Friday, May 14, 2010

On theodicy and God's plan, with an atheist

David over at bossmanham's blog has been making some noise about the goodness of God and the existence of evil.  Same song, different verse.





David said...








The providence of God? Is that the same thing as “wizard”?


“The concept that we could thwart God's plans is silliness at its best.”


Silliness? I’m confused. I’m constantly hearing that if a given human takes a given action, that’s going against God’s plan for their life and is sinful. And yet, people will take the given action and go against the alleged plan. Not only is the concept not silly, but when people thwart God’s plan, they’re to be tortured for all eternity.


Or do human actions have no effect on the plan? If a human doesn’t follow God’s plan, it doesn’t thwart the plan in any way? If going against the plan has no effect, if we can’t thwart God’s plan, then why does it matter if one follows the plan or not? If the plan can’t be thwarted, that suggests that the script of history is already written, and there goes your “free will defense” designed to excuse God for the evil in the world.


“It's evil for the individual to do it. It's not evil for God to allow it. There are two wills at work here. Get with the program.”


It’s not evil to allow an evil act to occur? That’s a clever excuse. But this is not what I think of when I ponder an all-powerful good and perfect god. How can a perfectly morally good entity fail to act to prevent evil? What would you think of a human who failed to act to stop and evil deed from happening? Would we accept “well, I didn’t do the evil act myself” as an excuse? At a minimum, it makes God awfully passive.


Ok, so now you’re saying that the murder of would-be-Hitler is evil and that this is not a righteous kill. But on the other hand, this act saved the lives of many would-be victims, and you emphasized that there is a “morally sufficient reason to allow that murder”, and so it would not be wrong to allow it. Saving lives and “morally sufficient reason” suggests that the murder is a good thing, not an evil thing. If it’s not morally wrong to allow it, that suggests that the act itself is good, not evil. Had the murder been stopped, many others would have died. So, is the murder a good thing or a bad thing?


And why would God ever use evil acts to bring about good things? Why is evil an essential part of the good God’s plan? This is totally unnecessary and contradicts the notion of a good God. Why use evil humans and their evil deeds to accomplish something good when you have the power to reach the same goal without any evil act at all? All you have to do is glance in the direction of would-be Hitler and…instant heart attack. Instead, you have to sit back and allow evil acts to occur to accomplish the goal of taking out would-be Hitler? Or was there never a plan to take out would-be Hitler, and it was just a lucky break than an evil human happened to kill would-be Hitler? And why didn’t God take out actual Hitler with a heart attack? This is an “all-powerful, perfect, always good, never evil” god?


“Thus David appeals to ridicule again.”


Not ridicule at all. I’m appealing to reality. This is how theology really works. I’m convinced that you lack the cognitive skills to see reality. Ridicule is useful for identifying things that are ridiculous.


David,

The providence of God? Is that the same thing as “wizard”?

No.  Not even close, really.
In fact, naturalistic forces and theories share a lot in common with magic.
The only thing a "wizard" and God share in common is that they do supernatural things.  The mechanism, the source of the power, the means of accessing it, etc are all totally different.
Further, you're poking fun partly b/c you apparently think the God explanation is ad hoc, and yet the Bible's been around 2000+ years.  Nothing ad hoc about a static text like that.



I’m constantly hearing that if a given human takes a given action, that’s going against God’s plan for their life and is sinful.

either they misunderstand the term "God's plan" or they mean God's COMMANDS for their life.  In the former they think they can access more of God's secret will than they really can, but the latter is perfectly reasonable.  For example, God says "Don't sleep with your boyfriend".  If you go ahead and sleep with your boyfriend, you're going against God's plan for your life and you're sinning.


when people thwart God’s plan, they’re to be tortured for all eternity.

ALL people "thwart God's plan" in that they disobey many of His commandments.  And we'll all be punished for all eternity if we do not accept His forgiveness for that.


Or do human actions have no effect on the plan?

They do, but God foresaw everything and has taken all human actions into acct.  'Cause He's smart.


then why does it matter if one follows the plan or not?

B/c God told us to, and obeying God is an objective good.
One wonders why you vote (if you do vote); your vote will literally have no effect on the outcome whatsoever.  So why do it?  Obviously for some other reason than "my vote will change the future", b/c it won't.  If you think it will, you're naive.  Sorry.


that suggests that the script of history is already written, and there goes your “free will defense” designed to excuse God for the evil in the world.

Bossmanham and I aren't in agreement about this, but I think (hopefully he'll correct me if I'm wrong) that he'd say that God's foreknown plan does not exclude free will choices.  It's mysterious, sure, but not logically incoherent any more than my watching a recording of last year's Super Bowl means Drew Brees didn't have a choice to throw X number of times to Marques Colston.
Now, I don't think that libertarian free will exists, apart from the decree of God, and so my answer is a bit different.  Which is why I don't defend the free will defense.  Just for your education.


It’s not evil to allow an evil act to occur?

Please define how you can objectively identify evil.  Does objective evil exist? How do you know?  How do you recognise it?


But this is not what I think of when I ponder an all-powerful good and perfect god.

And if this thread were all about "Does David think ____ when he think of 'an all-powerful good and perfect god'", then I guess we'd be done.  But it's not.


How can a perfectly morally good entity fail to act to prevent evil?

For one thing, b/c He has a better good in store by allowing this evil now.
For another, b/c you don't get to define what's good and evil.  He does.


So, is the murder a good thing or a bad thing?

The murder would be a bad thing for the human, b/c the human doesn't know what the future holds for the victim.  If it just so happens that the victim would grow up to be Hitler, I can't know that but God does.  God might arrange for him to die, maybe even thru being murdered, and thus prevent him from growing up to be another Hitler.  But only God knows that.  Further, God has the right to kill anyone or command that anyone be killed at any time.
People die every second of every day. Man is fallen and sinful, and the penalty for sin is death - Romans 3:23 and following through the end of chapter 5. It is only thru God's forbearance and mercy that I or any other person draw the next breath. And the next, and the next. And of course, it is only thru His mercy in Christ's death and resurrection that eternal Hell is not everyone's final destination.

Murder is defined as the unjustified taking of human life.
Yet, as every man, woman, and child is sinful and bears the guilt of the sin of Adam, all are subject to the death penalty. This also includes the various peoples of Canaan, whom God commanded the OT Hebrews to put to death after hundreds of years of giving them time to repent of their perversions. This includes the millions of babies that die every year in the womb (re: Sam Harris' correct and yet wrongheaded and amazingly morally blind assertion that God is the greatest living abortionist). God is fully justified in putting anyone to death at any time thru any manner or agency He chooses.


And why would God ever use evil acts to bring about good things?

B/c it glorifies Him.
See, by this point you're just taking the Eddie Tabash/Chrissy Hitchens approach, asking a lot of questions that are in effect arguments from personal outrage.  But you need to give us a reason to think these questions matter.  Like in what way you're a moral authority to express such outrage, and why anyone else should imitate your outrage.

48 comments:

Paul C said...

"ALL people "thwart God's plan" in that they disobey many of His commandments...."

"[human actions have am effect on the plan] but God foresaw everything and has taken all human actions into acct."

1. According to you, then, God's plan includes the effect that human actions have on that plan, then those actions never thwart God's plan, unless your definition of "thwart" differs from the actual definition.

2. If all human actions are included in God's plan, then even those actions which are against God's commandments are included in the plan.

3. Therefore all human actions are according to God's plan.

4. Some human actions lead to humans being punished for all eternity.

5. Therefore it is God's plan that some human beings will be punished for all eternity.

Rhology said...

1. According to you, then, God's plan includes the effect that human actions have on that plan, then those actions never thwart God's plan, unless your definition of "thwart" differs from the actual definition.

Exactly. I was using David's definition of "thwart", showing how it fails.


5. Therefore it is God's plan that some human beings will be punished for all eternity.

Quite so. John 6, Romans 9, etc.

Paul C said...

"Therefore it is God's plan that some human beings will be punished for all eternity."

That being the case, why should any of those human beings that are destined to be punished for all eternity obey God's commandments?

For example, you say:

"For example, God says "Don't sleep with your boyfriend". If you go ahead and sleep with your boyfriend, you're going against God's plan for your life and you're sinning."

Except you're not, since you've just said that God's plan already takes into account the fact that you go ahead and sleep with your boyfriend. How can it be against God's plan if God's plan takes it into account?

Paul C said...

Also, why should any of those people who are destined for eternal punishment obey God's commandments?

Rhology said...

They should obey b/c they are commanded to, b/c obeying God's commands is objectively good and disobeying is objectively bad, and b/c you don't know whether you're elect or not. So you should act like you are, repent of your sins, and put your faith in Jesus.

You're not following the distinction between God's secret decretive will and the impossibility of knowing it with God's PREscriptive will, consisting of commands. Obey them. You don't know the future.

Damion said...

The question is not how can the skeptic who advances the argument from evil "objectively identify evil" as you challenge him to do, but rather why (on the hypothesis of theism) does the God that you claim exists allow for acts or events which the *THEIST* has already identified as objectively evil, in the sense most relevant to the theist's evaluation of those acts or events. This is not an argument from subjective personal outrage, but rather an investigation into the internal coherence of some particular formulation of theism.

Since you are eschewing IFW your answer seems to be that God allows such acts (such as rape) for the sake of some unspecified greater good which wil come of these events. Is this about right?

Paul C said...

"You're not following the distinction between God's secret decretive will and the impossibility of knowing it with God's PREscriptive will, consisting of commands."

a. Is God's prescriptive will different from his "secret decretive" will?

b. If it's impossible to know God's "secret decretive" will, then how are you able to tell us anything about it with certainty?

Paul C said...

Also, you haven't answered the question of "How can it be against God's plan if God's plan takes it into account?", in the context of sleeping with one's boyfriend.

Rhology said...

Damion,

Those acts are evil FOR THE HUMAN TO PERFORM. The question of whether they are evil for God to allow is quite different. Make your case.


for the sake of some unspecified greater good which wil come of these events

Ehhhh, sort of. I'd say that's a 2ndary result, but the primary result and reason is that God's plan is unimpeachable from the standpoint of mere mortals. But then again, God's plan is objectively good, so you could come back around and say "greater good", though it's hardly unspecified.



Paul C,

a. Yes.
b. I haven't told you much about it. I've merely told you it exists, and it's revealed every minute we continue to exist - whatever happened was part of God's up-to-that-moment-secret will.

And God tells you not to sleep with your boyfriend. Ergo, it's against God's PREscriptive will. (When I say "plan", you'll note I was using David's terminology, which I would not use if I were trying to be as specific as possible.)

Paul C said...

"I haven't told you much about it."

You've told me that it exists. If it's secret, how do you or anybody else know it exists?

"I've merely told you it exists, and it's revealed every minute we continue to exist - whatever happened was part of God's up-to-that-moment-secret will."

Including me sleeping with my boyfriend. So apparently God's prescriptive will - that one not sleep with one's boyfriend - is in direct conflict with God's secret will - that one did, in fact, sleep with one's boyfriend.

Rhology said...

It's secret in that it's not revealed in detail. We're simply told that it exists, not much of what it contains. There are some things I know it contains, like the 2nd bodily coming of Christ, the New Jerusalem, the general resurrection, the judgment, etc. But whether tomorrow I'll be in a car accident and die, which may well be in there, I won't know until the clock strikes midnight the next day.

And yes - God commands certain things in His prescriptive will that will be violated in His decretive will. So God says don't sleep with your boyfriend, but --news flash!-- people are sinful and so disobey all the time.
God prepared for THAT by sending His Son into the world.
Sinful people reject Jesus.
God prepared for THAT by planning the judgment and Eschaton. Etc.

Paul C said...

God commands certain things in His prescriptive will that will be violated in His decretive will.

Why?

Paul C said...

Sinful people reject Jesus.

All people are sinful, but not all people reject Jesus. Therefore being sinful is not the reason that people reject Jesus.

Paul C said...

They should obey b/c they are commanded to, b/c obeying God's commands is objectively good and disobeying is objectively bad, and b/c you don't know whether you're elect or not. So you should act like you are, repent of your sins, and put your faith in Jesus.

But if you're not one of the elect, but you act like you are (by obeying God's commandemnts), you're still going to go to hell. So my question still stands: why should one of the non-elect obey God's commandments?

David said...

I'm not sure why you posted your answer to me in full at this site when the answer is posted in full on Bossman's site, but in any event, rather than post the same thing in two places, I'll just post at the Bossman's place.

By the way, your title is wrong. You should be careful about jumping to conclusions. Despite the tendency of narrow-minded Christians to label those who disagree with them as "atheists", I'm not an atheist. I have a different view of God. Is everyone with a view of God that is different from yours an atheist?

Rhology said...

I suppose He commanded what He knew would be violated b/c His plan from all eternity has been to redeem a people for His own glory and possession, out of lostness, out of death, out of sin and hatred of God, redeemed to love Him as redeemed people.

All people reject Jesus at first, but God regenerates certain ones that He has chosen from eternity past so that they no longer reject Him. He does that at the time of His choosing. So sin is why they reject Jesus. Asking why some are saved is different.


So my question still stands: why should one of the non-elect obey God's commandments?

No, your question doesn't still stand until you deal with the other two reasons.
Of course, you have a pathological problem with the word "should" - it apparently means whatever you want it to mean whenever convenient to you, so I'm not sure how useful or applicable that question is going to be to anyone else in the world, who's not you.


David,
I'll just post at the Bossman's place.

That's totally fine. I do it so that my 3 readers can be alerted to convos taking place elsewhere in the blogosphere, just FYI.


Is everyone with a view of God that is different from yours an atheist?

No.
My mistake. If you'll let me know what you'd label yourself, I'll change the title, and note my presumptive error.
I would suggest, however, that if you argue like an atheist, there's little reason to think that other people won't think you're an atheist.

Paul C said...

I suppose He commanded what He knew would be violated b/c His plan from all eternity has been to redeem a people for His own glory and possession, out of lostness, out of death, out of sin and hatred of God, redeemed to love Him as redeemed people.

Isn't it interesting how you suddenly shift gears from attempting a philosophical defense to throwing around Christian jargon? I guess this discussion won't go any further.

NAL said...

Rho:

God is fully justified in putting anyone to death at any time thru any manner or agency He chooses.

On what moral basis do you justify God's actions? If God is moral by definition, then justifying God's actions commits the logical fallacy of circular reasoning. At best, such a statement is mere tautology and is therefore no justification at all.

Paul C said...

"No, your question doesn't still stand until you deal with the other two reasons."

Uhhh... you've lost me. What "other two reasons" are you talking about, and how do they have any impact on that question?

"Of course, you have a pathological problem with the word "should" - it apparently means whatever you want it to mean whenever convenient to you"

No. It means exactly what it says in the dictionary. It's just that - as I have repeatedly pointed out - not every "should" has a moral aspect. The question of whether I should wear the red tie or the green tie, for example, has no moral aspect at all.

But look, I realise by now that you have a problem understanding these basic questions of grammar, so I'll rephrase it without that word that vexes you so much: for what reason would one of the non-elect obey God's commandments?

It can't be because obedience is objectively good, because if obedience was objectively good, then by obeying they would presumably become one of the elect. But you've said that it's God's plan that some people will be punished for all eternity, and that he knows who those people are - so presumably mere obedience alone won't get you out of the prospect of hell.

Skeptical Rationalist said...

Well, I won't be commenting on bossmanham's blog if for no other reason than I find his choice of blog formats to be completely unreadable.

bossmanham said...

5. Therefore it is God's plan that some human beings will be punished for all eternity.

Yes. God wants all men to be saved, and as one who holds that God allows libertarian freedom, God allows some to reject His offer of salvation.

That being the case, why should any of those human beings that are destined to be punished for all eternity obey God's commandments?

They are destined for eternal punishment because of their disobedience. If they would answer the call of Christ, this would not be the case.

Except you're not, since you've just said that God's plan already takes into account the fact that you go ahead and sleep with your boyfriend. How can it be against God's plan if God's plan takes it into account?

There is a perfect plan of God, what God wants free creatures to choose freely, and then there is the ultimate plan of God, which takes into account the free actions of free creatures.

but rather why (on the hypothesis of theism) does the God that you claim exists allow for acts or events which the *THEIST* has already identified as objectively evil

If God has purposed to create creatures to have a genuine relationship with then that answers it. I assume you think that genuine relationship would require the ability to choose not to be in it? (We're getting into territory in which Rho and I disagree)

If God just created a world where He made everyone choose good, how is that any different from a world of puppets?

All people are sinful, but not all people reject Jesus. Therefore being sinful is not the reason that people reject Jesus.

They reject Him because they choose to.

On what moral basis do you justify God's actions? If God is moral by definition, then justifying God's actions commits the logical fallacy of circular reasoning. At best, such a statement is mere tautology and is therefore no justification at all

Not really. If God is the good, and everything He does is good, then everything He does is also just. But it just so happens that God is also a just God--by definition.

But we don't have to worry about God ever commanding evil or unjust things, because He is good.

Well, I won't be commenting on bossmanham's blog if for no other reason than I find his choice of blog formats to be completely unreadable.

Cut and paste it into notepad then.

Paul C said...

There is a perfect plan of God, what God wants free creatures to choose freely, and then there is the ultimate plan of God, which takes into account the free actions of free creatures.

As far as I can tell, your “perfect” plan is equivalent to Rhology's “prescriptive” plan, and your “ultimate” plan equivalent to his “decretive” plan. I assume that – like Rhology - you believe that God's ultimate plan specifies “that some human beings will be punished for all eternity”.

The logical conclusion of your assumption is that since God knows what his ultimate plan is, he knows which humans will be punished for all eternity prior to their taking the free actions that will place them in hell. For the sake of argument, let's say that I'm one of those humans.

If I obey God freely and completely, am I still going to hell?

Rhology said...

If I obey God freely and completely, am I still going to hell?

I would say two things:
1) No one can obey God completely. All have sinned.

2) Part of any human's responsibility is to repent and trust in Christ alone. And repenting and believing is a command. Really, if you obey THAT one, you're (and by "you", I mean "anyone") going to Heaven. If you don't, you're going to Hell. It's pretty much as simple as that.

Rhology said...

NAL:
On what moral basis do you justify God's actions? If God is moral by definition, then justifying God's actions commits the logical fallacy of circular reasoning.

Right. I'm not justifying it. I'm explaining it. Or, if you will, reminding you of it.

Paul C said...

Really, if you obey THAT one, you're (and by "you", I mean "anyone") going to Heaven. If you don't, you're going to Hell. It's pretty much as simple as that.

But you've previously said that God's plan includes the fact that some people will definitely be punished for all eternity. Since God knows in advance who these people are, it doesn't matter if they obey or not - they're going to Hell. So what reason do they have for obeying, given that it won't affect that final outcome?

Paul C said...

At this point it occurs to me that you simply don't understand the question that I'm asking. How depressing.

Rhology said...

Sorry, I missed this:
Paul C said:
Isn't it interesting how you suddenly shift gears from attempting a philosophical defense to throwing around Christian jargon?

You asked a theological question. I'm very sorry that I answered in the same terms.


Since God knows in advance who these people are, it doesn't matter if they obey or not - they're going to Hell.

On GOD'S KNOWLEDGE, that's right, it doesn't "matter". Nothing can change the plan of God; it's been decreed.
But that doesn't say very much toward how we should act in the here and now, b/c God has not said very much about the future, especially not in the specific and personal. So I am commanded to call all people to repent and trust in Jesus.


So what reason do they have for obeying, given that it won't affect that final outcome?

They should obey b/c they are commanded to, b/c obeying God's commands is objectively good and disobeying is objectively bad, and b/c you don't know whether you're elect or not. So you should act like you are, repent of your sins, and put your faith in Jesus.
Hmm, that sounds familiar. Much as if I'd copy+pasted it from above, where you asked the same question. Why are we going around in circles? Hint: I'm ANSWERING the questions put to me.


At this point it occurs to me that you simply don't understand the question that I'm asking. How depressing.

Ah yes, b/c if atheism is true, all of this matters SO VERY MUCH.

Paul C said...

You asked a theological question. I'm very sorry that I answered in the same terms.

Regardless of what type of question I asked, there was a very obvious shift in tone from a reasonably coherent argument to a barrage of jargon.

They should obey b/c they are commanded to, b/c obeying God's commands is objectively good and disobeying is objectively bad, and b/c you don't know whether you're elect or not. So you should act like you are, repent of your sins, and put your faith in Jesus.

As I said, I don't think you understand the question. I'm not asking it from my point of view, where I'm not privy to the mind of God. I'm asking about the general principle, which is visibly flawed.

Let's say that I act like I'm elect, repent of my sins and put my faith in Jesus – all true. When I die, I find myself in hell, because I wasn't a member of the elect.

Yet Bossmanham says that “If they would answer the call of Christ”, they wouldn't find themselves in hell. Could you decide which one of you is right, and then let us non-Christians know?

Hint: I'm ANSWERING the questions put to me.

Copying and pasting is not equivalent to answering a question, if what you're copying and pasting doesn't answer the question.

Ah yes, b/c if atheism is true, all of this matters SO VERY MUCH.

You said above, “On GOD'S KNOWLEDGE, that's right, it doesn't "matter". Nothing can change the plan of God; it's been decreed.” How ironic that you now accuse atheism of exactly the same flaw! Perhaps you could decide which one of these you actually believe and let us know.

bossmanham said...

I assume that – like Rhology - you believe that God's ultimate plan specifies “that some human beings will be punished for all eternity”.

Yes, those who don't accept His gift of atoning salvation through Jesus Christ. Note that my terminology was my own.

If I obey God freely and completely, am I still going to hell?

No...because if you did you would not be one of the ones destined for hell, and that would be included in God's foreknowledge.

(By freely and completely, I assume you mean in response to and aided by His grace and by repenting and trusting in Christ, since, as Rho points out, no one has the ability within themselves to follow Christ due to sin).

But you've previously said that God's plan includes the fact that some people will definitely be punished for all eternity. Since God knows in advance who these people are, it doesn't matter if they obey or not - they're going to Hell.

They're going to hell due to their free choices. They must make those free choices in order for God to have them in His foreknown plan (if that plan does indeed include allowing free choices). God doesn't plan that individuals will sin, in that He somehow causes them to sin by an act of His will. Rather He knows all possible human contingencies, say He knew that Pilate would reject Him in any world he was given freedom, and is able to use foreknown sin fo His purposes. Does that make sense?

These leading questions are attempting to paint us as fatalists, which is something that atheism has to hold to. Perhaps you'd answer how freedom of the will would be possible if all our actions are due to response to external stimuli...?

Rhology said...

a very obvious shift in tone from a reasonably coherent argument to a barrage of jargon.

Oh, bummer. I totally forgot that theological jargon is automatically unreasonable and incoherent. B/c you said so.


I'm not asking it from my point of view, where I'm not privy to the mind of God. I'm asking about the general principle, which is visibly flawed.

So you're asking why God, Who has the plan from the beginning, commands people to do stuff?
Well, that's kind of tautological - the plan is the plan. I don't know what else you want me to say.



Let's say that I act like I'm elect, repent of my sins and put my faith in Jesus – all true. When I die, I find myself in hell, because I wasn't a member of the elect.

Biblically speaking, nobody who is not elect can repent of his sins and put his faith in Jesus.
(Not trying to overwhelm anyone with jargon, but you're attempting an internal critique of my position, so I'm gonna cite my position to examine that critique.)



Yet Bossmanham says that “If they would answer the call of Christ”, they wouldn't find themselves in hell. Could you decide which one of you is right, and then let us non-Christians know?

*Gasp!* In this case, you might just have to do a little teeny bit of reading into the Arminian/Calvinist debate within Christianity. Sorry that I can't spoonfeed you everything.
But bossmanham and I do agree 100% on this - to be saved, the person has to repent of his sins and put his faith in Christ alone. We disagree somewhat on the backstory, but that's not the same thing.




Copying and pasting is not equivalent to answering a question, if what you're copying and pasting doesn't answer the question.

Then don't repeat a question; show why the answer is flawed.




You said above, “On GOD'S KNOWLEDGE, that's right, it doesn't "matter". Nothing can change the plan of God; it's been decreed.” How ironic that you now accuse atheism of exactly the same flaw!

You mean when I accuse atheism is creating a worldview where nothing matters? Well, nothing matters at all, in anything, for any reason, on atheism.
On Christianity, what the human does matter, very much. You're asking a different question than the one I'm asking in my Meh, Atheism post.

Paul C said...

Bossmanham:
No...because if you did you would not be one of the ones destined for hell, and that would be included in God's foreknowledge.

Perhaps you didn't catch the part where I said that I am one of the non-elect.

This is a simple problem. I am one of the non-elect, i.e. one of those that God knows will go to hell under his decretive plan. If I obey God's commandments freely and completely, will I still go to hell?

Your response was that if I obeyed his commandments, then I wouldn't be one of the non-elect. Yet we've established that a) I'm one of the non-elect and b) I have free will, and the two can't be reconciled.

You then cite the example of Pilate:

Rather He knows all possible human contingencies, say He knew that Pilate would reject Him in any world he was given freedom, and is able to use foreknown sin fo His purposes.

But the problem still holds: what if Pilate chooses to accept God? Why can't Pilate accept God? And if Pilate cannot accept God in any world, then what does “free will” even mean?

They're going to hell due to their free choices. They must make those free choices in order for God to have them in His foreknown plan (if that plan does indeed include allowing free choices).

Rhology thinks they're going to hell regardless of their free choices. Maybe you two should talk.

These leading questions are attempting to paint us as fatalists, which is something that atheism has to hold to. Perhaps you'd answer how freedom of the will would be possible if all our actions are due to response to external stimuli...?

I'm not quite an atheist, but I'm close enough for the purposes of this discussion, and I don't have to hold to fatalism at all since I'm an emergentist.

Paul C said...

Rhology:

I totally forgot that theological jargon is automatically unreasonable and incoherent. B/c you said so.

At no point did I say “that theological jargon is automatically unreasonable and incoherent”, nor do I believe it. Why do you put words into people's mouths?

So you're asking why God, Who has the plan from the beginning, commands people to do stuff?
Well, that's kind of tautological - the plan is the plan.


No, that's not what I'm asking. I've been very clear about what I'm asking, but I'll ask it once more.

You've already said that the plan is not the plan; the plan is two plans. In the decretive plan, you agree that there are specific people who will go to hell regardless of the actions they take. In the prescriptive plan, you argue God commands everybody – including those specific people – to obey his commandments in order that they should avoid going to hell.

What I'm asking is: what practical reason is there for those specific people to obey God's commandments since they are going to hell regardless of whether they obey them or not?

Biblically speaking, nobody who is not elect can repent of his sins and put his faith in Jesus.

Wow, that sounds a lot like determinism. Still, never mind.

But bossmanham and I do agree 100% on this - to be saved, the person has to repent of his sins and put his faith in Christ alone.

But you're simultaneously arguing that putting one's faith in Christ is not enough to save one.

We disagree somewhat on the backstory, but that's not the same thing.

Actually, it's worse. We might both believe that sunlight exists; but if I believe that it's the electromagnetic radition given off by the sun, while you believe that it's the result of sky fairies urinating in my face, we don't believe the same thing at all. Ditto you and bossmanham.

You mean when I accuse atheism is creating a worldview where nothing matters? Well, nothing matters at all, in anything, for any reason, on atheism. On Christianity, what the human does matter, very much.

Now you're just openly contradicting yourself.

You said “On GOD'S KNOWLEDGE, that's right, it doesn't "matter"”, where the “it” you were referring to was the statement that “Since God knows in advance who these people are, it doesn't matter if they obey or not.”

So your argument there was that what the human does – i.e. whether they obey or not – doesn't matter. Now you are asserting that “what the human does matter[s], very much”. For the last time, could you please decide what you actually believe?

bossmanham said...

Perhaps you didn't catch the part where I said that I am one of the non-elect.

But if you're following the will of God for your life, in that you've repented and trusted in Him for your salvation, then you would be one of the elect. I understand the confusion you may have about the difference between my understanding of election and Rho's, but as he says it's about the backstory, not the main story. What we do know is if you trust Christ for your salvation, then you're among the elect.

what if Pilate chooses to accept God? Why can't Pilate accept God?

In my view, and I must stress that mine is different than Rho's here to avoid any unintentional straw men you may be building, Pilate CAN accept God, but he chooses not to. See?

Rhology thinks they're going to hell regardless of their free choices. Maybe you two should talk.

We have, and will probably continue to. It's an internal debate in Christianity.

I'm not quite an atheist, but I'm close enough for the purposes of this discussion, and I don't have to hold to fatalism at all since I'm an emergentist.

I love the inconsistencies of almost atheism. Emergentism doesn't seem to solve anything IMO. If the mind, the will, emerges from physical states which control it, how on earth would that solve the problem I just presented? You still have physical process which are entirely causally dependent and controlled by external stimuli. Then the "mind" emerges from that state. How would this solve the problem of fatalism for the naturalist?

Vox Veritatis said...

Paul C said:

Let's say that I act like I'm elect, repent of my sins and put my faith in Jesus – all true. When I die, I find myself in hell, because I wasn't a member of the elect.

To which Rho responded:

Biblically speaking, nobody who is not elect can repent of his sins and put his faith in Jesus.

This issue has a simple logical resolution. Per Rho's remark, one can put one's faith in Christ only if one is elect. This, formally stated, is

1) F -> E.

In addition, one does not put one's faith in Christ only if one is not elect. This, formally stated, is

2) ~F -> ~E.

However, by the equivalence of the contrapositive, (2) is equivalent to saying that all of the elect will put their faith in Christ at some point:

3) E -> F.

Combining (1) and (3), we get

4) E <-> F.

That is, being elect and putting one's faith in Christ at some point are logically equivalent. One puts one's faith in Christ if and only if one is elect.

Yet we've established that a) I'm one of the non-elect

No unbeliever can know this until his life is over. God may yet save the most hardened sinner, no matter how determined he is not to be saved. That is, the most hardened sinner may yet be among the elect, contrary to his current beliefs and desires.

Rhology said...

And if Pilate cannot accept God in any world, then what does “free will” even mean?

Well, I don't hold to libertarian freewill. (Neither do many naturalists, nor should they if they want to be consistent.) Hopefully bossmanham will be able to give you an answer on this, but it looks like he already did.



Rhology thinks they're going to hell regardless of their free choices.

No no no, not at all. It's BECAUSE of their choices. Those who reject Christ go to Hell BECAUSE they sinned and b/c they rejected Christ. Those who are elect, who go to Heaven, go there b/c though they sinned they chose to repent and put their faith in Christ. But to say "they chose to repent, etc" is not equivalent to saying "there was no other factor or agent involved in that choice".



At no point did I say “that theological jargon is automatically unreasonable and incoherent”, nor do I believe it. Why do you put words into people's mouths?

OK, so please explain your apparently disparaging comment about theology.



You've already said that the plan is not the plan; the plan is two plans

If I said that, I apologise. There is one PLAN, but more than one will. A mostly-secret/decretive will, a permissive will (consisting of that which He allows/permits). And then God expresses His purity in commands.



In the decretive plan, you agree that there are specific people who will go to hell regardless of the actions they take. I

Far better to say that they go to Hell BECAUSE of what actions they take.


Biblically speaking, nobody who is not elect can repent of his sins and put his faith in Jesus.
Wow, that sounds a lot like determinism.


It does, but it's not quite the same.



But you're simultaneously arguing that putting one's faith in Christ is not enough to save one.

It's enough FROM THE HUMAN SIDE. Neither of us would say it's enough, period - we'd both agree, for example, that Christ's atoning death on the Cross is needed as well. It's a necessary condition but not sufficient.



Now you're just openly contradicting yourself.

Sorry, it's hard to communicate this. On naturalism, nothing will be remembered, there is no good, there is no purpose, no plan, no goal, no telos, no design, no end, no nothing. There's thus no meaning.
On Christianity, every deed is important and will be either commended or punished. EVery single one. For the hellbound, their sins will be poured out on them, and their less-bad deeds will serve to mitigate somewhat their torment in Hell. For the heavenbound, their sins' punishment is poured out fully on Jesus Christ, and their less-bad/good deeds will serve to be the basis of rewards in Heaven. Hope that helps.

thechemistscorner said...

This is a simple problem. I am one of the non-elect, i.e. one of those that God knows will go to hell under his decretive plan. If I obey God's commandments freely and completely, will I still go to hell?

Sorry Paul, but what you setting up here is logically impossible. You cannot simultaneously obey God's commandments completely and reject Jesus as your savior.

The logical conclusion of your assumption is that since God knows what his ultimate plan is, he knows which humans will be punished for all eternity prior to their taking the free actions that will place them in hell. For the sake of argument, let's say that I'm one of those humans. If I obey God freely and completely, am I still going to hell?... Could you decide which one of you is right, and then let us non-Christians know?


Cheers,
The Chemist (formerly PChem)

Some have argued that this may be resolved with the ideas of Luis de Molina. William Lane Craig is probably the best known modern champion of this view. It is somewhat controversial. I am planning to spend some of my summer reading on this.

Paul C said...

Bossmanham:

But if you're following the will of God for your life, in that you've repented and trusted in Him for your salvation, then you would be one of the elect.

See my answer to Vox Veritatis, below.

I understand the confusion you may have about the difference between my understanding of election and Rho's, but as he says it's about the backstory, not the main story.

Well, I realise that you agree that you're both seeing sunlight; but unfortunately one of you thinks it's electromagnetic radiation while the other thinks it's fairy urine. If you think that means you believe the same thing, then you have very strange ideas about the nature of belief.

In my view, and I must stress that mine is different than Rho's here to avoid any unintentional straw men you may be building, Pilate CAN accept God, but he chooses not to. See?

I'm not building any strawmen, but I appreciate your clarity. The question remains: why does Pilate always choose not to accept God?

We have, and will probably continue to. It's an internal debate in Christianity.

I should probably stop using sarcasm, shouldn't I? Anyway, hopefully you can understand why it's difficult for me to find your arguments convincing, when after 2000 years there's still a lack of agreement on even this most basic point.

Emergentism doesn't seem to solve anything IMO. If the mind, the will, emerges from physical states which control it, how on earth would that solve the problem I just presented?

Since that's exactly the problem that emergentism proposes to solve, I can only imagine that you haven't understood the concept. I suggest starting with the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, their entry on emergentism is quite good.

Paul C said...

Vox Veritatis:

That is, being elect and putting one's faith in Christ at some point are logically equivalent. One puts one's faith in Christ if and only if one is elect.

That's my point. We've established that God knows who is elect and who is non-elect, and that both elect and non-elect have free will. Now let's run the experiment:

a. At point alpha God knows that person X is one of the non-elect.
b. At point alpha+n, person X exercises their free will and puts their faith in Christ.

Your response is that person X was never one of the non-elect, but the starting point of the experiment is that person X is one of those known to be non-elect by God.

So either the non-elect are unable to exercise free will in this most meaningful sense; or the exercise of their free will has no bearing on their status as non-elect; or God does not have perfect foreknowledge of who is elect and non-elect.

That is, the most hardened sinner may yet be among the elect, contrary to his current beliefs and desires.

So a hardened sinner could be among the elect, and I assume that by a "hardened sinner" you mean somebody who doesn't accept God. This appears to directly contradict your earlier statement, and is thus very confusing.

Paul C said...

Rhology:

Well, I don't hold to libertarian freewill.

Thanks; but I didn't ask what you don't believe, I asked what “free will” means to you given this example.

No no no, not at all. It's BECAUSE of their choices. Those who reject Christ go to Hell BECAUSE they sinned and b/c they rejected Christ. Those who are elect, who go to Heaven, go there b/c though they sinned they chose to repent and put their faith in Christ. But to say "they chose to repent, etc" is not equivalent to saying "there was no other factor or agent involved in that choice".

“Because” is a causal term; you go to hell because you sin. Your argument is that God knows that these people are going to hell before they sin.

OK, so please explain your apparently disparaging comment about theology.

I didn't make a disparaging comment about theology.

If I said that, I apologise. There is one PLAN, but more than one will. A mostly-secret/decretive will, a permissive will (consisting of that which He allows/permits). And then God expresses His purity in commands.

You specifically said that there were two plans – it's in black and white earlier in this comment thread. Bossmanham has also stated that there are two plans – although he used different terminology to you, they appear identical.

So okay: now you've changed your mind on something you previously considered critical, and we establish that you a) don't believe the same thing as bossmanham and b) believe there's only one plan.

We're now introduced to the concept of “wills”, an entirely new concept which you've never referred to previously. Unfortunately this doesn't get you out of the hole that you'd previously dug yourself, since it's equally problematic if we phrase my question as:

In the decretive will, you agree that there are specific people who will go to hell regardless of the actions they take. In the prescriptive will, you argue God commands everybody – including those specific people – to obey his commandments in order that they should avoid going to hell.

What I'm asking is: what practical reason is there for those specific people to obey God's commandments since they are going to hell regardless of whether they obey them or not?

It does, but it's not quite the same.

I should have remembered not to use sarcasm. What I was saying was, that is determinism; and just because you say that it isn't, doesn't mean that it isn't.

Paul C said...

Bonus Rhology:

Sorry, it's hard to communicate this. On naturalism, nothing will be remembered, there is no good, there is no purpose, no plan, no goal, no telos, no design, no end, no nothing. There's thus no meaning.

It's not hard to communicate that, it's just false.

Vox Veritatis said...

Paul C,

Your reply is an exercise in self-contradiction.

That's my point.

Thus, you accept the conclusion of my previous comment, namely that:

4) E <-> F.

That is, being elect and putting one's faith in Christ at some point are logically equivalent.


However, if E <-> F, then it follows that:

5) ~E <-> ~F.

That is, not being elect and not putting one's faith in Christ at some point are logically equivalent. Yet, you say that:

At point alpha+n, person X exercises their free will and puts their faith in Christ.

This statement is a contradiction with what you just asserted to be true. Since X, according to you, is non-elect, then what you are saying here is:

6) ~E & F,

which, by (5), is equivalent to

7) ~F & F,

which is a contradiction. Thus, by both accepting my conclusion from my previous post, and making this argument, you contradict yourself.

This appears to directly contradict your earlier statement, and is thus very confusing.

Given that you've just contradicted yourself, it is unclear how this criticism follows, and is thus very confusing.

Rhology said...

And if Pilate cannot accept God in any world, then what does “free will” even mean?

It means that agents can choose, but their free choice is compatible with God's eternal plan. They make a free choice but always make it in accord with what God has already determined they will do.
Yes, it's supposed to be mysterious. No, it's not what most people think is "free will".



“Because” is a causal term; you go to hell because you sin. Your argument is that God knows that these people are going to hell before they sin.

Right. It's both. God knew they would go to Hell. Yet the reason they go is b/c they sin.



I didn't make a disparaging comment about theology.

Whatever.



You specifically said that there were two plans

I'm not an expert nor do I have a ton of experience talking about this topic, so I may have poorly chosen my words earlier. Sorry.



now you've changed your mind on something you previously considered critical

I haven't changed my mind, I simply communicated poorly (although I note you haven't yet quoted me).



In the decretive will, you agree that there are specific people who will go to hell regardless of the actions they take

No! BECAUSE of the actions they take. The actions are decreed too.



In the prescriptive will, you argue God commands everybody – including those specific people – to obey his commandments in order that they should avoid going to hell.

No again. To obey His commandments b/c His commandments are right and good.



what practical reason is there for those specific people to obey God's commandments since they are going to hell regardless of whether they obey them or not?

You're asking about motivation, apparently. What's really funny to me is that I've used "reason" in this exact sense before and you're on record vociferously protesting that exact usage. Inconsistency is the sign of a failed argument.
The motivation that all people SHOULD have is to obey that which is objectively good and right. Nobody does, though; only some are forgiven.



It's not hard to communicate that, it's just false.

Go ahead and prove me wrong, then. Give me meaning that you don't just make up yourself (which is aka "blind faith fantasy").

Paul C said...

Vox Veritatis:

Thus, you accept the conclusion of my previous comment, namely that... not being elect and not putting one's faith in Christ at some point are logically equivalent.

Let's be clear about what I accept for the purposes of this discussion: that this is what you believe.

Now let me introduce Tim and Nick Eddings (TE and NE respectively). According to your belief, at the beginning of time God knows that TE is elect and NE is not elect – that is, he knows that TE will at some point put his faith in God and NE will at no point put his faith in God.

You also hold the belief that both TE and NE have free will, and can choose to put their faith or not put their faith in God at any point during their lifetimes. Given that they have free will, how can God already know which one will put their faith in God?

“Ah,” comes the reply, “they have free will but they will always make the choice that makes them elect/non-elect.” This response makes no sense:

a. Will they make the same choice because they are non-elect? But it's that choice that determines whether they're non-elect.
b. Will they become non-elect because they make that same choice? But God always knew, and so they always were, non-elect before they made that choice.

I have trouble understanding how, if somebody will always do the same thing no matter what the circumstances, this can be described as making a choice. “Choice” means that there must be the possibility of the alternative – but the world you describe leaves no alternatives for the non-elect.

In neither case does this response answer the question: what prudential reason would NE have for obeying God's commandments?

“Aha!” comes the reply, “NE doesn't know whether he is in fact non-elect, so he should put his faith in God regardless.” Yet once again this response makes no sense since, according to you, NE can never put his faith in God precisely because he's non-elect.

Paul C said...

Rhology:

Go ahead and prove me wrong, then. Give me meaning that you don't just make up yourself (which is aka "blind faith fantasy").

There's your problem: you trip over your own assumptions with every question you ask. I don't believe that meaning exists outside oneself; so from my perspective, asking for meaning that I didn't make up myself is absurd. Meaning that you make up yourself is just fine by me.

Now obviously you're dissatisfied with that answer because for you meaning can only exist outside yourself. Yet your dissatisfaction has no bearing on whether I feel my life has meaning – and the ultimate measure of meaning is whether we feel our lives have meaning.

You call my position “blind faith fantasy”. Can you explain why it's a) blind faith and b) fantasy?

Rhology said...

Rhology: Sorry, it's hard to communicate this. On naturalism, nothing will be remembered, there is no good, there is no purpose, no plan, no goal, no telos, no design, no end, no nothing. There's thus no meaning.
Paul C: It's not hard to communicate that, it's just false.
Rhology: Go ahead and prove me wrong, then. Give me meaning that you don't just make up yourself (which is aka "blind faith fantasy").
Paul C: I don't believe that meaning exists outside oneself; so from my perspective, asking for meaning that I didn't make up myself is absurd.


So, which is it? Is it false that there is no meaning, or is it true that there is no meaning?
Or are you saying that b/c you think it, therefore meaning exists?
Would it be correct to say that b/c I think it, therefore Jesus exists?


whether I feel my life has meaning

AKA blind faith. Religion.
It's just as I've known all along - you're a very, very religious man.



Can you explain why it's a) blind faith and b) fantasy?

You just did. You told me that meaning doesn't exist except in your mind. If I told you the Intelligent Designer only exists in my mind, but dang it, it exists! Would you accept that? Or would you call it a blind faith fantasy?

Paul C said...

Before I start here, let me repeat your original statement:

On naturalism, nothing will be remembered, there is no good, there is no purpose, no plan, no goal, no telos, no design, no end, no nothing. There's thus no meaning.

I assert there is no link between being remembered and having meaning; between being good and having meaning; between having a plan/goal/telos/design and having meaning. So this statement is false on the face of it, rather than on the question of whether my life has meaning.

Is it false that there is no meaning, or is it true that there is no meaning?

It's false that there is no meaning in the sense which I understand meaning, i.e. as something which you give to yourself.

Let's imagine that we discover that the purpose of human existence life is to wipe the butt of an insane monkey god. I wouldn't find that very meaningful, which tells me that a sense of meaning is not something that is granted externally, but something generated internally.

I agree that worshipping the Christian God (or whatever specifically gives your life meaning) is a much better deal than wiping the insane monkey god's butt, but the principle is the same. In both cases a sense of meaning would only be present if I found those activities meaningful.

Or are you saying that b/c you think it, therefore meaning exists?

How else would meaning exist?

Would it be correct to say that b/c I think it, therefore Jesus exists?

No. Jesus is an external character, not an internal state of mind.

AKA blind faith. Religion. It's just as I've known all along - you're a very, very religious man.

We must have different definitions of blind faith. I understand blind faith to be faith in something without possessing evidence for it. The evidence I need that my life has meaning is that I feel that it has meaning; so as far as I can tell there's no blind faith involved. I love my wife, and my evidence for this is that I feel that I love my wife. Does that mean that my love for my wife is a blind faith fantasy?

Finally, thank you for confirming that you think religion is equivalent to blind faith. I don't believe that, but I'll be sure to quote it back at you next time.

You just did. You told me that meaning doesn't exist except in your mind.

In the same way that love doesn't exist except in my mind. Is love a blind faith fantasy? How about sorrow? How about anger? How about satisfaction? How about hunger? How about pain? How about joy? These things only exist in my mind – or rather, through my mind – but none of these things are a blind faith fantasy.

If I told you the Intelligent Designer only exists in my mind, but dang it, it exists! Would you accept that? Or would you call it a blind faith fantasy?

I wouldn't call it a blind faith fantasy because I'm not that patronising. Your internal state of mind tells me nothing about the existence of external characters; it does however tell me about your internal state of mind.

Vox Veritatis said...

Paul C,

Let's be clear about what I accept for the purposes of this discussion: this is what you believe.

Okay, but if you don't accept that premise, then your argument in the previous comment is irrelevant. The argument in your previous post can either be self-contradictory, or irrelevant, but either way, it does nothing to refute a Biblical theology.

According to your belief, at the beginning of time God knows that TE is elect and NE is not elect – that is, he knows that TE will at some point put his faith in God and NE will at no point put his faith in God.

From the number of times that you posit theological propositions to which I do not hold, it is clear to me that you have a poor understanding of my theology. This is one such example. God's knowledge of who is elect and what the elect will do is coextensive. However, God's choice of certain individuals to salvation (the "electing" of the elect) is logically prior to his knowledge of their being elect. Moreover, his election is logically and temporally prior to his work in regeneration, which is a sufficient cause of belief in God. Election is logically prior to faith, not the other way around. Election is not "choosing on the basis of foreseen faith" - you need to be careful who you are interacting with, as my soteriology is different than bossmanham's.

You also hold the belief that both TE and NE have free will

How do you define "free will"? The libertarian version, or the compatibilist version?

and can choose to put their faith or not put their faith in God at any point during their lifetimes.

How do you define "can choose"? With respect to their faculties of agency, abstractly considered, or with respect to what they can or cannot bring themselves to do, as complete persons?

Given that they have free will, how can God already know which one will put their faith in God?

This question has a simple answer from a compatibilist point of view.

“Ah,” comes the reply, “they have free will but they will always make the choice that makes them elect/non-elect.”

Nope. God's choice, not man's, determines who is elect/non-elect.

I have trouble understanding how, if somebody will always do the same thing no matter what the circumstances, this can be described as making a choice

What do you mean by "no matter what the circumstances"? There are different possible worlds that God could have chosen to actualize, in which certain individuals who are reprobate in this world would have been elect, and vice versa. Are you saying that

8) (~E → □~E),

that is, that if a person is non-elect, that he is necessarily non-elect? This certainly isn't the Calvinist position, as election is a choice on God's part, not a fatalistic necessity. Of course, if this is the case, then there are other circumstances in which persons who are non-elect in this world would act differently - in worlds in which they are elect.

Vox Veritatis said...

“Choice” means that there must be the possibility of the alternative – but the world you describe leaves no alternatives for the non-elect.

Nope. There are many possible alternatives. There is nothing that restricts the set of things that any non-elect person, in the capacity of his agency, can choose to do. There are no external restrictions that prevent the non-elect from believing the Gospel. Rather, by his own predisposition against God, the non-elect "restricts himself" so to speak, from believing. Put another way, the non-elect has the ontological capability to believe, if he wants to - but he doesn't want to, and never will, because of his hatred for God (cf. Rom. 8:7).

In neither case does this response answer the question: what prudential reason would NE have for obeying God's commandments?

This is now a different topic of discussion, but the answer is simple: If God commands NE to do X, then it is morally obligatory for NE to do X. That is, it is right for NE to do X, and wrong for NE not to do X. Moral obligation is sufficient reason for doing something, including obeying God.

“Aha!” comes the reply, “NE doesn't know whether he is in fact non-elect, so he should put his faith in God regardless.”

Nope. Moral obligation has nothing to do with what one knows or believes respecting one's divine election to salvation. When God speaks, men are morally obligated to believe and obey, regardless of their elective status.

In summary, your arguments, inasmuch as they are non-contradictory, might carry force against other systems of belief, but not a system of theology that is consistent with Scripture.