I ask lots of people their stance on this issue. When I talk about it I usually ask how much they know about Incompatibalism vs Compatibalism (ie a disagreement about whether determinism (usually a more scientific version) and free will are compatible). It seems that there are lots of people in the philosophical world that have moved the discussion forward regarding free will but people in the theological world haven’t caugt up. Usually they would be opposed to the idea of “catching up” as well. So when I talk lots of people ask me the question “Why do you care?”
Here is what I think is my response:
Regarding why I care. I think its a mixture. I do find the CvA debate interesting from an intellectual stand point just because it seems so clear that something is dodgey. Every Calvinist or Arminian I’ve met or read seems to assume incompatibalism without any argument or realisation that they are doing so. So I think this is significant but don’t really exactly know how. It might turn out that that they actually agree with each other for example.
From a more personal level I think there is a “middle ground” that shows a much clearer gospel message to our generation. Whilst I’m more sympathetic to arminianism, I find their solution to the problem of pain (pain is caused by our free will) problematic. 1) There is plenty of suffering that isn’t caused by individuals (tsunamis) and then you end up with a wierd view that our sin causes earthquakes. and 2) many of the pain and suffering that people caused is usually part of a chain of events. In relationships with some of the nastiest guys I know, you can usually see a particular girl that messed them up, and then see someone before that, that messed her up. Rather then “Free Will” I tend to see the world as a series of broken people that can do nothing but break other people, because out of brokenness comes more brokenness.
Telling broken people they need to fix themselves, I think is like telling a depressed person they “just need to be happy”. Instead they need to be “rescued” out of their brokenness. So this leads me to a much more calvinistic way of explaining the gospel.
Alternatively you might argue that 1) isn’t wierd and 2) just means you need to chase back the first cause. Well if you go down this road you’ll probably have to chase it back to the fall. (Whilst I find it wierd that me stealing something now, could cause an earthquake in Japan, I don’t think its wierd to suggest that when sin first entered the world, the whole world was changed in some almost supernatural way). In this case you end up with original sin and you basically have calvinism. You could still possibly argue about whether eve had free will but I think that moves the argument into the very theoretical. For all intents and purposes the people I encounter arn’t free.
And yet… I still think calvinism is wrong. I still think the smug manner in which calvinists say free will is just an illusion is wrong. I think we do have a very real free will that is able to choose Jesus… I don’t think that very real free will is a complete naive libertarian free will but neither do I think the whole “We have free will, but God dictates our will and we then act freely on that” is satisfactory.