I happen to agree wholeheartedly with you on that, Paidion, but I know that there are some that will call it a non-sequitur.
Your choice of words is very good : He is not the Author of evil.
I happen to agree wholeheartedly with you on that, Paidion, but I know that there are some that will call it a non-sequitur.
It’s quite refreshing to see someone so comfortable with this topic and so easily able to understand the implications of the view I laid out. You’ve explained my position very nicely, I believe, even adding some helpful phrases I’d not thought of (“eternal self-determining”).
As far as your commitment to absolute, “God-only” determinism - I disbelieve in this. I think if we say God has determined absolutely everything, that means he’s determined evil. And, unless we’re going to say there is really no such thing as evil in the world, that would mean that God has himself done these evil things. Ergo, God would be evil.
That is the main critique, but several others are there as well. It would make unintelligible, to me, the whole concept of guilt. If I’m only doing an action because I have been preprogrammed to do so, I don’t see how I can be morally responsible - anymore than the bullet would be responsible for the murder rather than the man who shot it. Of course, one could say that since we’re humans, we exhibit a particular feature of consciousness - namely, intentionality - that a bullet cannot have. But I just don’t see how this helps. For if we could program another person, say, to determinately have a certain state of consciousness - if, for instance, I could give someone a pill that made them want to commit murder - I would still be ultimately responsible for the evil done. Absolute determinism also seems to me to posit an incoherence or irreconcilable division in the divine will. If God has indeed determined my sins, how could he sincerely at the same time command I refrain from doing them? I only will to do them because he has so determined me; yet, at the same time he evidently wills I not do them. This presents to me an impossible state of affairs: God simultaneously willing two opposite things. Or another problem with absolute determinism. If we suppose God has created evils so that other goods exist which would otherwise be impossible (e.g. God creates wars so that the virtue of courage can be displayed), this has grave implications concerning God’s perfect goodness, “in whom there is no darkness at all.” It would make goodness as such somehow needing or dependent on evil for the maximization of itself. But this is not my experience or intuition of perfect goodness. When I am enjoying something good, evil as such is nowhere to be found in my mind. Indeed, insofar as it is in my mind, it lessens my experience of goodness. To suppose good needs evil would be equivalent to supposing a marriage needed adultery for it to be best, or that in order to enjoy a beautiful face, one must see many ugly ones. But this, I believe, would make God metaphysically dependent on evil. He would somehow “need” or “desire” it in his inner most being; and this would make him less than perfectly good. Do we really think that every evil in this world somehow makes it better? Would it really have been better for the little girl to have been raped than not? And this leads me to my final criticism. If all evil is justified because it leads to a greater good, it no longer becomes evil. Indeed, to NOT do said “evil” would in fact be evil, since the greater good which necessarily comes from it would never obtain. So if this were true, it would destroy our notions of good and evil altogether and would make making ethical judgments impossible. I can’t imagine anyone would actually find such a view livable.
Just some thoughts! I had a discussion a few years back with an old member of this forum who believed in absolute determinism, and his justification of the existence of evil was that it somehow glorified God’s goodness in an otherwise impossible way. My rebuttal to him was that, if this was so, if, that is, God could not make as good a universe with less evil, he therefore needed evil and was metaphysically dependent on it. And that, to me, is rather more like dualism than classical Christianity. The God of Christianity seems to me to be perfectly, wholly good. He “runs” on goodness alone because that is what he is. There is nothing in him that “requires” evil. His fire is kept alive by pure, whole wood; not refuse.
Hi Chris, thanks for your contributions!
I understand the difficulties you raise in regards to the necessary acceptance of God creating evil within determinism. However, there is also a necessary acceptance of God becoming the author of evil under Freewill. The fact is, God may not have determined in a strict sense a young girl to be raped, but He certainly let it happen. He not only let it happen, He directly planted evil Freewill creatures in a position where that rape was most likely to happen! To then say that God doesn’t have responsibility would be absurd. God in the narrative of Freewill becomes this powerless Being who subjects himself to evil and can only create something good after the chaos has already happened… that he allowed to happen.
Being a determinist like Fe4r (I know him rather well ), I am sure that Fe4r would reply regarding responsibility, that evil is in the intent and not the action. That is, God intends good from every given situation which then justifies the “evil” acts used within the process. From our perspective, how we judge what is moral is a little different, because we cannot use evil means to justify a good outcome, because we do not know all factors involved.
For me, responsibility means a way of defining where change needs to happen rather than an arbitrary punitive judgement for those who commit crimes. Those who commit crimes, do so for a reason and hence why I believe in a rehabilitation rather than punitive judgement. I believe that God created each and every one of us with fixed natures which is a base that make us who we are. Some of us are harder than others but God wants to use a process where we all eventually can come to Him and subject ourselves and ultimately value His ways. This process creates a necessary demonstration of anti evil and a necessary moulding of the expressions of our natures through experience.
Kind of like - Without John Newton experiencing the slave trade we would never have “Amazing Grace”. John Newton is responsible for what he did in that it was his nature that allowed him to make those decisions. However, God knows him better and then directs him towards the potential that his nature is able to be. This process although terrible in many ways, proclaims a triumph of good over evil.
What I meant earlier when I said that Freewill cannot be explained I meant that no one can tell me why I choose God over my neighbour. If I have option A or B before me and I am not pushed towards one or the other, then I suppose this is the closest explanation of a truly free will. However, with this complete freedom of choice, how could I ever chose A or B? I would merely be rolling a dice as to which one I would go with. In fact I could not even choose A or B because I have an equal desire to choose both which then cancels each other out. This makes it impossible to make a choice.
Unless we believe that effects can have no causes. Though, I am not quite that bold
I don’t have time to re-read my comment through and edit it, so I hope it makes some sense lol.
Appreciate all your comments; I’ve struggled with the issue(s) for years; it’s a tough nut to crack.
However, I will reiterate my contention, that because we have two opposing answers, it does not follow that either is correct, or that we must dialectically ‘split the difference’ to get to the ‘truth’ of the matter.
In other words, it could be the fact that God is unapproachable Light, that there are no shadows in Him, that He will never lie nor commit sin, nor be the Author of evil; and that the answer to the intolerable intellectual questions that we are so concerned about, and rightly so, is simply beyond our ken.
Am I satisfied with that? No. But I am much less satisfied with speculative answers (and yeah, I’ve speculated my butt off on this ) that impute, to the Maker of the Universe and Lord of all things, any taint of imperfection, let alone imputation of evil.
No. You can be “pushed” toward either one, and still choose the other.
No. Non-determinism is not tantamount to randomness. When you make a choice, you yourself are the cause of your action.
There is always a basis for choice. At a Dairy Queen, I have an equal desire for a chocolate milkshake, and a butterfinger blizzard. I don’t say, “Eeny, meeny, miny, mo.” Rather I do some consideration. I’ll choose the milkshake to go, since I don’t have much time, and the blizzard tomorrow. My lack of time doesn’t cause me to choose the milkshake. I could have chosen the blizzard instead and taken the extra time instead of completing the task I intended to do.
YOU ARE THE CAUSE OF YOUR ACTIONS NOT THE CIRCUMSTANCES. THE CIRCUMSTANCES ARE INFLUENCES BUT NOT CAUSES. Even if a thief holds a gun to your head and demands your money, this doesn’t cause you to hand over your money. You could choose not to do so, even if you are fully aware of the possible consequences.
“Every effect has a cause” is a tautology — like saying, “What will be will be.” The very word “effect” refers to that which was caused. Tautologies have no practical meaning. However, “Every event has a cause” DOES have practical meaning. I will even concede that to be true. But many times the cause of an event is not another event. The cause of many events can be traced to freewill agents themselves.
I don’t think this follows. God may permit evil and still not actually be its author. On my view, all evil is permitted only because his free created creatures require it to reach perfection. What free creatures do is not something God has causal power over. That’s something he’s “given up” by limiting his omnipotence and granting them freedom. Insofar as their choices are evil, they are true “obstacles” God must work around. What it takes to actually get them to reach perfection themselves may require all sorts of ways of dealing with them that are, to God, less than ideal but, due to their freedom, necessary. This is quite different from your view, which actually destroys the notion of “permission” altogether.
As for your other comments, it seems to me they all rely on the idea that God must have evil in order to maximize his own goodness. I don’t believe God is metaphysically dependent on evil in such a way.
Regarding free will and it amounting to “effects without causes”. I have little to add to what Paidion said, but I’ll say this. What you say is only true if you assume a deterministic interpretation of reality. Of course, if you believe determinism to be true, you can always go back to a given choice and say that the motives actually cause, rather than only influence, the choice. But I see no reason to believe that the only sort of interactive nexus that exists in reality is a deterministic one. I experience my own freedom all the time every day. That is enough justification for its existence, since that experience is just as strong as any sense experience or empirical judgment. Not to mention that if I didn’t believe in it, I’d have to believe God caused all the evil and sin in the world himself.
All I am saying is that with FREEWILL one has to accept paradox a lot sooner than a determinist. When it comes to why we choose A or B you say that WE choose. A determinist will ask further and ask what is it within us (or outside us) that caused us to chose A? Was it because at that moment A looked more attractive to me in my subconscious? We all know that we do not make free choices. Why is it that we always buy Coke over here in New Zealand? Advertising would tell us why, not my Freewill. We are subject to our senses at a conscious level, and if not at a subconscious level. (IMO) lol.
Determinism explains more, or at least seeks to explain more.
I have seen the destructive power of Freewill thought in elections and attitudes to the poor lately. People seem to think that the poor are “just lazy” and that they freely choose to be lazy and poor. Just plain ignorance I reckon. I know that most of you will not see the poor in such a way, but this kind of thinking is a result from a destructive belief in Freewill. Frustrating… The poor don’t collectively gather together because they want to hang out with lazy people. We learn our actions and values from those around us. They don’t come from no where.
Are you saying Chris that because we have Freewill, God didn’t account in his plan/creation little girls getting raped? IMO, if I place a child in the care of someone who I know is extremely capable of raping her, am I not responsible? I was a big part of that causal process whether there is Freewill or not. Can’t God create us all in our own environments of potential sin where “innocent” babies etc are out of harms way? The difference I see between Freewill collateral evil and deterministic evil is that God is in control of all circumstances in the latter and not in the former. With determinism there is hope that God will work every circumstance out for good, but with Freewill, there are actions that God did not account for (or else he would be responsible).
Thanks for the discussion guys! So nice to freely discuss these hard topics.
And that is precisely the problem with determinism. Determinists presume that choices are caused by something or somebody external to the chooser. There are no external causes of a person’s choices—only external influences. Nor are there internal causes beyond the metaphysical self—only internal influences. The “first cause” of a free-will agent’s actions is the free-will agent himself.
I understand that determinists and compatibilists affirm that a person acts freely if there are no external restraints to his choices. Believers in libertarian free affirm that a person P acts freely if, having chosen action A at time T in circumstances C, could have chosen to have refrained from performing action A at time T. Both determinists and compatibilists (“soft” determinists) deny this.
I realise that people aren’t put in boxes as to what will cause them to do certain actions, that is why we talk about influences rather than causes. However, that is only a calculability issue. What it comes down to is that external influences mean that they influence or have a definite effect on the object. IMO an influence cannot logically have much of an effect in Freewill thought or else that would be manipulation towards a definite end, thus severely questioning our “free choices”. This influence is demonstrated in the existence of culture and cyclic generational learnings as I mentioned prior. Can we really ultimately blame a lazy person involved in a “group think” mentality for choosing to succumb to the strong influences around them? Even if the minority do choose against this influence in the end, I wonder what effect the influence was REALLY having on them? What is the point of an influence having an effect on an object if it merely suggests an outcome, when it is so evident that influences really do determine (to a degree) what lifestyle one can have?
Can we really call people who are involved in cyclic generational family abuse responsible for carrying that abuse onto their children?
Can we really call people who are from positive families responsible for reflecting that positive environment onto their children?
I didn’t “freely” choose a positive lifestyle for my family, I was taught it from the very effective influences around me (Thank God for that). From that, I can’t then reach out and blame those in abusive families for not exercising their free wills to create positive environments “like I have”, because I believe that influences actually manipulate our “free wills”.
Blaming the victim mentality is often the result of Freewill thought.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that any of you believe people are totally free. I just question whether people can really logically be held responsible (In a Freewill sense) for succumbing to influences around them. Because the fact is, the majority (if not all) of people do reflect their environments.
I have known a significant number of people who chose to live their lives contrary to their home environment. I have known people from “bad” homes turn our “good”, and people from “good” homes turn out bad.
But you are correct in that, if determinism is true, then no one can be held responsible for his actions.
A bit of tongue and cheek really. I do think that people CAN be held “responsible” under determinism. My idea as mentioned before is a bit different to the general understanding of responsibility. I was merely pointing out that there is a heap of evidence that even under Freewill thought, there is sin that people commit that directly reflect their environments. These people are under pressure to sin in certain environments, in a way that others are not. They more often succumb to that sin due to the pressures around them, and others in different environments do not. According to Freewill thought, how can they be held “responsible” when those influences actually have a definite affect on what they will choose to do? Their choice was obviously not totally free, but rather manipulated.
For those of you that don’t mind reading some philosophy (well-written, succinct) on this subject and the Problem of Evil, I just posted a very good article by Bill Vallicella (MavPhi) in the studies - articles - section of the forum.
Highly recommended imo.
Thanks Dave, will have read when I get a chance
Wow there’s been a lot of talk here lately!
I’m got a bunch of thoughts, which I’ve tried assembling in a logical order
FREE WILL IN GENERAL:
Why does the ‘image of God’ require us to have the same Free Will as God, since clearly not every aspect of God is recreated within us? Why do we think God has ‘free will’ to start with? What do we mean when we say God has ‘free will’ (e.g. can He ever act against His character? Could He, given his omnipotence and knowledge, have chosen anything other than what He has chosen?)
If all you mean by Free Will is the ability to ‘choose’, then we agree, but I suggest that this is not what is commonly defended as ‘Free Will’ by most people.
We actually function very much like ‘programable people’ in reality. Advertising companies risk billions of dollars on the assumption that we are programmable in a predictable way. Children from abusive homes are many times more likely to abuse their own children, for example. Yes their parents are responsible, but it doesn’t take away their own need for change, or personal moral depravity.
Incidentally, these two aspects (the need for change, and the fact that the outcome says something meaningful about the character) are my definition of responsibility. ‘Guilt’ per-se features very little here, as I think it does in Scripture.
People have been talking as if ‘Free Will’ is a more basic understanding of things, and existentially evident, and that further speculation is unnecessary, risky, and creates difficult conclusions that are ONLY created by this speculation. I disagree with all of this! Free Will itself requires a lot of assumptions and uncomfortable conclusions, which I think are difficult to support Scripturally (unless of course you resort to Paradox or ‘mystery’ to avoid these conclusions). The fact that we experience ‘freedom’ from our perspective is meaningless - if what I’m saying about ‘Free Agency’ is true, you would have no way of distinguishing it from true ‘Free Will’. Finally, speculation is ALREADY necessary (unless you want to resort to paradox of mystery) because there are EXISTING conclusions in Scripture, which are difficult to explain otherwise.
GOD AND FREE WILL:
Its not that, given my commitment to determinism, I can’t see a way that God IS NOT responsible for ‘evil’. I think the Bible actively teaches that God is gloriously ultimately and solely responsible for all things, including sin and what we call ‘evil’. I think it teaches that God deliberately does all things precicsely because it is a necessary component of the greatest possible expression of Good (this includes specifically allowing sin and ‘evil’, when He has the power to do otherwise). I think it teaches there is no such thing as ultimate ‘evil’, only temporary incompleteness in our perception of the grand scheme of things, making us perceive it as ‘less-than-perfectly-good’ (but that this false perception will itself form part of the perfect good).
And I think it teaches that God is exactly the author of evil (if by author, we mean the person who first conceived of it, desired it (not necessarily for itself, but for its effects in integration with everything else in the story), brought it into existence (usually through secondary causes, e.g. characters or events in the story), and sustained its existence and ultimate glorious purpose throughout the story.
Stating that God has done ‘evil’ is to agree with Scripture (Isaiah 45:7, Romans 11:32). And to state that there is no such thing as ‘ultimate evil’ is to agree with Scripture. There are, indeed, temporary disturbances in our perception of God’s goodness (which we term ‘evil’), but for God to do these things in no way makes Him evil, for the reasons Dan stated. On the contrary, if God could see a better ‘Good’ outcome which involved more temporary clouding of this good (i.e. evil), would He not be ethically obligated to perform it? Or obligated by His Free Agency (given the fact that He is, fundamentally, Good).
Yes, determinism does make God desire multiple things at once in different ways. Is this so hard to imagine? We do this all the time (e.g. disciplining children is not comfortable, even when we think it is for their good). But anyway, God is not ultimately ‘willing’ two opposite things - He is willing one ultimate Good, which is reached through two separate methods. There is an an instruction to Godly people, and the actual acts of God which do NOT comply with this instruction, and which cause others to not comply. Murder is part of the ultimate Good because of what it leads to (think e.g. the murder of His Son), but the command to not murder is also part of this ultimate Good because of what it leads to. The command reveals God’s ultimate aims (and help us define true ‘good’), and encourages those who have the spirit to desire them also. It also encourages us to trust God and follow His instructions, while also trusting Him to specifically PLAN each deviation for Good. It also demonstrates our incompatibility with God’s ultimate desire (i.e. we desire murder as an ultimate aim) or our lack of trust in God (i.e. we desire the greater good, but take it into our own hands to achieve it, with massive and unnecessary risk). There is definite purpose to the instruction, EVEN WHEN God sometimes deliberately creates deviation from it.
I know you say that God does not ‘require’ evil. Yet He allows it in your view. If this is for any reason other than absolute necessity, to me that makes God ACTUALLY evil (i.e. with sinful intentions, allowing true ultimate evil when it is not in fact a necessary part of the greatest good outcome).
OUR RESPONSE TO EVIL:
Of course there will be questions about how we should, then, react to evil. There were similar questions about sin when Paul argued for justification by faith alone. But the answer is similar - just because God deliberately creates / allows sin (and evil) for a purpose, does not mean we should pursue it. The very suggestion throws doubt on the desires of the person asking (not implying that your genuine concern is such a suggestion ).
Also, our concept of Good and Evil is still valid - we still judge God based on these concepts, but we have the judge the entire outcome of all His actions (which will be Good in a way we can understand). The fact that God a person’s horrendous suffering is somehow designed by God as part of their ultimate Good, in a way which they will understand in the end, should give us cause for rejoicing and hope, but should not reduce our efforts to oppose this evil as God expects of us. We still apply the same morals to PEOPLE that we currently apply. Responsibility still applies as discussed above.
In heaven, we will be consciously aware of the suffering of Christ. We will be singing about it. If we admit this was evil, does this imply that the perfection of heaven is somehow lessened by this consciousness? I totally disagree with the statement that goodness should not require evil, based mainly on this. But even if I concede Free Will, we are still saying that this (along with the necessarily consequent ‘evil’ that God foreknew) is somehow required for ‘Good’. Anyway, there are other ways I can think of that evil can enhance goodness. If goodness included an anti-evil aspect in any way, then conscious perception of that goodness must include an understanding of the evil it is opposed to. Evil also doesn’t need to be consciously present to change our perception of evil, which is how (I think) our tears can be wiped away while still leaving a lasting beautiful mark on our soul. I would also argue, for a similar reason, that a truly redeemed and perfected adulterous relationship would outshine any ‘good’ relationship for whom there is no concept of forgiveness and redemption and this ultimate example of sacrificial love.
I appreciate your comments and thoughtful approach to this topic. As you may suspect - I unfortunately can’t agree with you. This may be the result of an intuitive difference between us. You also seem to rely on Scripture to justify your conception of God and goodness, a process I don’t subscribe to. For me, my understanding of goodness has more weight than Scripture. If I were to read or hear something about God which seems to me impossible to reconcile with my own notions of goodness as such, I would reject it, whether it’s in the Bible or not. (I would take issue with you citing Romans 11:32 as proof of God causing evil, by the way.) And I cannot conceive that the rape and murder of young women, the destruction and dissolution of marriages, lies and broken promises in families, children dying of cancer or being stillborn, deteriorating mental diseases which prolong life for tens of years while at the same time destroying all semblance of the original person, drug overdoses and suicides, killed pets and wild animals burned to death in forest fires, famines, plagues, concentration camps, tortures, debilitating accidents, blindnesses, uglinesses, diseases, wars… I can’t believe the universe would somehow be worse if these things had never existed. I can’t imagine they are necessary for the “full” manifestation of goodness, except in a very sordid, tyrannical, impure way. Things would be much better, it seems to me, if they never had to exist. But they may indeed be necessary on the supposition that only in a universe with this much evil will all souls freely come to God. At least, that is the way I see it. I do indeed see a certain otherwise impossible “eucatastrophe” that occurs when one is delivered from evil, but that this is somehow better than never having to be delivered from evil is not evident to me. This is, rather, an example of the creative goodness and omnipotence of God, who can augment all evil into good. But again, I don’t think he “needs” evil to glorify himself.
Thanks again for your thoughts. I’ll be signing off of this convo for now.
People here may be interested to read this thread: Free Will: Its Essential Nature and Implications
I don’t want to discourage anyone from using their intuitive sense of ‘goodness’! I believe this sense is given to us by God (obviously in varying ways and degrees), precicesly so that we can recognise Him as good when He reveals Himself.
Since your understanding of my viewpoint (arguably quite different to my actual viewpoint, LOL) is quite NON-good, I would discourage you from accepting it (as you currently understand it). Instead I would aim to help you see my viewpoint as I see it, so you can appreciate with me the goodness I can see, a goodness that we can actually grasp. Likewise I hope to be open to revelations of hidden non-good within my view, so I can reject it if necessary, OR at least be honest with God and have faith in these gaps.
This is the preferred ‘third option’ between full acceptance / rejection - we accept the good that God HAS revealed (in ways that make sense to us, e.g. the sacrifice of His son, his commands to love each other, His promise of heaven, etc), and trust that God’s definition of ‘good’ is something that will make sense to us. Therefore, when we start delving between the lines of Scripture and performing thought experiments that questions God’s goodness, we can trust that it is our misunderstanding that makes His ‘goodness’ seem abstract in these settings, and not actual reality.
I want people to see that God has chosen to temporarily hide Himself, but to believe that everything He does will ultimately serve to maximise ‘good’ in a way we can understand. In other words, IF we could see all things as God does, we would (with our innate sense of goodness) approve of His choice to temporarily obscure Himself.
This is a summary post, to help those just entering the conversation
Obviously it’s going to be biased toward my understanding of things. But I’ll try be fair to the other ideas presented.
THE ORIGINAL POST
Dan’s original post was proposing that everything (specifically including our various human natures and choices, sin, evil, etc) is ultimately designed to express God in a complete and full way.
He argues this from a deterministic framework, where ALL events (including events within our souls) have a cause (or combination of causes), ultimately leading back to God. In this view, there are no events anywhere (specifically including events within any human or divine soul) which spontaneously arise without a basis (i.e. with a random component) - EVERYTHING has a basis. There is no such thing as any hint of randomness (although we can have incalculable complexity, from our perspective). The only thing without basis is God’s own existence and character, from which everything else springs.
Since God is the ultimate cause of all things, and foresaw the ultimate full end ‘outcome’ of all things (influenced by every other preceding event, including the ‘negative’ events in creation), this full end ‘outcome’ can ultimately be called a the ultimate active choice on God’s part, which must therefore be the fullest ultimate reflection of Him.
Dan also asks if Universalism (or any other aspect of this ultimate end ‘outcome’) can be reliably predicted, without accepting determinism.
Initially people’s comments were rather vague (I felt). I make some very broad statements early on to demonstrate the need to discuss specifics.
For example, its fairly difficult to argue against the idea that God HAS deliberately created / allowed this world with evil in it, and in some sense it MUST be the best possible expression of His Goodness (if there were one better, but God did not choose it, would that make God ultimately ‘evil’?). But we CAN argue about what constraints God may have placed on the range of ‘possible’ expressions, and thus on the maximal possible expression of His goodness (i.e. God can only choose a world that preserves some degree of free-will, or God can’t intervene with creation at all after the creation event, etc).
Also, since God is the fundamental instigator of all events (through the act of creation, including the creation of our souls, and any subsequent interventions within creation), we must concede that God is knowingly the ultimate deterministic cause of all things. What we can argue about is whether He creates and supports / allows some other self-generating (but foreseen) influences to participate in this determinism.
FOREKNOWLEDGE AND DETERMINISM
- We discussed whether foreknowledge (specifically of the outcome of Universalism) requires determinism. Jason introduces his argument for Boethian omniscience / omnipresence / omnipotence (where God actively self-exists and self-generates apart from time, and also performs the self-abdicating task of eternally generating the space-time entity we call ‘nature’ or ‘creation’). In this view, God is intimately connected with and supportive and knowledgeable of all points and events of this non-God ‘space-time’ at once - this includes anything that created agents with self-generating ‘free will’ cause within this nature of space-time.
- Paidion specifies that libertarian Free Will doesn’t exclude the possibility that everyone (eventually, through eternally) succumbs to the love of an all-powerful God. God can thus foresee universalism even if one maintains libertarian Free Will.
- Dan and Chris both challenge isolated ‘foreknowledge’ as a satisfactory escape from determinism. Dan argues that truly ‘foreseeing’ something requires it to be somehow fixed and unchangeable, as much a part of the original creation as the processes leading up to / allowing it. Chris argues that God is intimately involved not only in the events themselves, but in their logical and/or temporal priority. He uses the example of prophecy to demonstrate that God’s own ‘foreknowledge’ becomes an integral and causative component of what was foreseen, so that it cannot be simple / abstract / isolated foreknowledge apart from determinism.
- Chris then introduces an idea of determinism (in a temporal sense) while maintaining a non-God influence into this determinism that occurs outside the temporal stream of experience. In this view, it is not our soul’s actions / choices that are self-generating and non-determined, but the fabric and nature of our souls (which God then engages in a deterministic way throughout our temporal existence and experience).
- Jason and I engage in a clarifying discussion about the nature of God’s ‘eternal process of creating, and sustaining, all points of space-time’. I argue that, given God’s nature described in Scripture (his nature is one which is driven to express itself, and everything He does including creation is an expression of Himself), it would not be ontologically consistent for Him to exist WITHOUT creating the world we currently experience in a temporal way. Jason emphasises the distinction between God and creation, and between God’s isolated self-existence and the process of creating non-God entities.
EVIL DOMINATES OUR THEOLOGY
- Dave points out that the problem of evil (and our answer to it) often determines the rest of our theology / philosophy. We discuss whether this is appropriate or not. On the one hand, God WANTS us to use our perception and judgement of Good and Evil as a means of recognising and delighting in Him, while rejecting Evil. Dave posted a link that nicely fleshes this out. On the other hand, our extremely fallible and biased perception of reality and the ‘big picture’ makes this difficult, especially considering the fact that God has allowed the confusing existence of apparently conflicting ‘good’ and ‘evil’.
- Dave rightly points out that, because of our fallibility and the confusing existence of evil, we need to rely on God’s revelation. I discuss how faith based on God’s revelation is what is meant to sustain us in the midst of the vagueness/confusion/gaps/inconsistencies that God has allowed to exist via evil. We can also use this faith to sustain us when we approach difficult conclusions about God (like the idea that God designed evil).
- Dan specifically demonstrates how evil is often the catalyst for people accepting Free Will (as a means of absolving God’s responsibility), and yet it is also the catalyst for others to reject Free Will (as a means to infuse hope and purpose into evil). He then explores why He doesn’t think Free Will achieves its ‘purpose’ of solving the problem of evil (either by absolving God of responsibility, or by placing responsibility on us).
FREE AGENCY VS FREE WILL
- I bring up the concept of Free Agency. There are disagreements about its definition - some see it as an umbrella term describing ANY theory where the agent is able to express themselves, including Free Will. I argue for a much more limited definition whereby the choices say something meaningful about the soul because they are entirely based upon something, and are not diluted by self-generated factors that have no basis (what I consider ‘random elements’). With this definition, pure Free Will is one extreme of the spectrum, and pure Free Agency is the other extreme (but of course you can have views that mix both). Free Agency emphasises how our choices reflect the things they are based upon (including the state of our soul and context), while Free Will emphasises how our choices can potentially violate any and all bases (and thus may not reflect our context or the state of our soul).
- Jason and Paidion argue for mixed views, stating that complex influences do not negate our ability (as rational free beings) to fallibly assess the situation, as it is understood by us in all its bias, and make free (but also biased) choices. Multiple ‘causes’ play into our decision, including our own self-generated causal influence. Dan argues that this ‘self-generated’ contribution is minimal (if it exists) and reduces our ability to meaningfully talk about responsibility (as it is understood by those attempting to protect Free Will).
WE DON’T LIKE GOD DETERMINING EVIL
- There are many comments demonstrating a visceral rejection to the idea of God determining evil. Sometimes this gut rejection was expressed in more detail. Chris presents an excellent list of reasons.
- First he suggests that God must be evil to determine evil. I argue against this.
- Second he suggests that human responsibility for evil disappears if we have no ability to resist God’s determinism of evil. Dan and I argue for a different perspective on responsibility that IS preserved. Dan also argues that its fairly obvious our ability to resist influences toward evil is actually very limited (if it exists at all). I also argue that under Free Agency, God is limited to work with the nature of our souls, and so we have the ‘ability’ to resist God’s influence - however He would foreknow this, and so would have determined this very resistance (for as long as it lasts).
- Third Chris suggests that God should be able to not will and command abstaining from evil, and yet also will that evil exists and that we sometimes resist Him. I argue that desiring multiple conflicting things is normal for living souls, but that ultimately it boils down to one will of Gods (i.e. which expresses itself in reality - i.e. that evil and good coexist for the time being). I argue for other purposes for the Command to abstain from evil, which persist even when God then determines Evil.
- Fourth Chris states that God’s goodness should not be metaphysically dependent on evil for its existence and expression - I didn’t grasp a precise reason for this from his comments, except a general sense that evil and good are so utterly opposed to each other as to make this impossible. I argue that such a definition of ‘evil’ runs against the Scriptural definition of evil, where it is clearly NOT ultimately utterly opposed to Good (as it ends up working for good). Therefore a more thorough argument is required, if we want to insist that God’s goodness cannot depend upon evil.
- However, I think this last point is the strongest argument against determinism, because it appeals to our gut instincts about good and evil. We WANT to believe that good is fundamentally and utterly opposed to the bad things we conceive of or experience (what we call ‘evil’), in such a specifically profound way that ‘good’ could NEVER require or deliberately utilise these things.
Hope that was fair. Feel free to explain yourselves a bit more below. If I can edit my comment to improve it, I’ll try.