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Miscellaneous meanderings and philosophical ramblings. The title from a spiral notebook I used to jot down my thoughts on religion and other matters some years ago. I like to write, think and express my views on various issues. Robust discussion is welcome.

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"Lan astaslem."
I will not submit. I will not surrender.
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Thursday, June 08, 2006

G-d vs Free will - Cage match! v.1

Lately, I've managed to get into several discussions or debates about the matter of God vs the free-will of man. Some present that the only possibility is either God or man's free-will must suffer deadly defeat as if they're opponents in a professional wrestling cage match. Colorful imagery aside, the argument is that God's omnipotence and/or omniscience fatally contradicts with man's free will. As such, the God of Christianity is a nonsense concept. I'll deal first with the logical argument and eventually, in another post, show that there is no support in the Bible for the view that man does not have free will. I'll also refer to the reader to several resources that present the matter in detail beyond my abilities.

One of the problems with making such arguments is the complete lack of experience of being as an entity that transcends our temporal existence. This leads to arguing for an absolute negation or impossibility, from a position of no experience whatsoever for what such an existence would be or how it would interface with this world. Along with this weak foundation, elements of philosophy and physics are ignored that may allow for foreknowledge and free-will to both exist, in tension, but without unavoidable or fatal contradiction.

The disciplines of philosophy and physics speak of block time, imaginary time and quantum indeterminacy, which may offer possible means and positive explanations by which a transcendent being can interface with a temporal world without destroying free-will for those within the flow of time.
Yet one argument offered is that if God knows, then we cannot act differently. But knowledge is not a cause and simply saying it's God's knowledge does not change that knowledge is dependent on the choices we make. If we make different choices His knowledge is different. This doesn't destroy omniscience as there is no time, for God, when he does not know, as he transcends the moment by moment flow of time that we experience our choices within.

Looking more deeply into God's nature, we see the experience of the mystics. The "stillness" they speak of is vibrant and living, rather than slothful, dead inactivity. Such a state would be equivalent to movement at infinite speed as noted by C.S. Lewis.

We may find a violence in some of the traditional imagery which tends to obscure the changelessness of God, the peace, which nearly all who approach Him have reported - the "still, small voice."...The stillness in which the mystics approach Him is intent and alert - at the opposite pole from sleep or reverie. They are becoming like Him. Silences in the physical world occur in empty places: but the ultimate Peace is silent through the very density of life. Saying is swallowed up in being. There is no movement because His action (which is Himself) is timeless. You might, if you wished, call it movement at an infinite speed, which is the same thing as rest, but reached by a different - perhaps a less misleading - way of approach. (Miracles, chap. 11 para. 18, p. 93)

This means we can change our minds but due to the infinite speed of God's activity and because God transcends time, we can never change our minds faster than God can acquire the knowledge.

Still, some will object and say if free-will exists, then God is not omnipotent. Their first problem is not understanding the concept of omnipotence. It means that God can do all things possible, that do not conflict with his nature. As such, allowing free-will but then denying it so that those who reject God, are made to accept him anyway, is not possible. Claiming that omnipotence means God cannot even allow free-will, requires saying that God is not allowed to choose inaction. That would actually be a limit placed on His omnipotence. This also overlooks another property of God, agent-causation or free will. Certainly, such an omnipotent being also has the power to decide not to act.

Before I provide further resources for the reader I would like to touch on an additional point that tends to come up in these discussion. It has been said, that God allowing free-will, which creates the possibility of moral evil, means that God is not good. This requires disallowing that free-will itself is not a good thing. But we can see from even materialists, who hold to determinism and free-will not existing, that there is value in acting as if it does. Doing so, allows for personal responsibility and accountability and therefore civilized society. If the mere illusion of free-will is so valuable, the actual thing must be magnitudes greater in value.

The logical argument is based on a weak foundation and ignores or distorts attributes of God in attempting to present this as a fatal contradiction. Some may revel in playing such games, but it may be more an indication of their desire to imagine men in tights, pretending to wrestle, than in an actual search for truth regarding our relationship to God.

The following article was helpful in my study:

Why didn't God stop the process before it started, if He knew of the massive amounts of suffering that would befall many of His creatures??

Another good resource:

Christian Philosophy Professors On-line


Filed under: Apologetics -- Christianity -- Religion

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