The Absence of Free Will and Some Implications for Christian (specifically SDA) Theology: A Pawn's Progress.

Speaker: Categories: May 18, 2002


[56min, 59sec / 36min, 31sec]


"When I assumed the existence of free will, it appeared to provide solution of sorts for a number of intractable theological dilemmas pertaining to the nature of God, the problem of evil, the legitimacy of the judgment and the place of humanity in the cosmos,"says this month's speaker.

During the last half of the 20th Century,"he continues,"so much generally Christian - and specifically Adventist - theology, theodicy, and apologetic has depended on the idea that the continuing mess each succeeding generation of human beings find themselves part of came into being (and continues) because, above everything else, God values the freedom of choice (or free will) that He provided the order of beings that were created in His image."

Almost as interesting as the topic itself is the way people respond to the issue. Even though there is absolutely nothing to be done about it, some individuals become quite exercised during discussions about whether or not free will is or is not a fact of human existence. There are those who almost desperately want it to be the case. But Doug Hackleman doubts whether many of these troubled souls could articulate with any clarity what it is that they think they care so deeply about.

Evidence for the investment church members have in the topic became clear some years ago when an Adventist theologian, who believed that traditional Judeo-Christian definitions of God were incompatible with the notion of human free will, wrote a book attempting to rectify the perceived incompatibility. He seemed to assume the existence of human free will, and his solution was to deprive God of one of the three characteristics (described by"omni"-prefixed words) traditionally assigned to the Judeo-Christian deity. No doubt the theft was well-intentioned, even though the author may have been trying to rescue a wraith. (However, for his self-limiting deity viewpoint, Richard Rice has pretty impressive company in Oxford's Arthur Peacocke.)

What if there is no free will to protect? So little careful examination has this ontological construct received in the post-modem and deconstructionist era, that it is regularly and glibly taken for granted.

This address reexamines the free-will assumption through logic, analogy, what-if scenarios and an audacious disregard for tradition and the demigods of academe. Hackleman throws a Halogen lamp on the implications that the absence of free will bodes for cherished views of sin (not cherished sins), redemption and judgment and proposes a most heretical but congenial solution. (As a bonus, the speaker will suggest a rational, humane and uncomplicated answer for the problem that the assumption of the absence of free will appears to leave for the constabulary, courts and corrections. )

Going beyond Skinner'sBeyond Freedom and Dignity, and beyond the running, oviparous and poetic debate the late behaviorist carried on in the nineteen seventies with Noam Chomsky, Hackleman will take us to the singularity of this inadequately explored question, What is free will? In the effort to define the construct, its absence will become obvious and the implications of its absence for theology, theodicy and apologetic will be-as they say in intellectual circles-elucidated.

Warning: due to the stressful nature of the topic, it is only fair to advise potential guests that the Forum chapter cannot provide grief counseling for the distraught!!!!!!


Doug Hackleman is the holder of a nearly useless master’s degree in psychology from Pepperdine University. His desire to know the truth about reality has led this Adventist missionaries'kid on a vain quest across various acreage of the mind in the search for a coherent explanation for the whole show.

He is best known for publishingAdventist Currentsduring Adventism's most interesting decade-the 1980s.

Since 1990 he has been simultaneously a consultant to small publishers, a freelance writer (ghost mostly) and an entrepreneurial publisher.

He is fortunate enough to belong to three lovely ladies: his family therapist wife, Jan, and their two teenage daughters, Hilary and Deirdre.

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