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