Sin nature, Free will,and Blaming God
"I'm Skeptical" (IMS) is at it again, over on the CADRE blog ( comment section). He argues two things that I think are very important to stamp out. First the idea that free will and sin nature are contradictions. The other is that since God created all things, therefore, if there was a god he would be evil and we could blame him for everything. Both concepts are typical atheist excuse making. The first point needs an answer as an interesting intellectual problem. The second is manifest crap but I'm going to answer it anyway.
He starts by arguing that they are contradictions, free will and sin nature. If something leads you to sin you have no choice, you can't decide otherwise. If you can decide then you aren't led by a nature.
"Can't you see that the two things are contradictory? If our will is truly free, then we there is nothing pushing us in the direction of sin. If there is something influencing our behavior, that's causation. It isn't free will. You can't have it both ways." My position was very rational, logical and true to what we know in life. I say we have two counter balancing forces each pulling us in two different directions: sin nature and the imago dei. This means we have to have acerter of desire within us that originates the will. The will is free to choose between the two as the ego balances between id and superego. In fact there is good scientific evidence supporting free will.
IMS asserted that the situation is way too complex to allow for any sort of choices unless we have total choice. He doesn't allow for influences that can be resisted; it's all or noting, either an influence is a strict cause or there is no influence. We can't originate ideas or desires. We can only be a passive vessel waiting to be acted upon. That's the new atheist understanding of cause and effect. Although oddly enough he also argued there is no cause and effect. He says there is no cause and effect and yet he also sees a mass of tangled causes too complex to resist.
When you deliberate about a choice of actions, you are weighing various competing influencing factors. There is self-interest and altruism, for example. Even the desire to please an imaginary god can play a role. But (aside from external influences) all those things are part of your make-up. Of course I hold you responsible for your actions, to the extent that you are able to exercise control over what you do.I argued that in general it is very complicated and complex and we can't reduce c/e to a simple set of factors but that doesn't mean that certain choices are not obvious enough that we can't decide to do the right thing. He contradicts his determinism by saying he could still hold blame. I do not see sin nature as some demonic force takes over the mind and forces one against their will. At that rate the complexities involves are irrelevant because they neither enter into nor hinder our decision-making sense. We don't have to answer for them in making a decision. That argument comes from the desire to clear oneself of guilt of sin.
Before going any further I will explain my view of the fall and sin nature. My view comes from St. Augustine, via Reinhold Niebuhr's reading of Augustine. Niebuhr did not accept the literal account of the fall in the Garden of Eden story. I do believe we are fallen creatures and need Christ's redemption. But not because the first woman once sinned by easting an apple. Like Niebuhr, I see Adam and Eve as Metaphors for all people and they point us to a coming of age myth. When we reach the age of accountability we suddenly realize the nature of sin as Adam and Eve realized they were nacked and tried to make clothes. Then we are accountable. There's actually more to it than this. But the point is there is no line of despair drawn literally across history.
The fall is working in every moment and even distributed throughout time not in one year. Not one act, in every act. The mechanism of Fallen nature is psychological anxiety that arises from self transcendence. Self transcendence is the ability to project our mental experience forward in time and backwards in order to plan for the future. Understanding the risks in living, we are anxious and thus seek to feather our nests to find security. This anxiety leads us to leads us to commit acts of injustice in order to gain security. In other words I might think, "If I don't get some one I'm going to be out on the street." I can imagine the pain that will bring. Thus I might be willing to steal or commit some other act to secure myself against this. It's not irresistible. We need God's grace to have the strength but we have the ability to ask. It's not supernatural forces forcing us to sin but our own existential condition.
At this point I'm sure IMS would ask, "why would god make things like this?" In fact he does ask this: "From a design perspective, with God as the architect of everything, he must have deliberately made us to be vulnerable to the influences of our sinful nature. Could he have designed us to more virtuous? Why not?" God can do anything to control laws of physics but they are not logic. Logical necessity is the only limitation on God. That's because violating the law of logical necessity is a contradiction in terms. Can't have your cake and eat it too. Can't make square circles. You can't have love without free will. If God wants creatures who actually love then must risk his creatures making wrong choices and being able to reject love. God can't create people good, that would defeat the idea of moral agency. These are the very thing that IMS says God could do.
It doesn't imply that we would lose our ability to deliberate about our own actions. It just makes the choice easier. If God wants us to be good, and also wants us not to be robots, there's no inherent conflict. We could be good people who are not robots. But that's not the Christian vision of what God has done with us. It was his design choice to make us sinful.That is just a naïve reading. It's the same problem in reverse. If God makes us good without our struggling though the deliberations of choice then we are not free oral agents but automatons. The struggles of anxiety that lead to sin are not insurmountable demonic powers but our own fear and our won mortal limitations. We do have the ability to seek God's help. I am not saying that there are forces of evil. I'm talking about our daily struggles not Hitler.
The idea, they say, is that we need to learn lessons in life. That makes no sense at all. If we are to spend eternity in the spiritual realm, what is the point of corrupting our souls with earthly influences in the first place? Those lessons are meaningless unless we continue to live in this world.The problem with this, is denying this about learning is super foolish. We have to learn in life all the time so obviously life is about learning. We are not learning to be good, however, that would be a works oriented notion of salvation. We are learning to seek the values of the good. That's so we can be free moral agents a willingly choose the good. We are not training to save ourselves. We are seeking to be free moral agents because that will enable us to be loving agents. We can't love without free will love involves choice and value. We learn the values of the good so we can' value others and love them. Here are some passages that would seem to decimate that one of our major reasons for being here is to learn to learn to be good. Not to save ourselves but to fulfill God's love and to know God better.
* James 5:14 "But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil."
*1 Kings 3:9
"So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?"
*1 Corinthians 2:6
Among the mature, however, we speak a message of wisdom--but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.
until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, as we mature to the full measure of the stature of Christ.
*1 Timothy 4:7
But reject irreverent and silly myths. Instead, train yourself for godliness.
Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith in God,
 "Im skeptical" in comment section of article by JBsptfn,"Bi Weekly Report: Ben Love from Ex-Christian.net," Cadre Comments, (June 7, 2016 ) blog URL:
 Bob Doyle, "Lebit Experiments," The Information Philosopher, on line Resource URL:
http://www.informationphilosopher.com/freedom/libet_experiments.html accesed 6/10/6
Bob earned a Ph.D in Astrophysics from Harvard and is now an Associate in the Harvard Astronomy Department.
The neurologist Benjamin Libet performed a sequence of remarkable experiments in the early 1980's that were enthusiastically, if mistakenly, adopted by determinists and compatibilists to show that human free will does not exist. His measurements of the time before a subject is aware of self-initiated actions have had a enormous, mostly negative, impact on the case for human free will, despite Libet's view that his work does nothing to deny human freedom...Libet found that although conscious awareness of the decision preceded the subject's finger motion by only 200 milliseconds, the rise in the Type II readiness potential was clearly visible at about 550 milliseconds before the flex of the wrist. The subject showed unconscious activity to flex about 350 milliseconds before reporting conscious awareness of the decision to flex (the red arrow above). Indeed an earlier slow and very slight rise in the readiness potential can be seen as early as 1.5 seconds before the action..
Libet's results have been noised about by reductionists and hailed as science proof that there is no freewill while Libet himself thinks he proved there is.
 Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature sand Destiny of Man, Volumes 1-2.
: A Christian Interpretation. Westminster :John Knox Press; 1st edition, 1996, 175.