A Case for Soft-Libertarian Freedom in Human Beings After the Fall | Part Three

January 19, 2016

Dr. Braxton Hunter | President
Trinity Theological Seminary, Newburgh, IN

**This article was previously posted by Dr. Braxton Hunter on his website www.braxtonhunter.com and is used by permission.

Dr. Hunter is: former president of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists (COSBE), professor of apologetics at Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary in Newburgh, Indiana

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Click HERE for Part One
Click HERE for Part Two

Objections to premise 1

If man has a zero-balance of influence indeterminism would result.
One possible objection to the argument is that a zero-balance of influences would not result in a situation wherein man was free, but rather a situation wherein man’s choices were indetermined. That is to say, in a world in which there is a zero-balance or cause and effect is made null, then there is no causal relationship between events. Yet, if there is no causal relationship between events, then there is no way of knowing what will happen. The individual himself would not even be able to predict what he would do, because there is no “reason” why he chose to do precisely what he did. His “choice” would be random and arbitrary in the strictest sense of the terms. As mentioned above, this may resolve the problem of determinism, but would not deliver free will to the agent.

This, however, would represent a misunderstanding of causal relations. Though I reject what is known as “quantum indeterminacy,” if it were true indeterminacy would only result because of the fact that particles that do not even exist and are about to “pop into existence” do not have causal powers. This would not be true of an existent agent who comes prepackaged with a mind. A mind does have causal powers. Thus, there is no reason to reject the idea that in a world with a zero-balance of influence the agent himself could will to, or cause something that he determines to happen. Thus, this is not a situation wherein cause and effect does not exist, yet man can be said to have transcended cause and effect in that his decision is the cause of the following effect. Only, his cause did not arise coercively because of the cause and effect inherent to the influences he perceives since there is a zero-balance of influence.

If man has a zero-balance of influence there still must exist some external force that propels him to choose x rather than y.
Another criticism might involve the idea that in such a situation as the argument describes, there would still need to be some determined causal reason why the agent chose among his influences to do one thing rather than another. Otherwise, we might imagine that Todd would simply not choose. He would simply exist. For Todd, in a world of zero-balance influence, there would be perpetual indecisiveness.

Yet, this would merely show an a priori commitment to determinism. After all, the very idea that determinism is a fact for human agents in a fallen world is what is up for discussion. A case may exist for assuming determinism in a world without a zero-balance, but in these waters it cannot just be asserted. Moreover, it is not the case that Todd would necessarily be unable to choose among his influences. As was mentioned in the previous objection, Todd has causal powers. Thus, he is unlike all else in creation.

Objections to premise 2

Scripture teaches that man inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin. This means that there is no zero-balance of influence.
As a signer of the Traditionalist Statement on Baptist Soteriology, I affirm that one result of the fall is that man inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin. However, this does not necessarily mean that there is no zero-balance of influence. What this does mean is that man has a great number of influences that are sinful. It would be difficult to overstate the power of these evil influences. Nevertheless, man also has a great number of good influences. He lives in a world of general revelation[7] among many people who are godly influences where God is at work, and has given all mankind moral compasses.[8] For these reasons, though man is inclined toward sin, he is also influenced by God’s redemptive work and good nature. Indeed, as stated in the explanation of the argument, he bears the image of God. Therefore, whatever we may say of what man’s will was like prior to the fall, the nature and environment inclined toward sin contributes to, rather than tipping the scales regarding the zero-balance.

There is no good biblical reason to believe that the zero-balance exists.
Because this argument really serves as a defeter, the burden of proof is on compatibilists and divine-determinists to demonstrate that zero-balance influences are incompatible with the Bible. Although some passages that deal with this issue in a direct way do seem to be hospitable to a zero-balance understanding of influences.[9] In order to defeat the zero-balance argument as a defeater, the determinist would need to show that there is something inherently incoherent in the idea of a zero-balance of influences.

One can imagine other criticisms and complaints regarding this argument. However, I want to say a word to my fellow libertarians regarding concerns they might have. First, any good argument should be made of premises that have plausibility. By this, we mean, more likely to be true than not to be true. One might ask the question, “Do the premises of the zero-balance argument have plausibility?” I see no reason to doubt that premise (1) is plausible. Possible concerns have been dealt with in the objections, and if there is any other good reason to think that (1) is not plausible, I will leave it to my determinist/compatibilist friends to tease it out. Premise (2) is where the issue of plausibility may be most questionable. Nevertheless, for libertarian readers, I would submit that if libertarian freedom exists, as we maintain that it does, then something like a zero-balance must exist also. In other words, though this language may sound foreign, I submit that even if my argument is demonstrated to be false, we must be in the right ball-park.

For my Compatibilist/determinist friends, I want to reiterate that this argument is intended to serve as a defeater. My intention is to show that there is nothing incoherent in the idea of libertarian freedom. This does not mean that I am absolutely convinced that this argument represents the actual state of affairs. Yet, so long as it is even remotely possible that the zero-balance argument is true, then there is nothing logically problematic with the belief in libertarian freedom.

Part Four Coming Soon!


[7] Romans 1:18-20
[8] Romans 2:14
[9] Romans 7:13-25