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Revision of Restricted Free Will and Conditional Universalism

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p class="">My article "Restricted Free Will and Conditional Universalism" indicates how various models of free will relate to Christian universalism, but my definition of Arminian free will lacked clarity. I thank theologian Roger Olson for bringing this to my attention. Please consider the following revision of my perspective.

My biblical theology Conditional Futurism briefly discusses imagery of postmortem evangelism in 1 Peter and imagery of postmortem conversions in Revelation. I also support that the biblical imagery teaches about the reality of postmortem conversions. Beyond that book, I believe that postmortem conversions will eventually result in universalism, which means that every human will eventually enjoy the gift of salvation. Some critics object to my conclusion of universalism. For example, some object to the conclusions of my biblical research about postmortem conversions. Others object by saying that the concept of universalism is impossible because universalism implies that God would violate human free will while God would never do that. This brief piece focuses on objections to genuine free will and universalism.

Roger Olson in his 2015 blog post "Universalism Is 'In the Air'...." says that universalists are soft-hearted Calvinists while Arminians are immune to universalism. Olson's generalization derives from the contrasting Calvinist and Arminian views of free will and saving grace. For example, Calvinism teaches the doctrine of irresistible grace, which means that humans cannot resist God's gracious gift of faith and salvation. I want to emphasize that irresistible grace implies that humans immediately accept salvation when God offers salvation and that momentary resistance to God's offer is impossible. Alternatively, Arminianism teaches the doctrine of prevenient grace. Prevenient grace is resistible grace that enables humans to accept faith in God and the gift of salvation.

Calvinism is typically associated with theological determinism. Theological determinism means that God meticulously determines every detail in the universe such as the greatest human joys, the foremost human horrors, and trivial events such as the formation of dust bunnies. Some adherents of theological determinism believe that free will is compatible with determinism, which is called classical compatibilist free will or soft determinism. Other theological determinists reject the existence of free will, which is called hard determinism.

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In contrast to Calvinism, Arminianism is associated with traditional incompatibilism, which means that free will exists while free will is incompatible with determinism. For example, Arminianism teaches that humans can resist God's loving gift of saving grace. Arminianism also implies partial determinism and concomitant partial indeterminism.

Olson clarifies fine points of traditional Arminian free will:

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God concurs with the will of the free and rational creature without laying any necessity on it of doing well or ill. God bestows the gift of free will on people and controls it by putting boundaries around what it can do.... Human free will is always only situated free will; it exists and is exercised within a limiting context, and God's limitation of it is one factor in that context. (Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities, page 125)
Power of contrary choice is the typical Arminian view of free will. ("An Arminian Account of Free Will")

These points indicate that traditional Arminianism teaches that God gives humans a limited gift of free will that nonetheless constantly possesses the power of contrary choice. For example, within boundaries, humans can always choose something other than what they choose. Likewise, no human choice is literally irresistible.

The strongest form of incompatibilism is what I call strong unrestricted free will. Examples include Cartesian free will. Strong unrestricted free will means that human free will lacks the slightest constraint and that humans constantly possess the power of contrary choice in every circumstance while no human choice is literally irresistible.

My second strongest category of incompatibilism is what I call weak unrestricted free will. Examples include traditional Arminian free will. Weak unrestricted free will means that human free will is limited while humans nonetheless constantly possess the power of contrary choice in every circumstance while no human choice is literally irresistible.

Weak forms of incompatibilism are what I call restricted free will. Examples include Peter van Inwagen's model of free will. Restricted free will means that a human sometimes possesses the power of contrary choice. For instance, a human can sometimes choose contrary to what they choose and sometimes face a literally irresistible enticement for a particular choice.

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Consider two circumstances of restricted free will. First, a woman faces nothing except three mutually exclusive choices that she supposes are equally beneficial. In this case, she would freely choose among the three alternatives. In the second circumstance, she faces multiple choices and she delights in one possibility while she utterly disdains all other possibilities. The only delightful choice is literally irresistible while she would never choose any other option.

I want to further illustrate these circumstances in an imaginary multiverse with an indefinite number of parallel histories. In the first circumstance, the woman faces the same three mutually exclusive choices that she supposes are equally beneficial. Because of the multiverse, the same woman with the same past faces the same first circumstance an indefinite number of times. This circumstance that is repeated an indefinite number of times results in three different alternate histories because the woman would freely choose among the three options. In the second circumstance, she faces multiple choices and she delights in one possibility while she utterly disdains all other possibilities. Because of the multiverse, the same woman with the same past faces the same second circumstance an indefinite number of times and always chooses the same delightful option. The option is irresistible regardless of how many times that she faces the same circumstance.

I clarify that an enticingly irresistible offer never results in a meticulously determined response. For example, when the woman in the multiverse chooses the same delightful option an indefinite number of times, her behavior during her choice could slightly vary each time that she makes the same choice.

I add that a model human will might reject both determinism and the existence of free will. I categorize such models and hard determinism together into what I call unfree will.

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James Goetz is a philosopher and theologian. His theories include the universal wormhole, semiclassical theism, semiclassical Christianity, Relative-Social Trinitarianism, natural law theory of identity, and conditional futurism. His (more...)
 

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