Why does Compatibilism fail?
Spurgeon is arguing against the kind of “equal ultimacy” that Calvinist, R.C. Sproul, had also warned against, in that God’s decrees toward “the elect” vs. “non-elect” is not a positive/positive schema, but a positive/negative schema. This concept involves God’s positive (active) action for the one, and negative (passive) action for the other (i.e. permission).
The only problem is that a positive vs. negative view of God’s alleged decrees doesn’t seem to work well with Determinism, as Arminians, Walls and Dongell, point out:
Losing “permission,” from the Calvinist position, comes at the cost of losing Compatibilism, which is a Calvinist alternative to Determinism, which attempts to reconcile the polar opposites of free will and determinism. However, there is an even bigger problem, which should put the final nail in the coffin of Compatibilism. I cite a youtube clip of James White, where he states concerning the Arminian perspective: “It’s far better to have a God, who in creating this universe, does not create with a sovereign decree, that determines actions in time. …God created all that evil, and has no purpose for it, none whatsoever. At least the Reformed person can say that God uses means, we can look at the Compatibilism that’s plainly presented in Genesis chapter 50, Isaiah 10, Acts 4, we can talk about the purity of God’s motivations and the impurity of man’s motivations, ect.” (Theology Matters: The Parable of the Farmer--Geisler)
Here’s the problem: If sin has a “purpose,” then it will be shown that Compatibilism fails.
In other words, if it’s God’s purpose for the depraved person to commit sin “A,” then the depraved person’s freedom of choice to commit sin’s “B” through “Z,” is therefore a threat to the purpose-driven will of God. The purpose-driven decree of God, must therefore restrict all of the depraved person’s range of sinful choices down to only one sinful choice, amongst a multitude of other sinful choices.
Now consider that the decree of God, according to Calvinism, is an all-encompassing decree. It’s not hard to imagine from here, how every choice of every man, depraved or regenerate, must be restricted to only a preset course of action, amongst a multitude of other potential actions.
So the challenge, here, is not about a depraved person doing something good, but about a depraved person doing some other depraved action, besides the one that has a specific purpose. Therefore, for a Compatibilist to suggest that Compatibilism still provides a basis for judgment, because God can still judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart, is overthrown by the fact that God would have to meticulously instill the thoughts and intentions of that person’s heart. Their thoughts and intentions could in no way be there own, since anything genuinely of their own might conflict with the decreed purpose.
Now if you were to say that God only decrees certain sins of depraved people, and not all of their sins, then the concept of an all-encompassing decree, falls as well. There is no way out. Either you have an all-encompassing, purpose-driven will for the depraved sinner, or you have people committing such sins as child sacrifice to Molech, which never entered God’s mind that they should commit, as per Jeremiah 32:35. So once James White insists that sin must have a purpose, he cannot look at such things as Compatibilism as a solution, contrary to what he stated in his youtube clip.
One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians comments: “Moderate Calvinists hide behind fancy terms like ‘compatibilist free will,’ but it’s nothing more than doublespeak.” (SEA)
Compatibilism is nothing more than nuanced Determinism.
(1) Since the Compatibilist view of exhaustive Determinism entails that God does “whatsoever comes to pass,” this view loses credibility whenever God says that He does not do something (Jeremiah 32:35; Zechariah 1:15), thus evidencing that “God’s plan” does not include everything that happens. Calvinists then ask whether God “knew” that people would have acted outside of His will, and of course Arminians believe in omniscience, and so they ask why (if it wasn’t in God’s will) that He chose to permit it, thus attempting to demonstrate that even what God allows, He is willing and wanting to have happen as part of His will, but if we ask the same question of the father of the prodigal son, in terms of why the father chose to allow his son to leave with his share of the inheritance, and whether his permission ensures that the father is getting exactly what he wanted to happen, it is readily apparent that the father was not getting what he wanted, but was simply reluctantly acquiescing, which is exactly what Arminians believe happens whenever someone goes to Hell, in that a broken-hearted Savior says, “Not My will be done but yours.” (adapted from 2nd Peter 3:9)
(2) The other problem with Compatibilism is that if people merely “think” that they are freely willing to do something, but are actually receiving all of their thoughts, intentions and desires of their heart from God (cradle to grave and into eternity beyond) so that they erroneously think that they are acting upon their own self-will, then a problem arises when we consider whether the devil merely “thinks” that he was acting alone and doing something of his own, and whether the demons merely “think” that they are acting alone and doing something of their own, when yet according to Determinism/Compatibilism, it is God who is pulling their strings, so to speak, and who is willing and working within them, and thus making God, through Determinism/Compatibilism, not only the author of sin, but its sole architect. Calvinists deny this charge, which R.C. Sproul says that Calvinists must do, but they deny it only through Special Pleading.
Here is a link to a Blog discussion on this topic.