When A Christian Sins: 1 Corinthians 10:13 And The Power Of Contrary Choice In Relation To The Compatibilist-Libertarian Debate -- By: Paul A. Himes

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 54:2 (Jun 2011)
Article: When A Christian Sins: 1 Corinthians 10:13 And The Power Of Contrary Choice In Relation To The Compatibilist-Libertarian Debate
Author: Paul A. Himes


When A Christian Sins: 1 Corinthians 10:13 And The Power Of Contrary Choice In Relation To The Compatibilist-Libertarian Debate

Paul A. Himes*

* Paul Himes is a Ph.D. student in New Testament at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He resides at 14 McDowell Drive, Wake Forest, NC 27587.

While discussions over free will and divine sovereignty have ever been at the forefront of theology, such debates have often failed to clearly define those philosophical concepts and have frequently neglected thorough exegesis in favor of a pre-rendered theological system. In other words, philosophical argumentation has often trumped exegetical analysis.1

To be fair, Scripture is generally unclear on such matters as the nature of the human will, human choice, and divine sovereignty. First Corinthians 10:13, however, may be an exception. If πειρασμός is interpreted as “temptation to sin” (rather than “trial” or “tribulation”), then Scripture’s promise for a way out and limit to the temptation would seem to indicate the power of contrary choice. If so, then libertarian free will would be assumed, at least in any case where a Christian is faced with the temptation to sin.

In order to advance this thesis without overextending it, the first section of the article will set out definitions and boundaries, the second part will examine 1 Cor 10:13 in its extended context, and the third section will lay out the passage’s philosophical implications in relation to the compatibilist- libertarian debate.

I. Definitions And Boundaries

Since the point of this article is to determine whether or not 1 Cor 10:13 supports libertarian free will as opposed to compatibilistic free will, specific definitions are in order. In general, “compatibilism” refers to that philosophy which views free will as compatible with some form of determinism. In other words, both “determinism” and “free will,” however the latter is understood, can co-exist when a human makes a choice.2 More specifically, “a will can be

caused and still be free in the sense required for moral responsibility . . . even if it is caused by God or by natural events to choose or decide what it does.”3 A compatibilistic view of “free will” does not necessarily involve (and probably completely omits) the power of cont...

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