Title: What About Free Will?
Reconciling Our Choices with God’s Sovereignty
Author: Scott Christensen
Genre: Theology/Philosophy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

In Christian theology there are few (if any) topics as difficult as reconciling divine sovereignty and human responsibility. In What About Free Will, Scott Christensen makes a valiant attempt to do so with (I believe) some success.

Most people instinctively hold to some form of libertarian free will: my choices are ultimately completely up to me; they may be influenced by outside sources but are not decisively caused by anything outside myself. For the Christian, this requires assuming that there is some kind of limits on God’s sovereign control over all things. This can take the form of assuming some sort of self-imposed limits (classic Arminianism) or of completely redefining  the concept of God’s omniscience and sovereignty away from a classic biblical understanding (e.g. Open Theism).

Another option, the one favored by this book, is compatibilist free will. That is: the will is free in that a person will choose to do what they most desire, but bound in that one’s desires are caused by factor(s) beyond their control (i.e. ultimately the decretal will of God in a Christian worldview). This “soft determinism” is the view that Christensen fleshes out in this book. It is certainly a less comfortable view than libertarian free will and has plenty of difficulties, but, on the whole, it does seem to make better sense of the teachings of the Bible when taken in their entirety.

I believe that this is a topic that is beyond the ability of any mere human beings to fully grasp, falling under the “the secret things belong to the LORD our God” (Deuteronomy 29:29) and “my thoughts are not your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9) category to some extent. As such, I don’t think that Christensen (or anyone else) has this topic tied up in as neat of a bow as he seems to think, but his thoughts on the topic are certainly helpful. The only better (more thorough) explanation I have seen of compatibilist free will is in John Feinberg’s No One Like Him, but Christensen’s book is far more accessible.

To end with, I leave you with this link one of my favorite Foxtrot comics.

6 thoughts on “Libertarian vs. Compatibilist Free Will

    1. No One Like Him is his almost 900-page tome on theology proper with the sovereignty/free will section taking up several chapters. He shows a similar amount of rigor as he does in Many Faces of Evil, but on a wider range of topics (his chapter on how God relates to time is fairly mind-boggling). He tries to “nuance” some of the classic definitions of God’s attributes and overall does a very good job. His goal is to portray God as “the King who cares.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve been meaning to re-read it myself. The first time I read it I was in seminary and probably had a couple thousand other pages of assigned reading to get through that same semester (most profs assigned 500 pages per credit hour) so I wasn’t able to give it as much attention as I would have liked.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. And I just looked up the book on amazon. 35 for a new hardcover and not any cheaper for the paperback and used copies aren’t much cheaper. Looks like I’ll be waiting for Santa to drop this tome down ye ol’ chimbley!


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