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The Bible, The Church, Tradition, Authority, and the Canon - Page 5

post #81 of 300

Thao: Right, OK. Well. Same argument applies, really. (And I'll add it's not just the definition of God's sovereignty that causes issues for LFW - a definition in which I might differ slightly from Catholics - but the definitions of perfect definite foreknowledge, non-contingency and so on.)

 

Bluegoat: So what do you think the Biblically-promised unity means? (Actually, where does the Bible promise unity in the church? I can think of verses in which churches are told to aim for unity, but I can't think of any promises that the church as a whole will be united, off the top of my head. It might be helpful to look at the actual verses in question.)

 

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Smokering, would you mind going over again what you think is the logical impossibility of LFW?  And can you explain specifically what you disagree with in the Catholic perspective on this?

Catholics (and all Arminians, I think) believe in both LFW and God's perfect definite foreknowledge. That's philosophically impossible. If man's decision to choose comes logically prior to God's foreknowledge, then God's knowledge is contingent on His creation, which is an Open Theist-type view and not, AFAIK, one that Catholicism endorses. Choice is generally phrased in terms of possible worlds - ie, there's a possible world in which Gerry chooses the banana or the apple for lunch. With perfect definite foreknowledge, God doesn't just see all the possible worlds, but He knows which world will be instantiated, and indeed instantiates it. So under this model, in which the orthodox definition of God is preserved, Gerry's possible worlds are limited to the one God instantiated - meaning that he doesn't have true freedom of choice at all. He may think he's choosing the banana freely, but in fact there was never any possibility of him choosing the apple, as God did not instantiate that particular world. So foreknowledge collapses into predestination. To put it another way: if God knows something will occur, it WILL occur, and thus human will has no ability to make it not occur, and thus human will is not free in the LFW sense. Gerry will still feel that he is freely choosing the banana, but that's irrelevant; and it's the Calvinist view. The illusion of choice is not the same as having actual options.

post #82 of 300


 

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Originally Posted by Bluegoat View Post



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Originally Posted by Purple Sage View Post

Still reading...not much time to respond, but I have a couple of questions.


 

And Bluegoat, can you rephrase the quote below because I'm not sure what you mean... 

 

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1) Why does it matter that either SS or a traditional understanding of the HS as working through the Church could cause some kind of actual unity of all people.  For anyone who believes in the latter that isn't likely to work anyway, as it would negate free will - there has never been anyone who says that unity of the Church means that.  You might like it better - it would be neater - but that just isn't what it means.

 

TIA!


It was a response to the idea that the doctrinal unity in the Church was compromised because of heresy, break-away groups, etc. 

 

What I meant was this:  One of the four marks of the Church is unity.  Sometimes people point out that there have always been those who did not agree with the teachings and either separated themselves, or were kicked out, and say "so it's not real unity."  But what that really means is that it is not what they consider to be real unity, or an important kind of unity.  The Church has never said that there will not be people who are not Christians, or Christians who believe heretical teachings, or even that there will never be people who are visibly in the Church who actually do not actually believe it's teachings.  That has just never been what it meant by unity. 

 


That's what I thought you meant, and I agree.

 

 

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Catholics (and all Arminians, I think) believe in both LFW and God's perfect definite foreknowledge. That's philosophically impossible. If man's decision to choose comes logically prior to God's foreknowledge, then God's knowledge is contingent on His creation, which is an Open Theist-type view and not, AFAIK, one that Catholicism endorses. Choice is generally phrased in terms of possible worlds - ie, there's a possible world in which Gerry chooses the banana or the apple for lunch. With perfect definite foreknowledge, God doesn't just see all the possible worlds, but He knows which world will be instantiated, and indeed instantiates it. So under this model, in which the orthodox definition of God is preserved, Gerry's possible worlds are limited to the one God instantiated - meaning that he doesn't have true freedom of choice at all. He may think he's choosing the banana freely, but in fact there was never any possibility of him choosing the apple, as God did not instantiate that particular world. So foreknowledge collapses into predestination. To put it another way: if God knows something will occur, it WILL occur, and thus human will has no ability to make it not occur, and thus human will is not free in the LFW sense. Gerry will still feel that he is freely choosing the banana, but that's irrelevant; and it's the Calvinist view. The illusion of choice is not the same as having actual options.

 

Thanks.  I have thoughts about this, but I'll have to come back later.

post #83 of 300
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smokering View Post

Bluegoat: So what do you think the Biblically-promised unity means? (Actually, where does the Bible promise unity in the church? I can think of verses in which churches are told to aim for unity, but I can't think of any promises that the church as a whole will be united, off the top of my head. It might be helpful to look at the actual verses in question.)

 

I wouldn't say it promises unity.  Christ asks God to give the Church unity when they pray -  at the last supper.  He says that unity will be one of the ways the world will recognize that the Father sent the Son. (which I would say implies a kind of unity that must be recognized by those outside of the church.)  The "four marks of the Church" are set out in the Creed "one, holy, catholic and apostolic church."

 

What do I think it means?  Well, I don't think it means that we have to be alike in everything. I don't necessarily think it means that the administrative aspects have to be the same (though I do think it has to be apostolic, so that would be an essential to my mind.) I do think that it means that we have to recognize the essentials of faith, and agree on them, or to submit ourselves to the Body when we don't get it.  So there must be some way for whatever organic groups exist - congreations or groups centered around Bishops - to recognize each other as sharing these essentials.

 

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Smokering, would you mind going over again what you think is the logical impossibility of LFW?  And can you explain specifically what you disagree with in the Catholic perspective on this?

Catholics (and all Arminians, I think) believe in both LFW and God's perfect definite foreknowledge. That's philosophically impossible. If man's decision to choose comes logically prior to God's foreknowledge, then God's knowledge is contingent on His creation, which is an Open Theist-type view and not, AFAIK, one that Catholicism endorses. Choice is generally phrased in terms of possible worlds - ie, there's a possible world in which Gerry chooses the banana or the apple for lunch. With perfect definite foreknowledge, God doesn't just see all the possible worlds, but He knows which world will be instantiated, and indeed instantiates it. So under this model, in which the orthodox definition of God is preserved, Gerry's possible worlds are limited to the one God instantiated - meaning that he doesn't have true freedom of choice at all. He may think he's choosing the banana freely, but in fact there was never any possibility of him choosing the apple, as God did not instantiate that particular world. So foreknowledge collapses into predestination. To put it another way: if God knows something will occur, it WILL occur, and thus human will has no ability to make it not occur, and thus human will is not free in the LFW sense. Gerry will still feel that he is freely choosing the banana, but that's irrelevant; and it's the Calvinist view. The illusion of choice is not the same as having actual options.


I just find this totally unconvincing.  All the points that are supposed to follow here, as far as I can see, don't.  (Not to mention, who said God only made one possible world?) 

post #84 of 300

 

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I wouldn't say it promises unity.  Christ asks God to give the Church unity when they pray -  at the last supper.  He says that unity will be one of the ways the world will recognize that the Father sent the Son. (which I would say implies a kind of unity that must be recognized by those outside of the church.)  The "four marks of the Church" are set out in the Creed "one, holy, catholic and apostolic church."

 

What do I think it means?  Well, I don't think it means that we have to be alike in everything. I don't necessarily think it means that the administrative aspects have to be the same (though I do think it has to be apostolic, so that would be an essential to my mind.) I do think that it means that we have to recognize the essentials of faith, and agree on them, or to submit ourselves to the Body when we don't get it.  So there must be some way for whatever organic groups exist - congreations or groups centered around Bishops - to recognize each other as sharing these essentials.

I actually got curious about this after I posted and googled Bible verses about unity. It's interesting; I'll see if I have any thoughts on it later. The verses I've found are a bit more comprehensive than just unity when Christians pray - the list is here. (Can't vouch for the source, I just happened upon it.)

 

By "apostolic" are you referring to historical continuity with the apostles (via laying on of hands or whatever), or theological continuity with their teachings (as laid out in Scripture, or Scripture interpreted by Tradition), or both, or what? Do you feel there's an visible current denomination which is the Church spoken of in the NT?

 

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I just find this totally unconvincing.  All the points that are supposed to follow here, as far as I can see, don't.  (Not to mention, who said God only made one possible world?)

Well, OK, can you point out where and how my argument is wrong? I'm not sure what you mean about God only making one possible world. Some choices have multiple possibilities (a whole fruit bowl, as it were!), but that doesn't alter the argument..? Or are you saying God creates a new parallel universe (or two, or three) for every choice so that every possible human decision is played out? But that doesn't affect the free will of the creatures within each universe either. Can you clarify what you mean?

post #85 of 300
Thread Starter 
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Originally Posted by Smokering View Post

 

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I wouldn't say it promises unity.  Christ asks God to give the Church unity when they pray -  at the last supper.  He says that unity will be one of the ways the world will recognize that the Father sent the Son. (which I would say implies a kind of unity that must be recognized by those outside of the church.)  The "four marks of the Church" are set out in the Creed "one, holy, catholic and apostolic church."

 

What do I think it means?  Well, I don't think it means that we have to be alike in everything. I don't necessarily think it means that the administrative aspects have to be the same (though I do think it has to be apostolic, so that would be an essential to my mind.) I do think that it means that we have to recognize the essentials of faith, and agree on them, or to submit ourselves to the Body when we don't get it.  So there must be some way for whatever organic groups exist - congreations or groups centered around Bishops - to recognize each other as sharing these essentials.

I actually got curious about this after I posted and googled Bible verses about unity. It's interesting; I'll see if I have any thoughts on it later. The verses I've found are a bit more comprehensive than just unity when Christians pray - the list is here. (Can't vouch for the source, I just happened upon it.)

 

By "apostolic" are you referring to historical continuity with the apostles (via laying on of hands or whatever), or theological continuity with their teachings (as laid out in Scripture, or Scripture interpreted by Tradition), or both, or what? Do you feel there's an visible current denomination which is the Church spoken of in the NT?

 

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I just find this totally unconvincing.  All the points that are supposed to follow here, as far as I can see, don't.  (Not to mention, who said God only made one possible world?)

Well, OK, can you point out where and how my argument is wrong? I'm not sure what you mean about God only making one possible world. Some choices have multiple possibilities (a whole fruit bowl, as it were!), but that doesn't alter the argument..? Or are you saying God creates a new parallel universe (or two, or three) for every choice so that every possible human decision is played out? But that doesn't affect the free will of the creatures within each universe either. Can you clarify what you mean?

As far as multiple worlds, no, I can't really elaborate much - it's not something I would say is true you know?  I was thinking of the idea that as each choice is made, all the choices are in fact instantiated in paralell universes.  It's an interesting idea from a mathematical POV because it seems to be an idea that relates to problems of why one thing happens and not another,  But I really haven't the background to comment on it more than that, and it is so theoretical anyway, and goodness knows what it would mean theologically.  I can't imagine that thee is a way to test this idea either.

 

As to where I think the argument went wrong - almost every therefore I thought - that doesn't follow.  I don't think that God allowing free will in his creation makes him contingent on it, any more than having a creation at all makes his knowledge of it contingent; I don't think the act that God has instantiated one possible universe (or that an individual finds himself in one possible universe) means that his choice isn't really free; that is just saying God can't really give freedom to his creation as a dogmatic statement.  It all seems to be saying that God really just can't hold it all together, and it seems to me to be a terribly linear way of thinking.

 

And it does raise a whole series of problems of its own, the biggest I think being that it makes God the author of evil.
 

THat is a very comprehensive set of references to unity in the Bible.(Did you notice that the group has been online since 1986?)  I do think that it means historical continuity with the Apostles via laying on of hands, though I also understand the argument that says that is is continuity of teaching.  I actually think you need both.  If any group has it I think it is probably the EO - I don't think the Catholics do, and I don't think Protestants can claim it.  Anglicans are pretty close from the point of view of the form - bishops in Apostolic continuity, groups of related churches that recognize each other by being members of the Anglican communion, and institutions that are meant to bring about doctrinal unity within parameters.  But the last part hasn't worked well, and now you have a lot of traditional Anglicans who are not even in the communion, while some that are believe nothing that the Apostles would have recognized.  It could sort itself out, but I think not without a serious change in its institutions.  Some of the confessional Lutherans are close too I think, and the Catholics are close, but I actually think they may be out in the breeze more than the confessional Lutherans.

post #86 of 300

 

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Thao: Right, OK. Well. Same argument applies, really. (And I'll add it's not just the definition of God's sovereignty that causes issues for LFW - a definition in which I might differ slightly from Catholics - but the definitions of perfect definite foreknowledge, non-contingency and so on.)

So if I am understanding you correctly, you think that if the Bible is an incomplete basis from which to reason out and build a theology that definitely describes God's character, it is useless?

 

That makes no sense. By that logic, a child's textbook that teaches adding and subtracting is useless because the child can't use it to learn advanced statistical theory.

 

As far as I can see, the only argument you have given to prove that the Bible must be a complete basis from which to extract comprehensive premises about the nature of God is that it would "be odd" if it were not. Which isn't much of an argument.

 

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Or are you saying God creates a new parallel universe (or two, or three) for every choice so that every possible human decision is played out? But that doesn't affect the free will of the creatures within each universe either.

It's called the Many Worlds Interpretation, and it is a mainstream theory in quantum physics (meaning, it is not some sci-fi woo-woo red herring, it is a possibility that physicists take very seriously). In this theory, every time a probability wave collapses - in other words, every time a non-deterministic event happens - new worlds split off in which each possible event actually happened. I'm not sure how it affects the issue of free will, however. A physicist might view Gerry's choice to eat the banana and a particle's "choice"  to decay in a certain way as equivalent i.e. random happenings rather than free will choices. If one believes in a soul, however, I don't see why you couldn't say that Gerry freely chooses to eat the banana and as a consequence another Gerry is created who necessarily chooses to eat the apple. Thus Gerry has free choice and God knew beforehand that he would eat both the apple and the banana. And while the second Gerry didn't have a free choice to eat the apple - he HAD to, since the first Gerry ate the banana - as a human in his world he can have free will going forward. Just as we don't have free will in choosing to be born, but we do going forward from there. So I think the idea of multiverses could be used to support either position.


Edited by Thao - 12/27/10 at 10:43am
post #87 of 300

 

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As far as multiple worlds, no, I can't really elaborate much - it's not something I would say is true you know?  I was thinking of the idea that as each choice is made, all the choices are in fact instantiated in paralell universes.  It's an interesting idea from a mathematical POV because it seems to be an idea that relates to problems of why one thing happens and not another,  But I really haven't the background to comment on it more than that, and it is so theoretical anyway, and goodness knows what it would mean theologically.  I can't imagine that thee is a way to test this idea either.

"Possible worlds" is a philosophical term - it's not referring to the concept of parallel universes (which is a concept that goes way over my head, frankly!). Maybe "worlds" is confusing - it's just a way of conceptualising an alternative situation. Substitute "alternative situation" in the argument if you like (or "alternative reality", but that also has vaguely scifi connotations!).

 

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As to where I think the argument went wrong - almost every therefore I thought - that doesn't follow.  I don't think that God allowing free will in his creation makes him contingent on it, any more than having a creation at all makes his knowledge of it contingent; I don't think the act that God has instantiated one possible universe (or that an individual finds himself in one possible universe) means that his choice isn't really free; that is just saying God can't really give freedom to his creation as a dogmatic statement.  It all seems to be saying that God really just can't hold it all together, and it seems to me to be a terribly linear way of thinking.

1. It's not that God allowing free will to His creation makes Him contingent on it; it's that if their decision to act logically precedes His knowledge of that decision, His knowledge is contingent (logically, not temporally) on it. You have a learning God. The creation of the physical universe isn't the same thing, because God's knowledge of the universe logically preceded its existence. God didn't foresee the universe say "I freely decide to have stars" and go with it.

 

2. "I don't think the act that God has instantiated one possible universe (or that an individual finds himself in one possible universe) means that his choice isn't really free" - well, how? Within that universe, if there is no objective possibility that Gerry will not choose a banana, how does it comport with LFW that he chooses it? Surely freedom of choice requires an actual ability to do otherwards? I wouldn't say I choose not to grow wings - I couldn't if I tried (even if I believed I could, and felt I was making a real choice for the safety of my unborn child, or somesuch illusion.) If God instantiates, by knowing it will occur and thus logically ensuring nothing else will, a state of affairs in which Gerry chooses a banana, he can no more effectively not choose a banana than I could effectively choose to  grow wings.

 

3. You know I don't believe that God can "hold together" mutually contradictory facts, as His nature is logical... any more than God can "create a stone so heavy He can't lift it". If you want me to entertain the idea that God isn't bound by logic, you need to argue for it (using logic), not just dismiss it as "linear", whatever that means - given that I'm not talking about temporality here. "For God so loved the world..." is "linear" too, logic-wise, so it seems a strange way to dismiss an argument!

 

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And it does raise a whole series of problems of its own, the biggest I think being that it makes God the author of evil.

1. And LFW, if applied to every human decision ever, raises the problem that God is powerless to stop evil, at least when it originates from human choice. If you don't apply it systematically - if you accept that God sometimes interferes with LFW - then it seems you have all the "problems" of both positions.

 

ETA: Actually, given that perfect definite foreknowledge logically collapses into predestination, even believing in PDF means you believe God is the "author of evil" to some extent. If He foresees a reality in which evil will occur and chooses to instantiate that reality, He's a necessary cause of its occurrence.

 

2. God outright claims to be the originator of several evil acts in the Bible - the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, sending an evil spirit to Saul, preventing various people and even people-groups from accepting Christ or correct doctrine and causing them to believe what was false. You also have Isaiah 45:7 to contend with. So I'm constantly amazed that Christians get so outraged at the idea that God is in some sense the cause of sin - God admits it! Frequently! And any theology which claims that God is in control of all things or causes all things leads naturally to that conclusion, unless LFW is employed as a kind of escape route to preserve God's character, against what He revealed about it in the Bible.

 

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THat is a very comprehensive set of references to unity in the Bible.(Did you notice that the group has been online since 1986?)  I do think that it means historical continuity with the Apostles via laying on of hands, though I also understand the argument that says that is is continuity of teaching.  I actually think you need both.  If any group has it I think it is probably the EO - I don't think the Catholics do, and I don't think Protestants can claim it.  Anglicans are pretty close from the point of view of the form - bishops in Apostolic continuity, groups of related churches that recognize each other by being members of the Anglican communion, and institutions that are meant to bring about doctrinal unity within parameters.  But the last part hasn't worked well, and now you have a lot of traditional Anglicans who are not even in the communion, while some that are believe nothing that the Apostles would have recognized.  It could sort itself out, but I think not without a serious change in its institutions.  Some of the confessional Lutherans are close too I think, and the Catholics are close, but I actually think they may be out in the breeze more than the confessional Lutherans.

Interesting. If you don't mind me asking, if you feel the EO are best option in terms of fulfilling the promise, how come you're not EO?

 

Why do you feel historic continuity is important? I can't see any Biblical evidence for it - to me, as a Protestant, the teachings seems to be the important thing, whether they originate in six independent places after being lost or denied for years, or are preserved faithfully by the literal sons of sons of sons of the apostles, or anything in between.


Edited by Smokering - 12/27/10 at 3:11pm
post #88 of 300

 

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So if I am understanding you correctly, you think that if the Bible is an incomplete basis from which to reason out and build a theology that definitely describes God's character, it is useless?

 

That makes no sense. By that logic, a child's textbook that teaches adding and subtracting is useless because the child can't use it to learn advanced statistical theory.

 

As far as I can see, the only argument you have given to prove that the Bible must be a complete basis from which to extract comprehensive premises about the nature of God is that it would "be odd" if it were not. Which isn't much of an argument.

No, you're misunderstanding me again. I'm saying that to claim that facts in the Bible aren't reliable in terms of knowing about God - because there might be alternative logic systems out there that totally change the way we should interpret the Biblical data - makes it ENTIRELY useless for knowing about God's nature OR any of the other facts in the Bible - the existence of Galilee, the existence of Israel, Jesus' birth, anything. This is a child's textbook that teaches that 1+1=2, but you can't trust it because there might be an alternative mathematical system out there which adds new information, making 1+1=2 false. So it's not good for ANYTHING, not teaching basic addition or subtraction OR advanced statistical theory. Creating such a book would be more than "odd", it would be utterly pointless - it would be using a method always used for communication in order to provide no useful communication whatsoever.

 

Also, the nature of God is hardly the "advanced statistical theory" of Biblical doctrines. It is the "1+1". We can't worship God without knowing what He is. You mentioned salvation as the basic "point" of the Bible, but salvation is a meaningless term unless we understand things like God's holiness, wrath, justice, mercy and love. Those are attributes of His nature. If you say I can't trust the Biblical verses that describe God's sovereignty, why should I trust those that describe those other characteristics? Alternative logic systems could mean they don't mean what I think they mean, after all!

post #89 of 300
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No, you're misunderstanding me again. I'm saying that to claim that facts in the Bible aren't reliable in terms of knowing about God - because there might be alternative logic systems out there that totally change the way we should interpret the Biblical data

With respect, Smokering, I'll ask again that if you are going to respond to my posts that you should take the time to read what I say in them. I specifically said above that I am NOT positing an alternative logic system. See post #79.

 

I'll try again:

 

1. Logic can only render correct conclusions if the set of facts from which one reasons is complete enough (example: incomplete facts about the movement of the heavenly bodies led to a flawlessly logical but incorrect conclusion that the sun revolves around the earth). Additional information can lead to different and more valid conclusions.

 

2. Philosophic reasoning is based on premises, just as scientific reasoning is based on observed phenomenon.

 

3. Christian philosophers extract their premises from the Scriptures.

 

4. How do you know the Scriptures contain sufficient information to extract valid premises about the intricacies of God's nature? There's no doubt that the Bible gives us the broad outlines, but being God, surely there are parts of his nature which are beyond our ken. How do you know that the parts that are beyond our ken might not explain the apparent contradiction between God's omniscience and non-contigency and man's free will?

 

 

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We can't worship God without knowing what He is.

Do you think you understand comprehensively all of God's nature? If not, how much do you think you know?


Edited by Thao - 12/27/10 at 12:52pm
post #90 of 300

 

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I specifically said above that I am NOT positing an alternative logic system.

But you are now saying:

 

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How do you know that the parts that are beyond our ken might not explain the apparent contradiction between God's omniscience and non-contigency and man's free will?

...which would REQUIRE an alternative logic system, given that Tradition cannot explain it by conventional logic. The concepts aren't just Scripturally incompatible, they're logically/philosophical incompatible. It's like saying "You think that A cannot be A and not-A in the same time and in the same sense, but there might be some extra information beyond your ken that would resolve this apparent contradiction". If there is, it must be an alternative logic system, because nothing in this logic system can resolve it, by definition. Bluegoat seems to think my argument isn't logically sound, but I'm waiting for an argument that proves it; certainly none of the people I've met who've encountered it before have come up with a solution.

 

Also, why should I need to resolve the "apparent contradiction"? I don't believe in LFW. I don't think it's a necessary facet of Christianity - something that must be dealt with or the whole religion falls apart. I think it's unbiblical and illogical. I think the Biblical teachings on predestination are VERY clear, and you're asking me to abandon them in favour of thinking Biblical data is not complete enough to make correct conclusions about God's nature - which, apart from raising serious epistemic issues, I don't see any reason to do. If I believed in LFW, then yes, I'd have a very strong reason to want it to be true - but I don't.

 

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Do you think you understand comprehensively all of God's nature? If not, how much do you think you know?

No; God never says that humanity will conprehensively understand all of His nature. But He says that He does not lie. So when He says He is holy, wrathful, just, merciful etc, I believe Him - I don't think "Well, maybe we don't have enough data to say" and keep all those beliefs on hold. There is absolutely no epistemic reason to do that.

post #91 of 300

 

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It's like saying "You think that A cannot be A and not-A in the same time and in the same sense, but there might be some extra information beyond your ken that would resolve this apparent contradiction".

That's not what I'm saying.  I'm not saying that God is A and not-A at the same time and in the same sense (not today, anyway Sheepish.gif  - as I said, I am trying to inhabit your world in this debate). As I see it, there is no explanation of this issue that is without logical problems, which in science anyway is usually a sign that information is insufficient. While Calvinism does pretty neatly resolve the A/not-A issue, to do so it has to rely on a definition of love that is so far removed from any definition humans would recognize or employ (and, I would argue, unscriptural to boot) that it falls into the same sort of absurdity you generally decry, where words lose their meaning. But this thread isn't about predestination, and I know we won't agree, so I don't really want to tread that particular path again. I only mention it here so you can understand what I'm trying to get at when I question whether God gave enough information in the scriptures to resolve such rareified issues as predestination and free will. I do not think they are basic issues, because a Christian can be saved and live a godly life with absolutely no knowledge of those issues.

 

Aside: If this still is not making sense to you, you can google Schrodinger's Cat for a description of a physics issue that pretty clearly illustrates what I mean. Based on a set of facts about quantum physics that had been confirmed experimentally, scientists had come to the conclusion that quantum events exist as probability only - not as actual events - until a measurement is taken and the probability wave collapses. But Schrodinger then came up with a thought experiment that involved a cat in a box, and if a random event happened - the decay of an atom, which may or may not take place - an apparatus would release some gas and the cat would die. If it were to happen, it would happen within a fixed time period. So the question is, if you wait for 1/2 hour after that time period before you open up the box (opening the box is effectively "measuring" what happened), that means that for that 1/2 hour the cat is both alive and dead at the same time and in the same sense, because the probability wave has not yet collapsed. Naturally no one really believes that the cat could be both at the same time, and there are multiple explanations that attempt to resolve the paradox (one of which is the Many Worlds interpretation, in which the cat is alive in one world and dead in the other). So in that sense it is similar to how I see the issue of free will - lots of explanations, none of which are without problems.

 

But back to the purpose of this thread - it is supposed to be about how we know what we know, right? From the scriptures alone, or authority, or tradition, etc. And your answer has been the Scriptures alone (naturally in conjunction with reason and other scholarly materials).  So in pursuit of that, what I've been trying to ask you is, how do you know that the Scriptures give sufficient information to extract valid premises for arguing an issue such as free will? If you were arguing that the Scriptures give sufficient information to be saved, or to live a good life, I'd agree -- it says it right there in the Bible. I don't see anywhere in the Bible where God promises answers to more rareified philosophical issues, and the oft-pointed out inability of great intellects to agree on any given interpretation can't just be dismissed as a symptom of our fallen world (because even in a fallen world, if truth were as simple as correct logic + correct spirituality + the scriptures, surely a pattern would have emerged by now of people with the requisite intellect and spiritual dedication coming to agreement).

 

It's true that God describes himself in the Bible as just, loving, righteous, wrathful, etc... but what do those words mean? Even such basic words as those can be interpreted in different ways - witness our different interpretations of the word "love". Does the Bible give sufficient context to know precisely what is meant by each word?

post #92 of 300

Re. the definition of the word "love" - there are plenty of Calvinists who believe that God does not in fact love the non-elect. Which would resolve that issue. I haven't studied this issue for a while, though, so I'm not sure I want to get into that debate!

 

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So in pursuit of that, what I've been trying to ask you is, how do you know that the Scriptures give sufficient information to extract valid premises for arguing an issue such as free will?

For several reasons, I guess. Firstly, it seems to - there's no indication in Scripture that God is holding back vital information, and I don't believe Scripture points to an infallible Tradition that could otherwise provide such extra information. Predestination is covered in many different places in the Bible, both in a fairly structured and philosophical way, and as a historical principle, both in general and specific instances. And all those instances reinforce each other - they don't create unresolvable paradoxes or issues that necessitate extra (ungiven) information to resolve them. So, just like any other Biblical doctrine or fact, I don't see any particular reason for doubting the sufficiency of the information.

 

Secondly, I don't see why you see LFW/predestination as a "rarefied" issue - I think it's a very basic issue, and it crops up in the majority of the books of the Bible! You say that you believe the Bible contains enough information for someone to achieve salvation - well, DH achieved salvation in part by learning about the doctrine of predestination. One of the reasons he rejected his childhood Catholicism was that the LFW thing didn't seem logical to him - having a logical alternative was a very important step in his coming to accept the intellectual legitimacy of Christianity, which he considered a necessary precondition to belief. So for him (and for plenty of other Christians) it's not some abstruse pie-in-the-sky doctrine that only professors know about - it's extremely practical and important. Given which, it again makes sense that God would make it communicable.

 

Thirdly, what are the other epistemic options? I could believe that the Bible is untrustworthy in this one area, but that seems like special pleading - I have no compelling reason to believe the data is incomplete. I could believe that the Bible as a whole is untrustworthy because it may contain insufficient information to extract valid premises from it. I could believe that private revelation was necessary to extract that information, but then I might wait the rest of my life waiting for a vision, with nothing to go on in the meantime. I could believe that Tradition held the key - but then I'd be disappointed, because Tradition doesn't give the extra information required to resolve the contradiction of LFW/PDF, but rather argues for it using the existing premises, in a way which can be disproven by Scripture and logic. None of these options are exactly leaping out at me as necessary or desirable, and I need some convincing as to why I should go for any of them when they seem to be epistemically weaker than my current position.

 

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the oft-pointed out inability of great intellects to agree on any given interpretation can't just be dismissed as a symptom of our fallen world (because even in a fallen world, if truth were as simple as correct logic + correct spirituality + the scriptures, surely a pattern would have emerged by now of people with the requisite intellect and spiritual dedication coming to agreement).

I think you're underestimating the effects of the Fall on human minds and wills. There are hundreds of reasons a man might interpret the Scriptures (or the teachings of Tradition) wrongly: social pressures, cultural biases of which he was unaware, being steeped in the philosophy of his time to a greater degree than he realised, lack of logical training, lack of access to good translations or the original texts, tiredness, medical issues that impair concentration or judgment, looming book deadlines, hero worship of a previous commentator or preacher, the desire not to offend, the desire to find an interpretation which is appealing to the ethos of the day... being interrupted by a toddler!

 

That said, it's hardly the case that every educated, spiritual person comes to radically different conclusions about Scripture. There's a lot of overlap among Christians, and plenty of verses and even chapters in the Bible that go unremarked simply because most people more or less agree on what they mean (particularly the historical bits).

 

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It's true that God describes himself in the Bible as just, loving, righteous, wrathful, etc... but what do those words mean? Even such basic words as those can be interpreted in different ways - witness our different interpretations of the word "love". Does the Bible give sufficient context to know precisely what is meant by each word?

I think it does, yes - and most denominations will agree to a very large extent on most of the meanings. Do you have a particular reason to think otherwise? Again, remember you said that you think the Bible contains enough information for salvation - people can't be saved without knowing Who they're trusting for salvation. If they conceive God as a finite, evil, fallible, mortal being, they can't achieve true salvation through faith in Him - they're putting their faith in a god who doesn't exist. So these definitions are of rather vital importance. Again, you'd have to give a good reason why God would bother communicating His attributes if He didn't mean the words He used to be taken seriously.

post #93 of 300

 

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Re. the definition of the word "love" - there are plenty of Calvinists who believe that God does not in fact love the non-elect. Which would resolve that issue.

Not really, because that would conflict with several well-known verses in the Bible.

 

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Firstly, it seems to - there's no indication in Scripture that God is holding back vital information,

I disagree. There is no indication in Scripture that God intended to give us sufficient information to answer every question. And there are several passages that indicate that God resists being "put into a box" by man's definitions - Isaiah 55:8-9, for example, and the story of Job. And of course my favorite, 1 Corinthians 13:9-12.

 

I agree with you that predestination is covered pretty clearly in the Bible, but so is the concept that man must "choose life" and the concept that God loves all mankind. It's like the Schrodinger's Cat paradox - facts (verses) that lead to an apparently illogical conclusion. Which, as I mentioned above, is usually an indication that some key facts are missing.

 

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Secondly, I don't see why you see LFW/predestination as a "rarefied" issue [snip] You say that you believe the Bible contains enough information for someone to achieve salvation - well, DH achieved salvation in part by learning about the doctrine of predestination.

The fact that your husband considered it a precondition to belief does not mean that the doctrine of predestination was necessary for his salvation. That was simply his personal preference, a requirement he put forth. I could say that, as a music lover, I wouldn't convert unless I found a Christian tradition with really beautiful music that feeds my soul - it doesn't mean that it was the music that saved me. It simply is not a foundational doctrine of Christianity. You can deny predestination and still be saved, but you can't deny Jesus' sacrifice and still be saved.

 

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Thirdly, what are the other epistemic options? I could believe that the Bible is untrustworthy in this one area, but that seems like special pleading - I have no compelling reason to believe the data is incomplete.

First of all, there is a difference between "untrustworthy" and "incomplete". When a mother tells her small child "eat your veggies so you can grow up big and strong" is she being untrustworthy because she is not giving her child complete information about possible inherited illnesses or airborne viruses that may make him sick even if he does eat his veggies? Of course not. She is giving her child the information he needs for his developmental stage and the need at hand. I am not saying that the Bible is untrustworthy, merely incomplete to answer all non-foundational questions. It IS complete to address mankind's present needs at our "developmental stage" (meaning where our intellect stands as opposed to God's intellect).

 

As for other epistemic options: Sola Scriptura, Scriptures + Tradition or Scriptures + personal revelation are all valid. I don't think that any one of them is better than the other. But ALL of them require a leap of faith, and that should be recognized. None of them are based on logic alone, and none of them are guaranteed to lead the adherent to the Truth in all matters. To me, it is important to keep this humbly in mind, that we all "know in part".

 

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I think you're underestimating the effects of the Fall on human minds and wills. There are hundreds of reasons a man might interpret the Scriptures (or the teachings of Tradition) wrongly: social pressures, cultural biases of which he was unaware, being steeped in the philosophy of his time to a greater degree than he realised, lack of logical training, lack of access to good translations or the original texts, tiredness, medical issues that impair concentration or judgment, looming book deadlines, hero worship of a previous commentator or preacher, the desire not to offend, the desire to find an interpretation which is appealing to the ethos of the day... being interrupted by a toddler!

If this is true, how do you  know your interpretation is correct?

 

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Again, you'd have to give a good reason why God would bother communicating His attributes if He didn't mean the words He used to be taken seriously.

You are misconstruing what I said - I never said that God didn't mean His words to be taken seriously! Of course He communicates his attributes in general, to the degree needed for salvation. And yes, there is quite a bit of agreement on what they mean. But when we get into some non-foundational issues like LFW, different nuances arise in the definitions as men attempt to resolve the apparent paradox, and there is quite a bit of disagreement about the nuances.


Edited by Thao - 12/28/10 at 12:20pm
post #94 of 300
Thread Starter 


 

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Originally Posted by Smokering View Post

"Possible worlds" is a philosophical term - it's not referring to the concept of parallel universes (which is a concept that goes way over my head, frankly!). Maybe "worlds" is confusing - it's just a way of conceptualizing an alternative situation. Substitute "alternative situation" in the argument if you like (or "alternative reality", but that also has vaguely scifi connotations!).

 

Yes, but I think the one idea is connected to the other, which is why I brought it up.  The problem of why there are "alternative situations" is an interesting mathematical problem.  If it were true that each time a person makes a choice a new alternate reality was formed, it would impact the nature of God's knowledge of contingent things in an interesting way.

 

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As to where I think the argument went wrong - almost every therefore I thought - that doesn't follow.  I don't think that God allowing free will in his creation makes him contingent on it, any more than having a creation at all makes his knowledge of it contingent; I don't think the act that God has instantiated one possible universe (or that an individual finds himself in one possible universe) means that his choice isn't really free; that is just saying God can't really give freedom to his creation as a dogmatic statement.  It all seems to be saying that God really just can't hold it all together, and it seems to me to be a terribly linear way of thinking.

1. It's not that God allowing free will to His creation makes Him contingent on it; it's that if their decision to act logically precedes His knowledge of that decision, His knowledge is contingent (logically, not temporally) on it. You have a learning God. The creation of the physical universe isn't the same thing, because God's knowledge of the universe logically preceded its existence. God didn't foresee the universe say "I freely decide to have stars" and go with it.

 

I would say that their action is in fact dependent on God, and on God's knowledge of it, even though it is a free act.  His knowledge is the condition which predicates their freedom, and although the acts themselves are contingent, God's knowledge of the acts isn't.

 

2. "I don't think the act that God has instantiated one possible universe (or that an individual finds himself in one possible universe) means that his choice isn't really free" - well, how? Within that universe, if there is no objective possibility that Gerry will not choose a banana, how does it comport with LFW that he chooses it? Surely freedom of choice requires an actual ability to do otherwards? I wouldn't say I choose not to grow wings - I couldn't if I tried (even if I believed I could, and felt I was making a real choice for the safety of my unborn child, or somesuch illusion.) If God instantiates, by knowing it will occur and thus logically ensuring nothing else will, a state of affairs in which Gerry chooses a banana, he can no more effectively not choose a banana than I could effectively choose to  grow wings.

 

Why doesn't God just create a universe where Gerry has the freedom to choose the banana?  All you seem to be saying here is that God can't create free creatures (and also that God himself is not free.)

 

3. You know I don't believe that God can "hold together" mutually contradictory facts, as His nature is logical... any more than God can "create a stone so heavy He can't lift it". If you want me to entertain the idea that God isn't bound by logic, you need to argue for it (using logic), not just dismiss it as "linear", whatever that means - given that I'm not talking about temporality here. "For God so loved the world..." is "linear" too, logic-wise, so it seems a strange way to dismiss an argument!

 

God's nature is not logical, it is impenetrable.  We only know it in our relation to it, which is according to our nature, not his.  We do not and cannot know God's essence. We relate to him, partly, from a logical or rational perspective. ( Logic is linear whether it is temporal or not - though they are related in that logic seems to be something that is proper to beings that live in time and space.)  Just because we see his creation seems to work on rational principles does not mean that God does.

 

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And it does raise a whole series of problems of its own, the biggest I think being that it makes God the author of evil.

1. And LFW, if applied to every human decision ever, raises the problem that God is powerless to stop evil, at least when it originates from human choice. If you don't apply it systematically - if you accept that God sometimes interferes with LFW - then it seems you have all the "problems" of both positions.

 

ETA: Actually, given that perfect definite foreknowledge logically collapses into predestination, even believing in PDF means you believe God is the "author of evil" to some extent. If He foresees a reality in which evil will occur and chooses to instantiate that reality, He's a necessary cause of its occurrence.

 

I am not aware of anyone that argues that God does not allow evil as a result of free will and so acts as a kind of secondary cause (though I would not assume they would use that language exactly and might argue with it.)  I don't see at all how it means that God is powerless to stop evil - that seems quite a leap! 

 

2. God outright claims to be the originator of several evil acts in the Bible - the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, sending an evil spirit to Saul, preventing various people and even people-groups from accepting Christ or correct doctrine and causing them to believe what was false. You also have Isaiah 45:7 to contend with. So I'm constantly amazed that Christians get so outraged at the idea that God is in some sense the cause of sin - God admits it! Frequently! And any theology which claims that God is in control of all things or causes all things leads naturally to that conclusion, unless LFW is employed as a kind of escape route to preserve God's character, against what He revealed about it in the Bible.

 

God is the one who gives us the option to sin - as I said that is not really controversial.  The Bible, especially perhaps the OT, talks a lot about God from a human perspective.  He says for example that he is wrathful towards us when we engage in certain behaviors - but we don't therefore think that he is emotional, or that he changes his mind.  (Heck - there are examples where he says he changes his mind, but theologically that is clearly relating to the relation the Hebrews have toward God, not the other way around.)  But when we remove freedom God becomes directly the author of evil acts, and the whole thing almost collapses into a kind of pantheism.

 

Additionally, it makes him the author of evil in the sense of being a liar - what are we to make of all the Scripture that tell us that Christ died for all?  Or the fact that he gave the law of conscience to all beings, even when they are not meant to follow the law?  Why has God made things at war with their own nature?   To eliminate human freedom seems to create as many problems as it solves, which hardly seems a recommendation.

 

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That is a very comprehensive set of references to unity in the Bible.(Did you notice that the group has been online since 1986?)  I do think that it means historical continuity with the Apostles via laying on of hands, though I also understand the argument that says that is is continuity of teaching.  I actually think you need both.  If any group has it I think it is probably the EO - I don't think the Catholics do, and I don't think Protestants can claim it.  Anglicans are pretty close from the point of view of the form - bishops in Apostolic continuity, groups of related churches that recognize each other by being members of the Anglican communion, and institutions that are meant to bring about doctrinal unity within parameters.  But the last part hasn't worked well, and now you have a lot of traditional Anglicans who are not even in the communion, while some that are believe nothing that the Apostles would have recognized.  It could sort itself out, but I think not without a serious change in its institutions.  Some of the confessional Lutherans are close too I think, and the Catholics are close, but I actually think they may be out in the breeze more than the confessional Lutherans.

Interesting. If you don't mind me asking, if you feel the EO are best option in terms of fulfilling the promise, how come you're not EO?

 

Why do you feel historic continuity is important? I can't see any Biblical evidence for it - to me, as a Protestant, the teachings seems to be the important thing, whether they originate in six independent places after being lost or denied for years, or are preserved faithfully by the literal sons of sons of sons of the apostles, or anything in between.

I might go that way.  I am sitting tight a bit now as my husband isn't in the same place, and I'd much rather we move as a family if we are going to.  If our parish was bad it might be different, but we are in a very strong parish and the kids are doing well there.

 

The teaching I agree is important.  I would say a few things about the continuity.  I think of it sacrementally, as God actually doing something in conferring the orders.  (A Bishop or priest can preside at the Eucharist which is an important function as it is what makes Christ physically available for union with the congregation.) But that alone isn't enough either - you might be a Bishop but you are still free (ha ha) to be an heretic, and that is no good either.  .But say for example you were part of a group to kind of independently discover the correct teachings (like those Evangelical groups in the Southern US who all decided to become Orthodox).  The thing to do would be to go to the others for laying on of hands, to be united with them and recognize each other.  So part of it is as a matter of how we recognize other churches with right doctrine.  But the apostolic structure is also understood to be the correct structure, instituted by Christ, for governing the Church.  Ignatius tells us that where the Bishop is, the Church is.  As far as Biblical information, you see Christ giving the commandment to his apostles and they went out to found churches.  But that apostolic authority didn't stop with the apostles - they gave that authority to others by laying on of hands.  I don't see any reason to think that very early model was meant to work differently somehow.
 

post #95 of 300

 

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Not really, because that would conflict with several well-known verses in the Bible.

Perhaps, but that makes it a matter of interpretation, not philosophical impossibility. (For instance, does "for God so loved the world" mean every single person in the world? Not necessarily.)

 

 

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I disagree. There is no indication in Scripture that God intended to give us sufficient information to answer every question. And there are several passages that indicate that God resists being "put into a box" by man's definitions - Isaiah 55:8-9, for example, and the story of Job. And of course my favorite, 1 Corinthians 13:9-12.

Isaiah 55 is talking about God's mercy in comparison to human judgment, not epistemology. I'm not sure what the story of Job has to do with things, other than being a pretty good argument that God causes evil. 1 Corinthians 13 is talking about the relative futility of prophecies, tongues and knowledge in comparison to love; which Paul obviously doesn't use as a licence to abandon critical thinking, or to stop taking Scriptural teachings at their word, as the rest of his writings make abundantly clear.

 

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I agree with you that predestination is covered pretty clearly in the Bible, but so is the concept that man must "choose life" and the concept that God loves all mankind. It's like the Schrodinger's Cat paradox - facts (verses) that lead to an apparently illogical conclusion. Which, as I mentioned above, is usually an indication that some key facts are missing.

"Choose life" isn't paradoxical to Calvinism at all. "Freely choose life" or "Choose life outside the sphere of God's influence and power" would be, but those concepts aren't in the Bible. The concept that God loves all mankind, "all" meaning "every single person", is debatable - I just googled it quickly and couldn't find any definitive verses on the subject, especially for those who aren't willing to concede universalism.

 

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The fact that your husband considered it a precondition to belief does not mean that the doctrine of predestination was necessary for his salvation. That was simply his personal preference, a requirement he put forth. I could say that, as a music lover, I wouldn't convert unless I found a Christian tradition with really beautiful music that feeds my soul - it doesn't mean that it was the music that saved me. It simply is not a foundational doctrine of Christianity. You can deny predestination and still be saved, but you can't deny Jesus' sacrifice and still be saved.

Asking intellectual legitimacy of a religion is hardly on a par with asking for pretty music. The first is something every rational person should require of a religion; the second is indeed simply a personal preference.

 

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First of all, there is a difference between "untrustworthy" and "incomplete". When a mother tells her small child "eat your veggies so you can grow up big and strong" is she being untrustworthy because she is not giving her child complete information about possible inherited illnesses or airborne viruses that may make him sick even if he does eat his veggies? Of course not. She is giving her child the information he needs for his developmental stage and the need at hand. I am not saying that the Bible is untrustworthy, merely incomplete to answer all non-foundational questions. It IS complete to address mankind's present needs at our "developmental stage" (meaning where our intellect stands as opposed to God's intellect).

But if facts exist which make the LFW/PDF contradiction non-contradictory, then the Bible IS untrustworthy. If we can't use logic and Biblical data to arrive at a solid conclusion because there might be facts and indeed whole systems of logic out there that render them untrue, then what's the point of the Bible again? And if you're saying that we should go with the Bible and logic because that's all we have at our present "developmental stage", then we have to go with it - not randomly suspend rationality for certain doctrines because we don't like the implications. You have so far presented NO evidence that the LFW/PDF contradiction can be resolved, only special pleading.

 

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As for other epistemic options: Sola Scriptura, Scriptures + Tradition or Scriptures + personal revelation are all valid. I don't think that any one of them is better than the other. But ALL of them require a leap of faith, and that should be recognized. None of them are based on logic alone, and none of them are guaranteed to lead the adherent to the Truth in all matters. To me, it is important to keep this humbly in mind, that we all "know in part".

Nobody's denied that. When did I ever say sola Scriptura was guaranteed to lead all SS advocates to an identical and correct understanding of the truth? I'm arguing in this thread against the Catholic (and presumably EO) contention that Tradition provides a better epistemic foundation than SS. And I'll further argue that saying we "know in part" should not lead to us denying what Scripture does reveal, on the grounds that more information might contradict what we have. If God has extra information He's not giving us, it will be compatible with Scriptural knowledge.

 

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If this is true, how do you  know your interpretation is correct?

I use the self-correcting system of logic, continue to study the Scriptures, and try to constantly examine my own assumptions. I think that's about all anyone can do. Debates like this are often helpful, actually, because they're not meetings of like minds, so generally-accepted assumptions are more likely to be challenged. I don't believe my interpretations are infallible, if that's what you mean; but as I've said, I see no Biblical reason to expect infallibility. It seems that not believing in infallibility is surely a good step towards the humility you mentioned.

 

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You are misconstruing what I said - I never said that God didn't mean His words to be taken seriously! Of course He communicates his attributes in general, to the degree needed for salvation. And yes, there is quite a bit of agreement on what they mean. But when we get into some non-foundational issues like LFW, different nuances arise in the definitions as men attempt to resolve the apparent paradox, and there is quite a bit of disagreement about the nuances.

And there is a way to resolve that paradox without resorting to an argument from silence or a denial of logic - Calvinism. You still haven't given me a good reason to go for any other option.

post #96 of 300

 

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I would say that their action is in fact dependent on God, and on God's knowledge of it, even though it is a free act.  His knowledge is the condition which predicates their freedom, and although the acts themselves are contingent, God's knowledge of the acts isn't.

How can God's knowledge of the act not be contingent on them, if the decision to act logically precedes the knowledge of that decision? If the person hadn't made the decision, God couldn't have known about it.

 

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Why doesn't God just create a universe where Gerry has the freedom to choose the banana?  All you seem to be saying here is that God can't create free creatures (and also that God himself is not free.)

Well, yes, I am. God is not "free", in that He is bound by His own nature; I don't think He can choose to be non-omniscient or un-holy. And I think the concept of God creating a free creature is logically impossible; so, given that I believe God's nature is logical and He thus can't do something illogical, then yes, I don't believe He can create free creatures. How would it even work? If Gerry could choose the banana and God was powerless to stop him making that choice, how would God still be all-powerful? What if that choice somehow started a war, or an environmental disaster? History is shaped by human decisions - if God can't control them, how can He control anything?

 

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God's nature is not logical, it is impenetrable.  We only know it in our relation to it, which is according to our nature, not his.  We do not and cannot know God's essence. We relate to him, partly, from a logical or rational perspective. ( Logic is linear whether it is temporal or not - though they are related in that logic seems to be something that is proper to beings that live in time and space.)  Just because we see his creation seems to work on rational principles does not mean that God does.

You're not offering any proof of this. God is certainly described in logical terms in the Bible - if He is holy, then He is not unholy, or holy and unholy at the same time and in the same sense. If we can't believe that the Bible is accurate on that - that it truly says something meaningful about God's nature - then we can gain no information about God from the Bible (and, by extention, no information about anything else from it) at all. The Bible also describes God working on rational principles - the whole salvation plan is based on a way to fulfil conditions, when God (if He were not rational) could easily have said "Eh, I'll just save the elect without any sacrifice, because I feel like it".

 

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I am not aware of anyone that argues that God does not allow evil as a result of free will and so acts as a kind of secondary cause (though I would not assume they would use that language exactly and might argue with it.)  I don't see at all how it means that God is powerless to stop evil - that seems quite a leap! 

Evil exists in decisions, not just deeds, right? If Adam had decided to eat the fruit, but tripped over a root and lost consciousness instead, he still would have sinned. So if a man decided to kill his daughter, the LFW God could stay his hand, or supernaturally prevent his blows from hurting her, or something else that would prevent the consequences of the evil decision. But he couldn't interfere with the man's free will, so He couldn't stop the evil decision from being made. (Although LFWers do seem to allow exceptions to this, which I think further confuses their position - if it's OK for God to interfere with free will sometimes - in the case of Pharaoh, say - why is it so terrible a concept that He do it all the time?)

 

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God is the one who gives us the option to sin - as I said that is not really controversial.  The Bible, especially perhaps the OT, talks a lot about God from a human perspective.  He says for example that he is wrathful towards us when we engage in certain behaviors - but we don't therefore think that he is emotional, or that he changes his mind.  (Heck - there are examples where he says he changes his mind, but theologically that is clearly relating to the relation the Hebrews have toward God, not the other way around.)  But when we remove freedom God becomes directly the author of evil acts, and the whole thing almost collapses into a kind of pantheism.

 

Additionally, it makes him the author of evil in the sense of being a liar - what are we to make of all the Scripture that tell us that Christ died for all?  Or the fact that he gave the law of conscience to all beings, even when they are not meant to follow the law?  Why has God made things at war with their own nature?   To eliminate human freedom seems to create as many problems as it solves, which hardly seems a recommendation.

What's wrong with thinking God is emotional? And why does God authoring evil acts result in pantheism?

 

The interpretation of "Christ died for all" depends on the meaning of "all", and some nuances of the limited atonement debate - you're not a universalist, are you? I'm not sure how this relates to God being the author of evil. The law of conscience is understood by Calvinists to be both part of common grace, and a judgment on those who have not heard the Scriptures, as they were unable even to obey the law of their own consciences and are therefore convicted of sin. "Why has God made things at war with their own nature?" - well, Paul asked the same question, but he didn't seem to think it was an insoluble problem. God doesn't have to make the world the way we want Him to.

 

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The teaching I agree is important.  I would say a few things about the continuity.  I think of it sacrementally, as God actually doing something in conferring the orders.  (A Bishop or priest can preside at the Eucharist which is an important function as it is what makes Christ physically available for union with the congregation.) But that alone isn't enough either - you might be a Bishop but you are still free (ha ha) to be an heretic, and that is no good either.  .But say for example you were part of a group to kind of independently discover the correct teachings (like those Evangelical groups in the Southern US who all decided to become Orthodox).  The thing to do would be to go to the others for laying on of hands, to be united with them and recognize each other.  So part of it is as a matter of how we recognize other churches with right doctrine.  But the apostolic structure is also understood to be the correct structure, instituted by Christ, for governing the Church.  Ignatius tells us that where the Bishop is, the Church is.  As far as Biblical information, you see Christ giving the commandment to his apostles and they went out to found churches.  But that apostolic authority didn't stop with the apostles - they gave that authority to others by laying on of hands.  I don't see any reason to think that very early model was meant to work differently somehow.

What if those who were given that authority, two or ten or 100 generations down the track, could be shown against Scripture (and even Tradition, if you like) to be teaching false doctrines? Would you say a new lot of believers should start the laying on of hands all over again, with the correct teachings? Or do you think that it's by definition impossible for those appointed by laying on of hands to be teaching false doctrines? (Also, isn't admitting that groups can independently discover the correct doctrines an argument for the validity of sola Scriptura?)

 

post #97 of 300

 

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Perhaps, but that makes it a matter of interpretation, not philosophical impossibility. (For instance, does "for God so loved the world" mean every single person in the world? Not necessarily.)

ALL of these issues are matters of interpretation.The philosophical impossibility you have referred to is rooted in your interpretation of God's non-contigency (I'm still trying to wrap my head around the concept of "logical precedence" for an act like a decision that takes place in time). Likewise, you resolve the contradictions in Calvinism by interpreting words such as "love" in ways that I find absurd.

 

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Asking intellectual legitimacy of a religion is hardly on a par with asking for pretty music. The first is something every rational person should require of a religion; the second is indeed simply a personal preference.

There are multiple rational explanations out there for various shades of Christianity, based on different interpretations of key words. Not to mention other religions that are as rational as Christianity. Lots of Christians - I'd probably say the majority of Christians - manage to be Christian without worrying too much about the intellectual legitimacy of their faith (and I'd say this about adherents of other religions too, it's not a slam against Christians). While I happen to agree with you that personally determining the intellectual legitimacy of one's religion is important (and it's one reason why I'm Buddhist), many people are satisfied with trusting that task to their pastor or others. It doesn't make them less Christian, or less holy than those who are more rationally inclined. So I do see it as a matter of personal preference.

 

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If we can't use logic and Biblical data to arrive at a solid conclusion because there might be facts and indeed whole systems of logic out there that render them untrue, then what's the point of the Bible again?

You yourself have granted that not every point of doctrine will be correctly understood by humans based on current Biblical information, so we don't disagree in principal, just in degree. The point of the Bible is to lead men to salvation and teach them to live a holy life. The fact that it cannot be used to answer every question does not invalidate that function, as you will agree because you have agreed that it does not answer every question (i know that you hold that in theory it could answer every question if we had more scholarship, more original documents, whatever - but keep in mind I'm talking about in practice, not in theory). So really all we disagree on is which questions it answers, and which it does not.

 

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And if you're saying that we should go with the Bible and logic because that's all we have at our present "developmental stage", then we have to go with it - not randomly suspend rationality for certain doctrines because we don't like the implications.

I'm not talking about randomly suspending rationality because I don't like the implications, and I'll thank you to keep that straw man out of the discussion. As a Buddhist, I don't believe in  Calvinism or Arianism so have no problems with the implications of either. I'm approaching this strictly as an exploration of logical reasoning as applied to the Christian worldview. I'm all for relying on rationality to the extent possible, but not to the extent that we accept a flawed answer simply for the sake of having an answer.

 

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I use the self-correcting system of logic, continue to study the Scriptures, and try to constantly examine my own assumptions.

Right. And if you can do this, others can too, which means that over two thousand years a pattern should have emerged whereby people of similar intellect, logical ability and spiritual dedication would come to similar answers. I'm not talking perfect unity, just a pattern. And we don't see that.

 

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And there is a way to resolve that paradox without resorting to an argument from silence or a denial of logic - Calvinism. You still haven't given me a good reason to go for any other option.

We had a rather long discussion about it some time ago in which I thought I gave some excellent reasons, but alas you did not agree smile.gif. So as I said, I don't see any point in going through it again.


Edited by Thao - 12/28/10 at 8:03pm
post #98 of 300
Thread Starter 


 

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Originally Posted by Smokering View Post

 

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I would say that their action is in fact dependent on God, and on God's knowledge of it, even though it is a free act.  His knowledge is the condition which predicates their freedom, and although the acts themselves are contingent, God's knowledge of the acts isn't.

How can God's knowledge of the act not be contingent on them, if the decision to act logically precedes the knowledge of that decision? If the person hadn't made the decision, God couldn't have known about it.

 

Are you sure?  I'd suggest that maybe he did - and he knew about the decision that wasn't made as well.

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Why doesn't God just create a universe where Gerry has the freedom to choose the banana?  All you seem to be saying here is that God can't create free creatures (and also that God himself is not free.)

Well, yes, I am. God is not "free", in that He is bound by His own nature; I don't think He can choose to be non-omniscient or un-holy. And I think the concept of God creating a free creature is logically impossible; so, given that I believe God's nature is logical and He thus can't do something illogical, then yes, I don't believe He can create free creatures. How would it even work? If Gerry could choose the banana and God was powerless to stop him making that choice, how would God still be all-powerful? What if that choice somehow started a war, or an environmental disaster? History is shaped by human decisions - if God can't control them, how can He control anything?

 

 It is interesting though that Christ was limited in ways that God is not - he wasn't omniscient, he was bound by time and space, he was tempted.  And I think it is important to remember that it is in perfectly adhering to God's will that we have perfect freedom.  Although we are in a sense free to sin, it is sin that makes us slaves to our passions, and to the events around us.  The Incarnation does tell us something about God, about his nature if you want to put it that way; he is able to empty himself while still remaining God.

 

I am still not sure why you think freedom makes God powerless?  I don't know of anyone except perhaps a Deist who might say that.  Of course he could intervene, and most Christians believe that at times he does, for some reason of his own.  Do you not believe in miracles?  That is just an example of God intervening when we don't expect him to.  I am also surprised that you feel that God cannot control the things he wishes to while accommodating human freedom.  I got sent a "meeting creator" email recently to arrange a group meeting.  It takes in the dates that everyone is free and sets up the most advantageous time for the meeting.  If a wee computer can do that, I don't worry that God can't manage to arrange history where he wants to.

 

 

 

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God's nature is not logical, it is impenetrable.  We only know it in our relation to it, which is according to our nature, not his.  We do not and cannot know God's essence. We relate to him, partly, from a logical or rational perspective. ( Logic is linear whether it is temporal or not - though they are related in that logic seems to be something that is proper to beings that live in time and space.)  Just because we see his creation seems to work on rational principles does not mean that God does.

You're not offering any proof of this. God is certainly described in logical terms in the Bible - if He is holy, then He is not unholy, or holy and unholy at the same time and in the same sense. If we can't believe that the Bible is accurate on that - that it truly says something meaningful about God's nature - then we can gain no information about God from the Bible (and, by extension, no information about anything else from it) at all. The Bible also describes God working on rational principles - the whole salvation plan is based on a way to fulfill conditions, when God (if He were not rational) could easily have said "Eh, I'll just save the elect without any sacrifice, because I feel like it".

 

Yeah - I don't think substitutionary atonement can really be pushed to far to be honest.  But I am not saying that the rational is wrong.  I am saying it is not the only, or highest, way of being, and it is not God's way of Being (or not-Being).  I am also not saying we can gain no knowledge from Scriptures, and I don't see where anyone has suggested that - it is a very tindery straw man.  What I am saying is what we know about God is only through our own interactions with him.  In that sense, you might say that it is subjective.  What we know about God is filtered by our own way of knowing.  Just as I am sure my actions from my dog's POV have some doggy interpretation, we only see God according to our own mode.  That is ok, because God created it, and so it is true, and it is even connected to God's mode.  And what is more, perhaps unlike dogs and humans, we can see that God's mode is different than ours.

 

God himself is infinite.  When we say that he is infinite, it doesn't mean that he is just a "really big X"  like a "really high number that goes on forever.  That is true enough I suppose, but really it means infinite in the mathematical sense of being unbound.  We can't really even think that way - all human language is about making boundaries.  That is how we know things, we differentiate them one from another (incidentally I think this is why human beings exist - we are the only creatures that know creation in both it's individuality and in its relation to its source.)

 

When we think philosophically, we use reason.  We can, I think, reason our way to God.  We can make some statements about God, especially based on what he has told us.  But there is a place where that ends, just like when science reaches the limit of what is observable and testable, it ends.  The things we have known and said about God are really about our experience of God, not about God in himself.  We really can;'t say anything about that philosophically - how can you talk about something where language has broken down?  It would be like talking about the laws of physics inside the singularity.  But we can perhaps experience it in other ways (God, not singularities.)

 

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I am not aware of anyone that argues that God does not allow evil as a result of free will and so acts as a kind of secondary cause (though I would not assume they would use that language exactly and might argue with it.)  I don't see at all how it means that God is powerless to stop evil - that seems quite a leap! 

Evil exists in decisions, not just deeds, right? If Adam had decided to eat the fruit, but tripped over a root and lost consciousness instead, he still would have sinned. So if a man decided to kill his daughter, the LFW God could stay his hand, or supernaturally prevent his blows from hurting her, or something else that would prevent the consequences of the evil decision. But he couldn't interfere with the man's free will, so He couldn't stop the evil decision from being made. (Although LFWers do seem to allow exceptions to this, which I think further confuses their position - if it's OK for God to interfere with free will sometimes - in the case of Pharaoh, say - why is it so terrible a concept that He do it all the time?)

 

Why do you think he couldn't have stopped the man's hand or his decision?  He could stop either I suppose, though not without destroying the hand as a hand for that moment, or the free will for that moment.  Since free will, and hands, are good things, why would God want to destroy them?  On the other hand, is the murderer actually able to really destroy anything God has made?  (Re: Pharaoh I think that Pharaoh was probably implicated.  If Pharaoh wasn't that kind of guy, he wouldn't be Pharaoh.) 

 

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God is the one who gives us the option to sin - as I said that is not really controversial.  The Bible, especially perhaps the OT, talks a lot about God from a human perspective.  He says for example that he is wrathful towards us when we engage in certain behaviors - but we don't therefore think that he is emotional, or that he changes his mind.  (Heck - there are examples where he says he changes his mind, but theologically that is clearly relating to the relation the Hebrews have toward God, not the other way around.)  But when we remove freedom God becomes directly the author of evil acts, and the whole thing almost collapses into a kind of pantheism.

 

Additionally, it makes him the author of evil in the sense of being a liar - what are we to make of all the Scripture that tell us that Christ died for all?  Or the fact that he gave the law of conscience to all beings, even when they are not meant to follow the law?  Why has God made things at war with their own nature?   To eliminate human freedom seems to create as many problems as it solves, which hardly seems a recommendation.

What's wrong with thinking God is emotional? And why does God authoring evil acts result in pantheism?

 

God cannot be emotional - you need to have a body to have emotions.  Usually (though one could define it differently I suppose) it also implies change.  I don't know that I would say it results in pantheism - though I suppose it might - but saying that God's nature or attributes must be the same as those of creation seems to be very close to a kind of pantheism.

 

The interpretation of "Christ died for all" depends on the meaning of "all", and some nuances of the limited atonement debate - you're not a universalist, are you? I'm not sure how this relates to God being the author of evil. The law of conscience is understood by Calvinists to be both part of common grace, and a judgment on those who have not heard the Scriptures, as they were unable even to obey the law of their own consciences and are therefore convicted of sin. "Why has God made things at war with their own nature?" - well, Paul asked the same question, but he didn't seem to think it was an insoluble problem. God doesn't have to make the world the way we want Him to.

 

There are many many places where God's love and will for all of creation is found.  When you ask if I am a universalist in this context I am not sure what you mean.  I think Christ died for all people, that we have all been "saved" whether we know it or not, or accept it or not.  It is simply a fact that we are connected to God in this way, and even those who go to Hell (and I hope that there are none) are in fact still bound up in God's love.  That isn't the traditional understanding of a universalist, but it may be from your POV.

 

I'm not sure what Calvinists mean by "common grace"?

 

With regard to human nature - sin is essential the act of choosing not-God.  It is severing our connection to him and moving away into nothingness.  That's why we become less than fully human, and subject to death as the result of sin.  But what does it mean if God himself has chosen not-God?  How can God move away from himself?  I can make God encompass that in my theological model, but I'm not sure how you can because it seems to be a logical contradiction.  I don't see how sin is possible in this view, and that means God is condemning those who are not sinning at all.  And that is not really copacetic with divine justice.

 

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The teaching I agree is important.  I would say a few things about the continuity.  I think of it sacramentally, as God actually doing something in conferring the orders.  (A Bishop or priest can preside at the Eucharist which is an important function as it is what makes Christ physically available for union with the congregation.) But that alone isn't enough either - you might be a Bishop but you are still free (ha ha) to be an heretic, and that is no good either.  .But say for example you were part of a group to kind of independently discover the correct teachings (like those Evangelical groups in the Southern US who all decided to become Orthodox).  The thing to do would be to go to the others for laying on of hands, to be united with them and recognize each other.  So part of it is as a matter of how we recognize other churches with right doctrine.  But the apostolic structure is also understood to be the correct structure, instituted by Christ, for governing the Church.  Ignatius tells us that where the Bishop is, the Church is.  As far as Biblical information, you see Christ giving the commandment to his apostles and they went out to found churches.  But that apostolic authority didn't stop with the apostles - they gave that authority to others by laying on of hands.  I don't see any reason to think that very early model was meant to work differently somehow.

What if those who were given that authority, two or ten or 100 generations down the track, could be shown against Scripture (and even Tradition, if you like) to be teaching false doctrines? Would you say a new lot of believers should start the laying on of hands all over again, with the correct teachings? Or do you think that it's by definition impossible for those appointed by laying on of hands to be teaching false doctrines? (Also, isn't admitting that groups can independently discover the correct doctrines an argument for the validity of sola Scriptura?)

 

Well I don't think individuals are protected from teaching false doctrines even if they have Apostolic Succession.  Individuals have free will.  I think that the Church will not teach false doctrines, and that the Church will always survive.  People who teach false doctrines have usually placed themselves outside the Church. (I say usually because there are sometimes teachings that are not yet fully explored - so I wouldn't assume someone like Origin, who taught things that were later shown to be false, had necessarily placed himself outside the Church.  I wouldn't assume he was in it either.)  It is of course a matter of faith that the Church will survive - I can't know it empirically.

 

No, I don't think that showing that groups can independently discover correct doctrine validates SS.  First of all, God can always choose to give people "extra help" to make up what is lacking, but that doesn't mean that it is how he intends it to work normally.  There have been stories of people who had never met a Christian or read the Bible but who knew all about Christ, but I wouldn't argue that was a good way to run the Church!  Secondly, in the cases I was thinking about with groups, I'm not sure you could argue that they used SS.  They also looked pretty closely at what the early Church actually did and taught in the writings of the Fathers and in the liturgies.  So they were accessing Tradition, even if they didn't know it.  And until they had actually completed their journey they would probably tell you that they were still not part of the Church - they didn't for example have access to the Sacraments.  So it would seem in that case if you said that SS led them there, then it lead them to a way of existing as Christians that actually destroyed SS.  That speaks to the power of Scripture and the Holy Spirit, but would not perhaps be a recommendation for SS.
 

post #99 of 300

 

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We can, I think, reason our way to God.  We can make some statements about God, especially based on what he has told us.  But there is a place where that ends, just like when science reaches the limit of what is observable and testable, it ends.  The things we have known and said about God are really about our experience of God, not about God in himself.  We really can;'t say anything about that philosophically - how can you talk about something where language has broken down?  It would be like talking about the laws of physics inside the singularity.

I think this is beautifully said, and agree wholeheartedly love.gif

post #100 of 300

 

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ALL of these issues are matters of interpretation.The philosophical impossibility you have referred to is rooted in your interpretation of God's omniscience.

Not solely, as I've already pointed out. The argument works using just the definitions of perfect definite foreknowledge, libertarian free will and predestination, the meanings of which terms are generally accepted by either side.

 

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Likewise, you resolve the contradictions in Calvinism by interpreting words such as "love" in ways that I find absurd.

I've covered that already.

 

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There are multiple rational explanations out there for various shades of Christianity, based on different interpretations of key words. Not to mention other religions that are as rational as Christianity. Lots of Christians - I'd probably say the majority of Christians - manage to be Christian without worrying too much about the intellectual legitimacy of their faith (and I'd say this about adherents of other religions too, it's not a slam against Christians). While I happen to agree with you that personally determining the intellectual legitimacy of one's religion is important (and it's one reason why I'm Buddhist), many people are satisfied with trusting that task to their pastor or others. It doesn't make them less Christian, or less holy than those who are more rationally inclined. So I do see it as a matter of personal preference.

It doesn't make them less saved - I agree you can be saved despite some extremely shoddy theology - but it does make them less "Christian" in the sense of being the kind of Christian commended in the Bible. Rational thinking is a virtue or a duty in a way that musical appreciation isn't. Blind faith is never commended in the Bible, even if it is directed at more or less the right object due to a happy accident of birth.

 

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You yourself have granted that not every point of doctrine will be correctly understood by humans based on current Biblical information, so we don't disagree in principal, just in degree. The point of the Bible is to lead men to salvation and teach them to live a holy life. The fact that it cannot be used to answer every question does not invalidate that function, as you will agree because you have agreed that it does not answer every question (i know that you hold that in theory it could answer every question if we had more scholarship, more original documents, whatever - but keep in mind I'm talking about in practice, not in theory). So really all we disagree on is which questions it answers, and which it does not.

2 Timothy 3:16 says the Bible can do more than lead men to salvation and teach them to live a holy life - it says "teaching and rebuking", which could well encompass some of the doctrines you think are esoteric or unrelated to salvation. But we may disagree more than you think, because I believe when a logical and an illogical interpretation of the data exist, the rational thing to do is to go with the logical interpretation, not suspend judgment on the grounds that there may be extrabiblical data which is able to reconcile the contradiction (especially as, if it is truly a logical contradiction, that would necessitate an alternative logic system in order to make it work, which creates huge epistemic problems I mentioned earlier). If you think Calvinism is as illogical as Arminianism, you'll need to say why - the "love" thing is a strawman, as many Calvinists do not believe God loves the non-elect.

 

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I'm not talking about randomly suspending rationality because I don't like the implications, and I'll thank you to keep that straw man out of the discussion. As a Buddhist, I don't believe in  Calvinism or Arianism so have no problems with the implications of either. I'm approaching this strictly as an exploration of logical reasoning as applied to the Christian worldview. I'm all for relying on rationality to the extent possible, but not to the extent that we accept a flawed answer simply for the sake of having an answer.

I don't believe Calvinism is a flawed answer.

 

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Right. And if you can do this, others can too, which means that over two thousand years a pattern should have emerged whereby people of similar intellect, logical ability and spiritual dedication would come to similar answers. And we don't see that.

Why? Having those things in similar measure don't mean they'd have any of the other confounding factors I mentioned in the same kind or degree.

 

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We had a rather long discussion about it some time ago in which I thought I gave some excellent reasons, but alas you did not agree smile.gif. So as I said, I don't see any point in going through it again.

Indeed. This discussion has probably run its course, and at this stage is mostly just making me angry (which could medically be considered a good thing, as I have first-trimester low blood pressure, but still...)

 

ETA: Sorry, that was snarky. Pregnancy again. I think we do agree to some extent - I don't think logic is the be-all and end-all definite path to omniscience or anything like that. The reason I come across so rabidly pro-logic in my posts here is that I think there need to be very valid reasons (logical ones, as it were!) for determining it to be insufficient in any particular theological instance. I've seen it abandoned so many times as a cop-out, or because someone didn't like the implications of the alternative interpretation, or for other dodgy reasons, that I get a bit defensive about it. I do think the PDF/LFW thing appears to be insoluble, and I think it calls all of Scripture into question to postulate the existence of information that can change an illogical syllogism into a logical one. But I'm not sure we'll ever agree on that.

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Are you sure?  I'd suggest that maybe he did - and he knew about the decision that wasn't made as well.

But perfect definite foreknowledge means that He didn't just foresee multiple options, He knew which one was the "real" option - which choice would actually be made. His knowing that is logically contingent on someone actually making that choice.

 

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 It is interesting though that Christ was limited in ways that God is not - he wasn't omniscient, he was bound by time and space, he was tempted.  And I think it is important to remember that it is in perfectly adhering to God's will that we have perfect freedom.  Although we are in a sense free to sin, it is sin that makes us slaves to our passions, and to the events around us.  The Incarnation does tell us something about God, about his nature if you want to put it that way; he is able to empty himself while still remaining God.

One Person of the Godhead "emptying Himself" is surely different from all Three emptying Themselves, though, surely? There was never a point in which none of the Persons in the Godhead were omniscient or omnipotent.

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I am still not sure why you think freedom makes God powerless?  I don't know of anyone except perhaps a Deist who might say that.  Of course he could intervene, and most Christians believe that at times he does, for some reason of his own.  Do you not believe in miracles?  That is just an example of God intervening when we don't expect him to.  I am also surprised that you feel that God cannot control the things he wishes to while accommodating human freedom.  I got sent a "meeting creator" email recently to arrange a group meeting.  It takes in the dates that everyone is free and sets up the most advantageous time for the meeting.  If a wee computer can do that, I don't worry that God can't manage to arrange history where he wants to.

Miracles are God intervening in the physical laws of the universe. Predestination is God interfering in human decisions, which is a different kettle of fish. Obviously I don't have a problem with it, being a Calvinist, but Arminians tend to recoil from the idea, saying that God wants us to love Him freely and so on. Which makes it odd that they'd be OK with God doing it sometimes. Why is it OK sometimes, but not always?

 

But history is inextricably linked to human decisions. Wars happen because people decide to make war; plagues happen in part because of human decisions about hygiene, quarantine and so on; economic growth is tied to people deciding to buy things. You could argue that if God wanted to stop a war from happening, He could let everyone freely decide to go to war and then thwart them "guerilla-style" through a series of technical blunders, communication breakdowns or outright miracles; but that wouldn't be much in the way of "freedom", would it? And it's not the pattern we see in Scripture, where God happily makes people bless Israel instead of cursing her, or causing Pharaoh to harden his heart against the Israelites.

 

Your computer programme presumably only works if everyone is free at some point for the meeting. Under a LFW perspective, what if God wanted to spread the Gospel to a remote tribe in Ethiopia, but no missionary freely chose to go there? Would He override someone's free will "just this once"?

 

 

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Yeah - I don't think substitutionary atonement can really be pushed to far to be honest.  But I am not saying that the rational is wrong.  I am saying it is not the only, or highest, way of being, and it is not God's way of Being (or not-Being).  I am also not saying we can gain no knowledge from Scriptures, and I don't see where anyone has suggested that - it is a very tindery straw man.  What I am saying is what we know about God is only through our own interactions with him.  In that sense, you might say that it is subjective.  What we know about God is filtered by our own way of knowing.  Just as I am sure my actions from my dog's POV have some doggy interpretation, we only see God according to our own mode.  That is ok, because God created it, and so it is true, and it is even connected to God's mode.  And what is more, perhaps unlike dogs and humans, we can see that God's mode is different than ours.

You haven't given me any reason to believe that rationality is not God's way of Being, though. You're just asserting it. I don't see it in Scripture - quite the reverse. Why do you believe it?

 

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Why do you think he couldn't have stopped the man's hand or his decision?  He could stop either I suppose, though not without destroying the hand as a hand for that moment, or the free will for that moment.  Since free will, and hands, are good things, why would God want to destroy them?  On the other hand, is the murderer actually able to really destroy anything God has made?  (Re: Pharaoh I think that Pharaoh was probably implicated.  If Pharaoh wasn't that kind of guy, he wouldn't be Pharaoh.) 

I don't think free will is necessarily a good thing. (And, huh? The hand would still be a hand even if God stopped it hitting the daughter.) Sure you can adopt an "it'll all pan out in the end" approach - Paul says that the sufferings of the present time will be as nothing from a heavenly perspective. But if your defense for LFW is that God can interfere with it if He wants to, why is there such an objection to God always "interfering"?

 

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God cannot be emotional - you need to have a body to have emotions.  Usually (though one could define it differently I suppose) it also implies change.  I don't know that I would say it results in pantheism - though I suppose it might - but saying that God's nature or attributes must be the same as those of creation seems to be very close to a kind of pantheism.

Why do you need a body to have emotions? There are disembodied spirits (of humans) in Heaven who are described as having emotions; angels are described as having emotions, too. I don't see how this follows at all - just because emotions are linked to hormones and so on in humans doesn't mean they always are. Nor do I think it's unreasonable to expect common attributes between God and His creation - we are made "in His image", after all.

 

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There are many many places where God's love and will for all of creation is found.  When you ask if I am a universalist in this context I am not sure what you mean.  I think Christ died for all people, that we have all been "saved" whether we know it or not, or accept it or not.  It is simply a fact that we are connected to God in this way, and even those who go to Hell (and I hope that there are none) are in fact still bound up in God's love.  That isn't the traditional understanding of a universalist, but it may be from your POV.

Hmm - OK. Universalists generally believe that there will definitely be no-one in hell, but your view is definitely unusual from my perspective. Are you saying we're all saved, but the salvation isn't efficacious unless it's accepted? Or that you can be saved but still go to hell?

 

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I'm not sure what Calvinists mean by "common grace"?

Oh, sorry. Common grace is basically good things God gives to (more or less) everyone, regardless of whether they are elect or not - sort of "general goods" that tend to make the world a nicer place. Romantic love is considered to be one of these things - it won't get anyone to heaven, but it's not given out only to a select few. The beauty of the world is another; the joy of having children, or a love of music or art or mathematics;  friendship; that kind of thing.

 

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With regard to human nature - sin is essential the act of choosing not-God.  It is severing our connection to him and moving away into nothingness.  That's why we become less than fully human, and subject to death as the result of sin.  But what does it mean if God himself has chosen not-God?  How can God move away from himself?  I can make God encompass that in my theological model, but I'm not sure how you can because it seems to be a logical contradiction.  I don't see how sin is possible in this view, and that means God is condemning those who are not sinning at all.  And that is not really copacetic with divine justice.

God causing someone to sin is not the same as God Himself sinning (which I agree is impossible, not only theologically but very possibly logically). In your view, God has occasionally interfered with LFW and directly caused sin, right? How is that theoretically different from a view in which He always does it? Isn't that just a matter of degree?

 

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Secondly, in the cases I was thinking about with groups, I'm not sure you could argue that they used SS.  They also looked pretty closely at what the early Church actually did and taught in the writings of the Fathers and in the liturgies.  So they were accessing Tradition, even if they didn't know it.  And until they had actually completed their journey they would probably tell you that they were still not part of the Church - they didn't for example have access to the Sacraments.  So it would seem in that case if you said that SS led them there, then it lead them to a way of existing as Christians that actually destroyed SS.  That speaks to the power of Scripture and the Holy Spirit, but would not perhaps be a recommendation for SS.

Even so, they had to use their private judgment, Scripture and reason to come to the conclusion that those writings were true. Those are techniques which Tradition declares epistemically unreliable, so having come to a belief in Tradition, how could they trust the process that led them there?


Edited by Smokering - 12/28/10 at 8:34pm
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