December 3, 2020

The Council

A modern day council!

I wasn’t going to comment on the Leighton Flowers free will debate but I didn’t expect him to say the things he did. Overall the debate was a train wreck; both sides were trying to preach rather than debate. I wanted, however, to comment on two things I noticed in the debate.

First, Dr. Flowers said the following in his closing statements:

We say people make determinations in the same mysterious way God chose to create “ex nihlio [sic]”: he created something from nothing. We can’t explain exactly how he does that; nobody can explain how God creates something from nothing. But so, too, we are given, by God, the ability to create our own choices. God is creative and we are made in his image as creative beings and therefore we’re given a level of creative ability: the ability to make choices. So the mystery of libertarian freedom is similar to the mystery of creation itself. God created something from nothing. In a similar way, he has given us the ability to create something from nothing: namely, our desires and our choices.

This is problematic because:

i) The Bible teaches that God is the creator of all things. That is a specific function and role for God alone (Nehemiah 9:6, Psalm 96:5, Isaiah 45:18, John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:16, Revelation 5:13). In Leighton’s view, we share in that function. This view is similar to the Word of Faith movement in which we are a “little God”.

ii) Leighton misunderstands what creation ex nihilo is supposed to imply. The point of creation ex nihilo is to imply that nothing externally constrains God to create and that he doesn’t create from preexisting material. Leighton mistakes this for the libertarian notion that we act independently of intentionality, desires, or any other causal or explanatory notion. However, the analogy cuts both ways: if we, like God, can create ex nihilo and, in doing so, can choose contrary to our nature, then God must be able to act contrary to his nature. That could mean that God commands the good, not because of his nature, but by chance.

Dr. Flowers should abandon the creation ex nihilo analogy because of its consequences. Leighton, because he endorses a view of the will that is purely uncaused, reduces a man’s actions to the byproducts of chance and randomness. He reduces the will to mere schizophrenic activity, acting independently of one’s desires, intentions, neurology, etc. Why should a person be responsible for that?

iii) If a man chooses to create a choice, he requires a prior creative act (choosing to choose). If he seeks to influence the causes of his future choices, he still does not escape choosing to choose. Therefore, he creates an infinite regress of choices and creative acts. Leighton must therefore reject his view of free will, or allow for a man to exist for an infinite amount of time. He would have creative agents that have existed for an infinite amount of time with the ability to bring things into existence.

I find it theologically incoherent to make man a se and a creator. Draw your own conclusions.

The second thing I want to comment on in the debate: Leighton stated that even if God determines one event, that doesn’t prove he has necessarily determined all events. The flaw in this reasoning is that the Bible doesn’t state God only (or merely) determines one event. In Genesis 50:20, the acts that Joseph’s brothers meant for evil were a one-time event, but Joseph says God meant them for good “to bring about this present result”, which included events that happened between their evil acts and “this present result”. Leighton seems to ignore the fact that events do not occur in a vacuum, but in a timeline. There is not a single unique event where God “poked” the timeline and made everything else fall into place. Temporally, some events are dependent upon other events much like how a chapter in a novel plays a part in the chapter that follows. Leighton’s view is analogous to saying God determined the shooting of Franz Ferdinand and that the allies would win WW2 without regard for any of the intermediary events.

Richard Pritchett seemed to espouse the privation theory of evil. I don’t think that is an answer to the issue of evil. I discussed that here.

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