; and your natural ability in sports, music and dance.
8. Your religious indoctrination; economic circumstances; cultural influences; political and civil rights; the prevailing customs of your times.
9. The blizzard of experiences throughout life, not chosen by you but which happened to you?
Are these not the factors that made you who you are today and who you were at any point in your life?
What is missing? The very many choices you made along the way?
Yes, you made choices that made a difference, but when you made them, were they not entirely derived from 1 – 9, as they were at the time of your choices?
If you have a will free of 1 – 9, not influenced or affected by them, in what sense would any decisions made by that will be yours?
Is there no basis for how “free will” decides? Does your education, intelligence, religious training, among much else, play no role? If not, how can you be responsible for those decisions, responsible to the extent of maybe being judged for “eternal fire” as Jesus promised would be the fate of the “many” as opposed to the” few” who would be saved?
Is it not clear that in making choices you can be free from external compulsion but you cannot be free of what made you, you — and what made you, you, was not of your choice
You are told to believe that the child born of a teen-aged drug addicted prostitute, frequently beaten by her boyfriends of the moment, neglected, semi-starved and often ill has exactly the same capacity for choosing to steal or not, that one born and raised as was John F. Kennedy or George Bush — first or second? Can you believe that?
What then about responsibility and accountability?
Nothing about this understanding that you do not and cannot have Christian free will prevents holding people fully responsible and accountable for their acts, as now. All but one thing remains the same. We continue to urge, cajole, praise, condemn, educate and apply every sort of influence up to imprisonment to try to reform; and in any event, to protect society. These efforts, part of environmental influences, always have effects — though not always as desired.
The only thing that changes is our attitude. It cannot be self-righteous because we know: there go I, but for . . .
Who cannot understand and relate to each of the 9 points? Does not everyone, recognize that they are not great writers or ball players because they lack the talent that great writers and ball players have — and know it was not their choice?
I submit that this approach will have far more impact on a huge unreached audience than old or new learned arguments. (How to get that message to them is another matter.)
This common sense line is not a substitute for all the serious work but a supplement — an additional arrow in the quiver and it is aimed directly at a requirement of the faith as essential to it as the resurrection; and in language anyone can understand.
Further, is there a more consequential moral question?
This ad was paid for by a fellow feather on the sea of fate, for your consideration. Contact: email@example.com with comments or how to improve this argument.