One of the most hotly debated questions in Christian theology is the question of human free-will. There are essentially two options- Determinism and Libertarianism. Determinism argues that events are determined or fixed by some external force- be it the natural laws of the universe or the will of God. Libertarianism claims the opposite- no external force compels us to make the decisions we make.
The logical implications of both views seem to lead to a rather unsettling dilemma.
I have previously argued that determinism leads to a radical skepticism. If all things are fixed, this includes my thoughts and my beliefs, which raises an important question: what reason do I have to trust that my beliefs are true if they have been, in effect, chosen for me? If determinism is true, I cannot even objectively wrestle with this question because the thoughts engaged in such a process will also be determined! This leads to a radical skepticism in which I have no reason to trust my mental faculties to tell me anything true.
Some determinists try to argue for a view known as compatibalism, which is an attempt to preserve some semblance of free-will within the structure of determinism. Such a view argues that our actions are free if they coincide with our desires. This view attempts to show that we can be held morally responsible for our actions even if determinism is true. However, compatibalism only pushes the problem back one step: desires are not self-existing entities anymore than thoughts are, they too originate from somewhere. If the source of our desires is external (ie, God shapes our desires in some sense), then the same critiques of determinism can be applied to compatibalism. If the source of our desires is not external to us (we determine them, in other words), then determinism is not true.
Libertarianism has its own set of philosophical problems. The question to be asked is: do we really have equally available options when we make a decision? On face value, it seems that we obviously do not- there are always things that influence us to decide one way or another. And that, it would seem, implies that there may be external forces influencing our decisions.
Some have argued that to say our options in any decision really are equally available, we have to say that we have the ability to go against our strongest inclination. If this is even logically consistent (wouldn’t the final choice we make turn out to be our strongest inclination?), then truly having equally available alternatives seems to require the elimination of causality (at least in terms of our decisions). These critics claim that once we have denied causality we find ourselves on a quick slope to a form of atheism in which there are no reasons for anything that happens.
So it seems we are faced with a dilemma: skepticism or atheism. To get out of this dilemma will require one of two solutions: either (1) a way out of skepticism for the determinist, or (2) a definition of libertarian freedom that allows for causation.