"The Big Questions" BBC1 19th April 2015
For reasons best known to themselves the BBC invited me to appear on "The Big Questions" to discuss "Free Will". The programme was broadcast on 19/04/2015.
I have not yet seen the broadcast but I would just like to comment on what I said, what I should have said and what others said.
My big regret is not framing the first question that I was asked and instead I implicitly accepted the "golden ticket" analogy, this was a mistake and it prevented me from:
- Explaining that Calvinism is no more than Christianity, if Christians disagree with Calvinism that does not mean they are not Christians (although I would say they would be inconsistent in their theology)
- Calvinism is a "party name" that can be unhelpful, the concepts of Calvinism are held because they were clearly the view of the Old Testament, Jesus, Paul and Saint Augustine.
- Acknowledging that no one is saved by their theology or even what they believe, they are saved by the grace of God through his son Jesus Christ by the Spirit.
- Explaining the enslavement of the human will to sin as fully as I should have
The evangelical pastor on the show (Mark Mullins) mentioned that the various aspects of God have to be kept in theological balance, I should have said that I agree with this comment and incidently during the course of the show and talking to Mark afterwards I did not discover a single issue that we disagreed on.
I mentioned that sin was a state, not just an act. While this is undoubtably true I want to be clear that as well as being a state (i.e. our sinful nature) sins are acts as well. Christians sin and such sin is serious, a cause of much regret and despair and would be damnable if it were not for the imputed righteousness of Christ.
A common refrain was that it would be unfair for God to judge man if man did not have libertarian free will, however this is an unsound position for many reasons:
- The atheists were quite happy to judge people for committing crimes even though they do not believe in libertarian free will (being determinists), they did not see this as being unfair.
- As I have pointed out the fallen nature of man is a state as well as an act, it is the state that is being judged as well as the acts
- Man commits sin of his own will, there is no violence against his will at all and he is being judged for what he freely chooses to do
- We are created beings, who are we as created beings to judge the creator?
- How can an atheist even have a view on fairness unless he makes up his own personal arbitrary values and then seeks to impose these values on others
The key point that I had wanted to explain is that Man has free will in so far as he chooses what he wants to do freely in so far as he does what he wills without compulsion. What he does not have is libertarian free will (which only God has) where man would have the real unconstrained opportunity of choosing different outcomes. On this view mans free will (i.e. he is free to act according to his will) is compatible with Gods sovereign providence.
The only people who really believed in libertarian free will were the satanist and the Roman Catholic. I could not discern any reason for the satanist to believe this beyond it would be "nice" for this to be true and the Roman Catholic for much the same reason, although largely to make God look acceptable to man. These are theologically and indeed logically awful reasons.
The feminist clearly had an agenda and did not care what the show was about as her points had nothing to do with free will, indeed her disdain for Christianity was completely contrary to her stated desire to tell men not to rape women. I am astounded that she does not seem to recognise that the Church is pretty clear that rape is wrong and that in seeking to abrogate the Christian moral code she is doing away with the most powerful force we historically (albeit imperfectly) have for respecting women. If she starts picking and choosing the bits of Christian morality that she wants then she has no logical reason to hold anyone else to her personal code of values and should not be surprised when brutish behavior rears its head.
When I was asked whether Auschwitz was Gods will I did hesitate, not because there was any doubt about the answer, but because I really do not want to offend people. I did point out that this horrific event was carried out through secondary causes (men following there own wills) but I wish I had highlighted that being part of God's plan there is a reason for events such as this. We cannot understand what these reasons are, they are hidden in the counsels of God at the moment but it will become clear at the end of time. While this position is difficult for us I do not think that it is any more comforting to believe that such events are meaningless which would be the case if (for reasons that I cannot understand unless you are an open theist) such a horrific genocide was not God's will.