Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Reader

Ronald J. Feenstra

Second Reader

John W. Cooper

Third Reader

Richard A. Muller

Fourth Reader

Edward Wierenga


It is easy to find in prominent scholarly opinion today that to maintain its comprehensive divine determinism the Reformed Christian tradition must endorse metaphysical compatibilism to affirm some semblance of creaturely freedom. Arguably, one of the two Reformed scholars who have promulgated this idea the most is Paul Helm. Interestingly, while Helm’s “no-risk” view of divine providence started off with pretty straightforward classical compatibilism, it has since morphed into what is akin to source incompatibilism. At the heart of this transformation is Helm’s increasing interest in the feasibility of “irreducible agency, despite the fixity of the future” (or to use more technical lingo, “actual-sequence-indeterminism, despite alternate-sequence-compulsion”). Since 1969, the feasibility of such “irreducibly voluntary, yet having only one option for choosing” has also been rigorously pursued by many able Frankfurtian “new-compatibilists” and “source-incompatibilists.” Such Frankfurtian analytic philosophers have been trying to undermine the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP, for short) by showing that a certain inability to do otherwise need not interfere with one’s meaningful production of morally relevant choice. Through visiting some of the most brilliant paradigmatic cases, I will argue that the trajectory of the Frankfurtian project is headed for complete failure and that this is a strong indication that the relevant ability to do otherwise is ultimately indispensable for exercising our morally relevant freedom. There is then no such thing as truly “actual-sequence-only-indeterminism,” as genuine “alternate-sequence-compulsion” robs the individual of his or her ultimate sourcing capabilities. The Reformed people with a similar aspiration for such “irreducible agency” should therefore look for its Reformed alternative within more robustly libertarian bounds. In utilizing Helm’s own distinction, I suggest a flexible type-certainty model, according to which God is said to preordain every type of thing that God would ever want to ensure (without necessarily determining their corresponding action-tokens). I do this to allow more freedom at the action-token level without actually becoming either Open-Theistic or Semi-Pelagian, for that would rob God of too much control to be the truly sovereign God of all (types of) things that matter.



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