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Reason for the Hope Within: 9 Divine Providence and Human Freedom


Should be interesting to see how the author deals with this issue. Some assumptions the author takes:

People often act freely, are often responsible for their actions, and God is provident (controls, based on knowledge, for a good purpose) (p.218).

Davison sees compatibilists as believing that freedom is compatible with a certain kind of determinism. A person is not free if subject to “irresistible force or coercion” but is free when determined by “‘naturally occurring’ beliefs and desires” (p. 221).

Incompatibilists say free choices are like “forks in a road: you can go this way or that way, and it is up to you to choose which way to go” (p. 221). This can’t be determined by other factors.

Davison explains how incompatibilists critique compatibilism. They say:

  1. If compatibilism is true, in one sense, our actions are not up to us, but determined by events beyond our control, therefore how can we be morally responsible for things?
  2. Reasons and preferences influence but don’t determine our actions.
  3. God must be free in an incompatible sense, or else God would be the author of sin.
Davison explains his own rational for leaning towards incompatibilism:
  1. Makes more sense of moral responsibility.
  2. Avoids God being the author of sin.
  3. Helps make eternal punishment plausible (p. 222)

So looking at all these reasons, some things strike me. None of the reasons seem to be reasoning to a conclusion, as much as they are reasoning from conclusions. It is assumed that moral responsibility exists, that God is not the author of sin, that eternal punishment is a coherent doctrine. The first might be fair to assume, but unfortunately, incompatibilist free will sucks at explaining moral responsibility. The other two, unless there is some strong outside reason to believe them can’t be taken as assumed. Instead of the last two being a case for incompatibilism, compatibilism is actually a case against the last two being coherent beliefs. Of course, there needs to be an outside reason to believe that compatibilism makes more sense. It can’t be assumed. The incoherence of incompatibilism is strong evidence against it. Moreover, even in eternal punishment, it does not help explain anything. I’m not sure if it helps God avoid being the author of sin. I’m suspicious of that one.

Davison comes to the conclusion that Middle knowledge can fit incompatibilism and providence together. Middle knowledge is nigh incomprehensible. Will need to read up on that more, and see if it makes any sense. In the context of the is chapter in might, but how about other beliefs, like eternal punishment? How about the fact that there is no incompatibilist free will?

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