« A Stimulating Discussion | Main | Pithy »

November 15, 2005

Comments

Perhaps distinguishing between the fact of freedom and the acts of freedom, what is possible and what is actual, and ability and necessity is helpful. But certainly God is sovereign over what is possible, actual, what is a fact, and what is an act, and so on. Because of the infallibility of God's foreknowledge, the principle of sufficient reason (for every event there is a cause or reason), and God's sovereignty, it follows that all is determined. God, as the self-sufficing reason that explains Himself and all else, is ultimately sovereign over all things, including evil. In fact, God decreed from eternity even the sinful acts of man--"For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do what ever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done" (Acts, 4:27). And, in a sense, sense, the sinful acts of man please God--"Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; he has put Him to grief" (Isaiah 53:10). Perhaps God is pleased not with the sin directly, but the good to comes from the sin, and so in this sense, God is pleased by sin--indirectly. God as the most rational and good must, in light of this nature, always choose the best. Since God chose to create, God must have created. This is not to say that creation isn't free, for freedom is the ability to do as one chooses, not the ability to choose without causal influence. And it is God's nature that serves as the prior conditions that determine even God's choices. All this to say, God is sovereign over all things, including evil, and things could not have been different. This, for me, is the mystery--how this is the best world possible, not despite evil, but because of it.

I don’t think the problem of evil is so challenging to the Christian position. I mean, God used to help Christian armies win wars but he doesn’t do it anymore for some reason. It would be nice if George Bush raised his arms above his head and the battle against the insurgency went in our favor. But I guess, because that doesn’t seem to work, God is not interested in giving us a hand on this one. Or maybe it just shows it’s not a “just war.”

But I think the problem of pain is much more pressing. Like what was god thinking in these movies below?

http://www.m90.org/index.php?id=8630

http://www.firstcoastnews.com/news/local/news-article.aspx?storyid=28372


Henry,
What would you have God do about it (evil)? He would either need to force people to always do good (which makes us all into little puppets), or just wipe us all out. "Evil" (from God's perspective) encompasses more than war, murder, rape, etc. I guess you could ask why God created us at all, and I can't answer that.

Henry,
What would you have God do about it (evil)? He would either need to force people to always do good (which makes us all into little puppets), or just wipe us all out. "Evil" (from God's perspective) encompasses more than war, murder, rape, etc. I guess you could ask why God created us at all, and I can't answer that.

Tony,

Those would be Jewish armies, not Christian. Moses being a Jew and all....

I looked at the links you posted. Since the 1st one was in Spanish, I couldn't understand what they were saying, but I will guess it was that the child would not live long.

For Julianna, the girl with "no face", I don't argue that life will be difficult for her, but her parents appear to have some sort of Christian leaning (they mention God a number of times, asking for God's help, quote a decidedly Christian verse, etc) so it may be that they are taking a situation that is bad and are making an incredible Christian witness out of it.

But God most certainly knows that these lives are not the end for these children. While this is difficult for us to see now for the 60-90 years we deal with these issues, the eternal state of these children is the more important issue. I would suspect that God is saddened that his creation has been marred by sin the way that it has. But if you take the parents of Julianna as any indication, (at least for the public face they seem to put on; I'm not saying it is a walk in the park for them, either) the community is witnessing agape love like few other times.

-Robert

Paul,

Ya i cant figure out why God created us. Especially since the vast majority of us (possibly 85%) die before being cognizant.

Paul,

I want to say that I enjoy your posts, as they are consistently thoughtful and respectful. If this is a reflection of the work of Stand to Reason then I am all the more encouraged by the work being done at this place.

As for what I would have God do about evil, I'm not sure that it is impossible for God to ensure that free creatures will always choose good, as this is what I believe about heaven (I do not worry about sinning in heaven, but believe God secures my freedom and goodness in heaven). But this is beside the point for me. I would have God do nothing other than what He did, which is create a world containing evil, for I wholeheartedly believe that all is for a greater purpose and that this was the best choice because it was the choice God, the most rational being, made. In fact, I affirm that it was a choice He was determined to make by His nature. I do not believe God has libertarian freedom, nor do I believe man does. I am a theological determinist in the tradition of Jonathan Edwards, I am skeptical of the ultimate applicability of modal language from Leibniz, and have also been influenced by Agustine. So I would have God do nothing else, nor do I believe God could have. History is determined by God's decrees, and God's decrees are determined by His nature, but nothing is yet to be determined.

As for why God created the world, I suggest you read Jonathan Edwards' book, "The End for Which God Created the World." In it, Edwards argues that through the creation of the world God can mak public His qualities and thus display His glory, which Edwards concludes is the end for which the world was created.

This world is theocentric. And just to add a little something that I maintain, I believe that evil exists for the purpose of God's glory--"For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth" (Romans 9:17). It is better to display one's qualities than for them to lie dormant. Through evil God can display qualities in His nature that actually presuppose evil. What qualities are these? Mercy, forgiveness, compassion, patience, and I may even say courage. These virtues not only exist along with evil, but actually make no sense without evil. Thus for God to display Himself as a forgiving God, God must decree that there be sin to forgive, otherwise God's forgiving quality remains dormant.

Why is there evil? It is for the glory of God. This is what I maintain.

Robert,

Ya, I guess where you see a witness to God's love, i see a witness to God's indifference.

Mostly because if Robert deformed his child's face to teach her (or those around her) a lesson, we would put Robert in jail and call him insane.

Tony,

I did not say it was to teach the parents, or the child, a lesson. That is akin to the disciple's question to Jesus with the blind man: "Did this man sin, or his parents?"

There is an effect of sin on this world, not just for the human soul, but on all of creation. It is one of the things that seems to missed a lot when people quote John 3:16. And the reason for Christ's coming, while primarily for the needs of humanity, was for the totality of creation as well.

Although I have never dialogued with you before, I have seen many of your posts. I think you see God's indifference because you want to. I see God's love partially because I want to, too, but that is modified by scriptures which tell me why that love is right and good.

While the pain of these children is certainly greater than anything I have ever known (I'm guessing because the articles and movies mention nothing about them being in pain, although I may have missed that), it still comes down to degrees in the abstract issue of why "pain" in the first place? I think that the bible shows clearly that pain was not part of the original plan and it will not be the plan following Christ's return. Pain, in the sense you are suggesting, exists because of disobedience.

I do not deny the pain that people endure now, be it physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. But to see indifference in this situation just because God doesn't handle a situation the way that you want him to says more about you than it does about God.

-Robert

Tony,

It is often argued that if man did the things God did, we would call it evil and hold them responsible for the evils. Why hold God to a different standard?

I agree that if a man deformed a child’s face to teach her and those around her a lesson, that man would be morally blameworthy. But applying the same judgment to God fails for multiple reasons.

First, the Christian God is sovereign over all things, all things depend on Him and all things exist by His sustaining power. God is infinite in power, wisdom, and goodness, and thus infinitely more qualified to bring good out of evil than a mere mortal. Men exist in time and space, and in a short time and short space at that. We are short-sighted and ignorant, incapable of making a wise judgment on the effects and meaning an event will have throughout history, to all peoples, at all times and places. We are simply incapable of bringing good out of evil, for we do not wield that sort of power. God, on the other hand, can do all and knows all, and thus His decreeing evil for the greater good does not collapse under the incompetence that men’s efforts collapse under.

Given one’s knowledge of what is likely to result from an event, one is obligated to make one’s best choice as to what will bring about the greatest good. Given man’s knowledge of the horror of deforming a child’s face, and man’s ignorance as to what good will probably and actually ensue, man is unjustified in deforming someone’s face in hopes that good will come. Given God’s knowledge, God is certain of all and knows all, including the horror of the deformity and the goods that will certainly come from it. God, therefore, is in a position to judge the wisdom of the situation than no man is in. In fact, if a greater good did come from a girl’s deformed face, and God knew it, and didn’t act, God would be sinning, which makes no sense at all. Since God cannot be ignorant, incompetent, or morally blameworthy, if a greater good would come from a child having a deformed face (a greater good in the most universal and cosmic sense), God would be obligated to ensure that that girl had a deformed face.

And how are we to say that this isn’t precisely how it all works? Who are we to say that there exists evil that has no redeeming purpose (Job 38)? What reason is there to reject the idea that a greater good justifies every evil, and that in fact there is no pointless suffering? Could it be that evil is permitted so God can display all of His qualities, including mercy, compassion, and loyalty in times of suffering? Why does evil exist? The Bible says it is for God’s glory. This is what I maintain.

This article is very well-written and makes a lot of sense. There has to be a source for our standard of morality or the whole concept of morality crumbles!

Robert,

“…there is an effect of sin on this world, not just for the human soul, but on all of creation.”

Oh. So the sin of Adam and Eve cast a plague upon creation which corrupted the birthing process right? Ya possibly. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. You see, if this is true, then that would mean that my fathers DNA is better than mine. And that his father’s is better than his. And that, on the average, the DNA should get progressively better for every generation we go back to. It would be nice, say if we had a sample from 2000 years ago. Because then we could clone that guy, and when he popped out, he should live longer, be less prone to illness, and be smarter too right?

“…although I have never dialogued with you before, I have seen many of your posts. I think you see God's indifference because you want to.”

No. I want to see a loving God who rewards me with paradise at my death. I used to think he was up there. But since my turn to the dark side of the force, I’m pretty sure he’s not. This has created great anxiety in my life and several bouts of depression. I don’t recommend it to anyone.

“…Pain, in the sense you are suggesting, exists because of disobedience.”

Really? What law did the chick with no face disobey and when?

Henry,

That’s a pretty good response to the problem of evil/pain. Note however, that this is a controversial topic amongst Christians and is quite a different approach than the “corrupted world” approach tried by Robert above. It’s fairly parallel to William Craig’s response as delivered in his debate with atheist Arif Ahmed. I’ll reprint it here for the bloggers among us:

========================================
“You see the premise that pointless suffering exists, or gratuitous evil exists, is extremely controversial. We are simply not in a good position to make these kinds of inductive probability judgments. As William Alston, the prominent philosopher at the University of Syracuse point out, “…there are cognitive limitations on us which make it impossible in principle for us to say that of some evil that enters our life, or that we observe, that God has no morally sufficient reason for permitting this.” Take just one example: our limitations in time and space. God sees the end of history from the beginning and achieves his purposes through the actions of human free creatures. And it may well be the case that God has to put up with a multitude of natural and moral evils along the way in order to arrive at his ultimate purposes. And therefore we are simply incapable, limited as we are in our limited framework, of saying with any kind of confidence, that God does not have a morally sufficient reason for permitting this or that evil. Alston concludes that it is in principle impossible for us to be justified in supposing that God does not have sufficient reasons for permitting evil.

But moreover, the premise that he assumes that if God exists, pointless suffering does not exist is also controversial. Maybe, only in a world containing pointless suffering, would the maximum number of people come to freely know God and in his salvation, find eternal life. You see the reason why we tend to think that God would prevent pointless suffering is because we tend to think that if God exists his purpose for us in life is to be happy in this life. But on the Christian view, that is simply false. We are not God’s pets. And the purpose of life is not happiness in this life. Rather, it is to find the knowledge of God which will ultimately lead to human fulfillment and eternal life. And it may well be the case that many evils in the world, like the first world war, are ultimately gratuitous with respect to producing human happiness in this life. But that doesn’t prove that they are gratuitous with respect to producing God’s overall goal of bringing the maximum number of people freely into a love relationship with himself and ultimately into eternal life.

The atheist would have to show that there is a world that is feasible for God in which less suffering exists but a greater amount of people come to know him and find eternal life than the actual world, and that is shear speculation.”
========================================

You see, once you “maintain,” as you say, that evil is for God’s glory, then the issue is mute. God can do no wrong by definition. So if shit happens in the universe, it’s not really shit. It only looks like it is. So if God made a chick with no face, it’s not because he’s mean or indifferent. It’s because her presence in the world will ultimately lure more people into heaven.

Couple things though. One: Most people die before coming out of their mom’s tummy. It’s not clear if these kids go straight to heaven or hell. But in any case, god’s intent on bothering to create them and instantiate their souls is quite puzzling. As they don’t seem to be viable chess board pieces in the game. But that’s just my analysis based on my limited “cognitive abilities.”

Two: Christian philosopher David Hunt’s simulacrum retort to Craig’s Middle Knowledge argument is, I think, very impressive. And it seems to me that Hunt has indeed found a “world that is feasible for God in which less suffering exists but a greater [or equal] amount of people come to know him.”

You can read it here: http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/middle1.html

-Henry: "But certainly God is sovereign over what is possible, actual, what is a fact, and what is an act, and so on."

In creating beings with free will, god has chosen to not exercise sovereignty over humans' actual actions (in the sense of micromanaging the molecules of the body and the thoughts of man)- so god is not sovereign over all that is actual.

-Henry: "Because of the infallibility of God's foreknowledge, the principle of sufficient reason..., and God's sovereignty, it follows that all is determined.

Your understanding of your "principle of sufficient reason" is too broad. Material things follow this principle because they have no will. But the human mind (I didnt say "brain") is autonomous (within the confines god defined for it).

Besides, if people's actions were determined (in the sense you were using), we wouldn't be culpable for our sins- and god says we are blameworthy.

Aquilis,

Quite the contrary, if the principle of sufficient reason doesn't apply to our will, then it what sense is our will ours? There must be something in us that caused us to choose, or else it is not our choice. Your view is actually the view that destroys human responsibility, for you say that our choices are not caused. Then how are they ours? If our choices have no causes, no sufficient conditions that guarantee our choices, then in what sense are they our choices? If nothing in us caused them, what did? To say that our choices aren't determined is to say that they have no cause, which is absurd, and the same thing the atheist may say about the universe--that it came into being with no cause. This simply is not true. Everything that begins to exist has a cause, whether it is material or not.

Now, the question is not if our choices have a cause (all contingent things are caused), the question is what causes them. Perhaps some would like to say, "Well, we choose what we choose. Our choices are indeed caused, but they are caused by other choices." But this, of course, won't work. What then caused that choice? Either there will be an infinite regression of choice causing choice, or there is some first choice that is itself caused by something that is not a choice. Because an infinite regression is absurd, and never explains our choices but only delays explanation indefinitely, there must be some point at which our choices were caused by something other than our choices. Jonathan Edwards believes that what determines our choices is the strongest motive in us.

But nothing has been said of God. Aren't God's choices determined and caused? Of course they are. God's choices are determined by His nature. God cannot help but do good, and thus is determined to do good by His nature. I believe God cannot help but to always choose the best option if given multiple options, as I believe God is most rational and good. Thus, God cannot help but choose the best, and therefore is bound and determined to always choose the best. Is God not to be praised, Aquilius, for His good on the grounds that He had no choice in the libertarian sense? Though God is necessarily good, and cannot help but be good, he is still morally praiseworthy! God cannot choose against His nature, and thus His nature has causal influence on His choices, and therefore God's choices are determined. This seems manifestly clear to me, though I do not mean ot imply that if it isn't to another it is because the other is impaired.

Furthermore, Biblically it is plausible to maintain that God is sovereign over human freedom and choices. Consider Acts 2:22-23: "Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know--Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death."

What is remarkable about this passage is that in the same passage Peter affirms God's sovereignty over the events of the crucifixion while also affirming man's responsibility. So I think you are simply mistaken in your view that if people's actions were determined those people would therefore not be free.

Consider a similar passage in Acts 4:27-28: "For trul against Your holdy Servant, Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done."

This is an extraordinary passage because it affirms God's sovereignty even over who would be involved in the crucifixion, and affirms that they were gathered together to do whatever God wanted. Yet were not these men resonsible for their acts?

I admit this is mysterious, but it is no more mysterious than the doctrine that something should arise without a cause, which is utter folly, not mystery. It is for these reasons that I reject the notion that determinism is incompatible with human freedom, at least theological determinism.

Tony,

I appreciate your grace and open-mindedness on this issue. That you can say that my response (which, as you noted, is similar to Bill Craig's) is a good response shows me that you are willing to be fair in this discussion, and I wish to return the favor.

I think the problem of evil is troubling. How evil fits in God's plan it to me a mystery.

However, I would not be willing to even say that if a world is found that has more people in heaven and less in hell then we have succeeded in showing God to be blameworthy. I do not maintain that the ultimate purpose of reality is to get as many people into heaven as possible. I maintain that it is to display God's glory to the maximum degree. Perhaps you find this very offensive. If so, I will admit that at times I do to. But if it is right to show more respect to greater beings than lesser beings, and God is the greatest being, then it is right that all should show the most respect to God (thus the folly of thinking God arrogant for commanding us to worship Him). I believe that what one would have to show is that there is a world that displays God's glory to a greater extent to show that God is blameworthy, blameworthy namely of not giving the greatest being the greatest respect, which is Himself.

As for the problem of evil, I think the persuasiveness of the problem in either direction really depends on where one starts from. If one believes in God, then one believes all evil is necessary (saying that pointless evil may exist so people can freely come to know God is to then give evil a point--getting people to heaven. I think Bill is assigning a point to his pointless evil, and thus not speaking correctly). If one believes some evil is piontless, then of course one will not believe in God. In fact, if there is any good that is pointless, this too would refute God's existence. And since I find myself believing in God, I simply do not think the problem of evil is that big of a problem at all, for me at least. Since God exists, evil has a purpose. Period. That's how I think at least. And I believe that in the cumulative case for God, there is more evidence for His existence than there is against it.

Anyone that says there is no evidence for God's existence is a fool, and anyone who says there is no evidence against His existence is equally deceived in my view. What the question should be is given all of the evidence, is God's existence probable. I think it is.

Henry,

Ya I think it is quite probable that a creator of the universe exists. I also think it is exceptionally more probable that he didn’t write the bible.

“…i do not maintain that the ultimate purpose of reality is to get as many people into heaven as possible. I maintain that it is to display God's glory to the maximum degree. Perhaps you find this very offensive. If so, I will admit that at times I do to.”

Woa dude that’s harsh. But that’s what it comes down to. You have to accept that God engages in behavior that does not always jive with our readily thumbable ethical palette. I prefer Craig’s response. It does indeed put God in a sweeter light and makes him seen more just. But whateva... Unlike some atheists, I have no problem worshiping an all powerful God (even if he’s an A hole) if it means I can live in Disneyland 24-7 after my death.

Problem is, I don’t think he’s up there anyway…

Tony,

I suppose you're right in that there are things God does that are inconsistent with my intuitions at time. But since when is that an argument against God? And I don't think you were saying it was.

As for the problem of evil, however, I think the atheistic problem of evil is much worse. I'll quote Sartre: "The existentialist...finds it extremely embarrassing that God does not exist, for there disappears with Him all possibility of finding values in an intelligible heaven...It is nowhere writted that "the good" exists, that one must be honest or must not lie, since we are now upon the place where there are only men." In another place he says "If I regard a certain course of action as good, it is only I who choose to say that it is good and not bad." I suppose the atheist may, as Sartre did, deny the objective status of morality. But this seems absurd to me. It is just as obvious to me that murder is objectively wrong as it is that I am typing at this moment. If the atheist is to maintain that deforming a child's face is a real evil, the atheist must explain how this is possible given the fact that humans were created for no objective moral purpose (neither to live or die, to love or hate, to tolerate or murder), all human learning, fighting, thinking, and loving ends at the grave where none of it is of any worth and from the grave on it will never be of any worth to that person, and no mind exists to ground the moral commands we all believe in (and I do believe we all believe in them). In my opinion (and Sartre and Nietzsche), if God doesn't exist objective meaning in life doesn't exist, which includes morality. I find this absolutely absurd, and thus believe in God.

Absolutely i agree with them. Yup. No meaning to life, nothing happens when you die. This life is for nothing. Someday soon the world will blow up and that will be the end of it. These are indeed the conlcusions that few in the secular community are willing to live with.

It's sad alright. And I dont recommend it to anyone. But the truth never promised to make us happy. In my experience, it usually delivers quite the opposite.

-Henry: "Your view is actually the view that destroys human responsibility, for you say that our choices are not caused. Then
how are they ours?"

How the uncaused choices we make are ours is that they belong to the individual spirit that made the choice. And culpability
presupposes autonomy (which is why we call some events "accidents").

-Henry: "If nothing in us caused them, what did? To say that our choices aren't determined is to say that they have no cause, which is absurd..."

Part of what makes us moral creatures is our god-given ability to make choices- we are the cause of our actions, while
nothing causes us to choose; "Influence strongly," perhaps, but all the choices we make are ours (barring a certain judgement of god in which autonomy is taken away for particular moments).

-Henry: "But nothing has been said of God. Aren't God's choices determined and caused? Of course they are. God's choices are
determined by His nature."

I think you misunderstand the meaning of the word "nature." The term is used to describe the properties and inclinations of a
thing apart from the influence of everything else. Part of the nature of god (and humans, for that matter) is the ability to
choose. God's nature doesn't cause him to choose- in the sense you are thinking- because the ability to choose is part of what is meant by the term "nature."

-Henry: "God cannot help but do good, and thus is determined to do good by His nature."

If god cannot help but to do good because he does not possess the inherent capacity to choose actions that are evil, then we
certainly cannot say that he is good, for he would be as a robot- and robots are not moral things.

If, however, god cannot help but to do good because he has all knowledge, and chooses to do good in spite of his inherent
capacity, then we can say that god is culpable for his enduring goodness.

-Henry: "I believe God cannot help but to always choose the best option if given multiple options, as I believe God is most
rational and good. Thus, God cannot help but choose the best, and therefore is bound and determined to always choose the
best."

I believe god *wants* to choose the best option, given multiple options, as I believe god is most rational and good; therefore, he chooses the best option in spite of his capacity to choose otherwise.

-Henry: "Is God not to be praised, Aquilius, for His good on the grounds that He had no choice in the libertarian sense?"

It's "Agilius."

God is *not* to be praised if he does not possess the capacity to choose actions that are evil- otherwise he would be a robot, and robots are not moral things.

-Henry: "Furthermore, Biblically it is plausible to maintain that God is sovereign over human freedom and choices. Consider
Acts 2:22-23..."

All this says is that god had foreknowledge of future events, and god had a determined purpose for delivering Jesus [to be
crucified]. God knew who was going to be on earth at a certain time and chose to send his son knowing what would happen to
him; It *doesn't* say (as was the case with Ramses- which was a judgement) that god caused people to do things.

-Henry: "Consider a similar passage in Acts 4:27-28..."

Again, foreknowledge allows all sorts of things to be done in one's favor. God didn't need to control the bodies and thoughts
of the people to accomplish his purposes.

-Henry: "I admit this is mysterious, but it is no more mysterious than the doctrine that something should arise without a
cause, which is utter folly, not mystery."

When talking about material things, it is folly; But, when talking about the capacity for autonomy which is inherent in our nature, it is neither folly, nor mystery.

Then we simply disagree. You say, "Part of what makes us moral creatures is our god-given ability to make choices- we are the cause of our actions, while
nothing causes us to choose..." It seems a first principle of rational thought to suppose that all things that begin to exist have a cause, and exempting material things from that for the sake of this discussion seems to me completely ad hoc.

I still maintain that it is folly to believe that an immaterial thing can just pop into being with no cause whatsoever. "...nothing ever comes to pass without a cause. What is self-existent must be from eternity, and must be unchangeable: but as to all things that begin to be, they are not self-existent, and therefore must have some foundation of their existence without themselves...what is not necessary in itself, must have a cause."

I suppose along with God as the Uncaused Cause, you believe in many other uncaused causes. I suppose, then, that you do not believe that everything depends on God for it's existence, for you say that our choices have no causes, and I suppose this means they explain themselves, or need no explanation. But no matter which, I suppose God is not needed to account for one's choices, so there appear to be many many things God is not needed to explain. And yet, "All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made" (John 1:3).

You say that God has the inherent capacity to do evil. I simply disagree. To say God has a capacity to do good that He chooses not to actualize is to say God can do good, but simply won't. What I am saying is much stronger--God cannot choose evil.

I wonder if you believe angels need an explanation, as you've said that material things need a cause, and angels aren't material (maybe you believe they are, but I certainly don't). I don't think you've said that only material things need a cause, but is that your belief?

Just to clarify, the last sentence in the first paragraph ought to read, "It seems a first principle of rational thought to suppose that all things that begin to exist have a cause, and exempting immaterial things from that for the sake of this discussion seems to me completely ad hoc."

Aguilius,

Furthermore, how is it even meaningful to speak of God doing evil? If doing evil is falling short of a moral standard, is it possible for God to fall short of a moral standard that stands over Him in judgment of Him? No, it is not even possible. Why? Because God, by definition, is the greatest being possible, meaning it is not even logically possible for there to exist a being higher than God.

Excuse me for being late and butting in, but has anyone found any Scriptural basis for "...man performs the acts of freedom," and "...free will creatures make evil actual"? Please, no begging the question. For example, Exodus 4:11 demonstrates God's sovereignty irrespective of its context. Until such demonstation is made from Scripture that man's thoughts and actions are free from God's control, any attempt to make man first cause of evil is a non-starter. It is not axiomatic that man has a "free will."

-Henry: "You say, "Part of what makes us moral creatures is our god-given ability to make choices- we are the cause of our actions, while nothing causes us to choose..." It seems a first principle of rational thought to suppose that all things that begin to exist have a cause, and exempting immaterial things from that for the sake of this discussion seems to me completely ad hoc."

Our capacity for autonomy (inherently part of the nature of souls) began to exist. And it seems a first principle of rational thought that all culpable things have autonomous volition.

-Henry: "I still maintain that it is folly to believe that an immaterial thing can just pop into being with no cause whatsoever."

I never said that an immaterial thing can pop into being without a cause. I said that our decisions are not subject to the laws of cause and effect- as if because god set the world in a particular motion upon creating it, I must, of necessity, be typing this response to you.

-Henry: "...nothing ever comes to pass without a cause. What is self-existent must be from eternity, and must be unchangeable: but as to all things that begin to be, they are not self-existent, and therefore must have some foundation of their existence without themselves...what is not necessary in itself, must have a cause."

Right: Our souls (along with our bodies) began to exist. Part of the nature of souls is autonomy. Our autonomous souls, from the day we were created, possessed the capacity to make decisions of our own volition- meaning nothing ever *makes* us choose the things we choose (save in the case of the aforementioned judgement of god on some people).

-Henry: "I suppose, then, that you do not believe that everything depends on God for it's existence, for you say that our choices have no causes, and I suppose this means they explain themselves, or need no explanation."

You're equivocating on two separate issues: A thing's existence, and a thing's actions.

The fact that something exists does not mean it must do actions XYZ- as if to say that, upon creation, all things will move 12 feet one way, 7 inches another way, etc.

And in the case of souls, we are not prescribed upon creation to do actions ABC. This is why humans can be said to be blameworthy- i.e. the originator of that which one is accused.

-Henry: "But no matter which, I suppose God is not needed to account for one's choices, so there appear to be many many things God is not needed to explain. And yet, "All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made" (John 1:3)."

Again, we're not talking about existence but, rather, the properties of an existing thing.

-Henry: "You say that God has the inherent capacity to do evil. I simply disagree. To say God has a capacity to do good that He chooses not to actualize is to say God can do good, but simply won't. What I am saying is much stronger--God cannot choose evil."

And I'm saying god *won't* choose evil, despite the fact that he can.

-Henry: "I wonder if you believe angels need an explanation, as you've said that material things need a cause, and angels aren't material (maybe you believe they are, but I certainly don't). I don't think you've said that only material things need a cause, but is that your belief?"

I don't believe angels are material (though, I believe they can take on physical properties for the purpose of manifesting themselves). And I didn't say that the existence of only material things need a cause- though, I did say that (or, at least alluded to my belief [made more clear in this current post] that) human choices are not caused.

-Henry: "Furthermore, how is it even meaningful to speak of God doing evil? If doing evil is falling short of a moral standard, is it possible for God to fall short of a moral standard that stands over Him in judgment of Him? No, it is not even possible. Why? Because God, by definition, is the greatest being possible, meaning it is not even logically possible for there to exist a being higher than God."

What you're saying is: "It is not possible for god to fall short of a moral standard because he is great." But, "great" and "good" are two different categories, so one cannot measure the other.

Gordon,

That depends on how you define "free will."

I define it as the ability to influence the universe (in any capacity). This definition is characteristic of a worldview in which humans are dualistic (which I hold to).

Practially speaking- as it relates to humanity-, it is the ability of one's spirit to influence one's body.

I use this definition because it is the predominant understanding of the term- as is evidenced by the Webster's entry:

--"1 : voluntary choice or decision
2 : freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention"--

As to the Biblical evidence of humanity's free will, I refer you to any passage in which any human is blamed for something- but especially those in which god blames humans for something.

Bleh.

My corrected definition of free will is: "the ability to autonomously influence the universe (in any capacity)."

Agilius,

On your view, there exists many things that are uncaused. You say that I equivocate on a thing and its actions. Hardly. But even if I do, it doesn’t matter because if choices are real, then they too exist. So my question is what caused them to exist? You say they are uncaused. Does this mean nothing caused them to exist? So they have no explanation?

Perhaps you’d like to say “The free moral agent caused the choice.” Well, what in the free moral agent caused the choice, because in a sense, this is precisely what I believe—the free moral agent’s strongest motive causes his choices? In light of what does a creature choose one course of action over another? His will? In light of what does he will one course of action over another? But this is precisely where it seems you say, “Oh, for no reason at all. It just sort of happens, uncaused and all. These choices, they just happen.”

You quote me, where I say that you believe God isn’t needed to account for choices. You then say I equivocate on existence and the properties of the existing thing. Again, a human exists, and thus needs an explanation, and her choices exist, and thus need an explanation. My question is simple and singular—what is the cause of our choices? They have no cause? Then God is not needed to account for them, and isn’t the creator of all things created. In fact, there are quite a few things (trillions actually) that exist completely independent of God—human choices. How exactly do they come into being? Are they caused? Then, by the nature of causality, there appears to be necessity and determinism involved. Are they uncaused? Then they exist independent of God? So God isn’t the only independent being?


-Henry: "You say that I equivocate on a thing and its actions. Hardly. But even if I do, it doesn’t matter because if choices are real, then they too exist."

Things that exist do not get recreated at every moment in time- meaning there is a point in time at which something is created, and from then on it continues existing. Anything that a created thing does is defined, and directly affected by, the properties it possesses at the point of creation; It is *not* directly affected by the will of god (usually).

Now, if one of the properties of a created thing is autonomy, then not only does god not directly affect the actions of it (it being a created thing), but it is the source of it's own actions. And choices aren't created things- they are actions of autonomy.

-Henry: "You quote me, where I say that you believe God isn’t needed to account for choices. You then say I equivocate on existence and the properties of the existing thing. Again, a human exists, and thus needs an explanation, and her choices exist, and thus need an explanation."

Again, you equivocate. A human's *existence* needs an explanation outside of himself. A human's *actions* are based on the autonomy with which he is created- meaning a human is the source of his own actions.

-Henry: "My question is simple and singular—what is the cause of our choices? They have no cause? Then God is not needed to account for them, and isn’t the creator of all things created."

Just to reiterate, choices aren't created things- they are actions of autonomy. Now, autonomy is a created thing, but after creation, autonomous things act of their own volition.

-Henry: "In fact, there are quite a few things (trillions actually) that exist completely independent of God—human choices."

Yup. Though, such a thing would not be possible without god creating autonomous beings.

-Henry: "Then they exist independent of God? So God isn’t the only independent being?"

Souls don't owe their *existence* to themselves- they owe their *actions* to themselves.

You seem to define autonomy to mean the ability to have a will that is influenced by nothing causally. So, to say a being has the property of autonomy is to say the being has a will which is connected to nothing causally (including God).

If, then, the will is caused by nothing, I don't understand in what way it depends on the free moral agent. You've said earlier that the will belongs to the individual free moral agent. But how? He has no say in this will, nothing in him (motive, habits, character) to determine the will. It is uncaused, it just sort of happens I suppose. How is he responsible for what he didn't cause is my question I suppose.

Perhaps the response is, "He is responsible because part of what it means to be a moral agent is to have autonomy." This really makes no sense to me. I don't even know that I understand what this even means. Because when I translate it in my mind, it looks like this: "Part of what it means to be a moral agent is to be responsible for a will which one didn't cause." How is a man any more responsible for his will than the shape of the earth, both of which he didn't cause? How is this uncaused will dependent on the free moral agent? "Having an uncaused will is a property of the free moral agent." But that's precisely my question--how? Why is this uncaused will attributed to one person as opposed to another? Apparently, neither person caused the will, yet it belongs to one person.

To be uncaused is to be independent of all else, deriving one's existence from nothing else. This is what you say of our choices, that they are uncaused. Are they then not contingent? For if it is part of their nature to exist, then they must have existed from eternity--like God. Yet if they are contingent, then they depend on something for their existence. What explains the existence of our choices? Do they explain themselves (like God), or are they explained by something else?

-Henry: "You seem to define autonomy to mean the ability to have a will that is influenced by nothing causally. So, to say a being has the property of autonomy is to say the being has a will which is connected to nothing causally (including God)."

Yes. This represents my view correctly, so far.

-Henry: "If, then, the will is caused by nothing, I don't understand in what way it depends on the free moral agent. You've said earlier that the will belongs to the individual free moral agent. But how? He has no say in this will, nothing in him (motive, habits, character) to determine the will. It is uncaused, it just sort of happens I suppose. How is he responsible for what he didn't cause is my question I suppose."

Ok, think of it this way: A created triangle has 3 sides. The three sides aren't *caused* by the triangle; rather, three-sidedness is a *property* of triangles. A created triangle maintains it's three-sidedness until altered by those things which it's properties permit.

Now, a created soul has free will (or, in other words "... is a free moral agent"). The free will isn't *caused* by the soul; rather, free will is a *property* of souls. A created soul maintains it's free will until altered by those things which it's properties permit (which could only be god).

One might say: "But all you've said is a three sided thing has three sides." And I say that you've pretty much nailed the analogy. Souls have free will in the same sense that a triangle has three sides- but there's more to a soul than free will, so I can't say that a soul *is* free will.

-Henry: "To be uncaused is to be independent of all else, deriving one's existence from nothing else. This is what you say of our choices, that they are uncaused."

Again, choices aren't created things; They are the actions of autonomy. The source of this action is not god or anything else in the universe, but, rather, the autonomous soul- because god has created souls to be autonomous (i.e. to possess the ability to be the source of one's own actions).

The comments to this entry are closed.