Free Will, Frankfurt, and the Force

Harry Frankfurt is a philosopher noted for defending a compatibilistic view of free will. He is widely recognized for his paper “Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsiblity” (link) in which he  argues that the principle of alternate possibilities (PAP) is not necessary to assign moral responsibility. He does this through examples that have become quite popular, even being referred to as Frankfurt stories. This approach is considered, by some, to have successfully shown how moral responsibility can be assigned in a world in which PAP does not exist. Since Reformed theology affirms determinism and a compatibilistic view of free will (link), the Frankfurt stories are sometimes used to bolster their position (see this post as an example). But do Frankfurt stories do what their proponents claim?

What is PAP?

Frankfurt offers the following definition, which aligns with the idea of a libertarian free will (LFW).

This principle states that a person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise.

He follows that with the following assessment:

the principle of alternate possibilities is false. A person may well be morally responsible for what he has done even though he could not have done otherwise.

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Contemplating Contemplation (Part 2)

Been teaching on discernment and decision making so thought I would repost this, originally written in March 9, 2010. This post was modified from the original.

 In the first post, we examined the discipline of “centering prayer”, which for many is an essential practice for hearing from God.  If we want to hear from God then, according to Richard Foster, we must pursue silence.

This silence of all outward and earthly affection and of human thoughts within us is essential if we are to hear his voice.

In order to hear God’s voice one must practice emptying their mind.

What does it mean to hear from God? Do we need to empty our mind? In this post we look at several different theological areas and how they are connected to the idea that we should seek the voice of God.

Our view of Scripture as the inspired and inerrant Word of God is important. In this collection of books we have the promises, commands, and revelations of God written and preserved for us as objective truth. The Scriptures are given to us so that:

  • we can be made wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Tim 3:16)
  • we are equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:17)
  • we have examples to instruct us (Romans 15:4; 1 Cor 10:6)
  • we can have our hearts and motives exposed (Heb 4:12)
  • we know what God has promised and commanded

This is a non-exhaustive list, I encourage you to add more in the comment section.

In thinking through centering prayer we must wrestle with how we view Scripture. Is Scripture sufficient for living out the Christian life or do we need more guidance?

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Contemplating Contemplation

Been teaching on discernment and decision making so thought I would repost this, originally written in March 9, 2010

I have been thinking through spiritual formation as I am currently taking a class on that right now in seminary (or was when originally written). In a prior post I have compared the two views of Foster and Wesley regarding the spiritual disciplines and contemplative prayer. Here I hope to examine this mystical side of spiritual formation (SF) from a larger theological perspective.

What is Spiritual Formation?
Before I do that let me back up and define SF. Better yet let me let the main proponents define it. In a CT 2005 article that transcribed an interview with Dallas Willard and Richard Foster SF was defined as follows:

Spiritual formation is character formation. Everyone gets a spiritual formation. It’s like education. Everyone gets an education; it’s just a matter of which one you get.

Spiritual formation in a Christian tradition answers a specific human question: What kind of person am I going to be? It is the process of establishing the character of Christ in the person. That’s all it is. You are taking on the character of Christ in a process of discipleship to him under the direction of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. It isn’t anything new, because Christians have been in this business forever. They haven’t always called it spiritual formation, but the term itself goes way back.

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