I am convinced, regardless of possibly needing to make intentional efforts to overcome serious limitations, that human beings should take thinking seriously and, therefore, we should apply ourselves to the task with, at least, a degree of diligence. I am impressed with how poorly we can think at times and how easily misled we can be when it comes to ideas. Though this post is about determinism and moral agency, I will highlight the opening point by referring to recent cultural events involving sexual orientation and preference. Many people fail to recognize or acknowledge (there is a difference) that it is one thing to refuse to make a cake (generic in nature – birthday, graduation, etc.) for a gay person (which is not what the case in Oregon concerns) and refusal to make a cake for a gay wedding celebration. Along with this, some want to use an argument that says this is like refusing to serve black people in order to make a case against the bakers. It is different and such manipulative tactics (or pure ignorance) are not helpful. If a black person wanted a cake that said, “kill white cops,” we now have a different scenario that approaches a parallel.
I open with an emphasis upon the importance of reasoning as effectively as possible, knowing that understanding moral agency, moral law, moral character, moral government and, therefore, moral issues in general, require clear thinking. I offer the following as an example.
A number of years ago, I was leading a discipleship class in a local Christian school. The school displayed many impressive academic aspects but there was a strong emphasis on a deterministic approach toward theology and the Bible. Consequently, after teaching on the topic of repentance, I encouraged the students to examine their own hearts and if they had not yielded to the supremacy of God, purposing to live for the ultimate motive of loving, pleasing, serving and worshiping Him, that they should do so. At this point, a student interjected, “But Mr. Wolfe, you know that we do not have the ability to do that. It’s God’s decision who is and isn’t saved.” This opened the door to discussion over the age-old issue of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will.
Due to this discussion and the evidence that I believed sovereignty referred to the fact that God is the supreme authority over the universe but does not mean God caused each detail in history or the life of an individual to be as it is (omni-causation), a father of one of the students began to complain to the school about their decision to hire me (a light bulb should go off at this point). After a number of interchanges in which he expressed his concern that I did not agree with his (their) omni-causal, deterministic, view of God, I offered the following insight.
“In order for you to be upset about what I believe and with the school for hiring me, you must borrow from my perspective. According to your view, why do I believe what I believe – why did the school hire me? Answer – because God sovereignly decreed it (both). Therefore, you do not have a problem with me or with the school, you have a problem with God (but of course, He decreed this also).”
In upcoming posts, we will explore the nature of moral agency.