This is a summary post, to help those just entering the conversation
Obviously it's going to be biased toward my understanding of things. But I'll try be fair to the other ideas presented.
THE ORIGINAL POST
- Dan's original post was proposing that everything (specifically including our various human natures and choices, sin, evil, etc) is ultimately designed to express God in a complete and full way.
- He argues this from a deterministic framework, where ALL events (including events within our souls) have a cause (or combination of causes), ultimately leading back to God. In this view, there are no events anywhere (specifically including events within any human or divine soul) which spontaneously arise without a basis (i.e. with a random component) - EVERYTHING has a basis. There is no such thing as any hint of randomness (although we can have incalculable complexity, from our perspective). The only thing without basis is God's own existence and character, from which everything else springs.
- Since God is the ultimate cause of all things, and foresaw the ultimate full end 'outcome' of all things (influenced by every other preceding event, including the 'negative' events in creation), this full end 'outcome' can ultimately be called a the ultimate active choice on God's part, which must therefore be the fullest ultimate reflection of Him.
- Dan also asks if Universalism (or any other aspect of this ultimate end 'outcome') can be reliably predicted, without accepting determinism.
- Initially people's comments were rather vague (I felt). I make some very broad statements early on to demonstrate the need to discuss specifics.
For example, its fairly difficult to argue against the idea that God HAS deliberately created / allowed this world with evil in it, and in some sense it MUST be the best possible expression of His Goodness (if there were one better, but God did not choose it, would that make God ultimately 'evil'?). But we CAN argue about what constraints God may have placed on the range of 'possible' expressions, and thus on the maximal possible expression of His goodness (i.e. God can only choose a world that preserves some degree of free-will, or God can't intervene with creation at all after the creation event, etc).
- Also, since God is the fundamental instigator of all events (through the act of creation, including the creation of our souls, and any subsequent interventions within creation), we must concede that God is knowingly the ultimate deterministic cause of all things. What we can argue about is whether He creates and supports / allows some other self-generating (but foreseen) influences to participate in this determinism.
FOREKNOWLEDGE AND DETERMINISM
- We discussed whether foreknowledge (specifically of the outcome of Universalism) requires determinism. Jason introduces his argument for Boethian omniscience / omnipresence / omnipotence (where God actively self-exists and self-generates apart from time, and also performs the self-abdicating task of eternally generating the space-time entity we call 'nature' or 'creation'). In this view, God is intimately connected with and supportive and knowledgeable of all points and events of this non-God 'space-time' at once - this includes anything that created agents with self-generating 'free will' cause within this nature of space-time.
- Paidion specifies that libertarian Free Will doesn't exclude the possibility that everyone (eventually, through eternally) succumbs to the love of an all-powerful God. God can thus foresee universalism even if one maintains libertarian Free Will.
- Dan and Chris both challenge isolated 'foreknowledge' as a satisfactory escape from determinism. Dan argues that truly 'foreseeing' something requires it to be somehow fixed and unchangeable, as much a part of the original creation as the processes leading up to / allowing it. Chris argues that God is intimately involved not only in the events themselves, but in their logical and/or temporal priority. He uses the example of prophecy to demonstrate that God's own 'foreknowledge' becomes an integral and causative component of what was foreseen, so that it cannot be simple / abstract / isolated foreknowledge apart from determinism.
- Chris then introduces an idea of determinism (in a temporal sense) while maintaining a non-God influence into this determinism that occurs outside the temporal stream of experience. In this view, it is not our soul's actions / choices that are self-generating and non-determined, but the fabric and nature of our souls (which God then engages in a deterministic way throughout our temporal existence and experience).
- Jason and I engage in a clarifying discussion about the nature of God's 'eternal process of creating, and sustaining, all points of space-time'. I argue that, given God's nature described in Scripture (his nature is one which is driven to express itself, and everything He does including creation is an expression of Himself), it would not be ontologically consistent for Him to exist WITHOUT creating the world we currently experience in a temporal way. Jason emphasises the distinction between God and creation, and between God's isolated self-existence and the process of creating non-God entities.
EVIL DOMINATES OUR THEOLOGY
- Dave points out that the problem of evil (and our answer to it) often determines the rest of our theology / philosophy. We discuss whether this is appropriate or not. On the one hand, God WANTS us to use our perception and judgement of Good and Evil as a means of recognising and delighting in Him, while rejecting Evil. Dave posted a link that nicely fleshes this out. On the other hand, our extremely fallible and biased perception of reality and the 'big picture' makes this difficult, especially considering the fact that God has allowed the confusing existence of apparently conflicting 'good' and 'evil'.
- Dave rightly points out that, because of our fallibility and the confusing existence of evil, we need to rely on God's revelation. I discuss how faith based on God's revelation is what is meant to sustain us in the midst of the vagueness/confusion/gaps/inconsistencies that God has allowed to exist via evil. We can also use this faith to sustain us when we approach difficult conclusions about God (like the idea that God designed evil).
- Dan specifically demonstrates how evil is often the catalyst for people accepting Free Will (as a means of absolving God's responsibility), and yet it is also the catalyst for others to reject Free Will (as a means to infuse hope and purpose into evil). He then explores why He doesn't think Free Will achieves its 'purpose' of solving the problem of evil (either by absolving God of responsibility, or by placing responsibility on us).
FREE AGENCY VS FREE WILL
- I bring up the concept of Free Agency. There are disagreements about its definition - some see it as an umbrella term describing ANY theory where the agent is able to express themselves, including Free Will. I argue for a much more limited definition whereby the choices say something meaningful about the soul because they are entirely based upon something, and are not diluted by self-generated factors that have no basis (what I consider 'random elements'). With this definition, pure Free Will is one extreme of the spectrum, and pure Free Agency is the other extreme (but of course you can have views that mix both). Free Agency emphasises how our choices reflect the things they are based upon (including the state of our soul and context), while Free Will emphasises how our choices can potentially violate any and all bases (and thus may not reflect our context or the state of our soul).
- Jason and Paidion argue for mixed views, stating that complex influences do not negate our ability (as rational free beings) to fallibly assess the situation, as it is understood by us in all its bias, and make free (but also biased) choices. Multiple 'causes' play into our decision, including our own self-generated causal influence. Dan argues that this 'self-generated' contribution is minimal (if it exists) and reduces our ability to meaningfully talk about responsibility (as it is understood by those attempting to protect Free Will).
WE DON'T LIKE GOD DETERMINING EVIL
- There are many comments demonstrating a visceral rejection to the idea of God determining evil. Sometimes this gut rejection was expressed in more detail. Chris presents an excellent list of reasons.
- First he suggests that God must be evil to determine evil. I argue against this.
- Second he suggests that human responsibility for evil disappears if we have no ability to resist God's determinism of evil. Dan and I argue for a different perspective on responsibility that IS preserved. Dan also argues that its fairly obvious our ability to resist influences toward evil is actually very limited (if it exists at all). I also argue that under Free Agency, God is limited to work with the nature of our souls, and so we have the 'ability' to resist God's influence - however He would foreknow this, and so would have determined this very resistance (for as long as it lasts).
- Third Chris suggests that God should be able to not will and command abstaining from evil, and yet also will that evil exists and that we sometimes resist Him. I argue that desiring multiple conflicting things is normal for living souls, but that ultimately it boils down to one will of Gods (i.e. which expresses itself in reality - i.e. that evil and good coexist for the time being). I argue for other purposes for the Command to abstain from evil, which persist even when God then determines Evil.
- Fourth Chris states that God's goodness should not be metaphysically dependent on evil for its existence and expression - I didn't grasp a precise reason for this from his comments, except a general sense that evil and good are so utterly opposed to each other as to make this impossible. I argue that such a definition of 'evil' runs against the Scriptural definition of evil, where it is clearly NOT ultimately utterly opposed to Good (as it ends up working for good). Therefore a more thorough argument is required, if we want to insist that God's goodness cannot depend upon evil.
- However, I think this last point is the strongest argument against determinism, because it appeals to our gut instincts about good and evil. We WANT to believe that good is fundamentally and utterly opposed to the bad things we conceive of or experience (what we call 'evil'), in such a specifically profound way that 'good' could NEVER require or deliberately utilise these things.
Hope that was fair. Feel free to explain yourselves a bit more below. If I can edit my comment to improve it, I'll try.