Publication Date

Spring 4-20-2023


College of Arts and Sciences


English; Interdisciplinary Studies


Christianity | Metaphysics | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion


The problem of free will stands among the most intellectually fascinating, and practically concerning, problems of philosophy. It also remains, after centuries of rich discussion and sharp division, a locus of tremendous philosophical polarization— citing strong, often incongruous intuitions, philosophers today disagree over the nature, possibility, existence, and implications of human free agency. One route which might help penetrate this apparent stalemate is the application of resources from theism— in particular, Christian theism— to the philosophical free will conversation. In this paper, I review past contributions of Christian theism to the philosophical free will debate, arguing that these contributions, while illuminating, largely overlook what philosopher Robert Kane has termed free will’s “intelligibility question”: the charge that the very notion of libertarian free will is finally and indecipherably mysterious. I then address Kane’s intelligibility question by investigating the Eastern Orthodox Christian doctrine of salvation as theosis, or “participation with the divine nature.” I contend that a theotic understanding of morality and freedom raises the plausibility of libertarian models of free will, as opposed to compatibilistic models, by situating human choice within a context that is already inherently and irreducibly mysterious. Thus, in this paper, I identify a novel pathway by which ideas from within Christian doctrine might help make sense of the strictly philosophical free will dialogue.