Compatibilism and Contradiction? Help.


I realize that many Christians (Calvinists) believe in Compatibilism. But from my limited understanding of it, I’m wondering if it’s not a fanciful way of say they believe in a contradiction. Now I know that the reason they will say that’s not true is because they believe there are no contradictions and compatibilism is true. But that, to me, would seem to force compatibilists away from having any hope of aruing for such a view from logic.

I could argue, God loves to murder people, and I could argue that God hates for people to be murdered. I could also argue that I don’t believe in a contradiction because somehow God’s loving murder and his hatred of people murdered are somehow compatible.

So as I understand it, and I might be wrong due to my limited understanding of Compatibilism, it’s really only an appeal or a fanciful way of saying - we see two things oppose (contradict) each other but we somehow they are both true.

So my question is this:

What is the difference between a Calminian and a Compatiblist? They both believe both are true - aren’t they both compatibilists?


I’m not sure that either group thinks they’re necessarily believing a contradiction. The more thoughtful end of the rank and file (those who think about it at all) probably just see it as trying to hold two seemingly conflicting ideas in tension in the same way they seem to see the scriptures doing so. But assuming that compatibilists and “calminians” believe contradictions, I’d say there’s not much difference in them or in the way they approach their belief systems.

Calminians recognize that there are tensions in scripture that they can’t resolve or do sufficient justice to from the position of just one or the other system without actually resolving the tension by accepting universalism. They hold what even they see as apparent contradictions, because they feel it is preferable to the only alternative. In order to attempt to relieve those tensions, they end up forcing themselves to invent extrabiblical explanations toward those ends, because they refuse to accept universalism.

I’m not as comfortable asserting that compatibilists are off base (at least in the same way), but if they are, I imagine they might hold contradictory beliefs for similar reasons (they cannot accept the logical conclusions that relieve the tensions). I think we all have a tendency to do this to some degree, and euphemize it by calling it something that sounds more dignified than it really is.


But it seems the very word “Compatible” is used for the very reason you explained. The word Compaible shows that the position recognizes that there is somewhat of a problem.

God causes a man to want to murder - the man wanting (by God’s hand) to murder chooses to murder, the man murders.
Man hires a man to want to murder - The man wanting to murder (by hire of the employer) chooses to murder, the man murders.

I think they know choice is not what is the real issues, it’s responsibility that’s at stake.

If I hire a hit man, though I don’t actually commit the murder, would I be guilty of murder? Even our courts recognize the logic that I am responsible.

So it seems to me that Compaibilism allows for a dark spot in God, which they will not conceed. Leading to the obvious contradictions and thus they hit the “compatible” button.

Bob Wilson always likes to say…“Ok, well I think everyone will end up saved and some people really will be in hell forever”, and when people say that makes no sense, he says - neither does your view but you believe it anyways. :slight_smile:


The house of cards begins to tumble. I love it!



TGB, am I right about this or am I misunderstanding something?

If I’m wrong and if there is a real “logic” behind compaibilism that seperates it from Calminianism, I’d like to know what it is.

I see them as saying the same thing. Calminians are really Calvinists who are closer to conceeding that they believe in a contradiction. Calvinists are simply more complex and thus stay further from that line. But when all is said and done, they’re really saying it’s an apparent contradiction (thus the need to say “compatible”).


I’ve heard “compatibilism” defined in at least two different ways:

  1. The thesis that libertarian free will is compatible with determinism.

  2. The thesis that moral responsibility/accountability is compatible with determinism.

If the first definition is the true definition, then I would have to reject compatibilism as incoherent. But I don’t see anything necessarily problematic or contradictory about the second definition, and have tried to defend the position elsewhere on this forum: Should we form universalist congregations?.


Thanks for that and it make a lot of sense to me as well to say no. 1 is problematic.

No off I am to look at no. 2.

Though I believe in at least intermitten determinism (that is God causes some things to occur) I’m not sure compatibilism is the theory I agree with. Saying God somehow made me do it and I’m responsible for doing it because I chose it (though God controlled your choice through your will) is nonsense to me.

But I’m going to read the link as carefully as possible.

And good to talk to you again :slight_smile:


My own view is that some version of compatibilism simply must be true – so all I have to figure out is how!!! :laughing: :smiley: :astonished: :blush: :question:

Strong cases can be made from the bible (it seems to me) both for choice and for determinism.
Chose ye this day whom ye will serve: why evangelize determined people?
However, Paul seems to insist that (Rom 9:16) being saved does not depend on our desire or will or efforts but is “determined” by God. Further, his likening of humans to “clay” which is formed and molded at the sole discretion of the potter also strongly speaks of determinism.

One way out of this conundrum (apparent contradiction?) is to say (and this is my understanding of Talbott…) that there are certain realities over which I really do have no choice. For example, my own existence, gender, hair color, and such things. And one of those realities, over which I don’t have a choice is the “choice” of ECT, or the “choice” to cease to exist (annihilation). Such a “choice” is entirely inconsistent with basic sanity and common sense and therefore is not real.

On the other hand, I do have much to do with choosing the paths and journey and means to eternal life: that is, I can chose the hard road, or the easy road; the straight and narrow, or the wide one. I can chose to embrace God or may chose to resist Him. It’s just that I am not “free” to resist Him permanently. It’s simply not in the realm of viable options. All my “resistings” will, eventually, be seen to be temporary.

Of course I also know that my understanding of this dynamic is ever evolving and will take a lifetime to comprehend.



Consider the following: God cannot determine that a person believe the gospel and be saved without also determining the means by which this will be brought about. If God has predestined that a person will believe the gospel and enjoy aeonian life as a result, then someone HAS to preach the gospel to them. God can’t simply leave it up to chance (which is what I believe LFW amounts to!). So determinism isn’t inconsistent with evangelism, for you may be the predetermined means by which God accomplishes his predetermined plan that a person hear the gospel, believe and be saved:

“And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48).

“Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many people in this city” (18:9-10).

And although the “salvation” in view is not spiritual, consider also Acts 27:31, where Paul exclaims to the centurion and soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” From these words it might seem as if Paul believed the future was uncertain or “open” in regards to these people’s salvation from drowning. But previously we learned that it had been revealed to Paul that everyone in Paul’s company would, in fact, be saved (see vv. 21-26). So while we could say it had been predetermined by God that these men would be saved, Paul was still instrumental in bringing it about.


Aaron: I’ve heard “compatibilism” defined in at least two different ways:

  1. The thesis that libertarian free will is compatible with determinism.
  2. The thesis that moral responsibility/accountability is compatible with determinism.

Tom: I know of your (2), but I’ve not run into (1). The other use of “compatibilism” I’m familiar with is:

  1. The thesis that LFW is compatible with foreknowledge.

Some determinists are compatibilists in the sense that they believe (2). Some determinists are incompatibilists. That is, they flat out agree that divine determination is incompatible with our being responsible, but that God can do whatever he wants. He’s got the power. Most determinists are compatibilists in the sense of (2).

In the foreknowledge debate “compatibilism” has to do with whether divine foreknowlege is compatible with our being free in the libertarian sense. Traditional Arminians agree it is. Open theists argue it isn’t.



Not to throw an even bigger wrench into this, but I wonder how much of the resolution of this question has to do with relativity. I don’t mean by this, that there is no absolute truth; but rather that the tension appears due to our unique perspectives as contingent beings. We are all relative to God in at least the sense that He is the constant, and we are the part of the equation that changes.

It seems to me that there is a real tension between God’s authority/ responsibility and our accountability/ choices. It’s clear enough to me that God has determined the end from the beginning at some level, but that we are also accountable to Him for our choices along the way, which involve factors that are beyond our control. Perhaps it’s more about our heart attitude than anything else.

God ‘hardened’ (strengthened) pharaoh’s heart to refuse to let the Hebrews go, but pharaoh also played his part somehow with whatever level of freedom he had to choose, and was held accountable at least to the extent that he suffered the consequences of his actions (you can make a chicken and egg argument out of this). I don’t know how to characterize that accurately, except as the thesis #2 definition of compatibilism.


I agree with the open theists on this one!


Never heard the terms “Calminian.” What’s a Calminian?



A Calminian is someone who holds both calvinist and arminian views on various portions of scripture, because they realize that the Calvinist position does not do adequate justice to some portions of scripture, and the Arminian position likewise does not do adequate justice to other parts of scripture. They therefore take a mixed view involving both positions because they either fail to recognize the third alternative of universalism, or they do and simply refuse to go there.


Ahhhhhhh. Interesting!



I’m reading through your exchange with kkv (or shall I call him/her kiki) and have been enjoying it. I can’t believe I missed it back in August. Nevertheless, that’s what’s great about these forums; we can always go back and catch up.

So far (I’m about 3/4 through) I sympathize with you. I see assertions by libertarians that I can’t seem to justify, ie LFW is required for a loving relationship. But I’m never told how and why that works. I could easily say, Determinism is required for a loving relationship, but I should explain why that is. I understand Libertarians believe that, but I have to know more than just the assertion. I tend to think life is what’s required and I don’t believe life requires libertarian freedom. I believe life could exist even in a deterministic universe. But give me a few more days and I think I can comment a bit more.