I want to focus this post specifically on my ever-growing concerns about the philosophical view call “compatibilism” (a view most often held to by Calvinistic believers). This view claims that one can affirm free will (as they define it) and divine determinism, as these two are considered “compatible” according to the claims of this perspective.*
Compatibilists (Calvinists) attempt to maintain that men are free in the sense that they are “doing what they desire.” However, this appears to be an insufficient explanation to maintain any sense of true freedom considering that compatibilists also affirm that even the desires and thoughts of men are decreed by God. (i.e. WCF: “God has decreed whatsoever comes to pass.”)
This is an important circularity in the claim by Calvinists that humans can be considered genuinely free so long as their actions are in accordance with their desires (i.e. “voluntary”). Given the long-held Calvinistic belief that all events and actions are decreed by God, then human desire (the very thing that compatibilists claim allows human choices to be considered free) must itself also be decreed. But if so, then there is nothing outside of or beyond God’s decree on which human freedom might be based.
Put differently, there is no such thing as what the human really wants to do in a given situation, considered somehow apart from God’s desire in the matter (i.e., God’s desire as to what the human agent will desire). In the compatibilist scheme, human desire is wholly derived from and wholly bound to the divine desire. God’s decree encompasses everything, even the desires that underlie human choices.
This is a critical point, because it undercuts the plausibility of the compatibilist’s argument that desire can be considered the basis for human freedom. When you define freedom in terms of ‘doing what one wants to do’, it initially appears plausible only because it subtly evokes a sense of independence or ownership on the part of the human agent for his choices.
But once we recognize (as we must within the larger deterministic framework encompassing compatibilism) that those very desires of the agent are equally part of the environment that God causally determines, then the line between environment and agent becomes blurred if not completely lost. The human agent no longer can be seen as owning his own choices, for the desires determining those choices are in no significant sense independent of God’s decree.
For this reason, I feel human desire within the compatibilist framework forms an insufficient basis on which to establish the autonomy of human freedom (and from this the legitimacy of human culpability for sin).*
*Reference to Hamilton’s article reposted HERE.