This is the weekly Q & A blog post by our Research Professor in Philosophy, Dr. William Lane Craig.

Question

Dr. Craig,

I wanted to thank you for your podcast, debates, and other work, all of which I've profoundly enjoyed and has exposed me to the intellectual richness within Christianity. As a former agnostic, one of the most powerful apologetic arguments against naturalism, atheism (and so on) is the idea that nobody strives to be a *consistent* naturalist/atheist/etc. In other words, they fail to act in accordance with the nihilism to which many of these ideas logically lead. Being more than a little curious, I stumbled into the free will position within Calvinism. Doesn't this lead to a similar problem? In other words, what exactly does a consistent Calvinist even look like?

Leif

United States


Dr. William Lane Craig’s Response

I think that you’ve successfully identified a problem with determinism in general, Leif, of which Calvinism is but a specific instance, given the Calvinist’s view that God determines everything that happens.

A determinist cannot live consistently as though everything he thinks and does is causally determined—especially his choice to believe that determinism is true! Thinking that you’re determined to believe that everything you believe is determined produces a kind of vertigo. Nobody can live as though all that he thinks and does is determined by causes outside himself. Even determinists recognize that we have to act “as if” we had free will and so weigh our options and decide on what course of action to take, even though at the end of the day we are determined to take the choices we do. Determinism is thus an unliveable view.

This presents a real problem not just for the Calvinist, but for the naturalist. For insofar as naturalism implies that all our thoughts and actions are determined by natural causes outside ourselves, free will is an illusion. But we cannot escape this illusion and so must go on making choices as though we had free will, even though we don’t. Naturalism is thus an unliveable worldview.

This post and other resources are available on Dr. William Lane Craig's website: www.reasonablefaith.org