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Ask a Theologian III

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Plotinus, Nov 7, 2009.

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  1. ParkCungHee

    ParkCungHee Chieftain

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    You're actually blending several unrelated figures and combining them into one.
    The Snake in the Garden of Eden is not Lucifer, or Satan. In the original tradition it was thought simply
    Second, for that matter, no where in the bible is does Lucifer refer to The Devil.
     
  2. ParkCungHee

    ParkCungHee Chieftain

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    I would not recommend it.
     
  3. kill fire

    kill fire Enormous Midget

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    You may have already answered this question or one similar to it, and I'm sorry if this question has already been asked, but I have a bit of a problem seeing how the Christian God and free will can co-exist.

    Whenever I ask the "why wouldn't God just make everyone believe in him" question, I get the same answer from every person: God created people with free will and they have to choose to believe in God. Okay, but I see a problem there. In theory, God is supposed to know everything, correct? Okay, then it seems reasonable to suggest that he doesn't only know everything that is happening, he knows everything that ever has happend, and everything that ever will happen. If he knows everything that ever will happen, he knows what choice you're going to make, which means it's predestined to happen, which means that you have no free will in the first place! I made this point in anoter OT thread, but no one seemed to get it. Can you tell me how it is possible for an all-knowing and all-powerful God to co-exist with free will?
     
  4. PeteAtoms

    PeteAtoms FormulaRandom

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    Thea reasoning I've heard:

    God is more pleased when people choose to worship It, plus faith is important (don't ask me why, prolly same answer I just gave).

    Somehow it's not as satisfying to It's ego if It's creations are just forced to believe in It.

    QUESTION: Why don't people refer to God as "It" instead of "Him?"
     
  5. kill fire

    kill fire Enormous Midget

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    Except that if it's predestined, they don't "choose" it at all.
     
  6. ParkCungHee

    ParkCungHee Chieftain

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    But only a very few Christians believe in predestination.

    As for the reasons it's possible, theres a few:

    One is the answer that God is external to time. Time is a feature of the universe, and a material property, and therefor must be a creation of God, rather then something he abides by. If he exists outside of time, there is no "before" or "after" for him.
    To help you picture this if you can, imagine you're holding out a reel of Film. The film depicts a horse race. By looking at the reel you can see which horse won the race, but not before it won that race. You see the entire race before you at the same time.

    The second argument is from perfect knowledge. Humans, with limited knowledge, can make predictions of the future from the present with remarkable accuracy when you think about it. I can predict when a man is going to try and punch the side of my head, I can predict when a toddler is going to fall and hurt themselves, the outcome of a horse race and I can predict the contents of a lecture I'm going to hear tommorow, and the comments of a few of he students. Now, we agree that this does not bring about predestination, or a violation of free will, but I can still predict your actions imperfectly. Now a being with perfect knowledge of your nature, and the nature of everyone around you, can have perfect predictive accuracy of your actions, which is distinct from foreknowledge.
     
  7. kill fire

    kill fire Enormous Midget

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    Okay, I'm not sure I perfectly understand either of your arguements, but from what I can gather I'm not sure you understand mine either.
     
  8. civ2

    civ2 Chieftain

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    ParkCungHee
    Nice one! :goodjob:
    I pretty much agree about the way you formulated how free choice can work.
    We DON'T know how it REALLY works - but at least this is some kind of a plausible explanation. :cool:

    Pete Atoms
    All He wanted - was to give GOOD to someone.
    So He created the Human.
    Then the Human failed - and now we're stuck in the job of CLEANING his mess.
    But it WILL end some (soon) day.
    And we WILL see what GOOD was (and still is) in store for us from God.
    Nobody HAS to believe in God - but the ones who do will just get a better share of the pie. :king:
     
  9. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Of course - again, if by "soul" you mean a distinct and separable spiritual substance. The main arguments are (1) since pretty much all mental functions seem to be performed by the brain, any "soul" wouldn't have much to do, and if it did survive the body's death, it wouldn't really be you at all; (2) if the soul is spiritual and body is physical, then it is hard to see how they could interact; (3) assuming that other animals, or at least most other animals, don't have souls, it is hard to see how something quite distinct from the body could have evolved. (2) is normally given as the major objection to Cartesian dualism, but I'm inclined to think that (3) is a more powerful one.

    I think that the traditional view is that the mind is part of the soul, but not the whole soul. It was a key tenet of Origenism that the mind is the soul, or rather, that the soul was originally pure mind; and that non-cognitive elements of the psyche, such as passions, are not really part of you at all. They are like barnacles encrusting a ship, as Plato said. Origenists therefore held that salvation involves, among other things, getting rid of those elements, restoring the soul to its status as pure mind, and returning it to God, who is also pure mind. I am not sure off-hand, and cannot find out right now, whether this was one of the Origenist doctrines condemned in 553.

    That only follows if you assume that the soul cannot be influenced by the body, but that is not a Christian belief. On the contrary, the soul and the body influence each other all the time, at least on traditional Christianity. The two main alternative views to that are occasionalism, associated with Malebranche and with some medieval Muslim theologians, according to which God moves the body directly in accordance with the soul's wishes and conveys to the soul the perceptions of the body; and the pre-ordained harmony of Leibniz, according to which nothing influences anything, but everything was programmed by God at the start to unfold in a series of events which only look as if they are influencing each other.

    Now of course, the fact that it's hard to see how a physical body and a spiritual soul could influence each other at all, if they have no properties in common, is one of the main objections to the whole idea - and indeed that is one of the reasons for the emergence of those alternative theories, on which they don't influence each other after all.

    As ParkCungHee said, the "Lucifer" character you describe is an amalgam. We've already discussed this a bit recently - see here and following. So the simple answer to your question is that you're looking at it the wrong way around. You're assuming that the myth of Lucifer came first, and then the interpretation of Lucifer as evil. In fact it was the other way around. Satan, or the devil, is presented as evil (at least in the New Testament), and later mythologising built the narrative of Lucifer that you describe around that figure.

    That's a possible interpretation, although it doesn't seem to me that Aristotle is saying that mind could survive the body, only that it is distinct from it (in some way). But I don't know how best to interpret that.

    That would be a terrible habit to get into. You should never cite anything that isn't from a properly authoritative source.

    He's one of the most intimidatingly clever people I've met. But I am not convinced by his arguments or general approach. In my view the attempt to argue for Christianity on an evidentialist basis is pretty much doomed to failure, and a Plantinga-style approach of arguing for its rationality on a non-evidentialist basis seems a lot more fruitful - at least to me.

    This is a very, very complex issue - partly because there are different kinds of necessity. It's been discussed for centuries. See Aquinas' rather bewildering discussion here.

    One version of the argument which isn't yours goes something like this:

    (1) Necessarily, anything that God foresees will happen, will happen.
    (2) Therefore, anything that God foresees will happen, will necessarily happen.
    (3) Anything that happens necessarily cannot be a free action.
    (4) Therefore, anything that God foresees cannot be a free action.
    (5) God foresees everything.
    (6) Therefore, there are no free actions.

    Aquinas rightly pointed out that this argument is invalid. The shift from (1) to (2) is where the error lies. You cannot argue from "Necessarily, if X then Y" to "If X then necessarily Y" - the necessity in the original proposition covers the whole proposition, not the consequent. What this means is this. There are certain things that are necessarily true of God - among which is his infallibility. If God exists, everything he knows must be true, and this is absolute necessity. It doesn't follow, however, that the things he knows themselves must be true by the same kind of absolute necessity. In other words, if I mow my lawn tomorrow, then it's absolutely necessarily the case that God knows this, but it doesn't follow from this that it's absolutely necessarily the case that I mow my lawn.

    However, the problem is that there are other kinds of necessity. Consider the following claims:

    (1) 2+2=4
    (2) I had crunchy cereal for breakfast today.

    The first of these is necessarily true, by absolute necessity. There is no possible world in which it is not the case that 2+2=4; it just has to be true. The second claim is not necessarily true in the same way. I needn't have had crunchy cereal today. There are many possible worlds in which I had porridge instead. So it is a contingent fact, not a necessary one (i.e. it might have been different). However, from my point of view now, it has a sort of necessity to it, in that I can't change it. Because it is a fact about the past, it is now fixed, and it is impossible to make it so that it isn't true. So it has a sort of de facto necessity.

    As I see it, your argument purports to show that, if God exists, then all events, including all creaturely actions, have this second kind of de facto necessity. It goes like this:

    (1) Whatever God knows, is definitely true (because God can't be mistaken).
    (2) So if God knows that I will mow my lawn tomorrow, I will definitely mow my lawn tomorrow.
    (3) If I perform an action freely, that means that I must have the power not to perform it.
    (4) Any action that I will definitely do, I do not have the power not to do it.
    (5) So if God knows that I will mow my lawn tomorrow, I do not have the power not to do it.
    (6) So if God knows that I will mow my lawn tomorrow, I do not do it freely.
    (7) God does know that I will mow my lawn tomorrow.
    (8) So I do not mow my lawn freely.

    And the same for any other act which I, or anyone else, actually performs. It follows that there are no free acts.

    The point is that all facts about the past have de facto necessity, even if they don't have absolute necessity, like the fact about what I had for breakfast this morning. We can think of God's knowledge as past, if we think about what God knew yesterday, for example, or indeed from the first moment of creation. But because God's knowledge encompasses the whole of time, that means that his past knowledge includes facts about future events. Because his knowledge is (a) past and (b) infallible, that means that the de facto necessity that applies to his knowledge (in virtue of being in the past) transfers to the future events that he knows about (in virtue of his knowledge being infallible). It follows, then, that if God foreknows future events, then while those future events may not have absolute necessity like 2+2=4 does, they do have the same de facto necessity that all past events do. That means that we cannot change them, and that means that we do not do them freely, if freedom involves the power to do otherwise.

    This was basically Martin Luther's reasoning. He concluded that human beings do not have free will, at least not in this sense of free will, and he engaged in a rather polemical argument with Erasmus over the subject.

    It's important to recognise that none of this has anything to do with predestination. The above reasoning is based solely on the supposition that God knows what people will do in the future - not that he decides what they're going to do, let alone that he forces them to do it. It depends solely upon God's role as a passive observer. As long as you have an observer who is omniscient, who knows what will happen in the future with perfect reliability, then the argument goes through. That observer doesn't have to do anything.

    In my view, the argument is powerful. But it is possibly too powerful, for reasons I'll explain below. Here are the common responses:

    (1) We don't have free will after all. This is to accept the conclusion of the argument, as Luther did.
    (2) We do have free will, but it doesn't depend upon our having the ability to do other than what we do. For example, we may have compatibilist free will. This would mean rejecting premise (3) of the argument and therefore denying its conclusion.
    (3) The nature of free acts is such that they are intrinsically unknowable. That is, if tomorrow I freely choose to mow the lawn, then it is intrinsically impossible for anyone to know this for certain today - even me, or even an omniscient being. There is just no truth of the matter until I make that decision. Omniscience means knowing only what actually can be known. So even if God is omniscient, he doesn't know the future free acts of human beings. It may be that, in creating free creatures, God voluntarily restricts his knowledge of the future. (This is Richard Swinburne's view.) So premise (7) of the argument is denied.
    (4) God is outside time, so all this talk of "foreknowledge" and "future" events is inappropriate to start with.

    This (4) is perhaps the most obvious response, but it needs some careful thought. Does it actually change the argument? It seems not, because we can rewrite it in a way that does not commit us to the view that God is inside time. In fact, the argument as I stated it above doesn't actually contain any statements to the effect that God or his knowledge are inside time. It depends only on the fact that God's knowledge of my actions is complete and infallible, not on the fact that his knowledge is temporally located before those actions or before my point of view right now.

    Also, consider this. From my point of view, my action of mowing the lawn tomorrow is in the future; from God's point of view, if he is outside time, it is neither past, present, nor future. As ParkCungHee said, it is like he is looking at a reel of film, seeing all moments at the same time. So he doesn't have foreknowledge at all. However, there are still temporally-bound facts about his knowledge. For example, it is true today (Wednesday) that God timelessly knows that I mow the lawn on Thursday. It was also true yesterday (Tuesday) that God timelessly knows that I mow the lawn on Thursday. Now remember what I said about past events having de facto necessity, meaning that they can't be changed. If it was true yesterday that God (timelessly) knows something, then that fact has de facto necessity. So even if God's knowledge is outside time, it can still be seen to have the de facto necessity of facts about the past, because there are facts about the past about God's timeless knowledge. So we end up with the same problem.

    However, if we're going to admit facts of this kind into our reasoning, then we can actually get rid of God altogether and still have a problem. Consider the following, rewritten version of the argument:

    (1') Whatever is a true proposition expresses a fact which is definitely true.
    (2') So if it is a true proposition that I will mow my lawn tomorrow, I will definitely mow my lawn tomorrow.
    (3') If I perform an action freely, that means that I must have the power not to perform it.
    (4') Any action that I will definitely do, I do not have the power not to do it.
    (5') So if it is a true proposition that I will mow my lawn tomorrow, I do not have the power not to do it.
    (6') So if it is a true proposition that I will mow my lawn tomorrow, I do not do it freely.
    (7') It is a true proposition that I will mow my lawn tomorrow.
    (8') So I do not mow my lawn freely.

    You can see that I've just substituted "God knows..." with "It is a true proposition that...", and the argument still seems to work just as well. This is what I meant when I said that the argument about God's foreknowledge and freedom is almost too strong. It doesn't simply show that freedom is incompatible with God's foreknowledge. It seems even to show that freedom is impossible in its own right, never mind God. I would conclude that although the problem is framed in terms of God's foreknowledge, it's not really about God's foreknowledge, or God's timeless knowledge, or even God at all. It's more about the nature of freedom. If there is a problem here, it's a problem with this definition of freedom, not with its compatibility with the existence of an omniscient God.

    I suppose because God is conceived as personal, and we don't normally call persons "it". Of course God is not supposed to be male - the male pronoun is just convention.

    That depends on what you mean by "predestination"; I would say the majority of Christians believe that God determines what's going to happen. Catholics believe that this is compatible even with libertarian free will, while Reformed Christians believe that it is not, and reject libertarian free will. If "predestination" means that God determines what's going to happen, then that is probably the majority Christian view, but if it means that we do not have libertarian free will, it is the minority one. As I said, though, the problem that was raised about free will was about God's knowledge, not about predestination.

    I don't know if I'm really convinced by that, for two reasons. First, God's knowledge is supposed to differ from ours not only in its extent but in the way he acquires it. God is supposed to know everything intuitively, by a single rational act. He doesn't have to work things out the way we do. So on that understanding of God, I don't see how one can talk about "predictive accuracy" at all. God doesn't predict what's going to happen on the basis of what he sees now; he doesn't even do so perfectly. If he knows what's going to happen, it's because he just knows.

    Some Christian thinkers disagree, of course. I mentioned Richard Swinburne. He thinks that God is within time, not outside time, and that although he knows all facts about the past and the present, he does not have such universal knowledge of the future, because the existence of free will makes the future intrinsically uncertain. However, Swinburne's God is very good at guessing the future because of his perfect understanding of the past and the future. So he has very good predictive accuracy, although it is necessarily not perfect.

    My second objection is that I don't see any practical difference between having knowledge of the future and having perfect predictive accuracy of the future. If God, on your conception, can predict what I'm going to do perfectly, then doesn't that mean that he knows what I'm going to do? And in that case, kill fire's problem still arises, because it was a problem based solely on the idea that God knows what we're going to do (it is irrelevant to that problem how God knows it). If, conversely, having perfect predictive accuracy does not entail knowledge, then what's perfect about it?
     
  10. ParkCungHee

    ParkCungHee Chieftain

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    I suppose then my argument was similar to Swineburns. Though perhaps I didn't consider the difference in Perfect Accuracy and very good predictive accuracy. I don't see a fundemental difference between accuracy 9/10ths of the time and 10/10ths, that to me seems a distinction of extent, rather then of nature.
    I would hold that perfect predictive accuracy is not the same thing as knowledge of the future. Few would argue that a physicist armed with Newtonian mechanics predicted the path of an object is the same thing as a man who has just watched the path of the object, despite the fact that (theoretically) the Newtonian Physicist can chart that course perfectly.
     
  11. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Yes, indeed. However, if you have only 9/10ths accuracy, you don't have knowledge or certainty. If I'm only 9/10ths certain that something will happen, then I may know that it will probably happen; I may even believe that it will happen; but I can't really be said to know that it will happen. However, if I have 10/10ths accuracy, then, provided I know that I have 10/10ths accuracy, I must be certain that the thing will happen and I can surely be said to know that it will happen. Why wouldn't I?

    There may be a difference, but is it a relevant difference? The man who watches the object knows its path because he has seen it. The physicist knows its path because he has calculated it. Why would we call the first of these "knowledge" and not the second? Indeed, don't astronomers claim to "know" all kinds of things about celestial objects and their locations from calculating in precisely this way? Don't we know the distance from the sun to the earth, for example, even though we know it only by calculating, using our knowledge of physics? It's not something that's really observable, after all. So a Swinburnian God who predicts future events based on his perfect knowledge of the present, combined with his perfect knowledge of the laws of physics, can surely be said to know those future facts that he predicts with 100% accuracy. If those facts include the actions of creatures, then I don't see why we wouldn't say that he knows what they are. If (as Swinburne himself holds) God's predictions about creaturely actions are not 100% accurate, then he probably couldn't be said to know them, I agree. But conversely, if he can legitimately be said not to know them, then surely his predictions can't be 100% accurate.

    Interestingly, Swinburne's view of God as within time, having perfect knowledge of the past and present but only educated predictions about the future, was anticipated by the Socinians. A striking thing about Swinburne (given his adherence to fairly conservative Orthodox doctrine) is that he does seem to come close to heretical views on a number of matters, of which this is one (the Socinians were rather notorious heretics). Another is his christology, which is very similar to Apollinarius'. Certainly Swinburne himself would argue that his christology is sufficiently different from that of Apollinarius to avoid the charge of Apollinarianism, and I assume that he considers his theism to be sufficiently distinct from that of Socinus too, although I haven't read him in detail on this subject.
     
  12. PeteAtoms

    PeteAtoms FormulaRandom

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    So when did sin first take place?

    > When Adam and Eve bit the fruit
    > When God realized what had happened
    > When Eve was swayed by the serpent and convinced Adam to do likewise (when they were tempted, and made the decision to eat the fruit but hadn't done so yet).

    The only way it would make sense is if it is option 1 right? But than humans would had to have been designed to be susceptible to temptation in the first place right? Each one would have different implications concerning what 'sin' is, right?
     
  13. ParkCungHee

    ParkCungHee Chieftain

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    I would say the distinction lies in the affairs of free will. Perfect predictive knowledge to me it seems, seems to not conflict with the idea of Free Will. You are free to make your decision, but perfect knowledge of yourself (which even you yourself lack) allows for an understanding of what choice you shall make, based on the nature of your mind, body, and possibly soul. While a sort of Calvinistic God of Predeterminism incompatible with Libertarian Free-Will, not only knows the choice you shall make, but allready knows that you have/will make it.
    To use your astronomy comparisons, I don't feel measuring the distance from the earth and the sun is quite accurate. We have experience of the sun. It is more like the fact that we have measured (roughly) the date at which the sun will explode and (roughly) what this will look like. Ignoring the roughess of these projections, is this not different from an unfortunate man floating in space at some future point, who sees with his own eyes, and feels with his own flesh the sun exploding? They both can be said to be knowledge of the sun exploding, but are they not knowledges of a different type?
     
  14. Cheetah

    Cheetah Chieftain

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    From the Ask a Young Earth Creationist 2-thread:

    On my non-religiousness / non-belief, in reply to another poster, and not actually part of my discussion with Plotinus, but kept for comprehensiveness:
    Spoiler :
    If you bring the idea up, I will dismiss actively just as I dismiss the teapot around Jupiter, unicorns, ghosts and toothfairies. However, other than that, I hold no beliefs concerning such things.

    I have Christian parents. I grew up in a Christian home. As far back as I can remember, I have thus believed in God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost. This literary belief (as it was in the beginning - my parents should be overjoyed I never really read the Bible at that stage, I would have been scared out of my skin!) was gradually worn away by growing up, learning how people work and learning about the world and finding the scientific answers to be the most correct ones. But I still considered myself a Christian, and a believer. 'Of course I believed!'

    Thus it came to pass that I was 19, and walking home from the store. Some train of thought took me to the existence of God and I suddenly realised that there was no belief there! Nothing what so ever!

    It was not that I disregarded it, or changed my belief. I simply had no belief about God or anything religious! There is no reason whatsoever to even entertain such an idea that I just don't do it.

    This is not an idea that there is no God, or a belief that there is no God. This isn't an 'active atheism'. It is the non-existence of any concern about anything religious.

    So, to avoid being corrected by Plotinus, I am not an atheist as such. I am non-religious.

    It is on a whole other level than any kind of religion or religious/spiritual belief.


    Of course correct.

    I hope you will forgive me for being lax with my usage of terms, and even carelessly ignorant. One could of course believe such a thing as a god or gods existing and not have it be part of a religious setting. I just find it hard to imagine any real people actually doing so.

    Again, I've been careless in my usage of a term I see.

    Though - also again - I will disagree slightly with you. I would argue that (1) is whatever I hold, if such a non-existence can be said to be held. Furthermore, I would add '(1.75) A belief that one doesn't or can't know that there is or isn't a God' as the meaning of agnosticism, and reserve (2) for what I would call a literal atheist.

    The majority of people who may consider themselves atheists, if asked, would say - I believe - that there are no gods, that they hold no belief in gods or that the believe there are no gods, and consider these three answers identical, if not in actual meaning, then at least in content.

    Again, I suspect you know more what you talk about than I do. :)

    However, there is still some ambiguity to the term 'theism', is there not? A belief in a pantheon such as the ancient Greek or Mesopotamian ones could be labeled as a theistic belief, no?

    Has a nice ring to it. :)

    But since I can't find the word anywhere on the net, would you please enlighten a barbarian on the different stem-parts of the word and what they mean?

    There is actually a Danish priest who also declared that he does not believe in God, about a year or so ago. He has kept his job however, as the Danish Church has not found a reason to sack him, as his non-belief is not keeping him from doing a good job as a Christian priest. :)
    Don't know if he's in any way connected with these Christian Atheists/Humanists you're talking about however.

    The bolded part is still - for what that's worth - far to subtly theologically nuanced for me to comprehend yet.

    How do they explain the communion? If it is not Jesus' flesh and blood, etc? (Not that traditional Christianity really explains it very well either, but it seems normal to me, as I was brought up Christian.)

    And most profoundly: How can they believe in God and not believe in a thing called God? :confused:
     
  15. spryllino

    spryllino Chieftain

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    If I perform an action freely, that merely means that I had the power to do so; the opposite, in my opinion, is not entailed. I do not think I need, as part of free will, the ability to do the opposite to what I actually do. If the 8-point argument were valid, moreover, it would be the case that my inability to change the past, let alone the future, signified a curbing of my free will. If I will not do something, the existence of my free will does not entail that I should be able to do everything. I can't grow wings and fly; I can't transfigure myself into a fish; I can't even drive; I cannot amend the past; to regard these disabilities as impediments to my free will is absurd. Therefore, why should I be able to contradict the future as part of my free will?



    Also, if I mow the lawn out of my free will this evening, it is a true proposition that I have the power to mow the lawn.

    Therefore, I have the power to mow the lawn on a day in a month's time provided that the conditions are functionally identical. The fact that I don't do this in a month's time, despite the fact that the grass is equally long and the weather is the same, is quite compatible with my previous assertion that I have the power, unrestricted by time itself, to mow the lawn.

    Thus, free will is not bound up with time as that argument demands it should be, and so the argument is invalid. I can mow the lawn, but that doesn't demand that I will be doing it in precisely five seconds time. I can mow the lawn whenever I want, but to start doing it in precisely five seconds time would be impossible to time exactly anyhow. Therefore, my power to do something is not identical to my ability to do it at a particular time.
     
  16. _random_

    _random_ Jewel Runner

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    Recalling an earlier thread, what is it you find particularly remarkable about Aquinas and Bonhoeffer?
     
  17. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    According to whom? You're talking about Adam and Eve, but neither of us believes in them. Are you talking about when sin occurred according to the author of the story? In which case, which author, given that that story probably went through many versions before it reached the form in which we have it? Or you talking about the views of later interpreters? In which case, which ones?

    No, I'd say that option 3 seems pretty reasonable. In fact that is the traditional Christian view, going back to Augustine, that sin is in the intent rather than the action. If I intend to shoot you, but miss, then I sinned just as much as if I'd actually hit you, because sin is all about the intent. Conversely, if I don't intend to shoot you but accidentally hit you while aiming at a target, I haven't sinned (although perhaps I was sinfully negligent, but that's a different matter).

    Presumably so.

    Yes. Your (1) would put sin at the level of action, your (2) would put it at the level of being found out, and your (3) would put it at the level of intent.

    I still really don't see what the difference is. A God who can predict what I'm going to do with perfect accuracy, and who knows that his predictions have perfect accuracy, knows what I'm going to do! He knows the choice I will make and he knows that I will make it. (To be honest I don't see any difference at all between those two things.)

    Predestination means that God doesn't merely know what we do - he makes us do it. But that wasn't what kill fire was talking about at all. His problem stemmed purely from the notion of God knowing what we're going to do. That's not predestination. The argument is that if there exists a person who knows with perfect certainty what we will do, then we do not act freely. The knowledge is enough to generate the problem - the omniscient being doesn't have to do anything, let alone force us to act in a certain way.

    There's a good case for saying that the spaceman acquires knowledge that the astronomer lacks. He acquires the knowledge of what it is like to be floating near the sun when it explodes. This is the claim which is at the heart of Frank Jackson's knowledge argument for dualism, which I mentioned a few posts ago: when you experience something, you acquire a new kind of knowledge about it, which is distinct from the knowledge that you acquire in other ways. However, I would say that the spaceman's knowledge that the sun explodes is no different from the astronomer's, although they are acquired in different ways. The difference between them is that the spaceman acquires extra knowledge on top of this.

    All the same, I'm not sure it really matters. The point is that the astronomer does have knowledge, doesn't he? Assuming that his predictions are infallible, he knows that the sun will explode at a given time. You can say that this is knowledge of a different kind from that of the spaceman who actually experiences the explosion, if you like, but that doesn't matter. All that matters is that the astronomer does have that knowledge.

    In fact, come to think of it, we don't have to call it "knowledge" at all. We can rewrite the argument without it:

    (1) Whatever God predicts with 100% accuracy, is definitely true (because a prediction with 100% accuracy can't be mistaken).
    (2) So if God predicts with 100% accuracy that I will mow my lawn tomorrow, I will definitely mow my lawn tomorrow.
    (3) If I perform an action freely, that means that I must have the power not to perform it.
    (4) Any action that I will definitely do, I do not have the power not to do it.
    (5) So if God predicts with 100% accuracy that I will mow my lawn tomorrow, I do not have the power not to do it.
    (6) So if God predicts with 100% accuracy that I will mow my lawn tomorrow, I do not do it freely.
    (7) God does predict with 100% accuracy that I will mow my lawn tomorrow.
    (8) So I do not mow my lawn freely.

    The argument still works the same, and as before, doesn't require any kind of commitment to predestination.

    I think you'd be surprised. I suppose a high-profile case of this was Antony Flew, who changed his mind about the probable existence of God, but who didn't become remotely religious as a result. And there were plenty of deists in the eighteenth century. Some (mainly in the English-speaking world) saw themselves as reforming Christians, so you might say they were part of a religious setting; but others (mainly in the French-speaking world) saw themselves as anti-Christian, so the case is less clear-cut. In fact, one might say that just because someone calls themselves a Christian, that doesn't make them really religious. Kant believed in God and counted himself a Christian, but he didn't engage in any religious activities and always managed to be "indisposed" whenever his position as rector of his university required him to be present at a church service. Does that count as belief in God within a religious setting? I don't think one can be clear-cut.

    You're probably right, but of course, those three answers aren't identical in meaning or content. Hence the problem: people tend to use words inexactly, and if you try to use them more exactly, you won't match common usage. There's not much we can do about this.

    Perhaps. I wouldn't tend to call that "theism"; I think that "theism" means belief in God rather than merely gods, but perhaps I'm biased because of how the term is usually used in the traditions I'm familiar with.

    Doxa is Greek for belief - as in doxology, orthodox, heterodox, and so on. So if you don't believe, that might make you an a-doxist, since a is the negative prefix!

    The Danes sound very sensible in these matters!

    Here are some quotes from the last, summing-up chapters of Don Cupitt's The sea of faith (which is a pretty easy book to read, being intended for a general readership and based on a TV series):

    I don't think Cupitt addresses this directly, but I can guess what his answer would be: a liturgical ceremony like the Eucharist doesn't express any objective reality. The bread and wine don't magically transform into the body and blood of Jesus. Rather, by thinking of the bread and wine in this way, and eating them, we express an inner truth about the meaning and significance of Jesus' death, and the values he represented, to us. So again it's all about expressing values. Paul Tillich - whom Cupitt cites in one of the above quotations, and who was not exactly a Christian humanist but who did think of God as in some way non-objective - talked about traditional theology as "symbolic". That is, when we speak, we are using words to express ideas. Similarly, in theological discourse, we use mythological formulations to express ideas. This applies to actions as well as to speech. So when Christians perform liturgical actions such as the Eucharist, that can literally be thought of as a sort of language that is expressing key ideas. I think this would go quite well with what Cupitt is saying.

    Hopefully the quotations above should shed some light on that... just as you can believe in truth or justice or love or mercy and yet not believe that there are things called "truth" and "justice" and "love" and "mercy", so too, Cupitt argues, you can believe in God without having to believe that there is a thing called "God".

    Yes, I would agree with that. On a compatibilist understanding of free will, none of this is a problem at all. Even strict determinism and full-blown predestination are quite compatible with that understanding of free will - hence the name.

    I don't agree with this part. The proponent of (incompatibilist) free will would say that there are certainly things which we do not choose freely. I cannot choose to fly or to change the past - or if I do so choose, I can't actually do it. So those are actions that I cannot perform, freely or otherwise. My current choice not to fly like a bird is thus a choice I do not make freely, because I cannot do otherwise. However, the proponent of (incompatibilist) free will would say that it is precisely because I cannot do otherwise that my not flying is not done freely. If I did not have the power not to mow the lawn, then my mowing the lawn would also not be done freely. If it is done freely, that means that I do have the power not to do it.

    As for past actions, it's true that we don't have the power now to make them un-done. But someone who believes in (incompatibilist) free will would say that free actions are those where, at the time, we had the power not to do them. When we make our choice, of course we lose that power, but as long as we had it at the time, that is the criterion of freedom. Actions which we have the power not to do are those which we perform freely, and actions which we do not have the power not to do are those we do not perform freely. As I've argue at length here before, I think that ultimately this understanding of free will isn't coherent, but I think not for the reasons you give.

    I don't see how you make the inference from the first paragraph to the second - can you expand?

    I admire Aquinas for his rationality and his ability to consider the different sides of a question, as well as his thoroughness. I think he really is someone who follows where the argument leads. I admire Bonhoeffer for his insight into what is important and the real concerns that people have with religion, and his willingness to embrace difficult ideas. So I suppose ultimately I like them because of their rationality - a wide rationality rather than a narrow one.
     
  18. Berzerker

    Berzerker Warlord

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    why do people think Genesis claims God created the universe?
    where did the water and submerged "land" come from?
     
  19. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    Well, off the top of my head John 1 says that God created all things, so anyone who believes John will assume that was what Genesis meant.
     
  20. _random_

    _random_ Jewel Runner

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    God created them. That seems pretty clear to me from the text.
     
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