Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
March 3rd, 2014 by Joel Watts

Free Will, Determinism, or Compatibilism? (POLL)

Just wanted to get a flavor of where you are at:


Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).


4 Responses to “Free Will, Determinism, or Compatibilism? (POLL)”
  1. Know More Than I Should says

    Depending on the circumstances, both free will and predestination (determinism) are probably true in a broad array of contexts. Yet, there are problems with extremes in either case. For example, while it’s a fairly safe bet that acorns become oak trees rather than maples or puddy tats (cats) thorough the vehicle of determinism, it is an equally safe bet that not all acorns become oaks. On the other hand, any competent weather forecaster knows that weather is anything but predictable. Or, as John 3:8 points out, the wind has a mind of its own. Then, sometimes, so does my wife!
    Meanwhile, compatibilism amounts to little more than an effort to weasel out of difficulties posed by the absolutes of free will and predestination (determinism). While, incompatibilism attempts to avoid shades of gray between two potential absolutes.
    Whereas free will is useful when it comes of assessing blame, as in courts of law – in fact, the whole system of Western law would be moot without it – predestination (determinism) can prove useful for evading responsibility. The latter can be oversimplified as the Flip Wilson defense – “The Devil made me do it!” Meantime, incompatibilism thrives in a world of absolutes such as that found in medieval theology, its secular digital age counterpart, and childhood.
    One thing parenting teaches is that children are often far more comfortable in a world of absolutes. They tend to like things to be right or wrong. So do some older folks. This seems to be especially true of those unaccustomed to or uncomfortable with the complexities of life.
    More realistically, as The Statler Brothers famously pointed out in their “Class of ’57” lyrics, “Things get [a whole lot more] complicated when you get past eighteen.” Most certainly, life doesn’t always turn out as predicted. I’m still waiting the for the headline: “PSYCHIC WINS LOTTERY!” That said, both people and events have a way of repeating themselves. All the while, the world goes ’round.
    At their core, free will and predestination (determinism) – and their respective alternatives – have one thing in common in that they are attempts by mere mortals to divine some of the more baffling realities of live. In their own way, they exists as attempts by humankind to eat from a latter day tree of knowledge. Although they are amusing to ponder in theory, none of them come with a guarantee of accuracy in all circumstances.

  2. Canadian says

    In the west this is a recurring discussion. In the east, it hasn’t been an issue. Why? Because the Ecumenical Councils (especially the 6th) and St Maximos the Confessor and other eastern father’s derive their anthropology from a proper Christology. The real question is did Christ have free human will? And if so, where did he get it? Determinism in Christ is a problem. Calvinism is a repackaging of the old heresies of Monotheletism and Monoenergism.

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