Monday, January 08, 2007

On Free Will and Determinism


The fundamental fact of Christian moral teaching is this: sin is the opposite of free will. We are only free when we are able to do the good. We are free when we can do the true good despite any passions or habits we have leading us to lesser, apparent goods. Get this fact down, and the rest of moral theology makes sense.

I was thinking today how this affects the question of free will versus determinism. If freedom is the opposite of sin, then to be determined is to be enslaved to sin. The question "Is man free?" is wrongly formulated; the question should be "Are you free?" To which I answer, "Kind of. Sort of. Well, not really. I am not free--I do the wrong even when I know what is right. I must admit that I am not free, but I hope to be free someday."

Freedom is not ours by nature, at least not anymore, but it can be, through the grace of God. We aren't free, but we are free to be free; we can ask for help.

4 comments:

Hoots said...

We are only free when we are able to do the good.

Does it then follow that if we are compelled (rather than "able") to do the good, we are then less free? In other words, do laws mandating the good in any way compromise our freedom to make the choice?

Karl said...

Dear Hoots,

I don't think so. A law that is a good law compels one to do the good. It is an aid to being free. This sounds weird, I know, but we need to change the way we think about freedom. Rather than thinking "free," think "free from sin." Never just say "free." I think the word on its own doesn't make sense. Free? Free from what? Free for what? It cries out for a prepositional phrase. If we remember that, I think your paradox goes away.

Hoots said...

Got it.
I think you're right. There is no more freedom from spiritual laws and Divine truth than freedom from the laws of physics...like gravity or conservation of mass or electricity. If you think about it, there is no such thing as freedom except in the abstract worlds of rhetoric and philosophy.

I like your locution of "an aid to being free." However, I still feel the need to limit the proliferation of too many "good laws" in the interest of keeping moral muscles in tone.

e said...

Free from everything and free for understanding !
Unless you are free from everything, you will never be able to fully understand what is actually going on !