Craig's Version of Causal Determinism


Posted by Matt Postiff June 28, 2010 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Theology 

William Lane Craig is a staunch defender of the doctrine of middle knowledge. At reasonablefaith.org, Craig extols the virtues of middle knowledge and critiques the Calvinistic belief in causal determinism and compatibilist freedom. The body of his critique is composed of five severe charges against causal determinism. They are:

  1. Universal, divine, causal determinism cannot offer a coherent interpretation of Scripture.
  2. Universal causal determinism cannot be rationally affirmed.
  3. Universal, divine, determinism makes God the author of sin and precludes human responsibility.
  4. Universal, divine, determinism nullifies human agency.
  5. Universal, divine determinism makes reality into a farce.

Given such charges, it would be easy to see how anyone would be reticent to affirm a belief in causal determinism or compatibilist freedom. However, Craig's starting point is flawed, thus undercutting the potency of his five charges.

He writes, "According to this view [causal determinism and compatibilist freedom], the way in which God sovereignly controls everything that happens is by causing it to happen, and freedom is re-interpreted to be consistent with being causally determined by factors outside oneself."

The first problem with his definition is that it implies God directly causes everything to happen. No soft-determinist compatibilist that I have read affirms that. We must factor in the ideas of primary causation, secondary causation, and ultimate causation. Even Craig would have to affirm that nothing exists except apart from the ultimate cause of God, because before the beginning of creation, there was nothing but God and He brought everything into existence. So, yes, we all agree that God did cause everything to happen, but there are different levels of causal "involvement."

The second problem with Craig's definition is that causal determination does not only take into account "factors outside oneself." Compatibilist freedom includes “factors inside oneself" as well. Primarily here I am thinking of natural desires and inclinations. The makeup or character of the person whose freedom is under examination does come into the equation in terms of how they choose in the various circumstances they face. Craig's definition reduces soft-determinist compatibilism to fatalism. But that is not the kind of freedom envisioned by any compatibilist I know.

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