In today’s podcast John Piper has responded to the important question: ‘If our will is not free, are we accountable?’
The podcast can be found here (Episode 308).
Piper first suggests that what makes us responsible for our actions is that all people have some knowledge of God (Romans 1) and therefore everyone who has this knowledge has some responsibility for what they do with that knowledge.
Piper suggests that in order to understand the answer to this question we need to understand a distinction made by Jonathan Edwards. He says that Edwards talks about natural and moral inability.
Natural inability is an inability where you cannot do what you most deeply want to do. Piper gives the analogy of a quadriplegic lying on the floor who wants to get up but is physically unable to. This natural inability means someone would not be accountable for their actions.
Moral inability, according to Piper, is where you cannot do other than what you do because what you do is what you most deeply want to do. So now the analogy becomes of a person lying on the floor who wants to lie on the floor and does not wish to get up. This moral inability is something for which people are accountable according to Piper.
Have you noticed the gobbledygook yet?
This supposed distinction (like many other technical distinctions made in scholastic Calvinism) does not even begin to answer the problem. It just pushes the problem back one more step. On Piper’s view of divine determinism God has also determined the characters and the moral inability of people. They do not determine these characteristics for themselves otherwise this would be to give them some moral freedom and Piper will not allow for that. So how can people be accountable for having the desires they have if these desires were causally determined by someone other than the person themselves?
What Piper is basically contending is that the person who desires to continue lying on the floor desires it because someone other than that person injected that person with some chemical which leaves them permanently in a state of desiring to lie on the floor all the time. Piper is insisting that this still leaves the person lying there responsible even though they could not do otherwise because they want to lie there but their desire is primarily caused by an agent outside of themselves. (I am suggesting that the only reason we give Piper’s analogy a hearing is because we get duped into thinking the source of the decision to lie on the floor is the person themselves.)
The question still stands. How can this possibly make someone responsible for rejecting God?
My other question would be why Piper so frequently defers to technical distinctions which don’t solve the problem at all and analogies which are not analogous.