In the previous blog post, we discussed why doxastic voluntarism (DV) is true. This post aims to discuss the pertinent applications for apologetics. The main application for apologetics is for the atheist’s claim that “one cannot choose her beliefs.” This is often said in reply to some version of Pascal’s Wager (or just a layman offering the old “what have you got to lose?” line).
However, as we have seen, there are at least some beliefs over which rational agents have control. Is belief in God one of the ones over which we do have control, or one over which we do not have control? We are not typically offered a reason as to why we should think that belief in God (in a salvific or soteriological way) is the type of belief over which we have no control.
In fact, biblically, we are given reason to suggest that the power to have faith in the Christian God resides within each individual (Jos. 24:15; Rom. 10:9-10). Of course, the objector can simply say he does not believe in the Bible, and thus he still has no reason to think faith in God is one of those beliefs. However, there is another argument that one must be cognizant of in order to recognize the correct answer to this question.
- If one ought to do some act X, then he can do some act X.
- If God does exist, then it is the case that one ought to believe in him.
- God exists.
- Therefore, it is the case that one ought to believe in him.
- Therefore, he can believe in him.
A few notes on this argument: First, “God” refers to the Christian God. Second, “believe in him” means not just to believe his existence, but trusting in him for salvation from sin. Third, I am well aware that (3) will not be accepted by any objector. However, the dialectical progression is in response to the idea that “even if God exists and wants me to believe, it is unfair for me to be condemned because I cannot control my response to believe in him,” or some problem of evil that states if God wanted everyone to believe, then everyone would believe (since people cannot control their doxastic states). Thus, (3) is a kind of assumed hypothetical.
(1) is the ought-implies-can principle (a well-accepted principle, even if not universally so). (2) seems rational enough, especially since objectors will usually rely on this premise to proclaim God’s punishment for unbelief as unjust. To be more explicit: (2) should only be denied in the case that you think God does exist and yet you have no obligation to believe in him.
(4) is an entailed conclusion from (2) and (3). (5) is an entailed conclusion from (1) and (4). Thus, we can see that, under our dialectical scenario, there are some truths that can be controlled voluntarily, and very plausibly the truth of the plan of salvation of the Christian God is one of them.