Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

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Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Daniel (Da Pilgrim) » Mon Aug 25, 2014 8:33 pm

This would have to be my debut post outside of the introduction area.

Little intro:
Determinism played a large part in bringing me to a Universalist frame of mind... not to mention the surprise to find so many verses that I overlooked prior to seriously considering Universalism. Questions that led me to determinism were developed from an attempt to reconcile Arminianism and Calvinism. I grew up an Arminian more or less, believing in libertarian freewill and found Cavlinism rather repulsive. Yet Calvinism had many strong verses in support of it, which actually in the end also helped lead me to Universalism.

Exploring the title:
The cause and effect concept within determinism led me to these questions - Why would I chose God over my neighbour? Why would anyone not chose God if He is so desirable? What would be the deciding factor? Am I subject to this factor and my neighbour is not? Apparently so, therefore why is my factor different from the other guy's? We were made all in the image of God weren't we? Different, yes, but could God create someone in His image that would never have that factor of being His image? I mean, could God actually create/intend someone who is permanently evil and then call them His image? Maybe Adam was originally made in God's image and then turned bad? But God called His creation good, therefore how can something that is good become bad? It must have been bad or not made completely good if it had potential to be bad.
On the same lines of thought. If a certain cause has an effect, then wouldn't that effect reflect what the cause determined it to be? If the effect was not determined by the cause then it must have been a random consequence. However, I believe that our lives are not random, we are beings with certain natures. God being the Creator or first Cause, our natures must have come from God. If God is a consistent God, being the same yesterday today and forever, then wouldn't He be consistent? Or alternatively does He have random effects emulating from Him as He created the world and us therein? Was He in control, or was He trying to control the chaos He Himself created?

Hence I cannot see how God would create anyone in His image and leave them forever contrary to His nature. As mentioned before, If God is the cause of this world and the world is the effect, then it must ultimately reflect who He is. If cause and effect is not true and therefore causes are not predictable, then how is there any reliable thinking or doing. We would be mere random creatures loosely firing our ever changing wills. Not only us, but God too. Observing "reality" would suggest that things are not so random, there is at least some uniformity.

Therefore I don't believe anything is ever completely random. Random is only a word for incalculable complexity.

To further explore these ideas, Christ must have been plan A and not plan B. Genesis chapter 1 verse 1-a obviously states "In the beginning God"... thus everything in existence stems from Him and follows that we are made in His image. Everything in reality is the fullest expression of God with the cross being the pinnacle. I believe that God created good and evil as it says in Isaiah or wherever it is. God needed to demonstrate that He is anti-evil and pro good. With that being His "Character" or "Nature", it HAS to be expressed. The very nature of good will always be ultimately more powerful than evil, because God is good. Love will conquer its enemies, and evil is necessary for the expression of true love. How does it profit to only love those who love us? Christ showed us higher way and that is to love our enemies. Christ's example on the cross demonstrated and showed us the way to salvation... die to self and come humbly before God.

Coming back to creation being "good". Even when it had the capacity and surety to be "bad", I perceive life to be about a journey of seeking and therefore finding God through the many different contexts and paths we take. And God is the author. Some of us find Him sooner than others, but I believe that ultimately all people must become reconciled to God, due to us being made in His image.

two cents :D

Are there any other hard determinists here? Personally I would find it hard to be a Universalist if I were not a determinist. I humbly think that it would be impossible to predict universalism if Freewill was involved. I mean, with Freewill we could change our minds from each moment to the next. Unless God knows the future. Then again, if He has seen the future then it must be solidified and therefore has all ready happened/determined?
“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” - C.S. Lewis

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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby JasonPratt » Tue Aug 26, 2014 5:19 am

Well, determinism has been discussed a lot here; some of us are more deterministic than others, and there are different degrees of the concept, just as there are different degrees of the concept of free will.

My own position on this isn't easy to summarize, but I develop it in Section Three of SttH, the links to each chapter of which can be found here on the forum.

Like C. S. Lewis, whom you quote in your sig, I'm not particularly deterministic. But I also accept Lewis' Boethian notion of transcendent omniscience (and omnipresence). It's important, when working in a supernaturalistic theism, not to accidentally go back to putting God's fundamental existence within the timestream of Nature; and that's what the idea of the future being 'locked' in or 'determined' by virtue of God's omniscience amounts to. In other words, because God foresees X, God must make X happen (or something superior to God must make X happen???) to ensure X.

Boethian omniscience of the sort accepted by Lewis (in Miracles: A Preliminary Study 2nd edition for example), doesn't negate the free will of the creature or reduce it to merely being a capability for behavior. God sees me freely acting (contributing active choices to the set of natural events) at points X, Y and Z, before, during, and after my present moment. (Of course I am also reacting and counterreacting automatically to stimuli beyond human counting at each point; I'm not free from being a natural creature, too.) From my perspective God 'looks ahead' to see what I will do, but God presently sees it all at once.

This does however make for some difficulties in communicating to us what is seen; and then sometimes God promises to bring about certain results, but He does so in view of what He can already see occurring thanks to the contributions of various rational creations along the timeline -- and in view of God's own contributions to the whole timeline up to and including (and after!) the point in question.

All of which is somewhat different than (but also related to) the question of how God can make room for even the limited, derivative freedom of creaturely rational action (and not merely creaturely capabilities). My solution to that ancient riddle involves the ongoing self-sacrifice of the self-existent, self-begotten God; following out some hints Lewis (and MacDonald before him) never quite worked out systematically. I was pleased to see that the results seem to mirror the very odd characteristics of quantum percolation and zero-point energy, though! :)
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Daniel (Da Pilgrim) » Tue Aug 26, 2014 11:47 am

Hi Jason, thanks for your reply. When I get a chance I would like to respond. Should I post in an already existing thread? It would save having lots of posts on similar topics. Then again, it makes it easier to find specific topics or thoughts. Hence why I titled this one as a reflection of God. It sounds like Boethius was a hypertemporalist as opposed to an atemporalist?

Cheers!
“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” - C.S. Lewis

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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby DaveB » Tue Aug 26, 2014 1:04 pm

To the extent that a person, thing, or event is an expression of God's loving character - yes. So there is, perhaps, a spectrum of reflection (I just made that up, and I'm impressed with myself. Not really)?

The spectrum is different as we go along the Chain of Being (I am most definitely NOT a reductionist)

Physical universe - material has quality "x"
Plants have qualities "x and y"
Animals have qualities "x and y and z"
Mankind have qualities "x and y and z and (?) spirit? mind? soul? Image of God? Will?

I'm not defining the terms - but the additional qualities that are in addition to the material, in addition to plant life, in addition to animal life, are clearly there even to the negligently observant, except perhaps to the most obdurate reductionist. (E.P. Shumacher does a wonderful job on this in his little but powerful book, a Guide for the Perplexed. Highly recommended.)
http://www.amazon.com/Guide-Perplexed-E ... 0060906111

The whole question of 'causality', the definition of 'God', even if 'is' means 'is', makes your OP really difficult to respond to, though it is a great question.
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby JasonPratt » Tue Aug 26, 2014 2:02 pm

Oh, I'd say this thread; the other ones I linked to would be more obscure.

Hypertemporalist sounds right, in the sense of being (analogically of course) above time but in active relation to it (not merely a-temporal which might mean in no relation to time at all, which would be deism shading into God/Nature dualism.)
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Cindy Skillman » Wed Aug 27, 2014 2:32 pm

EVERYTHING is a gradient . . . continuum . . . spectrum. At least all of creation. So yes, Dave. I agree with you. The older I get the more I see this (hence, I see it a LOT more than I used to back in the days of ancient oldness. ;) )
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Daniel (Da Pilgrim) » Fri Aug 29, 2014 12:29 am

JasonPratt wrote:Well, determinism has been discussed a lot here; some of us are more deterministic than others, and there are different degrees of the concept, just as there are different degrees of the concept of free will.

My own position on this isn't easy to summarize, but I develop it in Section Three of SttH, the links to each chapter of which can be found here on the forum.

Like C. S. Lewis, whom you quote in your sig, I'm not particularly deterministic. But I also accept Lewis' Boethian notion of transcendent omniscience (and omnipresence). It's important, when working in a supernaturalistic theism, not to accidentally go back to putting God's fundamental existence within the timestream of Nature; and that's what the idea of the future being 'locked' in or 'determined' by virtue of God's omniscience amounts to. In other words, because God foresees X, God must make X happen (or something superior to God must make X happen???) to ensure X.

Boethian omniscience of the sort accepted by Lewis (in Miracles: A Preliminary Study 2nd edition for example), doesn't negate the free will of the creature or reduce it to merely being a capability for behavior. God sees me freely acting (contributing active choices to the set of natural events) at points X, Y and Z, before, during, and after my present moment. (Of course I am also reacting and counterreacting automatically to stimuli beyond human counting at each point; I'm not free from being a natural creature, too.) From my perspective God 'looks ahead' to see what I will do, but God presently sees it all at once.

This does however make for some difficulties in communicating to us what is seen; and then sometimes God promises to bring about certain results, but He does so in view of what He can already see occurring thanks to the contributions of various rational creations along the timeline -- and in view of God's own contributions to the whole timeline up to and including (and after!) the point in question.

All of which is somewhat different than (but also related to) the question of how God can make room for even the limited, derivative freedom of creaturely rational action (and not merely creaturely capabilities). My solution to that ancient riddle involves the ongoing self-sacrifice of the self-existent, self-begotten God; following out some hints Lewis (and MacDonald before him) never quite worked out systematically. I was pleased to see that the results seem to mirror the very odd characteristics of quantum percolation and zero-point energy, though! :)


Hi Jason, Dave and all!

Jason, I had a quick scan of some of the works you have written, and my goodness! what good amount of work you have done. I don't really have the time to read through it all, so good summaries of key points I enjoy. I don't feel rather "qualified" to challenge such a body of work, but I do have my two cents regarding what makes sense to me :D So be patient with my comments as I try to be open to what makes sense lol.

I find it interesting that you seem to use a type of hypertemporalism (where God is presently involved in all events in time) in order to uphold libertarian freewill (correct me if I am wrong). Some deterministic thought uses "freewill" as a description of our active choices (between A,B or C...) we make from our perspective. Even though it says that our choices were always determined. I personally have given up on trying to use freewill in a deterministic sense, simply because it confuses people. Most think of libertarian freewill when freewill is mentioned.

Personally, I cannot see how hypertemporalism enables Freewill. If God is currently experiencing 2004 at the same time as 2014, then the history between 2004 and 2014 must be set because God would be presently seeing the past decade in hindsight from 2014 even if He was involved also in 2004. If God can see all of time/history presently then I would humbly say that it has happened, or else all of time would not exist in any particular format and God would therefore not see "it". Unless of course we embrace Open theism?

Not being quantum physicist at all, in fact I don't know much. I don't see how the uncertainty of the placement of electrons can support Freewill. To me it simply states that their path is currently not calculable. If it is never calculable then it must be random, because there would be no influence by which to calculate it? I kind of side with Einstein when it comes to explaining some things. He didn't like the whole "spooky" science stuff.

It may sound like I am a hardcore reductionist. I suppose in one sense I am. However, I don't like the focus that reductionism can lead to. Such as a focus on the parts rather than the picture it creates. God never wanted us to focus primarily on the parts of creation but on the result of it. In saying that, without reductionism, we can hit many paradoxes simply because we don't like particular explanations that reduction can highlight.

For me, I tend to think of God more like a panentheistic God (NOT pantheism). In that God envelops, supports, holds together and is within all creation. I am not sure whether this in the form of hypertemporalism in that all time is happening at the same time - all creation not really having a beginning but is simply THERE... a reflection of God. Or whether God is subject to time, in that He travels in time as one particular point for infinity.

I am a social worker in training, so this probably has been influencing me lol. I don't tend to think of people as necessarily "freely choosing" with their "freewill" but more like people who have histories and very complex lives that lead them to where they are today.

Cheers!

P.S. I too like Lewis, though that doesn't mean that I agree with everything he says :)
“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” - C.S. Lewis

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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Daniel (Da Pilgrim) » Fri Aug 29, 2014 5:53 pm

Dave,
Great points here "The whole question of 'causality', the definition of 'God', even if 'is' means 'is', makes your OP really difficult to respond to, though it is a great question."

I would like to mention that the relation between "God" and everything would be a more teleological one. What I mean by that is, even though I believe God intended evil to exist, I do not believe that evil is actually his nature in its finality. Evil in the reflection of God always points towards an end good. Thus God is good and creation is good because of where it is headed. But within the process of the expression of good, evil is there. God is anti evil and therefore needs to be expressed.
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby DaveB » Fri Aug 29, 2014 7:23 pm

Daniel - first let me say that the CS Lewis quote is one of my favorites, I'm glad to be reminded of it.

I like your use of the teleological model for understanding the whole process of what used to be called Providence, if I understand the term correctly. We've also kicked around the idea of panentheism here on the forum, and though I am really drawn to that view, it is very difficult to actually formulate what it is, exactly.

The hard hard thing for me to swallow is what a number of forumites have stated, as you did, that God 'intended' evil. Teleology gives us kind of a 'workaround' that provides a kind of intellectual cushion when we are shocked by the very apparent violent evils, such as are happening with the ISIS atrocities, but it seems that the price of that cushion is to impute something bad to our good God.

I am struck again and again how the problem of evil tends to determine our theology. We take evil as the given, then decide what God 'must' be like - I'm not criticizing at all - I am in the same position. My 'ontological intuition' is that there is something wrong with that approach though I have not (yet) been able to grasp what that something is.

Ah, I don't have the answers. I'm going to stick with my first response to your OP, but I'm sticking out of stubbornness more than intellectual clarity. ;)
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Fe4rG0d » Sat Aug 30, 2014 11:42 pm

Hi all, and great thought-provoking post Dan.

I think Dan's thoughts on the Image of God in all of creation are valid, regardless of how you define 'causality'.
The bottom line is that God deliberately chose a detailed, completely foreknown, space-time object called Our Universe (from beginning to eternity), including my sins and other evils (such as the murder of His son), and rejected any alternative space-time realities over this one. This was THE BEST ONE He could create or influence.
Obviously the greater ability you believe God has to influence the course of history, the more 'options' he has regarding the finer details of this space-time 'object' - from merely choosing between several 'models' (as a 'wind-up clock' scenario, where God only sets some initial creation parameters and has to do the best He can with that), to being able to completely determine the finer aspects of every soul and every choice (as if God Himself chose the materials and the tools, and has carved every fine detail).
But regardless, our 'evil' has been chosen as part of the BEST POSSIBLE expression of God. Christians have to deal with that somehow.
Also, the more you claim that evil is fundamentally opposed to the expression of God, the more you have to say God did not actually carve it Himself and merely chose it as the 'lesser' of multiple (but limited) options. In other words, you limit His ability (not just His desire) to actually change evil.

I'm not sure how alternative views of God's 'temporality', can avoid the fact that God's foreknowledge of future events does in fact support determinism.
If IN ANY SENSE God ever exists in the present, it doesn't matter what kind of 'prior experience foreknowledge' he has from a future perspective. His present existence makes his knowledge (at least partly) a deliberate decision to create / sustain the conditions that He KNOWS will bring it about - i.e. an 'infallible predictive' kind of knowledge.
And an infallible predictive kind of knowledge necessarily results in a deterministic God (as far as I can see). If you believe God is able to intervene intricately with creation now, this conclusion is fairly obvious (to my simple understanding). But even if you deny this (i.e. the wound-up clock from initial creation conditions), God has still (in a strict sense) deliberately been the ultimate cause for all the details of our space-time universe.
The only way to avoid this is to talk about uncertainty or probabilities from GOD'S perspective (i.e. Open Theism), which (to me) makes talking about 'knowledge' a little meaningless, and doesn't do justice to the Scriptures.

Thoughts anyone? Disagreements? Clarifications?
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Daniel (Da Pilgrim) » Sun Aug 31, 2014 10:58 am

DaveB wrote:Daniel - first let me say that the CS Lewis quote is one of my favorites, I'm glad to be reminded of it.

I like your use of the teleological model for understanding the whole process of what used to be called Providence, if I understand the term correctly. We've also kicked around the idea of panentheism here on the forum, and though I am really drawn to that view, it is very difficult to actually formulate what it is, exactly.

The hard hard thing for me to swallow is what a number of forumites have stated, as you did, that God 'intended' evil. Teleology gives us kind of a 'workaround' that provides a kind of intellectual cushion when we are shocked by the very apparent violent evils, such as are happening with the ISIS atrocities, but it seems that the price of that cushion is to impute something bad to our good God.

I am struck again and again how the problem of evil tends to determine our theology. We take evil as the given, then decide what God 'must' be like - I'm not criticizing at all - I am in the same position. My 'ontological intuition' is that there is something wrong with that approach though I have not (yet) been able to grasp what that something is.

Ah, I don't have the answers. I'm going to stick with my first response to your OP, but I'm sticking out of stubbornness more than intellectual clarity. ;)


Totally hear you. It does seem weird that we judge what God should be like based on our morals. However that is the reality of our situation and one that is difficult to get away from. I like Lewis' take in that I believe God has given each of us a moral conscience to varying degrees and that is not to be ignored when pondering what God may be like. I doubt that God would want us to blindly follow Him without thought or critique. In the Bible, He often produced evidences of His character as a reference point to give reason for us to follow Him. Though in the case of determinism, in a way it was a big step away from what I thought God "should" be like, and chose to go with what made sense. However, in thinking about it more I found that it had more hope than the previous Freewill thought.

Previously I thought that Freewill did absolve God of the responsibility for evil. Though, as I thought about it He still allowed evil to happen when He had the power to stop it. If He let it happen because He was wanting to let man have Freewill, it is still hard to accept that He us together in the same fish bowl. Murder, rape, genocide etc. He actually let that happen to "innocent" people. Why not let us experience our own Freewill with some more boundaries attached? Like leave babies out of the fish bowl? In that view, God's Sovereignty became more like damage control where He allowed Himself to be powerless. He would merely try to make the best of a situation where He chose to have no control over.

Whereas, with determinism there is more hope and positivity (I think), because every event is intended for a greater purpose or good. God's actions are with purpose, not merely powerless damage control. Don't get me wrong, determinism is not cushy belief, but it at least gives hope where there would not usually be any. I do not pretend to know what that hope exactly means in every given situation!

I agree that panentheism etc is still rather murky. Though it provides that nuance where God is more connected with creation than the separate "distant God" thought. I like it because it goes more in hand with creation being a reflection of Him. Though as you said, I am not sure exactly how lol.

Cheers
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Daniel (Da Pilgrim) » Mon Sep 01, 2014 10:45 am

Thanks for the comment Fe4rG0d. Great points!
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby DaveB » Mon Sep 01, 2014 12:00 pm

I'm not sure about your points at all, fe4r. Those ideas have been kicked around here a lot the past couple of years and there has not been anything close to a consensus. There are a number of threads dealing with those issues already but of course I'm sure we'll all be happy to see new contributions. :D

Any line of argumentation that goes, simplistically: "God is responsible for everything, so that child molester must be a part of His plan" - and I'm not saying that that is YOUR argument :D - is so ambiguous as to be basically meaningless, imo. I do contend that any statement of the sort "God is responsible for, decreed, needs, etc EVIL" is absolutely wrong headed.

And that is opinion only. Am I prepared to kick a dead horse into the dust over this? Prepared - probably. Desirous of doing it - not at all, but I will gladly look on. 8-)
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Fe4rG0d » Tue Sep 02, 2014 12:32 am

Hi DaveB :) You're right, I was vague, deliberately.

A big part of my point was to demonstrate the ambiguity of our terms. It IS vague to say that 'God is responsible, therefore it is part of His plan'. But it is also vague to say that God is NOT responsible for / needs / decrees evil, or that just because God foresees something doesn't mean he 'caused' it.
Because the concept of 'causality' and 'determinism' and 'evil' and God's 'plan' are so broad, I don't see how we can get around some kind of fundamental 'determinism' when it comes to God (whatever that means), and I don't think we can escape some kind of fundamental 'Image of God' within 'evil' (whatever those two things mean).
What I hope to see is a clearer definition of exactly what we do / don't think is true regarding God's 'determinism' and 'Image' and 'Evil'. This is where I was angling with my comments. Its more useful (and fun) digging into specifics, instead of vaguely avoiding the concept :)

Do we accept a determinism where God doesn't intervene except at creation? Do we accept a determinism where God directly causes every 'free-will' decision, like a puppet? Do we accept a determinism where God accepts alternative 'inputs' to his world that are outside his control (i.e. our 'Free Will'), then designs the best possible world around them to reflect Himself as well as possible (without removing those 'free will' inputs)? I personally accept a determinism where God designs people with certain properties (e.g. soulish, free agents) and then respects those properties (i.e. doesn't control us like puppets), while still maintaining absolute unlimited control over our wills due to his wisdom, creativity, and the use of the process we call 'life'.
When it comes to evil, do we think of it based on the ultimate outcome, or the intended purpose, or the temporal process? Do we think that God can directly 'DO' evil? Do we assume that 'evil' and 'good' are actual polar opposites? I personally think evil and good a defined by God for each unique perspective, so that the same 'thing' or 'event' can be good and evil in multiple ways - so God can do 'evil' from our perspective (and call it evil), without it being ultimately 'evil' and without being 'evil' himself.

In particular, I'm really keen to hear what it is about 'Evil' that you don't like it being (somehow) a reflection of God. I know its a big deal, and I really don't want to make the mistake of charging God wrongly, or unnecessarily damaging his reputation.
And I'm really keen to hear from Jason Pratt, how 'limited' God has allowed himself to be, when it comes to his 'determinism' and expressing Himself in the Universe, and (if there are any limitations) why God needs to be limited that way.
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby DaveB » Tue Sep 02, 2014 8:28 am

I agree that ambiguity has its uses; some questions are so BIG, and so pivotal, that a premature judgment on them, and premature actions taken as a result, can be harmful and/or disastrous.
"Can we say that 'evil' is a 'reflection of God' ?" - is THE pivotal question for my entire worldview. And to have ambiguity at this point is, it seems, unavoidable, though one can be justified in choosing among the ambiguities.

Central to my thinking about this 'reflection' idea are two essays that bear indirectly but forcefully on this issue; indirectly, because they take the knots out of Calvinism and ECT, showing those theologies to be false and lacking; forcefully, because in doing their main task, they marshal arguments that also work against the 'evil reflects God's character' statement.

The two essays are: The Moral Argument against Calvinism. Channing: http://www.centerforcongregationalleade ... anning.pdf) and Justice. GMac: http://www.online-literature.com/george ... sermons/31

Based in great part on those two wonderful essays, I have to consider the essential question of whether evil is inherent in the creation, or whether goodness is inherent. In other words, do we affirm that 'We believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth', who created and then pronounced 'It is very good"? If we do, then I do not see how we can claim that evil is an inherent, intended part of the created universe.
I DO see how we can claim that evil is a perversion of the goodness of the created universe.

This is for me Step 1. I don't see how to proceed rationally unless this question is answered. And it is a tough b*****d to answer. 8-)
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby chasinghope » Tue Sep 02, 2014 9:58 am

Good essays, Dave. Thanks for sharing. I'm working through the first one al momento. I've read a good bit of the second some time ago.
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby DaveB » Tue Sep 02, 2014 10:56 am

Here's a better link to an easier format: http://wizdum.net/book/moral-argument-a ... inism-1809 :D



And for future consideration, a page of links to other of his main writings on religion.

http://wizdum.net/book/william-ellery-c ... -1780-1842
"Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth". -Albert Einstein
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Daniel (Da Pilgrim) » Tue Sep 02, 2014 11:49 am

Dave
"This is for me Step 1. I don't see how to proceed rationally unless this question is answered. And it is a tough b*****d to answer."

I think we need to define what "good" is first. Is it functional verses dysfunctional? Is it a moral absolute good? Is it an unchangeable system not subject to perversion? Or is it a teleological good where the process results in something greater than what could be created in an instant?
And I am sure there would be other types of good...

Ultimately, God's idea of calling creation "good" did include the possibility of being perverted
“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” - C.S. Lewis

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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby DaveB » Tue Sep 02, 2014 12:09 pm

Daniel you are certainly right that there was the possibility of good being perverted; I don't know that we can speculate further that the perversion was intentionally built into the good fabric of the universe.

The major point of The Moral Argument of Channing is that 'goodness' CANNOT be one thing for God and something different for His creatures. Greater goodness in degree, yes by all means; different in kind, though....it's very hard to defend that position imo. I think GMac would agree with Channing on this btw.

One of the reasons, I understand, for the opening chapters of Genesis was to show clearly, to surrounding pagan cultures, that the true God did not impose form on pre-existing matter, nor was there a battle between equal and competing 'gods' that would yield an explanation of evil; rather, there was the One, full of light and goodness, who created a universe out of that light and goodness. No ambiguity.

I have to start with that initial and profound clarity, born out of the unapproachable Light, to give me at least a starting point. That's just me and I'm only stating a position, but I think it is a warranted position. ;)
"Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth". -Albert Einstein
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Fe4rG0d » Thu Sep 04, 2014 4:27 pm

Hi Dave, I read those articles, and really enjoyed them! I agree wholeheartedly with the main flow of each :)
However there are several important flaws with both which need pointing out, because it makes them far from conclusive when it comes to God 'creating' or 'desiring' evil.

The 'moral argument against Calvinism' argues well for our 'basic moral sense' and that we can, to some degree, 'judge' the goodness of God based on what He does.
It fails to account for the fact that REAL LIFE by itself (without even considering the 'end outcome' of eternity) is already incredibly confusing when it comes to judging the goodness of God. There already exist overwhelming 'evil proofs' regarding God's character, as well as 'good proofs'. ALL theologies (not just Calvinists) have the uncomfortable job of explaining away the existence of evil which God has allowed, or of 'balancing' it with 'good' proofs. We ALL have to reach the conclusion that some 'evil proofs' simply don't necessarily 'prove' God is evil.
Is this a bad thing? I don't think so. Isn't this the point of faith - acknowledging that 'evil' proofs exist, but choosing to trust (based on the 'good' proofs, such as Christ) that there is some form of reinterpretation (which we possibly can't see currently) where it does NOT mean God is ultimately evil. Its not saying we ignore our innate 'judgement' of good and evil. Its saying that our judgement of 'good' is enough for us to reinterpret what we see as 'evil', OR to trust that it will not ultimately prove that God is evil.
Calvinism does just the same thing, but extends it into the afterlife. The goodness of Christ, they say, is enough for us to reinterpret the evil of predestined torment OR to trust that it will not, ultimately, serve to prove God is evil.
However, I think they should still acknowledge that OUR CURRENT best understanding of it DOES imply an evil God, and more so than the evils we see in this life. For some people, the weight of 'good proofs' is simply not enough to generate the necessary trust to push through this. But I don't think its wrong of Calvinists to have such trust themselves.

The 'Justice' article does a great job of arguing for God's ultimate purpose of mercy EVEN IN justice.
However, again, he doesn't take into account the reality of our world, where God's actions actually do NOT fully and perfectly and instantaneously reveal every aspect of His character at once. God may be fully merciful and fully just, and He will work to best express that in the full picture of eternity. But this does not mean that God can't at times act in a way which does NOT reveal infinite mercy in isolation. The author does not adequately deal with the possibility that non-merciful actions (from minor things, to the existence of Evil, to eternal torment) MAY (somehow) actually serve as part of the big picture, to best display his infinite mercy.
Also, the author places a lot of emphasis on God's mercy and justice as if they were the only two things causing God to allow or punish evil. God could well be more than mercy and justice - He is not merely 'good', He is EXCLUSIVELY good. And since God must work to display the fullness of His character in everything He does, He must also work to express this exclusivity in the grand scheme of things.
I realise there may be other ways to do this than 'punishing sin', but I do struggle to see how it can happen without sin / evil existing. This is why, I believe, God has allowed / created evil.

I don't see any reason to doubt that evil is deliberately inherent in creation because of God's determinism (in some sense), and thus it must (in some sense) reflect God's image. God can certainly create and pronounce the creation as 'very good', and yet it still have evil inherent in it. And I expect we would do the same if we saw everything from an eternal / global perspective. Good and Evil are simply not always polar opposites, especially if you mix your perspectives up.
In fact, your comment about Genesis contrasting with pagan myth is quite appropriate. GOD created the world and everything in it. As I see it, evil did not originate from some other independent 'warring' or 'competing' source. In fact, evil only exists from a temporary perspective, as part of God's creation to bring about His good ultimate purposes.
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby DaveB » Thu Sep 04, 2014 5:42 pm

A good and thoughtful reply, thank you!

A parallel line of thinking, though, led to real confusion in the 18th and early 19th century in the field of philosophy. Immanuel Kant looked, not at 'reality as such' - which he thought we could not know - but at our experience of the world (whatever it might really be like) and, based on that phenomenology, reasoned FROM our experience TO what WE must be like; what must the mechanics of our understanding be, what must we humans be like, to have those kinds of experiences?
So in his philosophy, we experience only the phenomena; the 'nuomena', the 'real world' is beyond our reach. Kant wanted to put aside 'knowledge' (scientific/reductionistic/materialistic) to make room for 'faith'.
There is a ton more we could say about Kant (who was a great great philosopher) but in a nutshell, his approach was found to be unsatisfactory as a representation of both reality and humanity. Still I should say that many neo-Kantians are still around, and I am sympathetic with their views to an extent.

I'm sure you see the parallel to your reply? The temptation is to look at 'the world' and especially the evil in the world, and then ask "What MUST God be like to account for all this?" If we do that - and I don't want to mis-characterize your thought by stating that is what you said, so please correct me if I'm doing that :D - but if we do that, we can't really say anything true about God UNLESS we accept the revelation He has given us in the scriptures, in nature and most of all, by His Son. In that light, we can see light.

I've taken a lot of flak here for the following stance, and I understand why, but I'll stick to my guns and quote a Creed that I am NOT fond of, but I like this part:

Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable;[1] yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of His will, which is necessary unto salvation.[2] Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His Church;[3] and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing;[4] which makes the Holy Scripture to be most necessary;[5] those former ways of God's revealing His will unto His people being now ceased.[6] (Westminster Confession)

I'll go further - it is imo (and I am not speaking of you, Fe4R or anyone in particular here) a real lack of education in understanding the Bible that hampers our ability to understand and interpret experience. There is a biblical way to understand the cosmos, and to the extent we don't understand the scriptures, it's like looking at the world through a very very dirty windshield.

In any case, there it is, my mini-rant. :oops:
Again, thank so much for your contributions, even if you proceed to blow me out of the water with your next post. 8-)
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Fe4rG0d » Sun Sep 07, 2014 7:23 pm

I'm enjoying this thoughtful discussion Dave :) Thanks for your ongoing input. Sorry if we've hijacked your post a little, Dan.

I must say I'm very sympathetic to some of Kant's views, and that I don't think his views have been 'found to be unsatisfactory' at all, except maybe by modernistic culture at large, which is highly biased and which I think can be shown to be unsatisfactory in its own right! LOL. Whatever the case, its certainly not settled, and I think there's a lot of truth to Kant's views. We can only experience reality indirectly via our perceptions and understanding (which includes the possibility, at least, of other 'non-real' inputs). I would say similar things about Scripture and interpretation - we only experience it indirectly and with the possibility of other inputs (besides pure true interpretation of the Scripture). Hence our reliance on the Holy Spirit, and the need for humility and unity and love, and the variety of doctrines that can spring from and resonate with a heart of love for Christ (that is present within all believers).

That aside, the fact remains (as your article points out) that God WANTS us to observe Him (indirectly, by our experiences) by what He does and says and is, and to make judgments upon this, and then to have faith (which can only exist IF our perception and judgement of God is not completely perfect - i.e. if the windshield is dirty). So regardless, it must be good and proper to engage with and be concerned with and incorporate 'reality' (as far as we experience it), including evil and a dirty windshield, into our view of God. God wants us to grapple with the complexities of reality.

Of course this should be done in humility and trust (this is what any good Calvinist is actually doing), and will obviously be focused mainly on the most intelligible and informative aspects of reality when it comes to God - His Son, and His Scriptures. I agree with you that by rejecting these vital insights into reality, we leave ourselves with a very much dirtier windshield AND with no reason or possibility to have faith in the face of this dirt. But even with a clearer focus and faith, both Christ and Scripture remain subjective, and do NOT seem interested in exhaustively and perfectly explaining the intricacies of God in a perfectly 'clear' manner. They seem to deliberately leave questions, room for trust and relationship, dynamic and progressive but incomplete steps in revelation and relationship, etc. In other words, God seems to deliberately leave a need to grapple with reality and the existence of evil (as discussed above).

Since this is the normal way for God to reveal Himself (even in his clearer modes, such as Christ and Scripture), and since He wants us to consider this revelation and make judgments about Him and have faith, I don't see it as a stretch to consider the rest of reality and Evil in the same light. God did it deliberately for His purposes, and He intends us to interpret it with humility and faith (based on the good that HAS been made clear).
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby JasonPratt » Mon Sep 08, 2014 8:21 am

Finally getting back around to this thread; sorry for the delay.

Thank you very much for the compliments, by the way. :)

Daniel (Da Pilgrim) wrote:I find it interesting that you seem to use a type of hypertemporalism (where God is presently involved in all events in time) in order to uphold libertarian freewill (correct me if I am wrong).


Not to uphold (much less to enable) derivative free will, but not in contradiction to it. Boethian omniscience and omnipresence could still involve determinism of all events, but it doesn't have to determine all events in order to truly see the future.

I appeal to God's self-sacrificial and truly libertarian free will, to enable and uphold creaturely and derivative free will; with proper distinctions between God's rational action and a creature's limitations in freedom of rational action.


Daniel (Da Pilgrim) wrote:Personally, I cannot see how hypertemporalism enables Freewill. If God is currently experiencing 2004 at the same time as 2014, then the history between 2004 and 2014 must be set because God would be presently seeing the past decade in hindsight from 2014 even if He was involved also in 2004. If God can see all of time/history presently then I would humbly say that it has happened, or else all of time would not exist in any particular format and God would therefore not see "it".


The problem comes from introducing a past-tense into God's present-tense. If God is currently experiencing 2004 and 2014 (with them not being "at the same time", by the way), God is not presently seeing 2004 in hindsight from 2014. All the history that actually happens happens, and God sees it and is present for it: God is equally present and seeing my choices now as for the choices I will make and the choices I have made.


Daniel (Da Pilgrim) wrote:I don't see how the uncertainty of the placement of electrons can support Freewill.


It doesn't, and I'm pretty sure I didn't argue that it does. On the contrary, I talk about short-chain random determinism with reference to quantum behavior: merely reactive behavior is still deterministic, even if it's short-chain, and even if it's randomly generated (or alternately even if the generation isn't random so much as incalculable to us). But I don't regard the self-sacrifice of God's self-begotten action as being itself merely reactive behavior (though I think it does result in a merely reactive Nature in which we live and contribute our own actions).


Daniel (Da Pilgrim) wrote:For me, I tend to think of God more like a panentheistic God (NOT pantheism). In that God envelops, supports, holds together and is within all creation.


Same here -- though because people panic when I say that, I like to point out that I'm also a pan-ek-theist, all things from from God. :mrgreen: The scriptures affirm both, sometimes together.

Daniel (Da Pilgrim) wrote:I am not sure whether this in the form of hypertemporalism in that all time is happening at the same time - all creation not really having a beginning but is simply THERE... a reflection of God.


Pretty sure that would be the logical implication. By the same token, I have been warning my fellow apologists for years not to lean hard on arguments from the temporal beginning of Nature, because I strongly suspect sooner or later (and I've been seeing indications of this with increasing frequency) the scientists are going to realize they've been accidentally importing category errors into their calculations, the result being that they cannot in fact extrapolate back to a beginning-of-existence for Nature. Which will leave the philosophical naturalists (especially the naturalistic atheists) saying, "look, Nature has no beginning after all, therefore nothing produced it, nyah". ;) Ontological generation and distinction, though, is the key point, not whether natural time goes back to a point beyond which is nothing.

(Relatedly, the time-dilation effects which I fully expect scientists to incorporate eventually in their account of cosmic time, thus allowing for apparently ridiculous things like matter and energy expanding billions of times faster than the speed of light, will have the rather amusing side effect of invalidating current calculations of the age of the universe as being proportionately too long: the universe might be only 10 or 6 thousand 'years' old after all! That would be freaking hilarious. :mrgreen: )


Daniel (Da Pilgrim) wrote:I am a social worker in training, so this probably has been influencing me lol. I don't tend to think of people as necessarily "freely choosing" with their "freewill" but more like people who have histories and very complex lives that lead them to where they are today.


Complexity of influences and opportunities and impositions, doesn't eliminate or replace rational action of choice between options. But accounting for complexity of a person's situation, and other limitations, is why on the other hand I don't like to call myself as proposing and defending "libertarian" free will: people expect I'm not taking such things into account.


Providentially (!?), the temp-file I opened to compose and save my replies for this thread, happened to contain comments I had written up but maybe never posted to a previous thread some months ago, concerning Boethian omniscience and time and free will!

So for convenience, in case I never got around to posting those, I'll just follow on from there. :)


My reasons for believing Boethian omniscience to be true are related directly to certain rebuttal questions [asked in that other thread] about how it could even possibly work, so for convenience I'll requote those:

If God exists outside of time and space, how does He act within time and space. And if he "sees" all events simultaneously, then how can he distinguish these events in a temporal sense? Or even be aware of a temporal sequence of events?


Those are all fine questions, and I'll even say they work fine as rebuttal questions when Boethian omniscience is presented apart from having a very specific place in a coherent developing metaphysical argument -- which is how Lewis for example always presented it, and which is how I presented it upthread (both in the previous thread and in this one) in order to talk about it in a relatively quick fashion.

Consequently, to address those questions I'll have to talk about how I infer in favor of Boethian omniscience, to provide a theological "setting" for how it connects in special ways to several other theological topics.

My following discussion is heavily summarized from chapters all across Section Three of Sword to the Heart, previously referenced.


0.) Various preliminary questions (covered in Section One btw) have to be addressed first, including but not limited to whether there is one or more than one foundationally self-existent level of reality. If yes (I answer yes, nicknaming it the Independent Fact or IF for short), then...

1.) Is the IF rationally active or not? (Obviously this requires a lot of discussion of what rationality means compared to non-rational behavior.) If not, then some kind of atheism is true. I inferred I ought to believe yes (in Section Two), so then...

2.) Is the IF statically self-existent (not depending on itself for existence), or actively self-existence (depending on itself for existence)? The former involves a contradiction in the idea of the IF being rationally active, since rational action would be only a secondary property of the ultimate reality; and also the former proposal introduces a schism between being logically caused and logically grounded.

(Describing the result of the argument shortly: "But if privative aseity is true, then we have every reason from its proposed characteristic of ultimate non-behavior, much less an ultimate lack of action, to believe that nothing else exists other than Itself, and that unlike us the IF does nothing. Moreover, there can be no logical relation between propositions, no consequents to grounds. Put another way, if privative aseity is true, we have every reason to believe that we cannot possibly have any good reason to believe anything, including that privative aseity is true!")

Anyway for various reasons (related to topics from Section Two), I conclude I ought to believe the IF actively self-exists (positive aseity) not statically self exists (privative aseity). If so, then...

3.) At this point the next logical topic would be whether the positive aseity of the IF (the active self-existence of God, i.e. eternally self-begetting and eternally self-begotten) means there are (at least) two distinct Persons of the one and only God Most High. Although I answer yes, and this discussion factors into other topics later, I'll skip over it for the sake of non-trinitarians in the thread and move along to...

4.) Does anything not-God exist? If not, then some kind of naturalistic theism (aka pantheism) is true. If so, then some kind of supernaturalistic theism is true (for example, nominal deism, or one of the Big Three Theisms, along with some other possibilities like various non-trinitarian Christianities -- and strictly speaking ortho-trin could be true and yet Jesus might not be the incarnation of the 2nd Person of God any more than Elijah or Moses was, or the angel sent to John by Jesus toward the end of RevJohn to give a more provocative example.) I infer I myself am not-God, so I answer yes, and so move to...

5.) Is the evident reality I (the not-God entity) exist within God or not-God? If so, then practical pantheism would be true (Nature is God) even though strictly speaking some kind of supernaturalistic theism would still be true (since I am not-God). At this stage the most I can infer is that Nature doesn't tend to behave the way I would expect from a rationally active fundamental reality, so Nature isn't likely to be God; so I put a decisive belief on that question to the side for a while and moved on to the next very big question:

6.) How can God effectively create something not-God? And especially, how can God effectively create a not-God person like me?

It should be obvious that there isn't any point even asking those questions unless and until the other topics get this far. But answering those questions turns out to have a huge bearing on how God's omniscience and omnipresence works (if this theology is true). So please bear with this exposition a little longer.


On the theology developed so far, there can be no overarching reality within which God and something not-God already exists; and a proposal that God and a not-God system both independently exist would not only involve them being unable to affect each other (although God could choose to voluntarily let the not-God reality affect Himself), but also would end up implying a shared overarching reality. So there is no use proposing some sort of void 'outside' God, into which He can create.

Therefore, God can only create not-God realities (distinct from God self-begetting God), by voluntarily choosing to cease generating Himself in some way, while still remaining eternally self-generating. The choice to do so is itself an action, but the action is a choice to not take some other action.

Whether that could make any sense in a more basic supernaturalistic theism I don't know. But if at least binitarian theism is true, then such a creative self-sacrificial action wouldn't be an utterly new thing within the self-consistent active self-generation of the Unity; because (on this theology) the 2nd Person of the Unity (God self-begotten, or analogically speaking 'the Son') must, as a Person, make a constant corollary choice whether or not to surrender to the Unity as the 'Unity' instead of trying to go 'His own way' or to do 'His own thing'.

This leads to a number of interesting and (later) useful notions about what we may call the highest death and how not-God creatures would be expected to join with the 2nd Person in submission to God. But leaving aside the binitarian (and eventually trinitarian) details, the point is that any not-God system of reality can only exist by God's eternal action of self-abdication.

That would include Nature if Nature (not just myself) is a not-God reality; and I'll skip over a bunch of analysis here concluding that created persons like myself would need some kind of not-God spatio-temporal system in which to exist.

So now we're up to God continually acting in a self-abdicating way (similar to but distinctly different from the self-abdicating action of God self-begotten if binitarian or trinitarian theism is true), to keep Nature in existence at all points of space-time. Somewhat similar to how a running electrical current continually generates a magnetic field at an infinite number of right angles to itself, or vice versa. (There are big differences, too, of course.)

{inhaaaaaaalllleeeeeee!!!!!}

And at long last now we're at the theological setting for Boethian omniscience and omnipresence (and omnipotence -- they're all just about the same thing on this account).


If God exists outside of time and space, how does He act within time and space?


On this theory, God is directly and intentionally acting to keep all points of space-time in existence with various properties and (via God's voluntary self-abdicating self-sacrificing action) with their own not-God behavior. God is consequently omnipresent and omniscient concerning all points of created space-time at the most intimate possible levels. It isn't like Nature is impenetrably not-God and so repels or makes it difficult or limits God's ability to get accurate information about it: God omnipresently knows all the facts directly, as well as (by corollary) all hypothetical possibilities (which God may or may not act toward enactualizing in multiple natural systems, each of which contains a whole natural universe of whatever size.)

On this theory God isn't determinately directing everything around, but still retains (and occasionally enacts) the ability to direct, create, and annihilate particles, injecting events into the not-God system, which the system naturalizes (so to speak) in reaction. Derivative rational spirits, brought into existence by a synthetic union of God and not-God Nature, have vastly much more limited capabilities of the same sort, even in the best circumstances (and those circumstances would be further limited by rebellion against God); and meanwhile God can see what we're doing and what we're thinking with our derivative freedom of introducing events into Nature which Nature of its own particular characteristics would not produce.


And if [God] "sees" all events simultaneously, then how can he distinguish these events in a temporal sense? Or even be aware of a temporal sequence of events?


I'm not quite sure how to describe how the ontological relation of not-God nature with God solves this problem, but I know it does. It would be an incomprehensible smear to us, or to any created entity, but our relationship to a natural system (or any historical process within any natural system) is only slightly related to God's relationship to Nature.

Similarly, even though as author of a story I can check in on any point of its invented space-time whenever I want, my relationship to the story is only faintly similar to the utter intimacy of God's relationship to Nature (and to us rational creatures within Nature). So even though I'm 'outside' my story (and can introduce effects, including my own persona if I want, inside my story) in a faintly similar way with a couple of relevant parallels, I'd still be unable to know all events in my story simultaneously, even if I could be omnisciently aware of them somehow (which I cannot). If my relation to my story was the same as God's relation to our Nature, that wouldn't be a problem -- but I'd have to be actively generating the reality of my story at all points of its reality in continuous continuity (so to speak). Which I can't do (and can never do) because I'm only a creature.

Even so, I can be aware of a temporal sequence of events within my fictional story, despite my extremely limited ontological connection to it: e.g. first Portunista fights off Gemalfan, then she gets his notes, then studies his notes, then discovers the location of the Tower of Qarfax, then travels there, then invades it, then defeats its security systems, then fights off three other small armies trying to get the Tower, then packs up and marches to the city of Wye, etc. etc.

If my relationship to my story doesn't increase, then my ability to know my story will begin to oversaturate from being unable to process the details; but the more my relationship to my story increases the more I can keep in mind about my story at-once. But my story and I are both creatures within an overarching reality (or actually within two overarching realities, Nature and God, the former itself dependent on the latter), so there are necessary limits about how far I can relate to my story.


Some of the issues raised in the discussion in the earlier part of this thread reminded me of why I have issues with (at least some) notions of free will floating around out there. What is it that makes these guys so certain that God thinks our free will is as important as we do?


On my account of theology, the existence of free will is the key distinction between a theistic and atheistic reality; therefore this is also the key distinction between a creation being a child of God (Who is the Father of spirits) and being a puppet, even if the puppet is set loose to ping-pong around doing various things like an earthworm.

Free will is also a decisively huge factor for morality on my theological account, although I haven't gotten to that yet in my description above.

Consequently, free will is a huge factor for soteriology on my theological account. But I don't think a creature's free will to rebel counts as much as God's free will to save rebels from rebellion, and that's a big difference from the type of Arminian account where God is forced to quit because He's beaten at last by evil. The type of Arminian account where God chooses of His own volition to quit even though He could feasibly continue until He wins, is a more properly theocentric soteriology than the anthrocentric version popularized (I'm sorry to say) by Lewis -- but then (as Lewis very well knew) that other type of Arminianism, where God simply chooses to quit bringing about righteousness in creatures, denies trinitarian theism and the essential existence of God as an active love in other ways.


Um... I think I may have addressed, at least in passing, the other topics raised so far in the thread...? Except I haven't gone on (in the description above) to talk about how morality relates conceptually to the self-begetting, self-begotten (and self-giving) God as the foundation of all reality; and how it relates to how we use our rational action capability to choose between options where those are presented to us.
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Fe4rG0d » Mon Sep 08, 2014 7:25 pm

Hi Jason Pratt: I like your discussion a lot :) Hypertemporalism, panentheism, etc are all integral parts of how I understand God and creation, from a deterministic point of view. Its nice to see it laid out well.

I'd like to raise a minor point God creating 'non-God' entities. Are you saying that God's creation of 'non-God' factors into His own 'space', somehow disrupts the reality of 'God' that would have otherwise been (i.e. what you consider to be the perfect active self-generation of God)? Therefore this can only happen if we lose some of the 'God-ness' of his independent reality? I have a slight problem with that for two reasons.
Firstly, I don't think the distinction (between God's perfect active self-generation, and His existence alongside and in relationship to the non-God creation) makes any sense. If He exists in any personal way, with a character and a desire to express that character, wouldn't perfect self-generation necessarily include generation of all the necessarily attached extensions of 'self' (i.e. the expression, life, or 'being' of that self)? For God, I would argue that this includes His existence alongside and relating to temporal non-God entities. In other words, the 'self-sacrificing' aspect of God is not truly self-sacrificing in the sense most people expect, because it IS a part of the 'self' that God has been eternally generating. Using your EM analogy, I'm questioning whether it is most helpful to differentiate between the magnetic and electric components of a unified field, or to see them as one inseparable phenomenon.

This brings me to the second expression of my (minor) point, which relates well to Dan's original point - what do we really mean when we say 'non-God' when referring to creation? The way you were using it seems to require a particular definition, whereby it is impossible for God to be perfectly self-generating while maintaining such 'non-God' entities. I would contest this. That would be like saying the electric current becomes less 'electric' when it emanates the magnetic field - actually, it finds a more full expression of what it means to be 'electromagnetic', and the concepts of 'electric' or 'magnetic' on their own begin to seem shallow. But these terms are still useful to simplify and clarify the topic for discussion, which is why I still use the term 'non-God' with a slightly different definition of distinction (rather than opposition). I think God's essence and self-generation necessarily includes the maintenance of these 'non-God' entities. This view really does place a lot of emphasis on panentheism.

Anyway, its all semantics, and from the sounds of it our conclusions about God's relationship to reality are very similar :)
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Fe4rG0d » Mon Sep 08, 2014 7:32 pm

Still going, LOL...

I've heard a helpful analogy to demonstrate how hypertemporalism doesn't remove God's ability to experience time. Maybe its been tossed around before, but here it is:
Existing in the 3D world, we have the ability to observe multiple 2D planes in conjunction, and so if we are discussing phenomena we need to add an extra' dimension' to describe 'which' of these multiple 2D planes we are referring to. We call this 'depth'. Being able to observe depth and multiple 2D planes at once, does not mean we can't understand or distinguish between phenomena in terms of the 2D length and width as well. We then add the fourth dimension of time, meaning we can observe multiple 3D 'spaces' in conjunction, while still maintaining an understanding of 3D and being able to distinguish between phenomena in terms of the 3D dimensions. If God is hypertemporal, He can observe multiple space-time 'entities' in conjunction, but is still able to understand time and distinguish between events in a temporal sense.
Interestingly, this accommodates the emerging radical ideas about time's impermanence vs permanence, its relationship to general relativity, and whether it's 'direction' is merely an illusion. It doesn't matter, since time is merely distinguishing between otherwise identical events. The 'parameters' we attach to it are useful for descriptive purposes, but not fundamentally important for distinguishing between phenomena and constructing a holistic picture from multiple space-time entities.

Regarding Free Will, it sounds like you might be sympathetic to the idea of Free Agency.
You've probably heard of it before, but for those who don't know, Free Agency maintains that God values / respects / protects some fundamental attributes of our souls, so that we really do make real choices from our own innate drives and desires, and that these choices reflect only two things: our fundamental nature and character, and our perception of reality and the options available to us. However, it denies 'free will' as most people understand it, because (paradoxically) it is opposed to the basic assumptions of justice (e.g. without a basis, our choices are essentially random and thus not truly reflective of who we are, and not eligible for reward in any sense), and opposed to the realities of life (as any social worker or advertising agent will tell you). Although we really do make the choices, we never have the real ability to choose anything other than the best single option we perceive (subjectively) in any given context. And our perceptions and characters are highly stable and predictable, and mould predictably (again, with a basis, and not randomly).
From a Christian determinism perspective, since God is in absolute control of all of the things our choices are based upon, and all the things that mould our character, this makes Him in absolute control of our decisions, but NOT in a way which violates the properties of our souls. In other words, God has chosen to limit Himself to work in ways which our souls will respond to, in order to bring about His purposes in and through our choices. This is one big reason for the process we call 'life'.
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby JasonPratt » Tue Sep 09, 2014 5:38 am

Fe4rG0d wrote:I'd like to raise a minor point God creating 'non-God' entities. Are you saying that God's creation of 'non-God' factors into His own 'space', somehow disrupts the reality of 'God' that would have otherwise been (i.e. what you consider to be the perfect active self-generation of God)? Therefore this can only happen if we lose some of the 'God-ness' of his independent reality?


No, sorry for being unclear, on the theory I (radically over-)summarized God still remains fully God; creation doesn't reduce the divine infinity. And the 2nd Person (for bi or trinitarianism) is still doing what He always does, though in creating not-God reality He does the same thing a different way so to speak.


Fe4rG0d wrote:Firstly, I don't think the distinction (between God's perfect active self-generation, and His existence alongside and in relationship to the non-God creation) makes any sense. If He exists in any personal way, with a character and a desire to express that character, wouldn't perfect self-generation necessarily include generation of all the necessarily attached extensions of 'self' (i.e. the expression, life, or 'being' of that self)? For God, I would argue that this includes His existence alongside and relating to temporal non-God entities. In other words, the 'self-sacrificing' aspect of God is not truly self-sacrificing in the sense most people expect, because it IS a part of the 'self' that God has been eternally generating. Using your EM analogy, I'm questioning whether it is most helpful to differentiate between the magnetic and electric components of a unified field, or to see them as one inseparable phenomenon.


Except that ontologically the creation isn't a necessary characteristic of the self-existent action of God per se. God must self-generate in order to actively self-exist; God does not have to create not-God reality in order to actively self-exist. (But God does have to treat not-God reality in certain ways, in order not to act in contravention to God's own active self-existence. This has massive and decisive implications in favor of Christian universalism, eventually.)

However, I don't mean to be saying that temporally there was ever a 'time' when God wasn't creating not-God realities. Within our natural spatio-temporal existence, God is always everywhere creating not-God realities, and as derivative creatures we could only get out of this timeline by going into another created nature, which from within its own perspective will also always everywhere have been being created by God.

Of course, the EM analogy breaks down in that the E and the M always necessarily co-exist, whereas creation doesn't have ontological co-existence properties with God. (In that sense the EM analogy would better fit the co-existent Persons of God.) I only brought it up for the limited purpose of illustrating right-angle action to a system. Lewis would (and did) say that such an illustration (though I don't recall him using an EM field, but it was something conceptually similar) substitutes a physical analogy for a temporal one, neither one being fully correct for describing what must be 'sui generis'.


Fe4rG0d wrote:This brings me to the second expression of my (minor) point, which relates well to Dan's original point - what do we really mean when we say 'non-God' when referring to creation? The way you were using it seems to require a particular definition, whereby it is impossible for God to be perfectly self-generating while maintaining such 'non-God' entities.


God doesn't stop self-generating on my theory, just starts generating something other than Godself. I go into much more detail about what it means to be not-God in the chapters: once I infer that fundamental reality must be rationally active, to account for my own necessarily presumed (but not presumably necessary) rational action capability, one of the obvious next questions is whether I am God, and it doesn't take a lot of self-examination to see that I am not. ;) That implies distinctions in reality and then the question is how those distinctions relate to each other.


Re: the 3D/2D analogy, I haven't used that for helping describe how God experiences created time, but it seems to work. (I use the 3D/2D analogies for other purposes.)


Fe4rG0d wrote:Regarding Free Will, it sounds like you might be sympathetic to the idea of Free Agency.


Can't have a responsible argument without it. :) I don't think it denies free will as most people understand it, though, since most people on reflection realize there are some pretty obvious limits to creaturely free will even if/though they agree creaturely free will exists.

I don't regard our natural micro and macro environments as the basis for justice, though; and I noted earlier that so far as I was discussing my argument trail I hadn't gotten to morality yet. (That's Section Four, the largest in the book. ;) )

Fe4rG0d wrote:Although we really do make the choices, we never have the real ability to choose anything other than the best single option we perceive (subjectively) in any given context.


On the contrary, it is entirely possible to choose against the single best perceived option available, for better or for worse. When I'm working out I can intentionally prefer to continue even though realistically I am forced to stop as the single best option available. That preference isn't merely a feeling; it's how I search and reach past my currently perceived limitations.
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Fe4rG0d » Tue Sep 09, 2014 4:03 pm

Hi Jason, thanks for replying :)

I didn't mean to imply that you thought God's divinity was reduced by creating non-God entities, but merely 'changed' somehow to be no longer the 'perfect pure self-generation' of God.
Essentially I don't think this is the case. I DON'T think the EM analogy breaks down, because I DO think that E (A personal, soulish God) and M (the expression of that personal soulish God) DO necessarily co-exist.
In order for God to actively exist, He must not only self-generate, but He must be true to His own characteristics within that self-generation. For a more basic God, I agree, this is a fairly mute point. But for the God I see in Scripture (and the nature of reality), in order to be true to His characteristics I believe He MUST be expressing Himself through creating non-God entities.
In other words, I DO think that the creation of non-God entities is an ontologically necessary characteristic of a personal soulish God like the one described in Scripture, if He were to actively self-exist.
I don't think this damages the rest of your argument in any way. Like the EM analogy, it is useful (and real, in some sense) to distinguish between E and M, but it is shallow to not recognize a fundamental and ontologically necessary unification. I think the rest of your discussion (utilizing the 'God' vs 'Non-God' distinction) still works well.

Regarding Free Agency, my experience has been that most people are unwilling to let go of some semblance of 'randomness' to our decisions, or the (limited) ability to choose in a way that violates all the things our decisions are based upon. Free Agency denies this, so this is why I think Free Agency denies free will as most people understand it.
Also (although I personally agree that justice incorporates many factors more important than our natural macro/micro environment) most people DO consider justice primarily from this perspective, and hence free will (I think) is logically inconsistent for them. Especially since many use this perception of justice as the reason for rejecting determinism.
I think you misunderstand what I mean by 'the single best perceived option'. If you choose to act otherwise in your workout, for better or for worse, this is because you have perceived it to BE THE BEST option for you (however you define it in your current context and state of 'soulishness'). I realize that my terms are not crisply defined here, but it doesn't matter. The bottom line is that Free Agency maintains that, however difficult it is to predict or define, our decisions are entirely based upon elements of our soul and perception and context, which are all under God's deterministic control or intimate foreknowledge, making our choices entirely malleable in a deterministic way.
This does not mean that God has not limited his determinism in any way out of respect for something in our soul - he has chosen to work with our soul's unique characteristics and how it will respond and mould to various contexts and inputs and events, etc. But Free Will per-se is not the element that He has chosen to protect.
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby DaveB » Tue Sep 09, 2014 5:11 pm

I'll just step in between you two guys for a second, then butt out -

Fe4rG0d wrote:In other words, I DO think that the creation of non-God entities is an ontologically necessary characteristic of a personal soulish God like the one described in Scripture, if He were to actively self-exist.


If you did not use the adjective 'ontologically' - would your opinion still hold?
Could God have created two angels, nothing else, to relieve the necessity?
I'm not being facetious, actually. I'm just very interested in your use of the word 'necessary' in relation to the God of the scriptures.


Fe4rG0d wrote:The bottom line is that Free Agency maintains that, however difficult it is to predict or define, our decisions are entirely based upon elements of our soul and perception and context, which are all under God's deterministic control or intimate foreknowledge, making our choices entirely malleable in a deterministic way.



Is God, then, the Author of evil?
This particular statement - "which are all under God's deterministic control or intimate foreknowledge" - may not be true necessarily (in the logical sense). I understand the parallel game of 'Do we have free will, or are we determined, or do we simply have free will enough (My choice) to serve God's purposes, or to rebel against them? It is my belief that, as fun a game as it is, noone can win it, this side of Glory (as my father-in-law was fond of saying :D ). But that is just me.

I'm sorry if I come across as 'sniping' - maybe that's one reason my posts are always short, it makes me a smaller target :lol: - I do appreciate people who are obviously working hard to make sense of a topsy-turvy world and how it relates to God. Please continue.
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Paidion » Tue Sep 09, 2014 6:22 pm

Are there any other hard determinists here? Personally I would find it hard to be a Universalist if I were not a determinist. I humbly think that it would be impossible to predict universalism if Freewill was involved. I mean, with Freewill we could change our minds from each moment to the next.


I am neither a determinist nor a compatibilist. I believe that normal people have libertarian free will. I also believe in the universal reconciliation of all people to God. I don't see why this would be "impossible to predict". It is true that free-will agents can and do change their minds. But there is also stability in free will agents, since their choices also crystallize their character.

God haters may carry their hatred throughout this short life of no more than 120 years. But God is love, and his love results in action. God will work to lead people to repentance and submission to Him in the after life, for He knows this will result in the greatest joy and mental health for everyone. Can the God-hater hold out in defiance of God's love in his rebellion forever? Maybe he can hold out for a million years or so. But can he hold out forever? If he can, then his hate must be stronger than God's love. This implies that he is the winner, and God the loser. I don't think so. God will never stop loving, but eventually every hater will repent and stop hating of their own free will.
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby DaveB » Wed Sep 10, 2014 7:15 am

Today's Maverick Philosopher column, dealing in part with the theology of Simone Weil and the question of Absolute Goodness relative to man's goodness, has the following line, appropriate to this thread, I think:
"The absolute good, existing absolutely (ab solus, a se), is absolute in its existence without prejudice to its being necessarily related to us in its goodness. If God is (agapic) love, then God necessarily bestows His love on any creatures there might be. It is not necessary that there be creatures, but it is necessary that God love the creatures that there are and that they find their final good in Him."

That is also the way I would talk about 'necessity' - again, in the logical sense - as it relates to God.
Does that make sense to my fellow threadees? :D

edit: JP said something akin to this above:
"Except that ontologically the creation isn't a necessary characteristic of the self-existent action of God per se. God must self-generate in order to actively self-exist; God does not have to create not-God reality in order to actively self-exist. (But God does have to treat not-God reality in certain ways, in order not to act in contravention to God's own active self-existence. This has massive and decisive implications in favor of Christian universalism, eventually.)
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Fe4rG0d » Wed Sep 10, 2014 2:34 pm

Hi again Dave,

I'm not sure what you mean by your first question. What I'm saying is that IF God is at all ontologically consistent, I think that His very existence must necessarily be true to the characteristics He has. Now sure, you might decide he doesn't need to be ontologically consistent, but I don't think there's much point discussing that option from a pragmatic point of view, and besides I think the Bible describes God as ontologically consistent.
IF He is true to his characteristics, we need to decide what these are. I think Scripture defines Him very specifically, and not as a blank or vague being, and not merely as 'love'. If these descriptions were all we had for God, I can understand that there is no ontological necessity for created beings. However, I think the Bible describes God much more specifically, e.g. as soulish (with a character desiring to express itself), relational, powerful and creative, exclusively 'good', etc, etc (add to the list whatever you think is Scriptural). Basically the God I see in Scripture has characteristics that, if He were true to them during His existence, would 'require' the creation of a space-time entity which is the universe, humanity, Christ, heaven and hell, etc.
Also, I don't see it as a necessity that needs 'relieving'. Its a glorious drive to express Himself and be true to Himself.

Yes, I do think that God is the 'author' of Evil in a certain sense. The Bible says this itself (Isaiah 45:7). Obviously this doesn't mean 'God has evil motives' or that 'God is involved in creating evil outcomes, ultimately'. But this isn't what you're asking - even if God has good motives and ensures a good outcome, you're main concern seems to be with God performing particular actions. The 'evil' you are concerned about is a quality of the action, not the consequences or the motives. And this is exactly how Isaiah is using the term 'evil' when he says that God does it. I also think the Bible teaches that God is the author (in a certain sense) of the unique balance of sin/faith within each individual.
I understand there are many potential 'problems' that people have with this, but I have yet to find one that sticks when examined closely - which is good, because I don't like feeling uncomfortable with any of the (real) implications of my particular theology!

I personally think the game of free-will and determinism can be 'won' :) But its certainly debated by a great number of Christians who know God much better than I do, so I try to stay humble and open about it! I don't think God would ever expect us to stop seeking cognitive knowledge about Him merely because it is difficult or uncertain. There are, however, a great many ways we can use our efforts, and we do probably use too much energy on this particular game. What I ultimately care about is unity in the body of Christ THROUGH a diversity of doctrines, love for those struggling where we never use their 'Free Will' as an excuse to reduce our efforts, and an unshakeable hope for good in all things (including evil) through our sovereign God.
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby DaveB » Wed Sep 10, 2014 2:53 pm

Fe4rG0d wrote:What I'm saying is that IF God is at all ontologically consistent, I think that His very existence must necessarily be true to the characteristics He has.


Absolutely, I agree with this. :D

As to the rest, there's no need to argue over speculations! I have no doubt God is greater than anything we can think.
I'll leave it to you and JP and the others for now.

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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Daniel (Da Pilgrim) » Fri Sep 12, 2014 2:42 am

Paidion wrote:
Are there any other hard determinists here? Personally I would find it hard to be a Universalist if I were not a determinist. I humbly think that it would be impossible to predict universalism if Freewill was involved. I mean, with Freewill we could change our minds from each moment to the next.


I am neither a determinist nor a compatibilist. I believe that normal people have libertarian free will. I also believe in the universal reconciliation of all people to God. I don't see why this would be "impossible to predict". It is true that free-will agents can and do change their minds. But there is also stability in free will agents, since their choices also crystallize their character.

God haters may carry their hatred throughout this short life of no more than 120 years. But God is love, and his love results in action. God will work to lead people to repentance and submission to Him in the after life, for He knows this will result in the greatest joy and mental health for everyone. Can the God-hater hold out in defiance of God's love in his rebellion forever? Maybe he can hold out for a million years or so. But can he hold out forever? If he can, then his hate must be stronger than God's love. This implies that he is the winner, and God the loser. I don't think so. God will never stop loving, but eventually every hater will repent and stop hating of their own free will.


Hey peoples!
I have been enjoying the comments, even though they are rather heavy at times lol. Great thoughts! I thought I would chip in a little here. Thanks for the chime Paidon.

I love your understanding of God in that He will never give up on people or let evil win!
My reply would be that since God knows that all people have a nature where we will eventually become subject to God's love, then we must have that particular nature as part of our being. I cannot conceive of that nature being random (as in making random choices not related to any particular nature), nor do I like to think of that nature being random. However, as you said God's love is stronger than hate. The quality of God's love has a certain (not uncertain) effect that outweighs the power of hate.
Because you say that freewill works with a solidified and mouldable character, does that mean that one day we will not have free will? Our solidified characters would have taken over our ability to choose?

Jason you said:
"The problem comes from introducing a past-tense into God's present-tense. If God is currently experiencing 2004 and 2014 (with them not being "at the same time", by the way), God is not presently seeing 2004 in hindsight from 2014. All the history that actually happens happens, and God sees it and is present for it: God is equally present and seeing my choices now as for the choices I will make and the choices I have made."

Thanks for the write up. It was a great read!
From the sounds of it, you don't seem to believe in free will, as in, you believe more in free agency. So this comment may be pointless. However, even if God had no concept of past tense and was present at all times, at the same time; wouldn't that mean that "change" could never happen?
If God is presently involved in all chronological time with no concept of past tense, then He would not be able to change anything. Change means to move from one form to the next which requires past tense. There would be no new decisions or actions from God along the chronological time scale. It is fixed. If it is fixed to God then it must be fixed to us. Though from our perceptions it feels like we choose.
Thus any "freewill" we may have is still fixed.

Cheers!
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby JasonPratt » Sat Sep 20, 2014 10:45 am

Fe4rG0d wrote:Hi Jason, thanks for replying :)

I didn't mean to imply that you thought God's divinity was reduced by creating non-God entities, but merely 'changed' somehow to be no longer the 'perfect pure self-generation' of God.
Essentially I don't think this is the case. I DON'T think the EM analogy breaks down, because I DO think that E (A personal, soulish God) and M (the expression of that personal soulish God) DO necessarily co-exist.
In order for God to actively exist, He must not only self-generate, but He must be true to His own characteristics within that self-generation. For a more basic God, I agree, this is a fairly mute point. But for the God I see in Scripture (and the nature of reality), in order to be true to His characteristics I believe He MUST be expressing Himself through creating non-God entities.


This is certainly our point of contrast, then; because I cannot logically regard God's active self-existence to necessarily involve God's creation of not-God entities in order to continue self-existing. Not-God reality is not God, and does not actively self-exist; there is no and cannot be ontological parity between God and not-God. (Call that shallow if you insist. ;) I call it logical.)

Nor do I regard God in His infinite self-existence to have changed to be no longer the perfect pure self-generation of God. That God must act differently from the action of self-existence, however, must be true for not-God entities to exist; but that does not and cannot involve God self-begetting and God self-begotten (and God self-giving) ceasing instead to act in self-existence.

I do grant the most intimate possible points of connection between the self-sacrificing action of God and (not-God) Nature as an ongoing result of that self-sacrificial action -- but the real distinction of a creation (by the Lamb slain at and as the foundation of the world, so to speak) means any not-God Nature (however many such systems of created existence exist) is not itself ontologically on parity with God. Similarly, an ever-increasing number of such systems can always be increasing in number, perhaps even at infinite speed, without that number ever 'adding up to' the infinity from which those numbers come.

What I do insist on, in regard to God's continuing ontological self-existence, is that God shall not treat rational creatures in those Natures in any way which would run in contravention to the fulfillment of fair-togetherness between persons. (I don't mean that I'm ordering God to do that, of course; only that I cannot accept an idea about God to be true that involves this, without denying orthodox trinitarian theism.) But even this does not require God to be creating not-God entities in order for God to self-exist.


Fe4rG0d wrote:Regarding Free Agency, my experience has been that most people are unwilling to let go of some semblance of 'randomness' to our decisions, or the (limited) ability to choose in a way that violates all the things our decisions are based upon. Free Agency denies this, so this is why I think Free Agency denies free will as most people understand it.


I don't think free agency at all denies, but rather affirms, at least a limited ability to choose in a way that is not determined by all incoming environmental effects. But we probably have very different ideas of what free agency per se involves, and so are inadvertently talking at cross purposes here using similar terminology. "The bottom line is that Free Agency maintains that, however difficult it is to predict or define, our decisions are entirely based upon elements of our soul and perception and context, which are all under God's deterministic control or intimate foreknowledge, making our choices entirely malleable in a deterministic way," doesn't sound at all like "free agency" to me even in a limited way. "Free" "agency" == "our choices" are "entirely malleable" by, "entirely based upon", "deterministic" influences?? That sounds like the total opposite of any even slightly real free agency.


Fe4rG0d wrote:I think you misunderstand what I mean by 'the single best perceived option'. If you choose to act otherwise in your workout, for better or for worse, this is because you have perceived it to BE THE BEST option for you (however you define it in your current context and state of 'soulishness').


My problem is when you elide that over into the circumstances of "the best perceived option" creating the (apparent) choice of (actual) behavior. Being forced by circumstances to quit doing something that I willingly intend I would continue if I could, highlights the distinction of events involved. The core intention, even if clouded by perception, is what a person is personally responsible for, and what the person is actively choosing.

Fe4rG0d wrote:But Free Will per-se is not the element that He has chosen to protect.


I would say instead the free will per se is the only way in which a person is actually a person and not an illusion of a person; and this active agency can only come from God (the Father of spirits). God, I agree, authoritatively chooses to let our free will exist in subjection, currently, to many non-rational and non-moral stimuli, affected by causes; but this cannot be the end or the beginning of our will. In one sense I can agree that God therefore does not choose to protect our free will in various ways (imposed death being the most obvious example); but in the only ways that can possibly have meaning, our free will is the only created thing about us which God ultimately protects, our existence as free wills being why God voluntarily self-sacrifices to create not-God reality at all.

A not-God natural system teeming with any number of impersonal not-God entities, is after all only a work of art at best. Derivatively created spirits are children, not puppets (even if we and/or our ancestors have currently tied us up in bundles of knotted strings woven from the threads of Nature, her maternal dress becoming our shroud until the time of childbirth has been entirely fulfilled.)
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby JasonPratt » Sat Sep 20, 2014 11:34 am

DaveB, quoting MavPhil, quoting or reffing Simone Weil wrote:"The absolute good, existing absolutely (ab solus, a se), is absolute in its existence without prejudice to its being necessarily related to us in its goodness. If God is (agapic) love, then God necessarily bestows His love on any creatures there might be. It is not necessary that there be creatures, but it is necessary that God love the creatures that there are and that they find their final good in Him."


Yep, as your noticed afterward I said much the same thing upthread; and also in SttH (at muuuuuchhh more detailed length. ;) )


For what it's worth, Fe4r, I don't agree that Free Will is any excuse for us to reduce our efforts to love those who are struggling with their lives, including with sin in their lives. On the contrary, I would say Free Will is why people exist to be loved (and to love) at all. Recognizing and acknowledging the environmental problems of a person does not require denying the ability of the person to make personally responsible choices (though a person may be crippled so far that their choices are poisoned or ineffective against their environment). Affirming personal responsibility, and helping that responsibility grow, honors the person as a person, and helps the person grow as a person.

Maturity could even be defined, I'd say, as coming to take increasing responsibility for one's environment, and for one's behaviors within that environment. There's even a common scriptural phrase connected with that idea: "enjoying the allotment of the inheritance"! :) It's practically the whole point to the "son-placement" idea, translated in English as "adoption", described by St. Paul.


Daniel wrote:From the sounds of it, you don't seem to believe in free will, as in, you believe more in free agency.


Actually, I believe they're basically the same thing. But i acknowledge that the active will of creatures has natural limitations, and that this will always be true even in the resurrection to eonian life however much we grow in effective capabilities within the Natures we inhabit. Right now our wills are highly hampered by natural processes and environmental effects, though different people through discipline and training can improve their capabilities of interaction with natural processes to various degrees.

Daniel wrote:However, even if God had no concept of past tense and was present at all times, at the same time; wouldn't that mean that "change" could never happen?


Change would still happen; God would just be present at all times and would know all changes (also, I suppose, all possible changes which never happen).

I'm not sure I would say (and didn't actually say) God has no concept of a past-tense, but His concept of it would be a concept of our concept of the natural past: He knows how we perceive the past.

(Nor, by the way, do I think God would need an Incarnation to have that knowledge, though being Incarnate would give Him a way to 'naturally experience' that knowledge. There is a way in which, being omnipresent and omniscient, God knows of my eating more thoroughly and intimately than I ever can, yet what He knows thus is my eating, not His eating; what He knows in the Incarnation is His eating.)


The question of God being able to change something is kind of moot, since God at all points of space-time contributes to the shape of natural history in various ways -- first and perhaps foremost by providing for natural entities to do things to have a history at all, but this keeps a way open for Him to introduce effects more directly into the system, too. From His divine present He sees all effects He introduces, without which introductions natural history would have had a different shape.

It isn't a question of it being fixed against God's ability to choose to contribute to the shape of the history; the history exists in its shape thanks to God's choices as well as the choices of created agents, though unlike God we move along the history contributing our choices one at a time as we go. (The Incarnate Son is a way for God to experience and contribute to history along the story as well as from above the story, too; I strongly suspect the Son also travels around history in time and space as His personal natural history, which He starts in Bethlehem, or possibly at the conception in Nazareth, goes forward! -- and that this accounts for a lot of the anthropomorphisms attributed to YHWH, especially to the visible YHWH, in the OT.)

If God wants to actively contribute to histories with different shapes, He 'simply' makes other histories in parallel with ours, though I doubt He contributes to, or authoritatively allows, every possible actualization and so every theoretically possible history. But there may be one best-possible-history which God prefers to bring about. Or there may be any number of best-possible-histories which God brings about but which are historically quite distinct from each other: to give an example of that idea, Narnia isn't an alternate history Earth, so something like that would be brought about (on this theory) and not Lewis' Space Trilogy stories which feature him and other persons from our history as well as persons not found in our history.

The question there would be whether, in short, God creates multiple Jasons in alternate universes. I can see arguments for the possibility of multiple universes without me; for multiple universes with different me's yet similar enough to be recognizable as me though all different actual persons; and for one natural history that happens to be the only one God thought fit to create. However, I don't have a main reason for some theologians like William Lane Craig to insist on the one-best-possible-history idea: it would seem weird on Arminian soteriology to have multiple persons existing, some saved and some damned (since if God doesn't save everyone and doesn't choose by election to save only some, then there would be at least some risk of multiple persons of me being perma-damned); and God electing to ensure the salvation of one version of me while damning another version of me would run against Calvinistic expectations in a different way (though a Calv might be a little more comfortable with close-parallel universes, where the same persons are always elected or not to salvation by God's choice.) Either Calvs or Arms would I think be okay with more distinctly different natural histories being created with altogether different persons, though they might still have reasons for thinking God would only make one natural history. (WLC's rationale for one-best-possible world is only partially soteriological, for example.)
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Fe4rG0d » Mon Sep 22, 2014 2:09 am

Hi Jason, thanks for the reply.

I don't think you or your approach is shallow LOL! I feel honoured that you'd address my arguments at all, to be honest...

I'm wondering if some of our differences are due to your progressive-logical-argument perspective (where simultaneous and ontologically integrated phenomena are dealt with separately and in sequence, because one is required to understand the other). From that perspective, yes, God's active but isolated self-existence can be seen as occurring 'first' or being more 'fundamental' (in a logically progressive sense) than anything proceeding from this.

But it does not follow that there is no ontological necessity with subsequent phenomenon (as you yourself demonstrate). I think you're saying that God's active self-existence somehow ontologically entails that He act in a particular way toward non-God entities (i.e. in a way consistent with all the attributes of Himself). I agree with this. But if there can be ontological links between God's self existence and his behavior toward non-God entities, what is so special about the act (or continuous process) of 'creation'?

Also I'm not arguing for anything as drastic as parity, let alone parity between any being (e.g. God) and another being (e.g. non-God). I'm comparing two of God's activities. And I'm not talking about a hypothetical as-yet undeveloped or unspecified God (a blank minimalistic God, for whom isolated eternal self-existence may well be possible without violating its nature). I'm just saying that I think there is an inseparable ontological integration between the Scriptural God's act of self existence (which is in accordance with his specific nature), and His natural unrestricted expression of Himself (including the act of creation).

Of course the act of creation is 'different' in terms of description or logical progression, to the act of self-generation (i.e. they have no true 'parity'). I'm not so radically pantheistic to want to deny this! I'm saying these two activities/processes cannot occur without each other - as if they were both ontologically necessary manifestations of an underlying process, or as if one were are description of merely one facet of the other.



Regarding 'Free Agency', my understanding of it is that it is a deliberate term designed to distinguish itself from Free Will, by describing what is actually Free (the agency of the person, rather than the will). In order for the agency to be truly free, every phenomenon that is derived from the soul must reflect and express that soul, meaning that technically (if everything was known, i.e. in God's mind) the soul can be truly and accurately interpreted from the phenomena derived from it, from its 'expressions'. This means that emotions, desires, the will, perceptions, etc, cannot have 'random' or unpredictable / uninterpretable factors that distort the expression of the soul (i.e. that limit the freedom of that soul's agency). This is why Free Agency states that the will cannot be directed at anything other than whatever the soul currently perceives as the 'best option'.

BTW, the 'will' in Free Agency has nothing to do with physical ability. Of course you can will something (perceive it to be the best option) that you can't actually achieve.

Free Agency makes a point of using the word 'freedom', to battle the notion that we are puppets. We are our own agents with distinct characteristics, and we have freedom to actually express who we actually are in a meaningful and interpretable way in the world. The reason God can actually 'judge' us based on our actions, will, emotions, desires, etc, is that these really do express our souls. 'Responsibility' in this picture is more a statement about the actual state of our souls - if you perform an evil act or desire evil things, you are responsible because it means your soul actually has evil in it. I think God preserves our agency, by NOT arbitrarily forcing to act / will / feel / desire / perceive a certain way, but rather limiting Himself to allowing our souls to express who they actually are.

We know that our souls change over time, and the phenomena derived from them also change. People grow, conversion happens, faith and sin are not static. And this reflects itself in our wills, emotions, actions, etc. But the way our souls grow is itself a phenomenon derived from that soul - some souls are harder to change in a particular way than others. So for God to preserve our Free agency, He must not only ensure that our wills / emotions / actions actually reflect our soul (rather than being forced against our wills, like puppets), but He must also ensure that the growth and development of our soul is true to itself (rather than being arbitrarily forced to have certain characteristics, so that it will will and act as God intends).

I'm getting tongue-tied :) I'm writing this far too late at night...

Basically God has limited Himself, and does respect aspects about our humanity that make us special and responsible and meaningful agents. But this does not preclude Him perfectly designing the development of our soul to have the will / emotions / perceptions that He wants us to have, and to behave the way He wants us to behave (over time, via influences that He knows we will respond to).

I'm always interested to hear how people think Free Will is superior to this kind of Free Agency. I personally have not yet seen why it would be required for e.g. love or responsibility or 'Image of God', or for God to be consistent with His own character, etc. You mention several times that you do think it is required. Can you describe why?
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Chrisguy90 » Mon Sep 22, 2014 8:57 pm

Fe4rG0d wrote:I'm always interested to hear how people think Free Will is superior to this kind of Free Agency. I personally have not yet seen why it would be required for e.g. love or responsibility or 'Image of God', or for God to be consistent with His own character, etc. You mention several times that you do think it is required. Can you describe why?


Haven't posted here in a while, but wanted to chime in here.

Free agency seems to me to be only compatibilism with a different name. How does it account for the existence of our seemingly brute "natures"? They either come straight from God as they are (which would make him responsible for any evil they contained) or there is some other truly independent causative power (i.e. our free wills) which have messed things up.

By they way, I would like to express again my concerns with the whole "Boethian" timeless view of God. By itself (as presented by Jason), I find the doctrine incoherent. For there must be some logical priority, even if we view time as a single "now", among the acts of the free creatures throughout the space-time continuum. And if this is so, God cannot be interacting "simultaneously" with all those acts in such a way that violates that logical priority. The easiest way to see this error is this way. When Jesus foretells that Peter will deny him, it is asserted (on Boethius view) that he is able to foretell this, not because God has predetermined Peter's acts, but simply because he "sees" them in his eternal now. However, the Peter that God would be seeing who is denying Christ would himself be a being who had already experienced the foretelling prophecy. In other words, before Peter is told the prophecy, he must deny Christ, but before he denies Christ, he has to have heard the prophecy. What is given with one hand on this theory is at the same time taken away with the other. The reply at this point is often - by Lewis and Boethius - that all God's "acts" in eternity with his creation are really a single act, "incorporating" everything at once. But, even if this were so, this single act would have to uphold this logical interaction, for the temporally posterior acts of free creatures are dependent on temporally prior acts, not vice versa, and therefore what is temporally prior, even with time removed from the equation, is also logically prior. Thus, acts which occur earlier in time must be logically before acts which come later in time, and the latter are "dependent" on the former; not vice versa.

I do think there is a better view of divine atemporality, free will, and providence, which actually incorporates this Boethian view of Lewis' with his more "open theistic" beliefs, in terms of God "risking" when he created beings with free will, the "two way traffic" of causation between God and creature and God's impassibility (or lack thereof), and, perhaps the most enlightening metaphor he's given us on the subject, his chess piece analogy at the end of the Great Divorce. For those interested I'll post a short summary of that theory below from something I've written in the past.

"By combining various elements of CS Lewis' views of God's relationship to time, free will, foreknowledge and impassibility, I think I have something pretty close to a "Lewisian" response to the grounding objection in Molinism.

I have attached a diagram which explains it best, but, to put it in words, God's knowledge is determined by the part of us which is eternal and not in time (which I labeled "soul"). There is a logical priority here which is, admittedly, only vaguely imaginable - like the eternal footprint in the sand - but I think the image does convey a positive idea. Once this "non-temporal" interaction - this "imprintation" - occurs, God's knowledge is "affected". This is possible only by the power of his omnipotence and act of self-abnegation which allows us creatures to be "more than receptacles". I'm sure you know that any theory of genuine free will must allow for God in some way to be affected by his creation; I simply say that affect-ing must occur outside of and logically before time. Once this knowledge is "obtained" by God (this would be where he "learns" the counterfactuals of freedom), God can then "reveal" the soul (to him and to itself), in time, by giving it consciousness, etc, and perfecting it in whatever way he sees fit. His seeing its eternal nature, which has somehow "responded" to him outside of time, allows him to know how it would respond, were he to put it in time A under influences B. What God gains in eternity by looking at the soul is something that allows him to know how such a soul would look "unraveled", as it were, in time. Perhaps the pictorial best explains it, however.

This idea is based off Lewis in the Great Divorce and his chess piece analogy. You will notice there that he has an "eternal nature" standing outside the board (which is time), and the board itself is that nature "dileneated" in time. This idea, combined with what he says in Letters to Malcolm about there being a "two-way traffic" of causation between creator and created presents the possibility of our eternal souls "causing" God's knowledge of free counterfactuals outside of time and "before" we have been put in time. Finally, we "come to know ourselves" in time, as our consciousness of our own choices comes to us moment by moment (Screwtape.) As he indicates in the Great Divorce, our eternal souls can be viewed as making a sort of "single" choice or giving a "single" expression by eternally exercising our freedom in a certain way. This expression can be "broken up" in time.

I'm not convinced Lewis actually pictured or encountered the grounding objection, but synthesizing his views allows us to see a possible solution.

Thomas Flint called this view a kind of combination of open theism in eternity and determinism in time. That is a helpful way of thinking, I believe, so long as one remembers it doesn't *exactly* capture it."
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Fe4rG0d » Tue Sep 23, 2014 11:24 pm

Nice to have your view Chris :) I found it very interesting.

From what I understand, it's very similar to my current view, but with the introduction of 'open theism' within eternity (which God then responds to in his eternal determinism, which then plays out in time). My current view does not have this self-determining aspect to the soul - the diversity and characteristics that exist which God responds to, are themselves determined by God (meaning, yes God is responsible in a certain sense for sin within us). The introduction of this eternal limited self-determining 'open theism', which influences but by no means negates God's determinism, can fit quite well with Scripture and universalism. I'll have to think about it a bit more. My initial gut instinct (obviously a very reliable guide LOL) is that Scripture and logical coherence favour absolute determinism more than this hybrid... But I'm intrigued.

Interesting critique of Boethian timelessness from a pure foreknowledge perspective. I'm not sure its enough to totally discredit it, but I'd like to hear a defence of the idea's coherence in the face of this challenge. Any form of determinism (with or without eternal self-determinism) easily solves the problem - because it naturally assumes that God has a logical progression that He then expresses in temporal consciousness. God doesn't have a bunch of space-time slices that mash into an unintelligible shape, but rather arrange themselves to form a beautiful 4D image. The arrangement (logical / temporal progression) is an essential part of God's determinism.

I think the concept of God's 'responsibility' for evil, is an important thing to grapple with. Why is it that Christians feel they have to get God off the hook for being intimately involved in creating what we call 'evil'? I have yet to hear a reason that sticks under scrutiny. Would be keen to hear your thoughts.
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby DaveB » Wed Sep 24, 2014 5:11 am

Is God on the hook? I have yet to hear a reason to think so, that sticks under scrutiny. ;)
If He is on the hook, responsible for evil, then I can think of a greater God.
That is, if we are using the words 'responsible' and 'evil' and 'greater' and 'God' univocally.

The weakest rebuttal to the statement that "I do not believe that God is responsible for evil" would be: "I cannot think of any way in which He CANNOT be responsible for Evil". As if our inability to think a thing binds God. Of course, that cuts both ways, which I think shows the paucity of our philosophy rather than saying something meaningful about God.

As has been said somewhere, or should have been : we put Descartes before the horse. :lol:
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Daniel (Da Pilgrim) » Wed Sep 24, 2014 11:11 am

I'm not sure I would say (and didn't actually say) God has no concept of a past-tense, but His concept of it would be a concept of our concept of the natural past: He knows how we perceive the past.


Hi Jason, thanks for your reply. Personally I don't see a difference between whether God sees the past or we see the past. My point is is that if there is any existence of a past then that history is fixed, as well as the involvement of a hypertemporal God. God cannot see all of history at the same time and still claim that it can be changed. If he sees the "last event" then the previous events which caused or created the last event must have a real existence. If God wanted to change history, then it would be impossible for him to change it because it has already happened, especially with Him being hypertemporal. He could as you mentioned, have "created" and be involved with other parallel realities, however those realities are fixed also, because he would be aware of the last event of those too. Also, it is unlikely that God would create one reality and THEN decide that He wants a different one. That would be adding a past tense to Gods hypertemporalism. All existing realities must have existed from the moment God became "present" which has been for all time (IMO). If there is no past with God then there cannot be any change. Because God cannot see a result and then change his mind, because that result has already happened by God being present at the last event.

In the end I am not sure how multiverses can allow freewill. It just extends the same problems. God would be either picking one and destroying the others or letting them all exist. If God only picks the outcomes he wants and destroys all the realities where I choose something different from what he wants, then how is that freewill? If God allows all these multi realities to exist then how or why on earth would I choose any different? If there was the same or parallel me in alternative realities ultimately choosing different paths then I want to know what made me choose a different path? was it randomness? was it a change of circumstances?
It comes back to the same issue - Freewill can't be explained.

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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Paidion » Wed Sep 24, 2014 2:27 pm

Freewill can't be explained.


I think we complicate the concept too much. "Freewill" is but the ability to choose. We all know we have it, since we continue to choose throughout each day, every day.

If, in the past, I made choice X under circumstances C, then if I could have chosen not-X under the same circumstances, I have freewill. A determinist or a compatabilist affirms that I could not have chosen not-X under the same circumstance. Determinists and compatablists have freewill themselves, and yet deny that freewill exists. It is this, perhaps, which cannot be explained.

God created man in his own image — with freewill. So God is not responsible for man's evil choices. One could say that He is responsible for creating man with freewill. True, but that does not make Him the author of evil.
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby DaveB » Wed Sep 24, 2014 2:51 pm

Paidion wrote:One could say that He is responsible for creating man with freewill. True, but that does not make Him the author of evil.


I happen to agree wholeheartedly with you on that, Paidion, but I know that there are some that will call it a non-sequitur.
Your choice of words is very good : He is not the Author of evil.
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Chrisguy90 » Wed Sep 24, 2014 6:53 pm

Fe4rG0d wrote: My initial gut instinct (obviously a very reliable guide LOL) is that Scripture and logical coherence favour absolute determinism more than this hybrid... But I'm intrigued.

I think the concept of God's 'responsibility' for evil, is an important thing to grapple with. Why is it that Christians feel they have to get God off the hook for being intimately involved in creating what we call 'evil'? I have yet to hear a reason that sticks under scrutiny. Would be keen to hear your thoughts.


It's quite refreshing to see someone so comfortable with this topic and so easily able to understand the implications of the view I laid out. You've explained my position very nicely, I believe, even adding some helpful phrases I'd not thought of ("eternal self-determining").

As far as your commitment to absolute, "God-only" determinism - I disbelieve in this. I think if we say God has determined absolutely everything, that means he's determined evil. And, unless we're going to say there is really no such thing as evil in the world, that would mean that God has himself done these evil things. Ergo, God would be evil.

That is the main critique, but several others are there as well. It would make unintelligible, to me, the whole concept of guilt. If I'm only doing an action because I have been preprogrammed to do so, I don't see how I can be morally responsible - anymore than the bullet would be responsible for the murder rather than the man who shot it. Of course, one could say that since we're humans, we exhibit a particular feature of consciousness - namely, intentionality - that a bullet cannot have. But I just don't see how this helps. For if we could program another person, say, to determinately have a certain state of consciousness - if, for instance, I could give someone a pill that made them want to commit murder - I would still be ultimately responsible for the evil done. Absolute determinism also seems to me to posit an incoherence or irreconcilable division in the divine will. If God has indeed determined my sins, how could he sincerely at the same time command I refrain from doing them? I only will to do them because he has so determined me; yet, at the same time he evidently wills I not do them. This presents to me an impossible state of affairs: God simultaneously willing two opposite things. Or another problem with absolute determinism. If we suppose God has created evils so that other goods exist which would otherwise be impossible (e.g. God creates wars so that the virtue of courage can be displayed), this has grave implications concerning God's perfect goodness, "in whom there is no darkness at all." It would make goodness as such somehow needing or dependent on evil for the maximization of itself. But this is not my experience or intuition of perfect goodness. When I am enjoying something good, evil as such is nowhere to be found in my mind. Indeed, insofar as it is in my mind, it lessens my experience of goodness. To suppose good needs evil would be equivalent to supposing a marriage needed adultery for it to be best, or that in order to enjoy a beautiful face, one must see many ugly ones. But this, I believe, would make God metaphysically dependent on evil. He would somehow "need" or "desire" it in his inner most being; and this would make him less than perfectly good. Do we really think that every evil in this world somehow makes it better? Would it really have been better for the little girl to have been raped than not? And this leads me to my final criticism. If all evil is justified because it leads to a greater good, it no longer becomes evil. Indeed, to NOT do said "evil" would in fact be evil, since the greater good which necessarily comes from it would never obtain. So if this were true, it would destroy our notions of good and evil altogether and would make making ethical judgments impossible. I can't imagine anyone would actually find such a view livable.

Just some thoughts! I had a discussion a few years back with an old member of this forum who believed in absolute determinism, and his justification of the existence of evil was that it somehow glorified God's goodness in an otherwise impossible way. My rebuttal to him was that, if this was so, if, that is, God could not make as good a universe with less evil, he therefore needed evil and was metaphysically dependent on it. And that, to me, is rather more like dualism than classical Christianity. The God of Christianity seems to me to be perfectly, wholly good. He "runs" on goodness alone because that is what he is. There is nothing in him that "requires" evil. His fire is kept alive by pure, whole wood; not refuse.
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Daniel (Da Pilgrim) » Thu Sep 25, 2014 11:26 am

Hi Chris, thanks for your contributions!

I understand the difficulties you raise in regards to the necessary acceptance of God creating evil within determinism. However, there is also a necessary acceptance of God becoming the author of evil under Freewill. The fact is, God may not have determined in a strict sense a young girl to be raped, but He certainly let it happen. He not only let it happen, He directly planted evil Freewill creatures in a position where that rape was most likely to happen! To then say that God doesn't have responsibility would be absurd. God in the narrative of Freewill becomes this powerless Being who subjects himself to evil and can only create something good after the chaos has already happened... that he allowed to happen.

Being a determinist like Fe4r (I know him rather well :D), I am sure that Fe4r would reply regarding responsibility, that evil is in the intent and not the action. That is, God intends good from every given situation which then justifies the "evil" acts used within the process. From our perspective, how we judge what is moral is a little different, because we cannot use evil means to justify a good outcome, because we do not know all factors involved.

For me, responsibility means a way of defining where change needs to happen rather than an arbitrary punitive judgement for those who commit crimes. Those who commit crimes, do so for a reason and hence why I believe in a rehabilitation rather than punitive judgement. I believe that God created each and every one of us with fixed natures which is a base that make us who we are. Some of us are harder than others but God wants to use a process where we all eventually can come to Him and subject ourselves and ultimately value His ways. This process creates a necessary demonstration of anti evil and a necessary moulding of the expressions of our natures through experience.
Kind of like - Without John Newton experiencing the slave trade we would never have "Amazing Grace". John Newton is responsible for what he did in that it was his nature that allowed him to make those decisions. However, God knows him better and then directs him towards the potential that his nature is able to be. This process although terrible in many ways, proclaims a triumph of good over evil.

Paidion
What I meant earlier when I said that Freewill cannot be explained I meant that no one can tell me why I choose God over my neighbour. If I have option A or B before me and I am not pushed towards one or the other, then I suppose this is the closest explanation of a truly free will. However, with this complete freedom of choice, how could I ever chose A or B? I would merely be rolling a dice as to which one I would go with. In fact I could not even choose A or B because I have an equal desire to choose both which then cancels each other out. This makes it impossible to make a choice.
Unless we believe that effects can have no causes. Though, I am not quite that bold :D

I don't have time to re-read my comment through and edit it, so I hope it makes some sense lol.
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby DaveB » Thu Sep 25, 2014 11:45 am

Appreciate all your comments; I've struggled with the issue(s) for years; it's a tough nut to crack.

However, I will reiterate my contention, that because we have two opposing answers, it does not follow that either is correct, or that we must dialectically 'split the difference' to get to the 'truth' of the matter.

In other words, it could be the fact that God is unapproachable Light, that there are no shadows in Him, that He will never lie nor commit sin, nor be the Author of evil; and that the answer to the intolerable intellectual questions that we are so concerned about, and rightly so, is simply beyond our ken.

Am I satisfied with that? No. But I am much less satisfied with speculative answers (and yeah, I've speculated my butt off on this :D ) that impute, to the Maker of the Universe and Lord of all things, any taint of imperfection, let alone imputation of evil.
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Paidion » Thu Sep 25, 2014 12:42 pm

Da Pilgrim wrote:If I have option A or B before me and I am not pushed towards one or the other, then I suppose this is the closest explanation of a truly free will.


No. You can be "pushed" toward either one, and still choose the other.

However, with this complete freedom of choice, how could I ever chose A or B? I would merely be rolling a dice as to which one I would go with.


No. Non-determinism is not tantamount to randomness. When you make a choice, you yourself are the cause of your action.

In fact I could not even choose A or B because I have an equal desire to choose both which then cancels each other out. This makes it impossible to make a choice.


There is always a basis for choice. At a Dairy Queen, I have an equal desire for a chocolate milkshake, and a butterfinger blizzard. I don't say, "Eeny, meeny, miny, mo." Rather I do some consideration. I'll choose the milkshake to go, since I don't have much time, and the blizzard tomorrow. My lack of time doesn't cause me to choose the milkshake. I could have chosen the blizzard instead and taken the extra time instead of completing the task I intended to do.

YOU ARE THE CAUSE OF YOUR ACTIONS NOT THE CIRCUMSTANCES. THE CIRCUMSTANCES ARE INFLUENCES BUT NOT CAUSES. Even if a thief holds a gun to your head and demands your money, this doesn't cause you to hand over your money. You could choose not to do so, even if you are fully aware of the possible consequences.

Unless we believe that effects can have no causes.


"Every effect has a cause" is a tautology — like saying, "What will be will be." The very word "effect" refers to that which was caused. Tautologies have no practical meaning. However, "Every event has a cause" DOES have practical meaning. I will even concede that to be true. But many times the cause of an event is not another event. The cause of many events can be traced to freewill agents themselves.
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Chrisguy90 » Thu Sep 25, 2014 2:10 pm

Daniel (Da Pilgrim) wrote:Hi Chris, thanks for your contributions!

I understand the difficulties you raise in regards to the necessary acceptance of God creating evil within determinism. However, there is also a necessary acceptance of God becoming the author of evil under Freewill.


I don't think this follows. God may permit evil and still not actually be its author. On my view, all evil is permitted only because his free created creatures require it to reach perfection. What free creatures do is not something God has causal power over. That's something he's "given up" by limiting his omnipotence and granting them freedom. Insofar as their choices are evil, they are true "obstacles" God must work around. What it takes to actually get them to reach perfection themselves may require all sorts of ways of dealing with them that are, to God, less than ideal but, due to their freedom, necessary. This is quite different from your view, which actually destroys the notion of "permission" altogether.

As for your other comments, it seems to me they all rely on the idea that God must have evil in order to maximize his own goodness. I don't believe God is metaphysically dependent on evil in such a way.

Regarding free will and it amounting to "effects without causes". I have little to add to what Paidion said, but I'll say this. What you say is only true if you assume a deterministic interpretation of reality. Of course, if you believe determinism to be true, you can always go back to a given choice and say that the motives actually cause, rather than only influence, the choice. But I see no reason to believe that the only sort of interactive nexus that exists in reality is a deterministic one. I experience my own freedom all the time every day. That is enough justification for its existence, since that experience is just as strong as any sense experience or empirical judgment. Not to mention that if I didn't believe in it, I'd have to believe God caused all the evil and sin in the world himself.
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Paidion » Thu Sep 25, 2014 5:23 pm

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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Daniel (Da Pilgrim) » Thu Sep 25, 2014 5:50 pm

All I am saying is that with FREEWILL one has to accept paradox a lot sooner than a determinist. When it comes to why we choose A or B you say that WE choose. A determinist will ask further and ask what is it within us (or outside us) that caused us to chose A? Was it because at that moment A looked more attractive to me in my subconscious? We all know that we do not make free choices. Why is it that we always buy Coke over here in New Zealand? Advertising would tell us why, not my Freewill. We are subject to our senses at a conscious level, and if not at a subconscious level. (IMO) lol.
Determinism explains more, or at least seeks to explain more.

I have seen the destructive power of Freewill thought in elections and attitudes to the poor lately. People seem to think that the poor are "just lazy" and that they freely choose to be lazy and poor. Just plain ignorance I reckon. I know that most of you will not see the poor in such a way, but this kind of thinking is a result from a destructive belief in Freewill. Frustrating... The poor don't collectively gather together because they want to hang out with lazy people. We learn our actions and values from those around us. They don't come from no where.

Are you saying Chris that because we have Freewill, God didn't account in his plan/creation little girls getting raped? IMO, if I place a child in the care of someone who I know is extremely capable of raping her, am I not responsible? I was a big part of that causal process whether there is Freewill or not. Can't God create us all in our own environments of potential sin where "innocent" babies etc are out of harms way? The difference I see between Freewill collateral evil and deterministic evil is that God is in control of all circumstances in the latter and not in the former. With determinism there is hope that God will work every circumstance out for good, but with Freewill, there are actions that God did not account for (or else he would be responsible).

Thanks for the discussion guys! So nice to freely discuss these hard topics.
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Re: Is everything a reflection of God - the first Cause?

Postby Paidion » Thu Sep 25, 2014 7:02 pm

Da Pilgrim, you wrote:A determinist will ask further and ask what is it within us (or outside us) that caused us to chose A?


And that is precisely the problem with determinism. Determinists presume that choices are caused by something or somebody external to the chooser. There are no external causes of a person's choices—only external influences. Nor are there internal causes beyond the metaphysical self—only internal influences. The "first cause" of a free-will agent's actions is the free-will agent himself.

I understand that determinists and compatibilists affirm that a person acts freely if there are no external restraints to his choices. Believers in libertarian free affirm that a person P acts freely if, having chosen action A at time T in circumstances C, could have chosen to have refrained from performing action A at time T. Both determinists and compatibilists ("soft" determinists) deny this.
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