As you know, Lydia McGrew is one of the sharpest Christian philosophers today. Her recent work is a robust defense of the New Testament against evangelicals rediscovering (or discovering for the first time) higher criticism and relying on literary devices to fictionalize portions of the New Testament. Lydia and I have agreed on much but have also had some vigorous discussions. Here is one of them.
The context is a post of mine comparing the Materialist positing uncaused events and the Libertarian positing uncaused events. It then focused on if Libertarianism believes in uncaused events and if we can be independent the way God is or if we are always dependent because we, unlike God, had a beginning. This specific post came in the context of a few posts by me about Libertarians maintaining that a free will is uncaused. Some Libertarians commented that I am “straw-manning” (verb form of the straw man fallacy) them and they claimed no Libertarians believed the will is uncaused (at least in part). Here we see that Libertarians do indeed believe that and also believe that the human agent is not dependent. This confirms my original comparison in the post. The Christian tells the Materialist that there are no uncaused events and so the universe had a cause because the universe had a beginning. The same Christian then says that the problem of evil is solved by a free will, and a free will (which has a beginning) is at least partly uncaused.
The intention of my comparison in the post was not to suggest that there are no proofs for God’s existence, but to call Christian Philosophers to greater consistency. There are no uncaused events, and this truth forms the basis for proofs of God’s existence and also proofs of God’s providential rule. We can and should eagerly show that God’s existence and providence are clear to reason and our highest good is knowing Him in all that by which He makes Himself known.
Toward the end, you will see “questions from the audience” meaning that others inserted some questions in comments as part of the thread. I took out their names but wanted to keep their questions.
Christian apologist: the materialist is wrong about the universe coming from nothing because there are no uncaused events.
Same apologist: we can solve the problem of evil with free will which is an uncaused event.
There are different kinds of uncaused events, duh
That’s a pretty uncharitable way of summarizing. In fact, the free act of God is deemed a sufficient cause of the universe *precisely* because a) agent causation is itself causally primitive and b) God is self-existent.
Yes, I agree that is true of God and the theist doesn’t believe the beginning of the universe is an uncaused event, but that is also why it does not translate to the human agent who is not self-existent but dependent on God.
That’s just a confusion. The human agent’s *existence* was brought about by God, but those of us who accept agent-causation believe that what God did was to bring about the existence of a being who is capable of making free choices, and those free choices are not merely the conduits of other causes, including the other cause of the person’s coming into existence by the act of God.
*Are not merely the conduits of other causes* there doesn’t seem to be any confusion at all.
You said something about the agent being dependent on God. I agree that the existence of the agent is dependent on God. But this is not in any tension with free agent causation.
Honestly, I”m a little shocked at the o.p. It seems to me to be at most one cut above the atheist attempt to say that the first premise of the Kalam cosmological argument is, “Everything has a cause” and then to play “gotcha” with the theist because God himself is uncaused. I mean, I’m sorry Owen, but that’s pretty basic straw-manning, and any philosopher of religion face-palms over it when it comes up in a philosophy textbook. But what you’re doing here is waaay too much like it for a pro.
I can see how you’d read it that way given the way you began this thread. But the two are different. The OP is about uncaused events being impossible wherever we find them, the atheist saying God is an uncaused event isn’t like that at all since the kalam argument doesn’t say God is an event. As you said, God is self-existent but we are not. The way I read your comment that I quoted is that you are affirming there are uncaused events. Now, if I was to follow your lead I’d say “Lydia, that’s a freshman mistake that all of us professors laugh at” but can we keep this on the subject and not bring in silly personal attacks like that?
The correct version of the cosmological argument has as a premise that everything that begins to exist requires a cause for its beginning to exist. Acts of free will on the part of an agent are not, in the sense intended, *entities* that begin to exist. The point is that inaccurately stating a major premise of a cosmological argument is something that one wants to be careful not to do. I was making a comparison as to the type of mistake involved, not saying that it was the *same* mistake. It is, however, a similar *type* of mistake in that it mis-states in a fairly blatant way a major premise of the cosmological argument in an attempt to claim an inconsistency elsewhere. Just as the main premise isn’t “everything has a cause” so also the main premise isn’t, or shouldn’t be, “Every event has a cause.” Rather, it should be, “Every entity that begins to exist has a cause.”
Moreover, it would be a category error to refer to free will as an event. Individual acts of the free agent may be so considered. The idea of agent-causation, again, is that the agent’s free acts are not the *mere* conduits of other causal events, though those may be *contributing*.
There simply is no inconsistency between agent-causation libertarianism and the argument against materialism from the origin of the universe. There just isn’t, and it can only seem so if one is making some error–in this case, an error concerning a) the agent as a cause of the individual events of his own free acts and/or b) the major premise of the cosmological argument.
You can say so but it isn’t so. Before clearing that up we’d first have to address the actual point which is are there uncaused events? The two are indeed relevantly similar in that in one case the apologists rightly rules out uncaused events as logically impossible and then in another accepts them to protect counter-causal freedom. That’s the relevant similarity. Nothing you’ve said so far indicates otherwise because you’ve affirmed you do believe this. In the case of the agent or the choice, are either uncaused? I’m reading your last comment as saying yes. And that makes sense, libertarianism is counter-causal, and the libertarians spend their time on where to insert the uncaused or indeterministic point.
(Owen replying to a question from the audience asking why he thinks Libertarianism believes in uncaused events) just take quote from Lydia above. Lydia McGrew says *are not merely the conduits of other causes* there doesn’t seem to be any confusion at all.
Or from PAP. All things being the same there is more than one possibility.
Or the name “counter-causal”.
Or the name “indeterministic”.
I’m being honest when I say I’ve never met a libertarian who denies it. And I’ve spent my adult life as either a student or professor of philosophy. They all gladly cite quantum mechanics.
Or to put it in a different way: The sense in which the agent causes his willed acts is not the same as the sense in which God causes the existence of the agent. It is not the *existence* of the agent that brings about his acts of free will, since his existence is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for any particular free act. So to say that God must be a sufficient cause for my acts since he causes me and I cause my acts is incorrect. In fact, I remember thinking this through some thirty-five years ago. When, in fact, I was an undergraduate, and not even a philosophy major.
That sounds like it is getting to the difference between primary and secondary causes and that we are probably saying the same thing in different ways (that’s a friendly reading which is always the one I prefer). The purpose of a short post is precisely to be soil for this kind of more lengthy conversation. There are still those who say that a free will is an uncaused will and they, not you, are the subject of the post. There is a view divine sovereignty found in some Calvinism and in some in Islam that says there is only the primary cause. The agent causation person is correctly responding against that view. The agent is real. But we don’t need PAP for this.
I prefer the agent causation explication of libertarian freedom over PAP, not because I’m convinced that PAP is wrong (my agent-causation libertarianism and PAP may have complete extensional overlap for all the same events) but because I think agent-causation is a more fundamental explication of libertarian freedom. What I mean by agent-causation is what you (Owen) mean by uncaused acts of the will. Now, I don’t call them “uncaused,” because there are often *partial* causes outside the agent involved. For example, I may get lunch at noon because I feel hungry. Feeling hungry is a *partial* cause of my going to the refrigerator. However, if I act freely (as I usually if not always do–I don’t think I’ve ever gotten lunch unfreely), my choice/decision/act of the will (whatever you like to call it) is an *ineliminable* part of the causal nexus and *is not* itself merely a result or conduit of other causal factors. It is causally originary. The end (or beginning, whichever terminology you prefer) of a causal chain.
This is what, as I understand it, you object to as a position. Or at least one of the positions. My point in my comments here is chiefly to show that that position is *not* incompatible with the cosmological argument that says that the universe had to have a cause. For that matter, even the PAP spelling out of libertarianism, as far as I can see, is not at all incompatible with the argument that the universe had to have a cause.
The best explication of the relevant premise in the cosmological arg., as I mentioned, is that everything that begins to exist has a cause. This still leaves it completely open that acts of free agents are *at most* partially caused by factors outside of the agent’s free act of the will–that is, that the free act of the will is causally originary. I take it that this is what you call “being uncaused,” though I don’t think that is quite an accurate way to express it, because it might be *partially* caused. But yes, it is partially uncaused. Again, my whole point here is that this is entirely compatible with the apologetic use of the need for the universe to have a cause.
It sounds like the *merely* needs to be spelled out more. And the agent is one of the things that begins to exist and so too choices are things that begin to exist and so need a cause. Thus the comparison in the OP is accurate. But as I understand you at this point you are saying there is a partial cause and a partial uncaused, or some part is caused and some part is uncaused, which is to say there are things that begin to exist that are uncaused. I’m only trying to describe what I understand you saying not play “gotcha”. So it’s fair to say Lydia is a libertarian who believes some things that begin are uncaused. I wouldn’t be misrepresenting you if I said that. And this also answers Aaron’s question about libertarians and uncaused events. And the OP turns out to be quite a good one for providing the framework of a more in-depth discussion. After what you’ve said I understand the OP to be even more accurate.
I deny that choices or acts of the will are “things” that “begin to exist” in the sense in which one should mean it in the cosmological argument. I think that’s just a sort of verbal play. I suppose you can choose (!) to call anything a “thing” that “begins to exist,” but metaphysically I do not call choices entities. They certainly would not be entities in the sense in which the universe is an entity or a person is an entity (or a rock or atom, etc.)
*Things* and *events* here are not technical terms. It would be the same to simply say *they began to exist*. I don’t think that you think they have existed from eternity without a beginning. So the point is the same.
But when I said that we should spell the premise out as “everything that begins to exist has a cause,” I mean “things that begin to exist” in what presumably you consider to be a technical sense. I think it is possible to make a principled distinction between the sense in which a universe is an entity and begins to exist and the fact that choices occur at a point in time. And all that one needs for the cosmological argument is to deny that things that (in the former sense) are *entities* and come into existence can do so without a cause.
Alternatively, one could say that the agent causes his choices. However, I think that is infelicitous and would probably not go with that way of putting it, precisely because of the ambiguity on the agent’s existence, which is not per se what causes his choices. Hence, to say that the agent causes his choices is really (in the technical sense) merely to restate, “The agent chooses” in a potentially confusing manner. So I prefer to make the point by emphasizing a more specific sense of “entity that begins to exist.”
And yet there seems to be a standard analogy used by theists between God choosing to create and the agent choosing to do something. So one must either idolatrously equate the agent and God (some have said this to me, we are uncaused causes or we are gods) or say the difference between God and the agent is that the agent is not self-existent and the choice had a cause. Perhaps the boogie man is material causation. That’s not the only type of causation. But William James rejects all causation and that seems to be standard. So it isn’t just that the choice is caused, but also that the agent is caused. The agent is one of the creations of God. It’s fine to review the kinds of causes and the difference between beliefs and matter. But usually what a libertarian would have done a few comments back is, upon feeling the pain of accepting “uncaused” about what begins to be, they says “indeterminate cause! See, I kept causes.” But of course a little Socratic questioning and we find out that this just means the same thing. It was some sugar to make the pill go down. I think in the end if all types of causation are rejected to make room for some part uncaused the agent actually loses control of the choice.
To say that it is just a potentially confusing manner of speaking to say that the agent caused the choice vs simply the agent chose will depend on if you are holding out for alternative possibilities. To keep those the libertarian recognizes the need to cast out causes. A cause brings about an effect. But that is exactly what we want when we chose. I chose this, not something else.
The agent is not self-existent. We agree on that. God made the agent. But I also make an analogy between the agent’s free choices and God’s free choices, yes. And I don’t see that as idolatrous. As I’ve emphasized several times, the agent’s *existence* is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for his own choices. So God was a contributing cause but not a sufficient cause for the agent’s choices. He contributed (at least) by making the agent. In some cases God also contributes in other ways–e.g., sending a miraculous dream telling the agent to do something, which they agent (like Jonah) might choose to disobey. But the agent’s existence is only a partial cause of his specific choices. The choices themselves are ineliminable and, insofar as they are free, are partially uncaused. I do not like the terminology of non-deterministic causation, as I think it’s confusing. I prefer to speak of partial causation.
I reject as a false dilemma (I believe it goes back at least to Hume and maybe farther) the claim that if the choice is not caused it is random. I think that agent-causation as the ineliminable beginning of a causal chain is a sui generis type of event that is not merely a conduit of other causes but also not some sort of random flailing. It is itself: A free choice. Free choices are in an important sense metaphysically ultimate and sui generis. Indeed, the attempt to press the Humean dilemma I think manifests a failure to understand the real glory of both non-materialism and God’s creation of free beings.
I don’t believe the dilemma is either caused or random. Properly the dilemma is either caused or uncaused. And all that you said is true of the choice having a cause or being caused or whichever. The glory of God’s creation of free beings is in their ability to reason and deliberate not in being uncaused (which is impossible). I want the outcome of my deliberation not some other outcome. The last half of your last sentence perfectly makes the point for the compatibilist: God’s glory is revealed in his creation of rational agents in his image who can think and make choices but all the while dependent as creatures. No need for a partial uncaused anything.
And so the Christian apologists says:
Materialist, you are culpably ignorant, the material universe cannot be uncaused.
Materialist replies, but you believe in freedom which is uncaused
Christian apologist, you’re badly mistaken, I don’t believe that freedom is uncaused, I believe freedom is unrestrained. My will is free when it is not restrained and that is not uncaused or partially uncaused.
I’m well aware of the content of the compatibilist position. I think it is wrong. But my purpose here in relation to the o.p. was not to argue against compatibilism but only to argue that libertarianism is in no way inconsistent with the use of the cosmological argument. That’s all. Nor does the libertarian say that “they” (agents) are uncaused. Rather, as I’ve said many times now, we must distinguish between an agent’s existence and his choices. His existence is caused. His free choices are not the mere conduits of causes outside of the choice itself, though those choices may be *partially* caused by other factors. My only point throughout has been that this is consistent with the necessary premise of the cosmological argument, properly understood.
I know. And I’ve said many times it isn’t. The agent simply isn’t relevantly like God. God is self-existent and the agent is created and dependent. So the OP is a useful similarity. The *outside* of the choice itself will need to be cashed out because that is perfectly consistent with the causation of deliberation. “I thought about it and I chose this” and “I am a creature made by God.” We are just repeating ourselves so nothing new to add at this point. I think the best thing the OP did was allowed for this conversation where we did agree that your view is that the choice is partly uncaused. As I’ve told you before I appreciate conversations with you both about things we agree on and things we disagree on. Thank you.
“God is self-existent and the agent is created and dependent.” I agree. His *being* is dependent. His free choices are not, given what I take you to mean by “dependent.” I agree that we’re repeating ourselves. Take care!
Question from audience
I read all of this because it’s a topic I’d really like to understand and take a firm position on. But I see pitfalls in both positions and don’t see solutions.
Lydia, you seem to be saying and implying that free choices have a metaphysical standing on their own, unlike anything else that exists, and they can be partially caused but are never fully caused (except in cases of coersion). My question, doesn’t this metaphysical choice need to exist to cause the brain to fire neurons? Wouldn’t this existence/non existence violate the law of logic/being “being cannot come from non being”? I know you said it’s not a thing, but do you think that law applies all the senses of the idea of all things/beings?
Owen, I too have a question for you. You are saying our choices are caused but not restrained by God. But wouldn’t “restrain” assume the position of partially uncaused choices? If the choice is fully caused, how could it be otherwise? Thus, God does not need to restrain for determinism to be true. For a final question, in a choice, there are multiple causal chains (?) if so, do any of these causal chains NOT originate outside the agent?
Thanks for your time. If you don’t wish to respond, I totally understand people are busy. Thank you both!
(replying to an audience question) No, I wasn’t saying they aren’t restrained by God. I was saying we are free if our will is unrestrained. Meaning, if I am tied up I am not free because I am restrained. What matters to us is that we can do what we want to do. I would argue that we are bound by sin and no longer free until we are regenerated.
(replying to audience question) “Wouldn’t this existence/non existence violate the law of logic/being “being cannot come from non being”?” No, not any more than God’s own choices violate it. The question is whether you have an entity capable of generating free choices. The free choices “come from” the free agent. However, the sense in which the choices are uncaused is just that, since they are free, the mere existence of that free agent doesn’t necessitate that *particular* choice. “Being doesn’t come from non-being” doesn’t mean that every particular choice has to have a cause *other than* a being capable of making that choice. I hold that if this concept is coherent in the case of God (e.g., he didn’t *have to* make you or me or create at all) it is coherent in the case of finite free agents. This means that I am saying that free agency is a communicable attribute of God, one that he can give to his created personal beings. Some attributes are incommunicable metaphysically. E.g. I suspect that it is logically impossible for God to make another, contingent entity that is omnipresent. But he has made other entities that are free in the non-compatibilist sense.
Except being “self-existence” or “not dependent” is also an incommunicable attribute. Humans can’t be free in that way any more than they can be omnipotent. But all else you said is consistent with compatibilism. I am free to do otherwise if I want to. God is free to have created otherwise if He wanted to. But all things being exactly the same, I wouldn’t have wanted otherwise.
I think the actual differences between our positions came out not in this but in 1. There are some uncaused parts and 2. Humans are not dependent.
Owen, thank you. You said the following quote, were you agreeing with this?
“Christian apologist, you’re badly mistaken, I don’t believe that freedom is uncaused, I believe freedom is unrestrained. My will is free when it is not restrained and that is not uncaused or partially uncaused.”
It seems to me that if yes, then “if I am tied up I am not free because I am restrained. What matters to us is that we can do what we want to do.” Is just begging the compatibilist question. ‘how’ are you “free to do otherwise if I want to” (another quote by you). I thought you were saying that God can cause the choice but not restrain it, to explain freewill. Without that explanation… well, that’s the whole question for the compatibilist, isn’t it? How are they compatible? Did I miss your explanation or were you not providing one in this thread?
Lydia, thank you! So I guess you drilled down on where I might have an issue. I’m not sure how you account for God being able to have free choices. But I account for them as being as uncaused as he is because they are eternal. All choices that occur in time were made from eternity past. For example, parting the red sea, God decided from eternity past to part the red sea at the time X. This solution does not seem to work for humans.
Short answer: you are created by God and made who you are. You can do what you want. You don’t want to do otherwise or else you’d do that. But if you want to do otherwise then you can.
God creating you is very different than God causing your choices. The later is what a compatibilist needs to ‘make compatible’ right? You seem to keep referring back to God causing the existence of a person, which of course is compatible with free will.
Compatible with “free will” defined how? An uncaused will or an unrestrained will. God made me meaning all there is about me. Nothing about me isn’t made by God. My personality, background, how I deliberate, values, and everything that goes into my choices. The idea that adding in an uncaused part there helps is simply false. It is my choice, not an uncaused choice.
Oh, I don’t base the freedom of God’s choices on their being timeless. Tho’ I agree that they are timeless. I think, as you do apparently, that God is outside of time. But I don’t think his being outside of time is tightly tied up with his making free choices,except insofar as one thinks *all* divine attributes are tied up with one another.
Owen, I don’t think that human beings are self-existent, and I don’t think their having libertarian freedom makes them self-existent.
So how would you explain God having free choices? You say the agent is the cause of the choice, so being comes from being. However, earlier you said that free choices are partially uncaused. I assume you mean that in a different sense? But would it seem to be the same sense, as they are both descriptors of how/extent a choice comes into existence?
You’ve got to start defining “free”. No one is denying God or human agents have a “free will” but the debate is if that requires some part of the will to be uncaused. For God this isn’t a problem bc God is eternal (without beginning). But for humans this is a problem because we, like the universe, have a beginning and so the comparison from the original post is justified.
Yes, I mean it in a different sense. I think that the “being comes from being” concern is satisfied by the sense in which the agent has the capacity to, as we normally say it, “make” the choice. Or as one might put it more precisely, the agent chooses. Free agents are by definition agents who have the capacity to choose. That satisfies the concern about “nothing comes from nothing.”
But in another sense, to say that the agent “causes” the choice is potentially confusing, especially if one takes “causes” to be transitive. So: Finite agent causes the choice, God causes finite agent, hence God causes the choice. It might seem. That is the sense in which I think it’s important to say that free choices are importantly *originary* causes. They *begin* a causal stream. While that causal stream may have other partial causes (motives, factual information, other people who ask you to make the choice, etc.), there is an ineliminable aspect of the choice that is metaphysically the beginning of a causal stream of influence. This, on my view, is true both for God and for free agents who are not turned into puppets.
I don’t think it can be argued that this concept is incoherent, because if it’s incoherent it would be impossible to attribute free agency even to God (God can’t do anything incoherent).
Here is an *analogy*. (Please note that this is only an analogy.) Does creation ex nihilo violate the principle that nothing comes from nothing? No, for God has the capacity to create ex nihilo. God’s powers and being are a sufficient explanation for the creation of the universe. However, in an attempt to explain this, one might say that God “creates out of his own being,” hence nothing is coming from nothing. The problem with that explanation is that it might give the false impression that all matter is made of little bits of “God-stuff” that he peeled off of himself or something. So it’s better to say that creation ex nihilo satisfies the “nothing comes from nothing” requirement because it is a real power of God to truly create.
This is analogous to saying that the agent’s capacity for freedom satisfies the “being does not come from non-being” concern, while we probably should be careful about saying “the agent causes his choice” as if this meant *something more than* “the agent chooses.”
This again makes me think that we are trying to avoid the same mistakes. We both want to avoid “God directly causes everything”. I avoid that by distinguishing primary and secondary causes (from the confession). We both want to avoid the creation is unreal (we affirm both matter and the agent are real not just parts of God). We both affirm the agent and matter had a beginning and are not self-existent. The last remaining difference is that it somehow adds to the discussion to say besides the agent choosing there is also something uncaused that grants the property of being free. If we simply say the agent chooses and that choice comes out of a couple of different causes in the agent then I don’t see a difference (since we also grant the agent is a creation of God and there isn’t “God creates plus uncaused things happen”).
Thank you Lydia and Owen, I think my hangup is now the same to both of you, so maybe you guys are on a similar track (if the choice is fully caused, by the agent plus external factors, it seems the agent couldn’t do otherwise). I’m not saying either of you are wrong, I just don’t see it yet, I’m missing something in my thinking and I don’t know what it is yet. I’ll have to read Owen’s paper and see if that can help.
“if the choice is fully caused, by the agent plus external factors, it seems the agent couldn’t do otherwise” Perhaps you are thinking that the way in which the agent causes the choice flows inevitably from, say, his nature? Because that’s not the way in which I would say that the agent is causal. In fact, that’s partly why I prefer just to say “the agent chooses” rather than “the agent causes the choice.”
I also don’t think “doing otherwise” is that important.
“Could I have done otherwise?”
“Yes, if you wanted to.”
“But I didn’t want to.”
I think PAP and agent-causation accounts, properly spelled out, probably come to the same thing. But I definitely reject the compatibilist claim that it is sufficient that the agent acted as he wanted to act. That could still have the agent being a conduit (entirely) of other causes.
I’m not sure how that would be the case. Doing what you want is what you call choosing. And if nothing prevents you then you are free. That’s still you. The fact that you were created doesn’t take this away unless it is some version where the self is an illusion which you and I reject. If the worry is “yes but God made me so it is really God who is the primary cause of all things,” that just reveals the desire to be free from God. Which is impossible and really gets to the heart of Lucifer’s promise of freedom.
The problem with “the agent chooses” when discussing compatibilism/determinism is that it does not explain why type of choice it is. The determinist would also say the agent chooses, right?
I like ‘flow from’ to avoid either term, I guess. So if it does not flow from the agent’s nature+external factors. What does it flow from?
Owen, doesn’t adding ‘want” simply kick the can down the road? Can the agent ‘want’ otherwise? Not be caused to want otherwise by outside factors. but can the agent self determine/decide/(whatever term is right here) their want?
Yes. But then the pap just kicks their can again.
“But can you want to do otherwise?”
“Yes if you want to.”
“And can you want to want to do otherwise?”
“Yes if you want to.”
I think it illustrates the ridiculousness of the concern to do otherwise. No one actually cares about that in real life choices it is just the bone Philosophy undergrads have to chew on.
remember the demons in hell?
“Others apart sat on a hill retired,
In thoughts more elevate, and reasoned high
Of Providence, Foreknowledge, Will, and Fate
Fixed fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute
And found no end, in wandering mazes lost.
Of good and evil much they argued then,
Of happiness and final misery,
Passion and apathy, and glory and shame:
Vain wisdom all, and false philosophy!”
“Doing what you want is what you call choosing.” Colloquially, I can see why someone would say that. But in a philosophical discussion where that is being used to defend compatibilism, no. A person who is coerced under post-hypnotic suggestion and has lost agency may be doing what he wants. That is why a person like me who rejects compatibilism says no, doing what you want is not *all* that I mean by “choosing.”
“The fact that you were created doesn’t take this away unless…”
Well, see, we weren’t going to just keep on repeating ourselves, but now you’re just repeating yourself. To which I repeat myself again: I *deny* that “the fact that I was created” is a sufficient explanation of my choices. My being created is a sufficient cause for my *existence*, but my mere *existence* doesn’t automatically give rise to my specific choices, because God created me as a free agent.
Yes, repeating ourselves at this point although I think his questions brought out some new material. I’m not sure what you mean by mere existence, for me my existence includes all those truths about myself that go into me choosing. Adding an uncaused event at some point doesn’t make it free. I think the worry about hypnosis or evil demons or mad scientists falls away when we link up our wanting to wanting the highest good. “You only want the highest good because a mad scientists zapped your brain to make you want the highest good.” “Well where is he? I’d like to thank him.”
I always think of this fellow Paul considers. “Why has God made me so?” This is a question about seeking God. Why has God made me so that I don’t want to seek him? Is he complaining? Then start seeking God. Or is he content but just curious. Then the answer is the same, to reveal His glory, in your case the glory of His justice. Then he shifts to “But why does He still find fault if we are doing His will?” Again, if it’s a complain then change. But the issue seems to be “I don’t want to seek God but I also don’t want to have any consequences for not seeking God.” This is to ask for a square circle. And the complaint itself becomes absurd: “God, who I don’t believe exists, made me not to seek Him and then causes me to have the inherent consequences of not seeking Him.” He is self-condemned.
If by “what does the choice flow from” you mean “what was it deterministically caused by rather than being a free choice,” that question kind of begs the question, doesn’t it?
I also think that “free to do what?” matters. Free to eat what I want at lunch? Free to pursue the job I want? Free to vote? Those kinds of freedoms can all be taken or hindered. But at the most basic level we are always free: free to use reason to seek God if I want. Run that through the complainer “but God made me not want to seek Him.”