On freewill and god

man is his own work before all knowledge and knowledge is merely added to it to enlighten it. Therefore he cannot resolve to be this or that, nor can he become other than he is; but he is once for all, and he knows in the course of experience what he is.

Arthur Schopenhauer

In my last post on freewill, I did point out that the biggest problem lies in misunderstanding especially by the freewillers on what they mean. I can confidently say most of those who argue for freewill don’t know what they are talking about. They regurgitate what others have said and go on from one absurdity to the next and that I contend is what James does in god’s sovereignty and freewill.

He starts by creating a false dilemma. He writes

If we surrender free will, life becomes bleak and hopeless. If God possesses exclusive control over our destinies, why should we do anything? What difference does anything make if life is all mapped out? If we surrender divine sovereignty, life loses transcendent meaning and purpose. We exist and then we die.

which I contend is not the case. That our actions are determined wouldn’t stop us from acting. Why shouldn’t we not act? In fact, the trouble arises if the theist proposes a god with plans for us. Why should we do anything while god has a plan? What if we go against his perfect and holy plan?

It is in describing the nature of will that James goes of the rails completely. He writes

The will expresses our heart’s desire. Whatever we want most, we do. The will surveys the motives in the heart and always, always acts upon them.

and a causal reading of the statement implies that we are separate from the will. I must wonder whether the will takes long walks and only returns when we want to act to do a survey and present its results?

He makes an erroneous conclusion from an analogy he presents about being forced to empty your wallet to a mugger. He writes

[..]The thief tells you that if you don’t empty your entire account and give it to him, he will take your life. You really want your money—and you still want that TV—but you decide to give it all to him so you can live.

and then concludes thus

In that instance, were you prevented from exercising free will? Not at all. You simply did what you desired most. Being an ever-so-smart person, you desired to live more than you wanted a full bank account or a new TV. Whatever you desire most, your will acts on.

which isn’t evidence for freewill but for determinism in the sense that all our actions are caused. In this case, the cause is easily identifiable as a thief. In other instances the causes are not so obvious.

In the next instance, he is equivocating. We would say a country is free if it is not under siege or a person is free if they aren’t slaves and this is appropriate in sociology. But when it comes to human action, to want to apply the same meaning for freedom is misleading and erroneous.

And how he doesn’t see it as a contradiction when he on the one hand writes

Apart from gracious divine intervention, we simply don’t make God the north star of our life.

and shortly after blame us for not being divine. It is either we can do it on our own or we depend on god’s graces but not both.

And as a final note to my good friend Barry; as we pointed out with Jeff, the Christian apologist doesn’t argue for any other god but his own. James writes

Jesus is the only person who did this perfectly. His heart was pure. He chose to follow the Father’s will, even when it meant suffering and death. He did it for us—for stubborn, short-sighted people who insist on their own way.

a position that a Muslim wouldn’t accept, a Buddhist may not accept, a Jansenist will find ridiculous and I am guessing you are likely to reject.

And I agree with Messlier, quoted below, that if a god were to exist, even it would not have freewill.

The world is a necessary agent; all the beings which compose it are united to each other, and can not do otherwise than they do, so long as they are moved by the same causes and possessed of the same qualities. If they lose these qualities, they will act necessarily in a different way. God Himself (admitting His existence a moment) can not be regarded as a free agent; if there existed a God, His manner of acting would necessarily be determined by the qualities inherent in His nature; nothing would be able to alter or to oppose His wishes. This considered, neither our actions nor our prayers nor our sacrifices could suspend or change His invariable progress and His immutable designs, from which we are compelled to conclude that all religion would be entirely useless.

Jean Messlier