William Lane Craig against Calvinism: a response, Part 3B of 5
I'm continuing to response to Craig's third reason for thinking reformed theology is problematic. I'll post it again to remind you of what he said.
3. Universal, divine, determinism makes God the author of sin and precludes human responsibility. In contrast to the Molinist view, on the deterministic view even the movement of the human will is caused by God. God moves people to choose evil, and they cannot do otherwise. God determines their choices and makes them do wrong. If it is evil to make another person do wrong, then on this view God is not only the cause of sin and evil, but becomes evil Himself, which is absurd. By the same token, all human responsibility for sin has been removed. For our choices are not really up to us: God causes us to make them. We cannot be responsible for our actions, for nothing we think or do is up to us.
Whether divine determinism removes human responsibility
It is understandable that we would think God determining our actions would remove our responsibility for them. We have a strong intuition that ought implies can, and that if we are unable to do something, then we cannot be blamed for our failure to do it.
But I think that if we are unable to do the right thing, it matters what the reason is for our inability. If I would like to do my duty, but I can’t because I’m duct taped to a tree, then I can’t be blamed for failure to do my duty. But if I’m unencumbered by physical restraints, and the only thing keeping me from doing my duty is the fact that I just really don’t want to, then I can be blamed. We don’t let people off the hook just because they’re doing what they want. Quite the opposite.
Under libertarianism, which Craig subscribes to, our desires do not determine our actions. In fact, no antecedent conditions at all, neither inside of us nor outside of us, are sufficient to bring about our actions if our actions are free. However, Craig would readily admit that antecedent conditions can have some influence over our actions. Otherwise, commands would be superfluous. Why command us to do anything if we would behave exactly the same whether we received the command or not? Commands only serve a purpose if they have some influence over our behavior.
Influence comes in degrees. Some influences have more power over us than others. The stronger our desires are, the more likely we are to give in to them. If our desires are so strong that we can’t help but give in to them, then our desires determine our actions.
If Craig is right in thinking that divine determinism removes our responsibility and that libertarian freedom is necessary for moral responsibility, then it would follow that the stronger our desire to do good, the less praiseworthy we are for doing it, and the stronger our desire to do evil, the less blameworthy we are for doing it. The reason is because the stronger our desire to do good or evil, the closer those desires are to determining our actions, and Craig thinks we cannot be responsible for our actions if they are determined by any antecedent conditions, including our own desires and motives.
If a desire removes all moral responsibility in case it is so strong that we cannot help but give in to it, then it would follow that the less influence desire has over our actions, the more responsible we are for them because the less influence our desires have over our actions, the more free we are in the libertarian sense. It would follow that we are most free (and therefore most responsible) when our desires have no influence over our actions at all.
But think about how counter-intuitive that is. It would follow that you are most responsible for your actions when you didn’t mean to do them. You had no plan to do them, no desire to do them, no motive, etc. You are most responsible for your actions when they are accidents that happen for no reason at all.
Moreover, the deeper your desire to do evil, the less blameworthy you are for doing evil, and the deeper your desire to do good, the less praiseworthy you are for doing good. The more hand your own intentions, desires, motives, inclinations, etc. have in bringing about your actions, the less responsible you are for your actions. And the less hand your own intentions, desires, motives, inclinations, etc. have in bringing about your actions, the more responsible you are for your actions.
That is the absurd consequence of Craig’s point of view. That is the absurd consequence in believing that ought implies can, not only in the physical sense (i.e. the physical or natural ability to act), but also in the psychological sense (i.e. the psychological ability to act, willingness to act, etc.).
But reason dictates that the two senses of having an inability to do otherwise are exactly opposite. The more physically difficult it is for you to do your duty, the less you can be blamed for your failure to do it. But the more psychologically difficult it is for you to do your duty, then the more you can be blamed for your failure to do it.
After all, our psychological motives for acting are the basis upon which we are praised or blamed. If I shove an old lady because I hate old ladies, then I can be blamed, but if I shove an old lady to save her from being hit by a bus, then I can be praised. The more my actions are influenced by love, the more praiseworthy they are, and they more my actions are influenced by hate, the more blameworthy they are.
We cannot be praised and blamed for actions that we did not intend or plan. We can always excuse ourselves on the basis that it was an accident. To do something on purpose is to do it out of a prior disposition. The actions we take on purpose are actions we do for reasons and motives. The more hand our own desires and motives have in bringing about our actions, the more those actions are under our control. It follows that our actions are completely under our control when they are completely determined by our own desires, motives, inclinations, etc. And we can only be responsible for actions that we perform on purpose.
Not only is libertarian freedom unnecessary for moral responsibility, but it’s actually inconsistent with it. A person is only free, in the libertaraian sense, to the degree that antecedent conditions (including a person’s own psychology) do not determine their actions. Consider the following diagram.
Libertarian freedom is indirectly proportional to the strength of our desires as well as every other psychological influence. If our desires are strong enough to determine our actions, then we have no libertarian freedom. We have the most libertarian freedom when our actions are not so much as influenced by our desires.
As I said before, commands (e.g. moral imperatives) are superfluous unless they have some power to influence our actions. But that means commands carry with them the very thing that removes libertarian freedom (and moral responsibility if you follow Craig). The more influence from commands, the less freedom in the will. Libertarianism, on the other hand, carries with it the very thing that makes commands superfluous. The more freedom of the will, the less influence from command. If you follow Craig, indifference is the only way you can be completely responsible for your actions since that’s the only state under which nothing but your own libertarian choice has any influence over your actions.
So far, I have argued that we can be responsible for our actions if they are determined by our own antecedent psychological states, especially our own desires, motives, and inclinations. But what of the cause of those prior psychological states? Some people claim that we must choose them before we can be morally responsible. If they arise from some outside cause, then we cannot be responsible for acting on them.
But that leads to an infinite regress. If you must choose your desires before you can be responsible for acting on them, then the choice of your desires must be determined by an even earlier desire. And that desire must be preceded by an earlier choice which also must be preceded by an earlier desire, etc.
There’s only one of two ways to halt this infinite regress. You can either halt it by beginning with a desire you did not choose (the compatibilist position) or by beginning with a choice that arose spontaneously without any determining desire at all (the libertarian position). Since we can only be morally responsible for actions we did on purpose, and our actions are only on purpose to the degree that they are determined by our own desires and motives, it follows that we cannot take the libertarian position. Ultimately, all of our actions must originate from desires that we did not choose. Otherwise, morality would be impossible altogether.
If it turns out that we can be morally responsible for our actions even when they are based on desire that we did not choose, then it doesn’t matter what causes our desires—whether somebody outside of us using persuasion, whether we are born with a sinful inclination, or whether God directly influenced our hearts. Since all of these causes for our desires lie outside of the will, they cannot be the basis upon which we are excused or held responsible. So if God hardens your heart resulting in you having a desire to disobey him, and you act on that desire, then you are still morally responsible.
Consider the Voldemort thought experiment. Voldemort is an evil character in Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling made him up. He’s only evil in the book, though, because that’s how Rowling wrote him. He’s not evil in reality because he doesn’t exist in reality. But suppose Rowling was able to pull him out of the book and into reality, and suppose that if she did so, he would be just the same in reality as he is in the book. Would he not act the same as in the books? And if he did, would he not be responsible for his actions?
You might say no since Rowling determined that he would be the way he is. But let’s suppose there are two people named Voldemort who are alike in every way, including all of their beliefs, desires, memories, habits, inclinations, biases, abilities, etc. The only difference between them is that one was born into the world the usual way and for whatever reason became like he is today. The other was created ex nihilo by J.K. Rowling just yesterday, and she planted all those memories, beliefs, desires, etc. in him. Considering the fact that at this moment, they are exactly alike in every way, doesn’t it follow that if one is responsible for his actions, the other is as well? And doesn’t it follow that it doesn’t matter how they got to be that way? We would all agree that the Voldemort who came into the world the usual way is responsible for his actions, so it follows that the Voldemort created by J.K. Rowling is also responsible for his.
And it follows that if God brought us into existence and caused us to have sinful desires, that we are just as responsible for our actions as we would be if he had not caused us to have sinful desires.
That is not only agreeable to the philosophical arguments I just made, but it’s also consistent with the scriptures. In Romans 9:18, Paul says that God “has mercy on whom he desires, and he hardens whom he desires.” Then he says, “You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who resists his will?’”
Now, why would Paul raise this question? The thought behind the hypothetical question is that if it is God’s will that our hearts are hardened, then he shouldn’t find fault in us. If God is the one who hardens our hearts, and if God’s will cannot be resisted, then we can’t help but sin. That raises the question of why God would hold us accountable for our sins. So Paul’s hypothetical question makes no sense at all unless Paul really means to be saying that God hardens people’s hearts, resulting in sin.
Notice that the hypothetical objection Paul raises to what he just taught is exactly the same objection Craig raises against reformed theology. Craig thinks that if divine determinism is true that it removes personal responsibility for our actions just as Paul’s hypothetical objector thinks. And just as the hypothetical objector is taking issue with what Paul just taught about the sovereignty of God, so also is Craig taking issue with what Paul just taught about the sovereignty of God. So Craig is on the wrong side of this issue Biblically.