Posted in: Theology

Free Will/Determinism Glossary

by Bob and Gretchen Passantino, © 1998

antinomy — The mutual contradiction of two principles or inferences founded on equally valid premises.

apostasy — In Christian theology, the personal, knowledgeable, willful total rejection of one’s Christian faith, after which repentance is impossible.

Arminianism — In Christian theology, the label attached to proponents of the view of salvation that says humans can repent or desire to repent before God apart from God’s specific, supernatural intervention or enabling process. After Jacob Arminius.

Calvinism — In Christian theology, the label attached to proponents of the major views taught by John Calvin, especially relating to God’s sovereignty and human freedom, and usually incorporating the Calvinist “TULIP” — T = Total depravity, U = Unconditional election, L = Limited (or definite) atonement, I = Irresistible grace, and P = Perseverence of the saints (eternal security).

circumstantial freedom of self-realization — One of the labels used to describe “soft” determinists or “compatibilists,” this view says that an act is said to be “free” if its direct cause is within the agent itself rather than being imposed from without. It assumes that the agent’s nature can be determined in regard to specific decisions, but since the agent is the one exercising the decision, it is free although the agent’s nature means that the agent could not have chosen otherwise. (Analogy: “Hard” determinism is like a marionette controlled by the puppeteer by means of strings, while CFOSR is like an animated figure controlled from within by the electronic components and programs placed there by the creator.)

compatibilism — One of the views within determinism that seeks to reconcile God’s sovereignty and human “free” will and moral responsibility by adopting a view of circumstantial freedom of self-realization.

contradiction — One of the basic laws of logic which says that “A cannot be non-A.” Any two propositions, theories, ideas, beings, substances, conditions, events, etc. are said to be contradictory when to affirm one is to deny the other, or to deny one is to affirm the other. Both cannot be affirmed, and each mutually excludes the other. For example, to affirm, “I do not exist” is contradictory, self-refuting, because one must exist to say “I do not exist.” Another example: To affirm that no knowledge is possible is contradictory, since one must know enough to know that whatever one possesses that appears to be knowledge is not actually knowledge; but in “knowing” that state of affairs, one has just contradicted the affirmation itself.

depravity — In Christian theology, the doctrine that an agent (human, angel, or demon) is completely unable to rise above or act against his sinful nature without direct intervention by God.

determinism — Generally, the doctrine that every fact in the universe is guided entirely by law (in Christian theology, by God’s law). All facts in the universe are dependent upon and conditioned by their causes. “Soft” determinism removes the ultimate cause from the immediate cause of a fact; “hard” determinism describes every fact as directly caused by law.

election — A choice between (or among) alternatives; the choosing of one or some in distinction to others.

foreknowledge — Knowledge of the future, either by means of encounter with the facts of the future without any necessary causative relationship between the knowing and the facts, or by determining and thus controlling the facts of the future.

free will — Ascribing some autonomy to an agent such that the agent’s actions can be described as self-generated or caused rather than determined externally.

free will theism — Generally, the view within Christian theology affirming that agents created by God are endowed with the ability and inclination to make choices, commitments, decisions, etc. without being bound to do so by God. Specifically, the view within the general view that God grants such freedom and consequently God can only know what is present or past, but not what is conditionally future.

freedom — The autonomy or self-determination of rational beings.

indeterminism — The theory that volitional decisions are in certain cases independent of antecedent physiological and psychological causation.

infralapsarianism — The view within Calvinism that places God’s decrees chronologically or logically after Adam’s fall in the Garden rather than before.

libertarian freedom — Another label for a freewill theist, especially one who affirms not only God’s knowledge of present and past, but also his knowledge of the future.

middle knowledge — A construct that seeks to explain the relationships among God’s knowledge, God’s sovereignty, and human freedom in terms of God’s evaluation and selection of possible worlds and possible human choices. Dr. William Lane Craig is well-known as an advocate of middle knowledge.

mystery — In the Bible, a term used to describe something that God reveals over time or sequentially, or for something about which we lack sufficient information to understand, but which is not actually contradictory. It should not be used as a palatable term for “contradiction.”

natural freedom of self-determination — One of the labels used to describe those who reject determinism (including Calvinistic determinism) and who affirm genuine human free will and moral responsibility.

Pelagianism — In Christian theology, the doctrine that sinful humans can achieve reconciliation with God initiated by their own beliefs, actions, and/or works.

predestination — The doctrine that all events of human lives, even one’s eternal destiny, are determined beforehand by God; used in the Bible to refer to Christ (Acts 1, Rom. 8, etc.) and to those who are “in Christ” by means of his representation.

process theism — The theology that says God is continually growing, changing, learning through time.

sovereignty — In the sovereignty/free will debate, the term signifying God’s omnipotence or all-powerfulness.

supralapsarianism — In Calvinism, the view that places God’s decrees regarding redemption of sinful humanity before Adam’s fall in the Garden.

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