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Theological Determinism and Divine Providence

J. R. Lucas

❶Even though God and Christ necessarily act for the best, their actions are eminently praiseworthy.

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The extent to which the hard determinist perspective can retain a theistic ethic of guilt, forgiveness, gratitude, and love is then addressed. The article closes with a skeptical theist response to the problem of evil that appeals only to goods that do not involve free will.

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There exist slight variations on the above categorization. Some claim that theological determinism requires predestination of all events and outcomes by the divinity i. There are various implications for metaphysical libertarian free will as consequent of theological determinism and its philosophical interpretation. A rejection of theological determinism or divine foreknowledge is classified as theological incompatibilism also see figure, bottom , and is relevant to a more general discussion of free will.

The basic argument for theological fatalism in the case of weak theological determinism is as follows;. This argument is very often accepted as a basis for theological incompatibilism: On the other hand, theological compatibilism must attempt to find problems with it.

The formal version of the argument rests on a number of premises, many of which have received some degree of contention. Theological compatibilist responses have included;. Many Christians have opposed the view that humans do not have free will. Saint Thomas Aquinas , the medieval Roman Catholic theologian, believed strongly that humanity had free will.

However, though he desired to defend a doctrine of free will, he ultimately ended up espousing what today would be known as compatibilism, or "soft determinism. The concept of theological determinism has its origins within the Bible as well as within the Christian church. A major theological dispute at the time of the sixteenth century would help to force a distinct division in ideas - with an argument between two eminent thinkers of the time, Desiderius Erasmus and Martin Luther , a leading Protestant Reformer.

Erasmus in Discourses On the Freedom of the Will believed that God created human beings with free will. He maintained that despite the fall of Adam and Eve freedom still existed. As a result of this humans had the ability to do good or evil. Luther, conversely, attacked this idea in On the Bondage of the Will.

He recognised that the issue of autonomy lay at the heart of religious dissension. He depicted an image of humanity manipulated through sin. Humans, for Luther, know what is morally right but are unable to attain it.

God is not the author of sin in the determinist's view but rather he has a purpose in everything that takes place. The crucifixion of Christ is the most horrific sin ever yet it was predestined to occur. This post cannot account for this. Hi berrytc, you're right: Such an attempt is outside the definitional purpose of the article, and 2. It would not avoid God being the causal determinant of sin, which is incoherent when God is taken to be the locus of objective moral values.

As to secondary causes, these are, in philosophy,more like inanimate objects than anything else in their common usage. A man pushing a rock with a stick has the man as the primary cause and the stick as the secondary. If there is any moral responsibility in terms of "good" or "evil" rather than in terms of praise or blame just yet it is far more plausibly assigned in terms of causal responsibility, and that of the primary cause.

But in that case, God would be committing evil. Thanks for your comment! A year and a half later, but hey, this is exactly what is on my mind at the moment I'm a theological determinist hoping not to be a fatalist so this is helpful.

But the brothers were still being sinful of course! So I disagree with Randy on theological determinism. However I also find myself frustrated with the Westminster Confession 3. I find what I said above to be pretty straightforward mostly due to different motives and levels of awareness of future consequenses, compared between God and humans.

But the confession is much more mealymouthed trying to avoid saying God determines the wrong actions, when clearly God does! I understand the scripture that the confession has half an eye on is James 1 which explains that God tempts no one.

Not finished thinking about this but at the moment I suspect that God determining a sinner to sin is not necessarily a temptation. Is God's hardening of Pharoh's heart a temptation?

James 1v13 says "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God,' for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. Is that a workable solution? Thanks for your comment. I am inclined to say that God's determining someone to do something is performing an act of sin, because it is stated that way almost by definition. If you causally determine some act you are performing that act. Now, it may be that the act would not be sinful for God because he is God, and he makes the rules.

But that makes morality arbitrary. Someone may not have a problem with that, but I do, if only because it makes morality subjective in its broadest sense. An example of determinism-as-doing the action is as follows: A little boy plays with his GI Joes, and makes one kick another.

We laugh, but it's not simply silly because the object is inanimate. It's silly because the object hasn't performed the action--the boy did! I take a baseball bat and smash a car window. When the police arrive, I say "I caused the window to shatter, but I did so by causing the bat to move. The bat actually performed the action. I did not shatter the window. The reason is not because the cop is philosophically naive.

It's because in the sense of performing an action the same sense of moral responsibility I have brought it about. The bat only moved because I moved it. I only moved because I chose to do so. Now suppose theological determinism is true. The bat only moved because I moved it, and so is not morally responsible.

It is a secondary cause. I only moved because God moved me, and so I am not morally responsible. I am a secondary cause. Note any attempt to make me morally responsible makes the bat morally responsible too. As to your interpretation of James, don't take this the wrong way, but it looks for all the world like you're missing the point.


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Theological determinism is a form of predeterminism which states that all events that happen are pre-ordained, or predestined to happen, by a God, or that they are destined to occur given its omniscience. Theological determinism exists in a number of religions, including Jainism, Judaism, Christianity and .

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Theological Determinism. Theological determinism is the view that God determines every event that occurs in the history of the world.

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Theological fatalism is the view that because of God’s foreknowledge, whatever he knows about future events must come to pass, and the participants (humans) cannot choose to . Mar 30,  · Strong theological determinism is not compatible with metaphysical libertarian free will, and is a form of hard theological determinism (equivalent to theological fatalism below). It claims that free will does not exist, and God has absolute control over a person's actions.

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The chief theological argument for determinism is the argument from omniscience, although other arguments, from omnipotence and from grace are also invoked. Many thinkers have been reluctant to accept the implications of theological determinism. For, however much a Christian may believe in the omniscience of God, he also is committed to the freedom of man. Theological determinism is a form of determinism which states that all events that happen are pre-ordained, or predestined to happen, by a God, or that they are destined to occur given its omniscience.