The question of freedom or free will is one of the thorniest in Christian philosophy. Almost all Christian philosophers agree that humans have free will; the disagreement is over what free will is and whether it is compatible with determinism - those that hold that it is so compatible are termed 'compatibilists' and those that deny it are termed 'incompatibilists'. (Confusingly, 'compatibilist' is also a designation for one that thinks that free will and foreknowledge are compatible, and 'incompatibilist' for one that thinks they are incompatible.)
   Those incompatibilists that uphold free will (and therefore deny determinism) are also called 'libertarians'. The classic incompatibilistic definition of free will is to say that an agent freely performs an action if that agent could have refrained from performing that action, all prior states remaining the same. This is often known as 'the liberty of indifference' or 'contra-causal freedom' or 'agent-causation freedom'. The classic compatibilistic definition of free will is to say that an agent freely performs an action if that agent desired to perform that action. This is often known as 'the liberty of spontaneity'. It is an oversimplification to hold that Christian philosophers from the Roman-Catholic tradition uphold the liberty of indifference, whereas those from the Protestant tradition uphold the liberty of spontaneity: some Roman-Catholic philosophers, such as the followers of Ba ˜nez, are compatibilists, and many Protestant philosophers, Alvin Plantinga being one example, are incompatibilists. Philosophical discussion centres around which of the two concepts of free will is the correct one, and theological discussion centres on two issues: (1) whether the compatibilist's understanding of free will is consistent with our notions of moral responsibility, and (2) whether the incompatibilist's understanding of free will is consistent with the traditional understanding of divine providence and grace.
   Further reading: Fischer 1989 and 2005; Kane 2002 and 2005; Lucas 1970; Tomberlin 2000; van Inwagen 1983

Christian Philosophy . . 2015.

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