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[P]
The Omniscience of God and the Free-Will of Man

By SaintPort in Op-Ed
Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 09:01:59 AM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)
Freedom

I was issued a bit of a challenge:

If you want to have an impact on critical thinkers, you need to do more than talk flowery crap about faith and spirits.  Write an article using Christian pseudo-science... spam the edit queue.... Heck, it might even get voted up.
  -- Arduinothor The Vile

And then, submitted a bit of a paradox:

...if God knew in advance that the sin would be committed by the human in question, then how can he punish them for committing it? Assuming we accept that God is the creator of all things, and that God is omniscient, that means that God must take responsibility for everything that happens. It seems difficult to reconcile the idea of an all-knowing God who created us with the idea that we have free will.
  -- reklaw

And so, my Christian free-thinking, pseudo-science based opinion on
The Omniscience of God and the Free-Will of Man:


After my discussion with reklaw, a certain verse throbbed in my head:

But they set their abominations in the house, which is called by my name, to defile it. And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin. And now therefore thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning this city, whereof ye say, It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence;
  -- Jeremiah 32:34-36 :: King James Version (KJV)

Imagine that, it never came into God's mind that a parent might burn his child to death in fire. When I first read that I became suspicious that we throw around the terms omniscience and Hell too loosely.

Then there is this:

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
  -- Genesis 6:5-7 :: King James Version (KJV)

God repented.  Seems mankind turned-out worse than expected.  God was surprised.

Let us consider the special case of Jesus the Christ, fully God, fully man.
He said a couple of interesting things:

Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
  -- Luke 18:8b :: King James Version (KJV)

Does He know?  Does He not know?  Is He challenging us?

Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.
  -- Mark 13:31-33 :: King James Version (KJV)

The Father knows, yet the Son does not.  Apparently, the Holy Spirit is in the dark also.

Now, at risk of, once again, being called a heretic, I would like to suggest a metaphor. Suppose that God plays the role of the scientist and we play the role of Schrodinger's cat. Once God opens the box and peers into our future, He fixes the reality. Therefore, He chooses to view time and events linearly along with us, to grant us free-will. I also propose that He has opened a few boxes, and set in time or reality, certain boundaries that will take place. Thus, His prophets are proved correct.

Is this a good metaphor? A mixed-metaphor? A pseudo-metaphor?

Does this make you want to consider that it is possible to have a universe sporting free-will and a God?

Though it is beyond the scope of today's article, be thinking on the reference to Hell above. Does the mainline definition of Hell serve a real purpose for God?  Is it as advertised?  Is it a scare tactic? If there is sufficient interest (that would be any at all) I will post a follow-up on Hell (at least before it freezes over).

Related links:

Biblical Theology Resources - Omniscience and the Openness of God
BibleStudyGuide.org - God's Omniscience
Southern Baptists Founders - The Omniscience of God
Jewish Encyclopedia - Free Will

Got Life?

Check out my Diary series...
Purpose Driven Life Day 1 - It All Starts With God

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Poll
?
o HERETIC ! 4%
o IDIOT ! 12%
o Thou fool... 1%
o And... 5%
o whatever 26%
o ^-.-^ 2%
o ^#.#^ 4%
o but, I don't want the responsibility of free will. 5%
o Hell, bring it on! 5%
o It just seems so dirty to dissect out Lord in these protracted discussions. 5%
o PLeEz MAAk iT St0p! 16%
o <>< 8%

Votes: 71
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o challenge
o submitted
o Schrodinge r's cat
o Biblical Theology Resources - Omniscience and the Openness of God
o BibleStudy Guide.org - God's Omniscience
o Southern Baptists Founders - The Omniscience of God
o Jewish Encyclopedia - Free Will
o Got Life?
o Check out my Diary series... Purpose Driven Life Day 1 - It All Starts With God
o Also by SaintPort


Display: Sort:
The Omniscience of God and the Free-Will of Man | 507 comments (469 topical, 38 editorial, 1 hidden)
An all-powerful God needs scare tactics... (1.25 / 4) (#8)
by tk on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 08:58:33 AM EST

...but a human masquerading as an ambassador of God, he might.

I think you forgot a verb somewhere (none / 2) (#13)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 09:31:19 AM EST

Your bon-mot doesn't parse.

--
"the internet is to the techno-capable disaffected what the United Nations is to marginal states: it offers the illusion of empowerment and c
[ Parent ]

Should be "needs no scare tactics" (2.00 / 4) (#19)
by tk on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 10:18:16 AM EST

My bad.

[ Parent ]
assuming... (none / 1) (#34)
by Run4YourLives on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 01:15:11 PM EST

your definition of God is correct.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]
Nice, I like that. (2.33 / 6) (#11)
by Saad on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 09:23:20 AM EST

Your reasoning looks cool, and the idea is funny. You did your homework.


"POST COITUM OMNE ANIMAL TRISTE EST."
He didn't do his homework (none / 2) (#293)
by CodeWright on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 12:53:21 PM EST

He's a retard. And I mean that in the worst possible way.

--
"Jumpin Jesus H. Christ riding a segway with a little fruity 1 pint bucket of Ben and Jerry's rainbow fairy-berry crunch in his hand." --
[ Parent ]
I've given up. (none / 2) (#399)
by gzt on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 07:50:08 PM EST

Just thought I'd keep you posted.

[ Parent ]
Very interesting idea. (2.66 / 12) (#12)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 09:28:48 AM EST

If you want to read an interesting take on the nature of free will, read Protector by Larry Niven. Most people don't realize it, but Niven is directly coupling the concept of omniscience to a lack of free will. IOW - the smarter you are, the fewer actual choices you have - free will is a function of stupidity.

On the subject of "How could got create us knowing we would sin?" - well, let me counter with another question - why on earth would I have children, knowing that they would misbehave and I would have to discipline them?

--
"the internet is to the techno-capable disaffected what the United Nations is to marginal states: it offers the illusion of empowerment and c

Difference: God is omniscient, omnipotent! (2.16 / 6) (#21)
by tk on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 10:27:29 AM EST

You can't compare the two. God is supposedly omniscient and omnipotent: if He knew that humans will sin, then why didn't He simply create sinless beings right from the beginnings, and spare the world the horrors of Al-Qaeda and what not?

A lot of arguments for Christianity have the implicit assumption that God behaves and thinks like a human, albeit a super-powerful one. This is very unimpressive!

[ Parent ]

your specific argument... (2.14 / 7) (#33)
by Run4YourLives on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 01:12:15 PM EST

if He knew that humans will sin, then why didn't He simply create sinless beings right from the beginnings

Exactly. Which suggests that there seems to be a purpose to us being sinners. Perhaps the purpose lies in the journey we call life... being born perfect (sinnless) denies that journey.

What you should be agruing is that if God is omniscient and omnipotent, what is it that that is given to us on this journey that couldn't be given to us directly.

That answer would take us right back to porkchop's analogy of parent child; more to do with us than God.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Hmmm (none / 3) (#62)
by jmzero on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 06:34:36 PM EST

What you should be agruing is that if God is omniscient and omnipotent, what is it that that is given to us on this journey that couldn't be given to us directly.

If God is omnipotent, why is there any "couldn't"s to begin with?
.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]

perhaps... (none / 3) (#63)
by Run4YourLives on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 06:49:28 PM EST

..."couldn't" isn't the issue at hand?
Maybe "wouldn't" is more accurate.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]
Analogy (none / 2) (#165)
by virg on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 12:46:07 PM EST

> Exactly. Which suggests that there seems to be a purpose to us being sinners. Perhaps the purpose lies in the journey we call life... being born perfect (sinnless) denies that journey.

Of course, I find it fairly close to the concept of giving a hand grenade to a child with an admonition not to pull the pin, as a way of allowing the child to experience the journey of living with temptation.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
Eh. (2.33 / 6) (#37)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 02:05:03 PM EST

That just brings us to the question of why did He create anything at all?

One of the annoying gaps in religion is that it often simply replaces "How?" with "Why?"

Of course, science often responds to such questions with mathematical variants of "elephants all the way down!"

--
"the internet is to the techno-capable disaffected what the United Nations is to marginal states: it offers the illusion of empowerment and c
[ Parent ]

Omnipotance (none / 2) (#133)
by pyro9 on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 07:52:45 AM EST

True omnipotance cannot exist. It all comes back to the old question "If God is all powerful, can he create a rock that he cannot lift"? (Or if you prefer, "If God is all powerful, can he nuke a burrito so hot even he can't scarf it"?) Perhaps more to the point would be "Can God create a world that even HE can't control"?

Thus, omnipotance denies itself.

A similar (somewhat weaker) argument can be made for omniscience. Does an all knowing being know how to make something behave unpredictably?

Consider a pinball machine. We may know for certain that the ball will eventually go out of play, but we cannot predict it's exact path through the play or how long it will take. We can also design a pinball machine such that the ball can only go out of play through player error or hardware failure.


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
Thoughts on These Conundrums (none / 2) (#164)
by virg on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 12:31:06 PM EST

> True omnipotance cannot exist. It all comes back to the old question "If God is all powerful, can he create a rock that he cannot lift"?

But that's using semantics incorrectly. In a world of unstoppable forces, there can be no immovable objects. To ask that question is to play on a weakness of the language, not the concept. If God is all-powerful, then there cannot exist a rock he cannot lift, by the definition of all-powerful. Unless, of course, you want to monkey with the concept of "lift", but then it just becomes a multilayered semantic dance, but still doesn't negate omnipotence.

> Consider a pinball machine. We may know for certain that the ball will eventually go out of play, but we cannot predict it's exact path through the play or how long it will take. We can also design a pinball machine such that the ball can only go out of play through player error or hardware failure.

See, here's the fun part. You need to extend the analogy to punishing the pinball machines whose balls don't remain in play for the correct amount of time, and then go so far as to build pinball machines specifically designed not to allow the ball to remain in play for the correct amount of time. Then tell the pinball machines they're responsible for whether or not they get punished, because the path of the ball is unpredictable. Fun, isn't it? But still, it's a semantic game, because with a pinball machine, we don't know for certain that the ball will go out of play (I've had numerous conditions arise from a stuck ball or cracked surface pane or malfunction that causes the machine to recycle a dropped ball to reenter play). It's easier to reconcile with the idea that God can be surprised, but that doesn't mesh with the parts of the Bible that state that God knows all. If two different parts of the Bible contradict each other, where are we to derive the "true" answer?

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
Semantics (none / 2) (#178)
by pyro9 on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 03:58:53 PM EST

From Websters: 1. Able in every respect and for every work; unlimited in ability; all-powerful; almighty; as, the Being that can create worlds must be omnipotent.

This is different from an unstoppable force which may only do what a force CAN do. Able in every respect would suggest ability to mount an irrestible force and to create an immovable object.

Really, the pinball machine is an analogy for the state of prescient but not all knowing. The outcome is known in advance (in the absense of malfunction or poor design), but the path to that outcome is a mystery.


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
This is the Point (none / 1) (#344)
by virg on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 01:31:04 PM EST

> This is different from an unstoppable force which may only do what a force CAN do. Able in every respect would suggest ability to mount an irrestible force and to create an immovable object.

This is the point where semantics takes over. You can't discuss irresistable forces and immoveable objects in the same continuum, because they contradict each other by definition. That's like making a completely red rock that's completely blue. Only by bending the definitions of "completely red rock" and "completely blue rock" can the same rock be two different colors at the same time. It's a word game, not an exercise in ability.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
Exactly! (none / 0) (#462)
by pyro9 on Wed Jan 14, 2004 at 11:55:54 PM EST

Actually your example is not quite the same since you are 'trying' to assign two opposing and exclusive properties to the same object, where my case shows two distinct objects that cannot exist in the same universe.

I agree that they can't, in fact, my point depends on that. Because omnipotance could create the situation where both existed, and they cannot, we must conclude that omnipotence itself does not exist.


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
Popper and Wittgenstein (none / 1) (#314)
by Emissary on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 02:33:35 AM EST

I've been reading a book, Wittgenstein's Poker, about Karl Popper and Ludwig Wittgenstein, whose philosophies both suggest ways to solve your problem. Wittgenstein claimed that all philosophical problems were actually linguistic puzzles, and would have given you an answer like virg's, which I personally see as specious. To characterize god as an unstoppable force is to oversimplify. The answer I believe Popper would have given strikes me as much more correct: Let's look at the set of all possible questions "Could God... ?" Since God can do anything, the answer to all such questions is "Yes." God can create a stone so large he cannot lift it. God can lift a stone too large for him to lift. God can do fucking anything, that's what the Bible says. This leads to logical contradictions, but the Bible's never worried too much about contradictions, or logic.

"Be instead like Gamera -- mighty, a friend to children, and always, always screaming." - eSolutions
[ Parent ]
LW would have argued slightly differently (none / 2) (#320)
by DrH0ffm4n on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 05:23:59 AM EST

I think LW would have thrown out the argument altogether as uninteresting nonsense.
Although I agree to an extent with the linguistic puzzle viewpoint, LW's approach was not to solve the puzzle but to actually dissolve it by pointing out where your confusion or abuse in terms arose. It's the omnipitence that is at issue. Can we actually know? No. Therefore the puzzle is meaningless and not worth arguing about.
Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

---
The face of a child can say it all, especially the mouth part of the face.

[ Parent ]
Philosophical problems arise... (none / 2) (#337)
by cr8dle2grave on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 12:25:30 PM EST

...when language takes a holiday.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Could God (none / 0) (#463)
by pyro9 on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 12:02:35 AM EST

Let's look at the set of all possible questions "Could God... ?" Since God can do anything, the answer to all such questions is "Yes." God can create a stone so large he cannot lift it. God can lift a stone too large for him to lift. God can do fucking anything, that's what the Bible says.

I agree with that as a definition of omnipotence. Since it calls for things that are by definition impossible, omnipotence must itself be nonsense.


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
Because. (none / 2) (#176)
by tkatchev on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 02:15:39 PM EST

A perfect, sinless human being is worthless to God.

A perfect, sinless human being would be a robot, and a robot is totally useless if you have omnipotence.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

That might be taken to mean... (none / 1) (#277)
by losthalo on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 12:44:25 AM EST

that Jesus is worthless to God (He being considered by many to have been a perfect human being). ;-)

[ Parent ]
Except that... (none / 1) (#284)
by tkatchev on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 05:55:40 AM EST

...Jesus is not really a human being.

See how it all makes sense?


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Does it matter? (none / 1) (#288)
by tk on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 08:55:39 AM EST

Whether or not Jesus is human, if he's perfect then by your argument he's just a robot, and thus useless.

[ Parent ]
No. (none / 1) (#289)
by tkatchev on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 10:09:38 AM EST

Jesus is God. Hence the concept of Trinity.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

That's even better (none / 1) (#312)
by tk on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 11:17:38 PM EST

Then God is useless to Himself. Oops.

[ Parent ]
Huh? (none / 1) (#322)
by tkatchev on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 06:01:24 AM EST

Did you even try to understand what the hell you're saying?


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Really? (none / 1) (#335)
by unDees on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 11:16:22 AM EST

Some folks consider the humanity of Jesus essential to the entire doctrine of death and resurrection.

Your account balance is $0.02; to continue receiving our quality opinions, please remit payment as soon as possible.
[ Parent ]
Yes. (none / 1) (#419)
by tkatchev on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 07:20:03 AM EST

But it's not correct to call Him a "human being". This has been settled exhaustively in the fourth century.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Also Dune (2.33 / 6) (#57)
by rhino1302 on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 05:23:01 PM EST

That's also one of the central themes of Dune. Except, I think Herbert takes it a step further. He says absolute prediction results in stagnation - a collapsing of the possible states of the future by the removal of danger and crisis which in turn removes the need for adaptation. An omnicient being is incapable of allowing itself or those it interacts with free will becuase its every action is tainted by foreknowledge of the result.

However Herbert does not equate free will with stupidity - quite the opposite. He claims success comes from intelligently adapting to crisis, rather than avoiding it. "Dancing along the razor's edge" is what he called that, IIRC.

[ Parent ]

Maybe. (none / 2) (#117)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 12:33:01 AM EST

Paul and Leto were prescient, not omniscient - and Paul, at least, had limits to his vision (he saw the Golden Path, but only Leto realized why it had to be taken)

but it's a good point; especially in the context of Leto - he definitely felt he was doing what he had to do.

--
"the internet is to the techno-capable disaffected what the United Nations is to marginal states: it offers the illusion of empowerment and c
[ Parent ]

Randomness (none / 2) (#132)
by pyro9 on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 07:29:12 AM EST

In Leto's case, the extent of his prescience was great enough that he was very nearly omniscient but within a limited sphere of influence. (Spoilers ahead for those of you who haven't read all of the Dune series)

He saw that the one and only solution was to ensure that some part of humanity would pass outside his sphere of influence while the greater part formed a stable base to return to under his influence. Ultimately, he had to be destroyed (he had to make people WANT to destroy him, and then allow it to happen)

In protector, the same theme exists but plays a smaller role in the story. Since two protectors can effectively predict each other, the only way to gain the tactical advantage of surprise was to introduce randomness by flipping a coin or resolutely leaving the decision to a more limited untransformed mind.


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
Good points. (none / 2) (#149)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 11:25:04 AM EST

But I don't think Leto was betting solely on those who fled his empire; I think he deliberately applied pressures to those who remained as well, to force them to improve.

But you're right that he wanted a portion to leave and come back; by doing so they provided the sort of "hybrid vigor" that animal breeders often see when two breeds/races of horse are crossed.

As for protector - I never saw randomness as an element to the Human Protector's (I can't remember his name) strategy - he was counting on the true Protector's not realizing what they were up against.

--
"the internet is to the techno-capable disaffected what the United Nations is to marginal states: it offers the illusion of empowerment and c
[ Parent ]

Coin toss (none / 1) (#179)
by pyro9 on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 04:01:42 PM EST

The coin toss to choose weapons was an example of the randomness.


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
Hmmm. I don't remember that bit. (none / 1) (#188)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 05:42:02 PM EST

Looks like it's time to re-read the series.

:-P

--
"the internet is to the techno-capable disaffected what the United Nations is to marginal states: it offers the illusion of empowerment and c
[ Parent ]

I think they were (none / 2) (#144)
by rhino1302 on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 11:00:56 AM EST

I think both Paul and Leto were prescient to such a degree that they could be considered omniscient. Paul, for example, could 'see' without his eyes because he had absolute knowledge of the world around him.

Paul also realized the necessity of the Golden Path, but he was disgusted by it. Paul's response to the way his mind shaped the world around him was always to try to remove himself from the world. Leto sought to remove the world from him (and others like him). This was due to the differences in thier upbringing, not in the power of their vision.

[ Parent ]

I disagree. (2.25 / 4) (#147)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 11:20:24 AM EST

On further consideration, I have to agree about Leto - if he wasn't omniscient, he was damn close, but I definitely recall that when Paul and Leto finally met, Leto suddenly realized that Paul's power had limits - he had seen the Golden Path, but he hadn't seen what the Golden Path would prevent - the ultimate extinction of the human race.

I don't see Leto as trying to remove the world from himself - he explicitly modelled himself as a pharoh, the God King who you must obey simply because he is the God King. He saw that the human race was collapsing from a lack of evolutionary pressure, and saw himself as the predator they needed.

--
"the internet is to the techno-capable disaffected what the United Nations is to marginal states: it offers the illusion of empowerment and c
[ Parent ]

I don't buy it (none / 2) (#153)
by rhino1302 on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 11:49:33 AM EST

I think Paul's limit was his morality. He wasn't willing to perform a great evil to prevent an even greater evil.

"You didn't take your vision far enough, father. Your hands did good things and evil."

"But the evil was known after the event!"

"Which is the way of many great evils," Leto said. It is sad you were never really Fremen. . . . We Fremen know how to commission the arifa. Our judges can choose between evils."

The purpose of the Golden Path was to spread humanity far enough so that a single disaster (such as the prescient hunter/seekers in his vision) could not wipe out the entire species. Also, he bred a line of humans capable of free will (Siona) whose actions can therefore not be predicted. In essence the Golden Path is therefore removing the world from the control of Leto and other prescient beings/devices.

[ Parent ]

Children of God (none / 2) (#161)
by virg on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 12:01:25 PM EST

> On the subject of "How could got create us knowing we would sin?" - well, let me counter with another question - why on earth would I have children, knowing that they would misbehave and I would have to discipline them?

Do you really mean to compare your discipline of your children to eternal damnation? If so, perhaps you'd need to replace the word "discipline" with "execute" or "torture" and then ask it again. I'd bet the answer is slightly different then.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
After all (none / 1) (#278)
by losthalo on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 12:48:26 AM EST

It's difficult to learn from one's mistakes once one is eternally trapped in Hell (or, more accurately, the learning experience is academic once you are trapped forever in Hell).

[ Parent ]
children? (none / 2) (#268)
by davros4269 on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 10:05:47 PM EST

Bad analogy. You wouldn't have children if you knew that you would kill them all in a flood, would you? Myself, if I knew that my kids would come to some gruesome end by my own hand - I wouldn't have had them.

Now, of course you an argue that God is different, that he isn't a human, etc., etc., but in that case, the analogy is also doesn't fit.

Either way, bad analogy.

God not only screwed up with us - the angels also have free will - God didn't see the angel revolt coming?

This guy is 0 for 2!


Will you squirm when you are pecked? Quack.
[ Parent ]

His Prophets are proved correct? (2.00 / 7) (#16)
by Gully Foyle on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 09:39:04 AM EST

When did this happen?

If you weren't picked on in school you were doing something wrong - kableh

it never ends [link] (none / 1) (#116)
by SaintPort on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 12:32:45 AM EST

Clemson University: The Spurgeon Foundation


--
Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

[ Parent ]
ooooh ooooh oooooh.... (none / 2) (#123)
by SaintPort on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 01:27:49 AM EST

http://www.100prophecies.org/

--
Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

[ Parent ]
After Such a Great Article... (none / 2) (#152)
by virg on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 11:47:22 AM EST

...you present this web site to us as evidence of anything? Geez, using the strong logic presented there, I could prove anything, including proving or disproving any of the prophesies presented there. Did you read through that site? Of the first thirty prophesies presented, only two do not directly relate to the forming of the nation of Israel, and there seem to be a number of flat-out repeats in that series. If that's the best evidence you can present of prophecy, you need to go back to the drawing board.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
Dune ripoff (2.12 / 8) (#20)
by boxed on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 10:27:08 AM EST

The basic premise of God and Prophet prescience in your thesis is identical to the prescience premise of the Dune series of Frank Herbert. In my opinion he describes it better though.

+1FP even being atheist (2.10 / 10) (#22)
by xutopia on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 10:38:06 AM EST

these texts are all interesting and gives us chances to have mature conversations on the subject.

Intruigingly enough, (2.82 / 17) (#24)
by Imperfect on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 11:18:03 AM EST

I once posed this question to a very, very Christian man, and got an interesting answer.

Back when I was still dating my ex- (about two years ago), she was living with her family. Her family belongs to a branch of Christianism known as the Brethren. Very fanatical. Good people, but fanatical Christians. Very big on witnessing, converting the fallen, etc.

Well, meeting me and her other new friends opened up the world in ways she hadn't forseen or expected. My ex began to change, and began to doubt in Christianity. Long story short, eventually I had to face down her father in a debate over why I didn't believe, and I basically laid down that argument.

After a brief introductory process where I got him to accept the premises as stated above (an omniscient God, an omnipotent God, and a hell that we go to if we don't believe), I slammed him with that paradox.

The answer I got was that if his God decided that it was okay to punish people with eternal hellfire for doing exactly as he intended them to do, then he was okay with that. Not only could her father live with that, he supported it. It was right.

Not very surprising in retrospect. I'm asking a 50-some-year-old believer to drop his faith at the shake of a rabbit and a hat, but at the time it was horrifying. To me, that's a terrible, evil act. If I threw a gerbil at the wall at 150km/h, I couldn't by any account get mad at it for leaving a bloody mess when it struck. I knew it was going to happen. It's my fault. I can't stand around berating the gerbil's corpse. It's not fair. But then again, few things about Christianity -- if taken literally -- are fair. More on that if someone asks.

As an aside, it's not sin that leads you into hell, it's a lack of belief in Jesus Christ. "...whosoever believeth in me shall never perish, but have eternal life..." (somewhere in John 3:14-ish) . The Catholics have just been very good at publicising their "mortal sin" version. =)

Not perfect, not quite.
sir (2.25 / 8) (#68)
by Battle Troll on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 07:43:09 PM EST

few things about Christianity -- if taken literally -- are fair. More on that if someone asks.

Your criticism only applies to certain far-out groups in the Anglo-American world. More than 9/10ths of all Christians past & present don't hold with it.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

Pretty standard (none / 3) (#146)
by rhino1302 on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 11:15:00 AM EST

This is a pretty standard Calvinist line of thinking, actually. I don't know what percentage of Christians would agree with this specific point, but Calvinisim is definatly mainstream Christian, not "far-out".

[ Parent ]

Calvinism is mainstream Christian? (none / 2) (#175)
by tkatchev on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 02:11:52 PM EST

What world are you from?


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

I'm from Earth (none / 1) (#183)
by rhino1302 on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 05:07:26 PM EST

Off the top of my head, Presbyterians and Congregationalists (now UCC) are the major pure Calvinist sects. They were considered radical in the 1600's but are very mainstream these days.

Baptists, Methodists and even Anglican/Episcopalians are heavily influenced by Calvinisim, and pretty much every other Protestant church other than straight-up Lutheran is Calvinist to some degree.

[ Parent ]

"To some degree" (none / 2) (#184)
by tkatchev on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 05:26:32 PM EST

Basically, this "degree" usually consists of trying to move as far away from Calvin as possible.

Though perhaps this is an European perspective.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

I think that is... (none / 2) (#191)
by rhino1302 on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 06:14:39 PM EST

... a European perspective. From a historical perspective, I'd be sad to hear that the Dutch and Swiss Reformed Churches are moving away from their Calvinist roots (heck, they are the Calvinist roots). However, it may well be that the "True Belivers" are still Calvinist, while the remainder are just going to church for sentimental reason.

[ Parent ]

as it happens, I go to a Lutheran church (none / 2) (#195)
by Battle Troll on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 08:32:16 PM EST

This aspect of Calvinist theology is not accepted by the vast majority of Protestants, including Presbyterians and Congregationalists.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
Um, that depends (none / 1) (#334)
by unDees on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 11:15:00 AM EST

Depends on which Presbyterian denomination we're talking about. In the USA, we have PC(USA), which inherited the sort-of-democratic form of hierarchical church organization, but little of the doctrine. But in the other big branch -- PCA -- the whole fire-and-brimstone, setting-you-up-for-Hell image of God is still very much in vogue.

Your account balance is $0.02; to continue receiving our quality opinions, please remit payment as soon as possible.
[ Parent ]
my point exactly (none / 1) (#359)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 03:12:03 PM EST

And that's only among Presbyterians, who themselves form only a small minority of Christians in America.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
Yes. (none / 2) (#218)
by tkatchev on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 05:43:14 AM EST

My parents live in Geneva, and the city has been predominantly Catholic for quite a long time now.

The protestant churches in the city try to shy away from Calvin's heritage, preferring to view him as a political leader and social reformer rather than a religious authority.

(In fact, I'm betting that the only seriously calvinist sects left in the city are those serving the American immigrant community.)


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

and the larger issue (none / 2) (#246)
by Battle Troll on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 05:03:31 PM EST

Most Calvinist theological conclusions have been rejected even by historically Calvinist churches.

Also, citing Calvin to find out what the Christian on the street believes is like conflating St. Just's opinions with Jacques Chirac's.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

No, you're not. (none / 2) (#294)
by CodeWright on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 01:03:06 PM EST

You clearly have no idea what you're talking about when you say that Anglicans are Calvinist influenced.

Anglican/Episcopalian theology is almost identical to Catholic theology, with the exception of recognizing the Archbishop of Rome as titular head of the Church. In this, their theology actually harkens back to before the Schism between the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.

Perhaps the raving lunatic fringe buys into Calvinism, but not real Christendom.

--
"Jumpin Jesus H. Christ riding a segway with a little fruity 1 pint bucket of Ben and Jerry's rainbow fairy-berry crunch in his hand." --
[ Parent ]
re: Anglicans/pre-schismatics (none / 1) (#360)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 03:14:10 PM EST

While Anglicans may describe their theology as pre-schismatic, it is completely Western and as such subject to the usual Eastern criticisms of the West - in particular, the juridicial view of salvation.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
Anglican theology is very variable (none / 1) (#378)
by Simon Kinahan on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 05:00:12 PM EST

There are Anglicans who are virtually Calvinist, (to the point of accepting the idea of the elect and predestination), and Anglicans who are very similar to Methodists and other enthusiastic sects, as well High Church Anglicans who hark back Catholicism.

Anglicanism originated as a political, not a religious institution. The differentiator between an Anglican on the calvinist wing of the church and a dissenter was a willingness to accept the church's authority, and hence the monarch's, over their own conscience. On the other side, a high church Anglican was distinguished from a Catholic (and therefore a traitor) by preparedness to accept the monarch's authority over the pope's.

It should be pointed out that the "high church" wing of Anglicanism is actually pretty recent. A 19th century invention. Between the Glorious Revolution (1689) and the start of of the Oxford movement in the late 19th century, Anglican theology tended much more towards that of other protestant sects. In my view this is consistent, and the Oxford movement was misguided: Catholicism without papal authority at the centre of it is just smells and bells.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

That's funny (none / 0) (#469)
by rhino1302 on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 02:45:54 PM EST

I learned some of the central points of Calvinisim from a video produced by the Anglican Church. Go take an "Alpha" course from your local Anglican/Episcopalian Church if you don't belive me.

I'm not saying that they were preaching full-blown TULIP Calvinisim but some of their points come close, especially with regards to Total Depravity and the insignificance of Good Works. This is certainly not Catholic Theology.

If you are a practicing Christian, please ask your pastor/priest/etc. whether they regard Calvinisim as "lunatic fringe". My guess is they don't.

[ Parent ]

That's ture, but I've covered that. (none / 3) (#169)
by Imperfect on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 01:03:08 PM EST

I said "if taken literally." More than 9/10ths don't take it literally, which nicely by-steps that.

Not perfect, not quite.
[ Parent ]
sir (none / 2) (#194)
by Battle Troll on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 08:31:04 PM EST

More than 9/10ths don't take it literally, which nicely by-steps that.

Take what literally, what's that hermeneutic mean anyhow, the Bible doesn't say that 'evil is good should God will it so,' I think that answers all your objections.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

God is good? (2.00 / 4) (#257)
by tgibbs on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 06:31:52 PM EST

The answer I got was that if his God decided that it was okay to punish people with eternal hellfire for doing exactly as he intended them to do, then he was okay with that. Not only could her father live with that, he supported it. It was right.

This view is what I find most troubling about monotheism: To many adherents, God is not merely good, God defines good. This is quite different from older religions that acknowledged the possibility that the interests of man and the interests of the gods might sometimes not be concordant. Those who accept this kind of fundamentalist monotheism abdicate their responsibility to make their own personal decisions regarding right and wrong, and thereby become capable of committing the greatest atrocities.

[ Parent ]

monotheism and ethical responsibility (none / 2) (#318)
by HalfFlat on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 04:26:03 AM EST

It's a shame that this (IMO, crucial and valid) point isn't brought up more often.

How can one reconsile the peace-and-love Christianity with the brutality of the Crusades? By noting exactly this.

[ Parent ]

Sure would be nice- (none / 1) (#279)
by losthalo on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 12:51:42 AM EST

"...whosoever believeth in me shall never perish, but have eternal life..."

-to be able to control what you believe, eh?

[ Parent ]
Agreed. (none / 2) (#292)
by Imperfect on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 12:51:42 PM EST

Many a time during that period, I wished I could just believe and get it over with, but I could never force myself to do it. I always doubted.

I'm much happier about the situation now.

Not perfect, not quite.
[ Parent ]
Re: The Catholcs (none / 1) (#339)
by The Private Fedora on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 12:41:59 PM EST

As an aside, it's not sin that leads you into hell, it's a lack of belief in Jesus Christ. "...whosoever believeth in me shall never perish, but have eternal life..." (somewhere in John 3:14-ish) . The Catholics have just been very good at publicising their "mortal sin" version.

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

According to Catholic teachings, faith and works are required for salvation.

-------
"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?"
Patrick Henry, The War Inevitable, March 23, 1775
[ Parent ]

On free will (2.78 / 14) (#26)
by ph317 on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 11:43:51 AM EST

According to Ramachandran (sp?) in that Reith neuroscience lecture that recently graced k5 as an MLP, there's strong evidence supporting the notion that our conscious minds have no free will to speak of, at least as we think of the term.  He purports that the unconscious machine, the brain, makes all of our decisions, and that our conscious thought process (the one that says, "I choose to type this sentence right now") is really just a post-hoc rationalisation of our observation of these unconscious actions.

Or in other words, if that made no sense - he's arguing that consciousness is merely an observer in the brain, not a director.  When it observes us  beginning to take action, during the neural lag time before the action actually takes place, it decides that it must have directed this action (a rationalisation to promote sanity, I suppose).

It starts (2.50 / 10) (#28)
by mcc on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 12:14:48 PM EST

at some point to just become an issue of semantics.

So let's say our brains are based on deterministic processes based on interacting electrical and physical particles, and because these particles are just following set natural laws, everything we ever do is fixed from the moment at which the velocities of the particles leaving the Big Bang were set.

But this just comes to the question: are these deterministic processes a limit on free will, or the expression of free will?

In other words: what, if anything, is the difference between an instrument of predestination (a process which limits our free will) and an instrument of free will (processes which are themselves part of free will, and are just the mechanism by which we decide what our will is and act on it)?

Since we have no idea and no way to figure out exactly what the homonculus is, this isn't really a question we can answer. It just comes down to how you personally choose to define what certain terms mean.

And I'd be tempted-- since we can't really clearly differentiate these two concepts-- to declare that Free Will and Predestination are both meaningless, wholly arbitrary semantic concepts that cannot be reasoned about, invoke Occam's Razor, state there's no point in discussing either one, and go back to bed.

---
Aside from that, the absurd meta-wankery of k5er-quoting sigs probably takes the cake. Especially when the quote itself is about k5. -- tsubame
[ Parent ]

hmm (none / 2) (#51)
by fae on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 04:26:21 PM EST

What does determinism have to do with free will?

-- fae: but an atom in the great mass of humanity
[ Parent ]
Was responding to parent post (none / 2) (#86)
by mcc on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 09:27:20 PM EST

The parent post took the conversation away from religion, and provided a scientific way of saying that we don't have free will. The post seemed to be saying something along the lines that we don't have free will because our thoughts are governed entirely by deterministic, mechanical processes in our brain.

I was trying to use that as a jumping off point to imply that "free will" and "predestination" aren't really terribly meaningful concepts because the definition of "free will" is unclear and horribly arbitrary.

In a specific sense I was trying to address the parent post by saying the whole predetermination-through-determinacy thing is a kind of silly topic to argue about, because there's no real way to discern between "everything is just mechanical processes, so we don't have free will" and "we have free will, and the free will exercises itself through mechanical processes". But the same sort of general way of looking at things ought to work in other cases. For example, you could say that God's omnipotence doesn't take away our free will because "we don't have free will because God decided everything" is kind of hard to discern from "we have free will and we exercise that will using God's will".

In other words you could make the argument that if God is omnipotent and omnicient and thus did decide everything, we still have free will-- and the portion of God which decides what happens to us can be said to be, itself, our free will. This is kind of drifting toward pantheism, but what the heck.

Probably none of this was very clear, though ^_^

---
Aside from that, the absurd meta-wankery of k5er-quoting sigs probably takes the cake. Especially when the quote itself is about k5. -- tsubame
[ Parent ]

sure (none / 2) (#142)
by speek on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 09:53:00 AM EST

You can always back out of the free will argument with this type of regression, but it's still interesting that certain views of free will do have to be dropped if one accepts the scientific evidence. A free will that imposes itself on the physical world in a non-deterministic way seems to not exist, and this particular view of free will is very widespread and I don't think you'll get many people agreeing that it doesn't exist. A retreat to your description, of "free will exercises itself through mechanical processes" would be a substantial revision for most people.

Probably none of this was very clear, though

It was very clear. Nice post.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

why the reluctance (none / 0) (#450)
by Wah on Wed Jan 14, 2004 at 01:18:31 AM EST

In other words you could make the argument that if God is omnipotent and omnicient and thus did decide everything, we still have free will-- and the portion of God which decides what happens to us can be said to be, itself, our free will. This is kind of drifting toward pantheism, but what the heck.

Why does that bother you?  Just curious.

It seems like a rather strong answer to me, at least to resolve this particular paradox.  Surely it gives rise to others, not to mention the general wishy-washiness that can come from the ideology, but I'm curious about your reluctance.
--
"Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun The frumious Bandersnatch!"
..or simply
[ Parent ]

Not just semantic (none / 1) (#411)
by ph317 on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 04:02:44 AM EST


If you read the lectures, the example experiments describe indicate that this is not merely a semantic difference, it is a real one.  He claimed that in the experiment he could predict a human being's conscious willfull action before they beleived that they had willed it by monitoring the brain.

To paraphrase and embellish his experiment in a way that doesn't alter the truth of it: He can put wires on your brain, and tell you to tap your finger on the table whenever you feel like it, and have the machine on your brain flash message on a projection screen in front of you that says "You're about to tap your finger" every time you're about to.  The message doesn't flash during the lag between you deciding to do so and the finger moving, the message flashes just before you "decide" to tap it, and really really freaks you out and makes you think people are reading your mind and/or controlling you.

[ Parent ]

A continuation of this argument (none / 1) (#436)
by bgalehouse on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 03:30:38 PM EST

Is that in a deterministic universe, causality itself is undefined. The only 'problem' with certain physics concepts is philisophical, not scientific. E.G. Feynman-Wheeler advanced potentials. These concepts make it easier to calculate, say, the force of radiative reaction. On the other hand, there isn't exactly a scientific test for causality.

[ Parent ]
The title had me angry... (2.14 / 7) (#27)
by jmzero on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 11:59:38 AM EST

But the article was just fine.

Also, if God were truly omnipotent then he could realize all goals.  This means he could grant free will and see the future and avoid all unpleasantness without goofy compromises such as the one you've outlined.  

It's impossible to really reason about God unless you take away absolute omnipotence.  I think you also have to define omniscience as "knows all things that are/will be/have been" instead of "knows the correct answer to any question that can be phrased", which I think dips into paradox.
.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife

That blows up easily (none / 2) (#42)
by Hector Plasmic on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 02:26:37 PM EST

"if God were truly omnipotent then he could realize all goals"

So he could both exist and not exist?

Boom. :-)

[ Parent ]

Indeed - it's pretty awkward. (none / 3) (#47)
by jmzero on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 03:14:56 PM EST

An omnipotent God could indeed create a true contradiction.  And contradictions really poop on logic.

For example, suppose omnipotent God made true both of the statements "A" and "Not A".  From this, we can prove any statement to be true.  The logic looks like:

  1. A (one of our premises)
  2. A or B (we are sure "A or B" is true, because we know A is from our premise)
  3. Not A (one of our premises)
  4. B (from 2 and 3 together - we know that A or B is true, and from statement 3 we know that A isn't true, therefore B must be the true one).
We've now proved B, regardless of what B is.  This means that if one contradiction exists, standard logic dictates that all propositions are true (and false).  
.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]
note: (none / 2) (#67)
by Battle Troll on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 07:41:49 PM EST

In a Wittgensteinian world, God's omnipotence exists without contradictions.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
I contend... (none / 1) (#112)
by gzt on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 12:22:22 AM EST

...that this is a Wittgensteinian world. Mmm, Tractatus...

[ Parent ]
Oh man... (none / 2) (#148)
by derek3000 on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 11:22:51 AM EST

That stuff makes me feel dumb; real dumb.

-----------
Not too political, nothing too clever!--Liars
[ Parent ]

why? (none / 2) (#224)
by Battle Troll on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 09:58:23 AM EST

Most people who are all up on Wittgenstein are totally useless both to themselves and to others.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
What about Anscombe? (none / 1) (#225)
by gzt on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 10:03:04 AM EST

Then again, you did say most, not all...

[ Parent ]
my point is that (none / 3) (#227)
by Battle Troll on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 10:17:19 AM EST

Professional philosophers may easily be useless, ineffectual fools who've read some famous books. Most of them I've known would be much better off chopping vegetables in in soup kitchens than chopping logic (however skilfully) in universities.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
i dunno, (none / 1) (#393)
by infinitera on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 05:44:17 PM EST

I've been impressed greatly by two of my profs so far. Which is not to say you should recognize either of them, just that I didn't think their knowledge too narrow or dogmatic.

[ Parent ]
I'm not talking about practicality. (none / 1) (#311)
by derek3000 on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 11:03:20 PM EST

I'm talking about impressing people at grad-school cocktail parties and whatnot.

Ugh. That's pretty indulgent, isn't it?

-----------
Not too political, nothing too clever!--Liars
[ Parent ]

grad-school cocktail parties? (none / 2) (#327)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 10:35:39 AM EST

Nobody there has more than a smattering of everything. When I worked for the GSU in Toronto, I found that scientists and non-scientists alike generally know their small corner of their field and little else. So, read 'Nietzsche for Dummies' and you're already ahead of everyone except the folks who actually study Nietzsche full-time, which is like .001% of grad students.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
Maybe I know almost enough to discuss this! (none / 1) (#315)
by Emissary on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 02:45:43 AM EST

If I understand correctly, Tractatus said that language was like a bulky quilted jacket hiding the sexy contours of that lady Truth. But later in life, Wittgenstein decided that truth wasn't wearing a jacket at all, and that language was perfect, and that all philosophical problems were actually semantic. Which view defines the Wittgensteinian world you're talking about?

"Be instead like Gamera -- mighty, a friend to children, and always, always screaming." - eSolutions
[ Parent ]
Later. (none / 2) (#400)
by gzt on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 08:26:08 PM EST

Though I don't think he agrees with the statement that language is perfect, or that truth was really the matter being investigated in philosophy. Tractatus remains wonderful to me because of Wittgenstein's recanting of it and because it completely destroys positivism anyway. At the moment I'm not really up to snuff on this crap either, and if you've read The Crying of Lot 49, make the appropriate reference to the ensweatered lady to describe my own mental grasp on the breast that is the Wittgensteinian oeuvre.

[ Parent ]
Crying of Lot 49 (none / 1) (#435)
by Emissary on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 02:13:02 PM EST

I read it over the summer sitting in a Waterstone's in London. I remember that it was one of the most fantastic things I've ever read, but you reference re: ensweatered lady doesn't ring any bells. As for Positivism, you're talking about the logical positivism of the Vienna Circle, right? From what I've read, the logical positivists idolized Wittgenstein, and it was Karl Popper who destroyed positivism. Granted, all I've read is Wittgenstein's Poker, which isn't so much about philosophy as philosophers. The only other book on 20th century philosophy I've touched characterises it all as a reaction against Hegel.

"Be instead like Gamera -- mighty, a friend to children, and always, always screaming." - eSolutions
[ Parent ]
The reference is to the stripping game. (none / 1) (#449)
by gzt on Wed Jan 14, 2004 at 12:16:34 AM EST

When she wore dozens of sweaters &c. Indeed, the positivists idolized Wittgenstein, but I don't see how, "properly" "understood" early Wittgenstein really helped them. Maybe I just misread the man and read his later thoughts into his early works, it has been a while and I'm a pompous ass.

[ Parent ]
either one works (none / 2) (#431)
by Battle Troll on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 11:58:39 AM EST

As both demolish nominalism, which is what's at stake here.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
Awkward by definition (none / 2) (#159)
by Hector Plasmic on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 11:59:54 AM EST

"An omnipotent God could indeed create a true contradiction."

This is why most folks define "omnipotence" to mean "able to do whatever is logically possible," just as "omniscience" is defined to mean "knowing whatever it is logically possible to know."

This points out a problem with the article -- it apparently wants to change the definition of omniscience to "able to know whatever it is logically possible to know."  IOW, God doesn't know anything it doesn't want to know.  But how then does it know what it should know?  In many ways, such an "omniscient" being could know far less about reality (whatever that might be) than you or I.  It's silly.

[ Parent ]

Indeed (none / 2) (#187)
by jmzero on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 05:33:11 PM EST

The question centers around definitions.  If you think of God as omnipotent in absolute terms, then not only is Christianity inconsistent (via the problems mentioned in the article) but pretty much everything becomes difficult to reason about.

I think the solution for your average Christian is to believe, as you suggest, that omniscience and omnipotence are both bounded in some ways (at very least by logic).  The article places a really awkward bound on omniscience, but it's one that makes sense if God lacked certain powers (eg. the power to reconcile free will with his own foreknowledge).
.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]

on free will (2.71 / 21) (#29)
by SocratesGhost on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 12:44:14 PM EST

If you have ever written fiction, you understand something about free will. Each of your characters have free will. Some will be good, some deeply flawed. But for the author (as well as The Author), once he creates a character, the author must let go and let the character be their own person, making the mistakes the author knew they were going to make, or being the heroes as intended. The style and manner in which they go about this organically derives from each character's personality. It's up to the character to make the story, not the author.

In my most inspired writing sessions, I had no control over my characters. For all intents, though, I am their God omnipotent and omniscient. Sure, I can steer them (the villain's bullet misses and this alerts the hero to danger) but my most defined characters are out of my hands. Like children, they do whatever they want to do.

What punishment does the author reserve for the evildoer in his own creations? None. The story may be published but writing breathes life into the miserable villain. Do I hate my villains? No. In fact, I have greater sympathy for them than I do for the hero who gets the girl in the third act. In fact, I spend more time on my flawed characters because their actions require causes and justifications. Having put them through a terrible childhood, a scarring relationship, or tragic loss during war, their inevitable fall from grace and ne'er-do-well approach is organic and believable. That's just good storytelling.

Any creative endeavor involves this. Ask any musician in a jam session if the music itself had free will. Ask Michelangelo what image he was ready to impose on a piece of marble. Ask yourself, even, if the comments you make won't take a life of their own after you have said them, no matter how you intended.

I like to think of God as the Conductor of the Symphony of Life. We are the notes that cry out our voice once and then silence. We determine if our voice be good or bad, but all are part of the music. We are free to be a part of the symphony or to rebel against it.

Maybe that is why we have the arts, to better appreciate these questions.

-Soc
I drank what?


this comment (2.25 / 4) (#31)
by Run4YourLives on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 12:58:36 PM EST

...is one of the best comments I have had the pleasure of reading here on K5.

As someone who is both intrigued by faith and dabbles in writing, your anaogly is interesting and compelling.

Good job.


It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Thank you (n/t) (2.25 / 4) (#32)
by SocratesGhost on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 01:00:41 PM EST


-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
People once used the arts, yes. (1.75 / 4) (#52)
by fae on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 04:28:29 PM EST

But now we have The Sims. :)

-- fae: but an atom in the great mass of humanity
[ Parent ]
That is absolute rubish. (1.16 / 6) (#137)
by Tezcatlipoca on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 09:17:48 AM EST

You can choose whatever you want to do with your characters, if that leads to less or more satisfactory or coherent storylines is another matter.

That is why writing ai an act of volition: if you don't want your characters to exist they will simply never be, and you guide them to whatever you want them to do.

Might is right
Freedom? Which freedom?
[ Parent ]

Perhaps (none / 2) (#280)
by SocratesGhost on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 12:57:14 AM EST

but you'd really have to sell that to me via some method does not involve post hoc, ergo hoc, and those are the only arguments that I can imagine could really say for sure that there is no greater plan that guides my fingers. You'd have to know with certainty whether or not free will already exists, and you'd also have to know with certainty that God does or does not exist. I think an honest person understands that neither of these are certain, and as a result, all that we have left is a sort of mythopoetic understanding, whether it be Big Bang or Chaos and Gaia.

I think the most compelling rhetorical argument I made was when I asked whether musicians control the jam session, or Michelangelo control the stone. Maybe it does operate like a cynic views the Ouija board: responses to the subconscious influences of a strong willed hand. The problem is that both Michelangelo and the musicians disagree. For Mikey, he chipped away at the marble to find the form that already lay within, and for musicians (and I've only just recently begun experiencing this on guitar), it's a terrifying rapture, like an ocean and you can only bob up and down on the whim of its tide.

So maybe science can lead us to the truth about this matter, and it may be that our artifacts are absolute extensions of ourselves, controlled by the powers endowed upon us as creators. But what a bleak world it would be when our children do only as their told.

Incidentally, for my slightly more thorough take on free will, I have a small thread on them here at K5.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
Tolkienesque (none / 2) (#229)
by BoredByPolitics on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 11:28:53 AM EST

I like to think of God as the Conductor of the Symphony of Life. We are the notes that cry out our voice once and then silence. We determine if our voice be good or bad, but all are part of the music. We are free to be a part of the symphony or to rebel against it.
If you have read The Silmarillion then you will be familiar with Tolkien's description of the beginning of time, where the Creator (Eru Ilúvatar) does indeed conduct a symphony produced by his first creations, the Ainur. There's even a parallel to the Bible whereby one of the Ainur, called Melkor, decided to produce a discordant sound, thereby breaking the harmony. Melkor went on to become the personification of evil in the world (incidentally created by Eru Ilúvatar from a piece of music that he alone creates).

Interestingly much of Tolkien's creation is inspired, or stolen, from the myths of various cultures, the most prominent of which are the Norse.

--
"Every contract has a sanity clause", "Sanity clause! Sanity clause! You can't fool me, there's no such thing as Sanity Claus"
[ Parent ]

or Ende-nesque (none / 1) (#324)
by TuringTest2002 on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 08:19:42 AM EST

I prefer the vision on this subject of Michael Ende in The Neverending Story (the book, not the movie - of course). Tolkien's work in general is an allegory of Christian philosophy (a Good-Evil world), and I find Ende's book to be a similar achievement but from a more liberal point of view (there is no absoulte good or evil, humans are creators of a fantasy world without a handbook).

From this stand, "God" as creator of everything is just a possible explanation of the world. Surely a widespread one, but not the only possible one. The Childlike Empress in "T.N.S." is not a goddess, is more a symbol of Art or Literature; she doesn't control the world of Fantastica, just brings it to reallity (and everything, even Evil, does rightfully belong to it). Human are the only ones with the power to create or change this world. And if men could actually understand what does it mean to "be creative", they would destroy their very essence - the illusion of free will.

Proof that Ende's world is profound is that there is people who likes this fantasy as much as Tolkien's and are trying to write the never-ended stories that once and again appeared through the novel and "shall be told another time".

[ Parent ]

An exercise in futility. (2.60 / 15) (#30)
by Kasreyn on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 12:52:58 PM EST

First off, good work on an interesting article. I honestly hope your musings ease your mind about your religion. I, personally, will go on believing that the reasons for the inconsistencies in the description of god in the Bible were due to it being a pack of lies written by dozens of ignorant people over hundreds of years. That seems simpler to me than attempting to imagine an omniscient being capable of being surprised (by his own magnum opus at that!). :-P

But to me the entire point is moot, because I don't really see what this whole "free will" thing is about. Maybe I read too much Vonnegut, but the older I get the more I notice how humans - myself included - are nothing but slaves to their preprogrammed drives and urges. None of us, it would seem, have free will anyway. For an excellent meditation on this idea, I recommend Vonnegut's book "Timequake".

It simplifies things greatly if one stops believing in mythical horseshit like god, free will, and inalienable rights, and merely tries to treat other humans well and minimize suffering. At least, it certainly keeps one up nights less often.


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Good thing... (1.66 / 6) (#40)
by tkatchev on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 02:16:21 PM EST

...that you're ever so much smarter than those idiots who wrote the Bible.

It's always good to have ancestors you can pick on and make fun of. Good ghod, what morons they must have been.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

if we fail to see our ancestors mistakes (2.00 / 4) (#125)
by xutopia on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 01:36:19 AM EST

we are bound to repeat them indefinitly.

The only thing that seems to differentiate me from other animals is the intelligence I was given. Wether you believe in God or not, should this tool be used to advance us? If we respect ancestors too much to see their limits and human errors how then can we break free from the shakkles of the past?

[ Parent ]

Shackles of the past. (none / 2) (#170)
by tkatchev on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 01:09:49 PM EST

So, do you seriously believe that you are significantly better than your grandparents just by the simple fact of being born 80 or so years later?

Well, good for you.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

do I come acroess as being that conceited? (none / 3) (#207)
by xutopia on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 11:29:33 PM EST

cause I sure as hell don't try to.

If anything I look up to my ancestors. However despite my inherent pride in them I have to accept with humility the fact that they did mistakes like every human does. If I can recognize these mistakes I would be a fool to just repeat them senselessly.

Some of the writings in the Bible evoque such instances of mistakes made on predjudicial guesswork. If we fail to see that these are mistakes we are bound to repeat them forever. One example that comes to mind is that we shouldn't eat pork. Back then they ammonified the status of pigs to being evil beings. The reason for this was supposedly because they had hoofs and a curly tail or something senseless like that. They didn't know anything about germs and now we eat pork without asking questions. Why would we listen to all the other laws in the same book without questionning them? Taking stuff at face value is hardly giving justice the brain God (if you believe in it) gave us.

[ Parent ]

Actually, yes. (none / 2) (#216)
by tkatchev on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 05:35:14 AM EST

Our ancestors (well, at least some) considered the Bible to be the most authorative book in existence at one point. I don't have to agree with them, but calling the Bible a "pack of lies written by morons" comes off as just a little conceited and illiterate.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

if you are going to quote me (1.75 / 4) (#235)
by xutopia on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 03:26:43 PM EST

or someone else. At least quote them. Don't emphasize on what you think the person meant, otherwise we'll be discussing oranges and apples.

I still think that the Bible is packed with plenty of lies and half truths. For example assertions that God stopping the sun from turning around the earth. Or insunations that the earth was flat! The people that wrote the Bible were ignorant of the truth on that matter. They were also quite ignorant of germs and the fact that men's seed isn't the whole of what it takes to make life. If they didn't know something and talked about it that has a lot to say on their knowledge. The showed us their ignorance.

[ Parent ]

fortunately (1.75 / 4) (#244)
by Battle Troll on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 04:44:13 PM EST

The Bible is not read as natural history by most Christians.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
I'm afraid a lot do (nt) (none / 1) (#307)
by xutopia on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 08:26:15 PM EST



[ Parent ]
a lot != most (none / 1) (#358)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 03:10:58 PM EST

Only a small proportion of Christians are fundamentalists.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
not in USia [nt] (none / 1) (#395)
by infinitera on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 05:46:10 PM EST



[ Parent ]
While we are plauged with... (none / 1) (#397)
by cr8dle2grave on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 06:58:48 PM EST

...altogether too many fundies, last I checked they remained, by a significant margin, a minority sect(s). Catholicism has been the largest denomination in the US for some time and, while there are a handful of traditionalist anti Vatican II Catholics out there, it's a bit of stretch to classify Catholics as fundamentalist.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
um.. (none / 1) (#401)
by infinitera on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 08:28:41 PM EST

Last I checked, our President was a fundie himself.

[ Parent ]
And the price of tea this week is? (none / 1) (#407)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 12:00:55 AM EST


---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Motives of the Authors (2.42 / 7) (#41)
by jonnyd on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 02:21:17 PM EST

While I agree that most of the Bible is not literally true, I wouldn't go so far as to call its contents "a pack of lies" or its writers "dozens of ignorant people". The word lie implies the intent to decieve in a negative light, but I would argue that in many cases the stories were not meant be taken literally, except perhaps by "ignorant people". Organized religion seems to serve a very valuable role as a moral framework without which stable society would be much more difficult. I believe the authors of religious texts saw that in many cases the only ways to coax the "ignorant people" into complying with the morality they prescribed was to create metaphorical constructs that people could identify. Instead of appealing to them "don't kill someone in your society if you want your society to prosper", they create an omniscent power able to inflict retribution (namely God) and a set of commandments coming down from this power ("thou shall not kill" ... or else). The beauty of the system is that if one is intelligent enough to understand the motivation behind the rhetoric, even if it is not truth, they will most likely still comply with much of what it prescribes. If they are not intelligent enough, they will take the rhetoric at face value and still follow the moral prescription out of fear of punishment by the omniscent power.
JD
[ Parent ]
I don't want to insult people on this but (2.33 / 6) (#107)
by xutopia on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 11:57:05 PM EST

the axiological argument is flawed. The moral framework as you state is nothing more than a channel that promoted itself as being the only one for morals. Stories, poems and other art which isn't religious can still provide moral teachings to people. And even if religion did give moral teaching it doesn't mean that it's more right to believe in God because of that. Believing in God requires a bit more than that. Now if all people that weren't religious and that all atheist were mass murderers I'd say the moral argument has some weight to it. As I see it though it doesn't. Most atheists I came across do "the right thing" more often than hard core Christians and Catholic I've met. Atheists are often philantropists. You can hardly say the same about the guy that goes to church every sunday but hopes that the rapist gets fried on the electric chair.

Like you said there are different ways to understand the "system". When said the way it is different people of different intelligence will understand different things. You also say that the commandements are there to make people follow prescrived rules. This to me sounds a lot like excercizing control over people's freedom. And we're all supposed to have free will?

Because you are right about the "system" being understood at different levels I'd like to point out that Islam has these levels as well. Most Muslims are very nice people with lots of tolerance. However when you push them in a corner they get vicious and we see Jihad spring into action. I often hear right-wing christians use this to show how Islam is a false religion. Well I'd like to point out that in Uganda today the LRA are killing and raping people, terrorizing a country because their righteous Christian God wants them to build a country who follows the ten commandements. Even Christianity has it's horrible aspects.

You see the whole of the Bible seems to be different people inspired by different things. Some want morals to be pushed. Others want fear to be expressed in order to control people. Others want just to be remembered. Others are probably just well intentioned people hoping to help people with their wisdom. Unfortunatly you can't control people forcibly. You have to let them learn on their own sometimes. Attempting to do otherwise is only making matters worst.

The errors such as the world being as young as 6000 years old or the earth being at the center of the universe show us that this isn't some omniscient God inspiring or writing these texts. How could God allow such horrible mistakes to occur? At most it is normal people like you and me hoping to do good by posing as some powerful deity. If this is the case then the Bible is, no matter how good the intentions of the authors, just a pack of lies.

[ Parent ]

Agreed... (2.33 / 6) (#120)
by jonnyd on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 12:56:09 AM EST

You are confirming my point.
Stories, poems and other art which isn't religious can still provide moral teachings to people
I don't deny this, I never said religion was the exclusive teacher of morals. It seems to be the most powerful though, in that many people tend to have much stronger feelings about religion than stories, poems or art (sad as it is).
Now if all people that weren't religious and that all atheist were mass murderers I'd say the moral argument has some weight to it
Because somebody reads or studies a religion does not make them "religious". In fact I would argue that there is at least a component self-proclaimed atheists that do not believe in any one organized religion because they have studied many and don't feel that any one fully serves their beliefs. But they can still see the value in some of the teachings of these religions. Not to be condescending, but atheists tend to include the more intelligent, or at least more questioning and open-minded, people. This is exactly the reason they are not mass murderers - they understand that there is good societal reasons to comply with a moral framework. The fact that much of this moral framework typically mirrors much of the moral framework set up by organzied religion simply shows that both have a common purpose - the betterment of society.
JD
[ Parent ]
They weren't as ignorant as you thought them to be (2.00 / 5) (#49)
by Pirengle on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 04:08:41 PM EST

Not true. The bible was NOT written by ignorant people. At least, the King James' version wasn't. John Bois, Anthony Downes, and four other handpicked scholars and theologians compiled the King James' version of the Bible from various Bibles written from the time Gutenberg cranked up his press and updating its contents to English renaissance vernacular.

So Joe Schmoe and his cronies weren't composing the master work of English literature. But if you take the Bible as just that--a work of fiction--it certainly is a fine read.

(The Story of English by McCrum, Cran, and MacNeil, 1993 Penguin edition, provided the Biblical information.)


♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫
A sure-fire way to make friends and influence people: transform the letters "l" and "i" into "-1"s whenever posting. Instant wit!
[ Parent ]
I said, "over hundreds of years" (none / 2) (#103)
by Kasreyn on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 11:19:53 PM EST

so I hoped it was clear that I meant the original, goat-smelling, sand-encrusted edition. :-P I was not referring to the King James edition, but to what it was transl(iter)ated from.

I agree that the King James edition is a fabulous work of the art of writing - there is some unforgettable poetry in it, most famously the 23rd Psalm of course, but a lot of other gems people don't read as much.

Whether it's art or not, though, doesn't change my belief that it's a pack of lies, nor that it was *originally* written by ignoramuses. :-P


-Kasreyn

P.S. I'm honored someone finally found me worthy to quote in a sig. ^_^;;


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Inalienable rights (none / 1) (#319)
by HalfFlat on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 05:03:21 AM EST

Not that I disagree about them being mythical ... but the idea of inalienable rights is probably a good one, from a utilitarian viewpoint (which is the one I think you're coming from.)

If the goal is to get people to have a society in which suffering is low and happiness is high, human rights offer a rough approximation which is easy to explain, although much harder to justify. If people believe in their existence, then it is also harder for those with influence to twist society in a harmful way; it limits them.

The edifice of human rights doesn't stand up to scrutiny, and can certainly be wielded for ill, but from a practical point of view they're probably worth keeping around as a notion.

[ Parent ]

I like this argument (2.33 / 6) (#36)
by Valdrax on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 01:30:09 PM EST

I think you may have solved what was part of the crisis of faith that moved me towards agnosticism a long time ago.  The idea that God doesn't know the future neatly deals with the question of why God would make people who he knows are going to go to Hell.  He honestly is surprised by the evil that his creations can do in Jeremiah.

I thank you for this article and the chance to read some of Gregory A. Boyd's work via deep digging into your links.  I think that it's a shame that this article will be voted down into oblivion for two reasons:  (a) it deals with Christianity in a non-hateful manner which is apparently verboten on this site, and (b) it acknowledges up front that it's trying to spam the edit queue which made me reflexively twitch towards the "Move to Vote" button before I read it.

It's an old answer (2.54 / 11) (#43)
by Hector Plasmic on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 02:29:04 PM EST

Given an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent god, how can evil exist?  How can we have free will?

Simple.  To answer the former, you give up omnibenevolence or omniscience/omnipotence.  To answer the latter, you give up omniscience/omnipotence.

The problem, then, is how do we distinguish this god from, say, Odin?  Or Superman?

Bingo. (none / 2) (#61)
by readpunk on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 06:19:05 PM EST

Huzzah!

./revolution
[ Parent ]
not quite. (none / 2) (#64)
by Run4YourLives on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 06:56:18 PM EST

Given an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent god, how can evil exist?

The same way "good" exists. Why would you assume that you understand the role of evil, and that it is contrary to the will of God, or even - in the bigger picture - omnibenevolence?

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Interesting. (2.57 / 7) (#71)
by readpunk on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 08:15:14 PM EST

If god is omnibenevolent, and evil is part of his plan, then evil... is not really "evil" as we understand it in general coversation based terms.

./revolution
[ Parent ]
then why fight "evil"?(nt) (none / 2) (#78)
by desiderandus on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 09:03:11 PM EST


_________
Our sins catch up to us in the worst possible way; they become part of our essential identities.
[ Parent ]
well (2.20 / 5) (#105)
by joeyo on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 11:30:15 PM EST

CS Lewis would say (paraphrasing): If you do good or do evil, you are still playing a role in God's plan. However, your reward in the end will be appropriate for the role you play.

Nikos Kazantzakis addressed this issue in a different way in The Last Temptation of Christ. In the novel, Judas talks to Christ at length about what he is supposed to do, and in fact, does not want to betray Christ, but eventually does so because he loves him. This stance (and many others) got Kazantzakis in  trouble with the Greek Orthodox church*.

*In fact, they refused to allow him to be burried after his death and paradoxically also refused to allow his remains to be cremated.
He eventually was burried on the top of the medieval walls surrounding Heraklion, Crete.

--
"Give me enough variables to work with, and I can probably do away with the notion of human free will." -- Parent ]

But then (none / 2) (#157)
by Hector Plasmic on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 11:55:10 AM EST

"If you do good or do evil, you are still playing a role in God's plan. However, your reward in the end will be appropriate for the role you play."

But the reward for playing the role assigned to you by God should be the same regardless; there is, in fact, no distinction between good and evil here.  Yet we continue to perceive the distinction.  Is it an illusion, like free will? :-)

[ Parent ]

hmm... (none / 2) (#160)
by Run4YourLives on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 12:01:21 PM EST

But the reward for playing the role assigned to you by God should be the same regardless;

Perhaps. Perhaps not.

If you can choose the role you can play and even change it at any time while you're here, why can't the rewards be different?


It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Logically silly (none / 2) (#163)
by Hector Plasmic on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 12:05:15 PM EST

>> But the reward for playing the role assigned to
>> you by God should be the same regardless;

> Perhaps. Perhaps not.

> If you can choose the role you can play
> and even change it at any time

But you can't, of course, if space-time and all it contains is the planned creation of an all-knowing, all-powerful being.  Changing our role from that assigned to us by God is simply not possible -- we can't be running around changing the plans of omni* beings, you know!  Heavens! :-)

[ Parent ]

fighting... (none / 2) (#156)
by Run4YourLives on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 11:54:37 AM EST

Aside from the Association of Corporate Christians © nobody really say we should be fighting anything.

Jesus said to turn the other cheek. He also says that first and foremost, we should be concerned with our own lives and the way we lead them.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Quite (none / 2) (#155)
by Hector Plasmic on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 11:53:19 AM EST

"Why would you assume that you understand the role of evil, and that it is contrary to the will of God, or even - in the bigger picture - omnibenevolence?"

Because, assuming God exists and created us, I can see the pain caused by evil.

And, of course, the problem of pain is one to which no theologist has ever proposed any answer but "it's a mystery," just as you attempt to do above.  Well, it doesn't seem all that mysterious if you apply Occam's razor, does it? :-)

[ Parent ]

huh? (none / 2) (#158)
by Run4YourLives on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 11:57:08 AM EST

Because, assuming God exists and created us, I can see the pain caused by evil.

And what, pray tell would you know of evil at all if you'd never experienced it? How would you know it causes pain if you never saw this first hand?

Experience is the best way of learning.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Relevance? (none / 1) (#162)
by Hector Plasmic on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 12:01:35 PM EST

I'm afraid I must have missed your point there...

[ Parent ]
well... (none / 2) (#166)
by Run4YourLives on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 12:46:40 PM EST

if evil is part of "god's plan", and not absolutely a "bad thing", could it be that the notion we know as evil is only a minor aspect of a much larger true "evil"?

If that's the case, could a life with evil be a learning experience - something that, like a child needs to be experienced to be understood?

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Evil / Not Evil (none / 1) (#439)
by Hector Plasmic on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 05:07:46 PM EST

> if evil is part of "god's plan", and not absolutely
> a "bad thing"

We seem to have a semantical problem (at the least), then -- if it's not a "bad thing" then it isn't "evil."

The argument that evil is actually good in disguise runs rather contrary to what we all seem to be observing, though, doesn't it?  How can we trust such an apparently dishonest deity/plan?

[ Parent ]

heh (none / 2) (#66)
by Battle Troll on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 07:40:19 PM EST

To answer the former, you give up omnibenevolence or omniscience/omnipotence.

Fallacy of excluded middle. Don't be a punk.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

Two Choices (none / 2) (#145)
by virg on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 11:06:04 AM EST

> Fallacy of excluded middle.

The conclusion derives from an either/or proposition, but that doesn't immediately make it wrong. In this case, the answer to "Given an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent god, how can evil exist?" requires that God either allows evil to exist, or can't prevent it (since evil does exist). There are only two choices to make here, so there's no middle to exclude in this case.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
the issue wasn't over 'allows' (none / 2) (#258)
by Battle Troll on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 06:34:51 PM EST

It was over whether allowing evil to exist does in fact rule out omnibenevolence.

Nothing like philosophy to open closed minds, eh?
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

an omnibenovolent god.. (none / 1) (#306)
by infinitera on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 08:01:42 PM EST

Must axiomatically be impulse-less - that is to say, the Christian anthropomorphizing of Him is fallacious, because a humanistic God would "intervene" in the causality of universe for "Good"; his omnibenevolence would then be required at every turn. God's [omnibenovolent] will can only exist if it is made manifest at discrete points through conscious/loving acts of faith by finite beings (us), not through alteration of his own Nature, which should be definition be perfect.

[ Parent ]
I personally feel that Spinoza was much closer to (none / 1) (#325)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 10:29:19 AM EST

The Jewish tradition than his detractors will usually admit, and that both Spinoza and rabbinic Judaism have a certain amount in common with Islam, philosophically speaking. (Obviously they are quite different in tradition.)

...the Christian anthropomorphizing of Him is fallacious, because a humanistic God would "intervene" in the causality of universe for "Good"...

The standard Christian response to this would, obviously, be that there is a dialectic between God's respect for our free will, and His absolute authority and majesty. Christianity is not Deism; the whole point of Christianity is John 3:16, that the omnipotent transcendent creator's nature is essentially loving rather than essentially majestic and powerful, that God gave His son out of love and mercy. So, while God is not moved by passions, He is moved by mercy and pity for us to offer us everything He has that we might be saved.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

spinoza himself admitted the influence of a few.. (none / 1) (#329)
by infinitera on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 10:42:09 AM EST

Islamic sources and one or two Jewish theologians.

As to the rest of your response, I'd buy it if "gave his Son" is a transcendent truth about any God-touched sacrificial lambs who illustrate the power of His love. Then you say "moved" and I'm sure you'd want to also say that Christ had a literal resurrection. If God is perfect, and a mortal vessel of God dies, this is all part of the perfection of God; to manifest, or change the rules as it were is to deny his own perfection and infallibility.

[ Parent ]

heh (none / 1) (#332)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 10:52:36 AM EST

Then you say "moved" and I'm sure you'd want to also say that Christ had a literal resurrection.

Paul says that if this weren't true, our faith would be in vain. I don't know how liberals like Spong get around that.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

faith in christ perhaps (none / 1) (#333)
by infinitera on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 10:57:33 AM EST

But not faith in God.

God is Love. Not fancy self-altering theatrics.

Then again, I'm not a Christian. ;)

[ Parent ]

faith in salvation, to be precise (none / 1) (#336)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 12:25:05 PM EST

Without God entering into human nature, there could be no salvation.

Honestly, though, if you want to replace God with Divine Love in the above sentence, I don't much care, because although it'll put you outside of orthodoxy, it'll put you closer to Christianity than any number of modern psedu-Christian cults are.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

i agree actually (none / 1) (#347)
by infinitera on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 02:06:22 PM EST

That's why I sincerely want to be alive despite the horrendous world we've made for ourselves - because of the presence of God, and the possibility of salvation for any who actively choose to embrace his will, if only for an instant.

[ Parent ]
more (none / 1) (#338)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 12:27:10 PM EST

One big problem with just stating that God is Love is that it allows people to easily conflate affectionate or tender feelings with real love - that they're communing with the divine by feeling loving rather than by articulating Love. Cf. California.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
but i am not suggesting that (none / 1) (#346)
by infinitera on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 02:02:26 PM EST

Quoth Erich Fromm:
Love is union with somebody, or something, outside oneself, under the condition of retaining the separateness and integrity of one's own self. It is an experience of sharing, of communion, which permits the full unfolding of one's own inner activity. The experience of love does away with the necessity of illusions. There is no need to inflate the image of the other person, or of myself, since the reality of active sharing and loving permits me to transcend my individualized existence, and at the same time experience myself as the bearer of the active powers which constitute the act of loving. What matters is the particular quality of loving, not the object. Love is in the experience of human solidarity with our fellow creatures. [...] In the act of loving, I am one with the All, and yet I am myself, a unique, separate, limited, mortal human being. Indeed out of this very polarity between separateness and union, love is born and reborn.

[...]

Love in this sense is never restricted to one person. If I can love only one person, and nobody else, if my love for one person makes me more alienated and distant from my fellow man, I may be attached to this person in any number of ways, yet I do not love. If I can say, "I love you," I say, "I love in you all of humanity, all that is alive; I love in you also myself." [...] In loving I experience "I am you," you — the loved person, you — the stranger, you — everything alive. In the experience of love lies the only answer to being human, lies sanity.


Acting in a manner consistent with such love is becoming closer to God/communing. Acting contrary to it is going against His will. We humans aren't too good at it; instead we create Other upon universal Other who is not worthy of understanding.

[ Parent ]
why is that do you wonder (none / 1) (#348)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 02:43:36 PM EST

We humans aren't too good at [acting in a manner consistent with such love.]

And I don't think there's a satisfying answer in naturalism.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

hierarchy and alienation.. (none / 1) (#350)
by infinitera on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 02:59:15 PM EST

Interfere with our innate empathic means; given power, we also create hierarchy to protect/enhance it. That is to say, we are infinitely and always corruptable, and so must endeavour to be rid of power relations, though this is never a permanent solution.

[ Parent ]
hmm (none / 1) (#352)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 03:02:13 PM EST

we are infinitely and always corruptable

Gosh, that sure sucks. How'd that happen?
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

empathy is a two-way street (none / 1) (#354)
by infinitera on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 03:07:27 PM EST

There cannot be Love without Hate resulting from abuse of those verysame bonds. Power (whatever the sort) enables abuses. Else where would salvation lie, if no free choice occured?

[ Parent ]
so you're taking the view that (none / 1) (#356)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 03:09:33 PM EST

Human nature had to be created corrupt in order for us to have free will?

I don't like it, although it's not unreasonable. My big objection is that it accords good and evil equal metaphysical weight, as I make it. That's not good (heh) at all.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

*corruptable*, not corrupt (none / 1) (#362)
by infinitera on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 03:14:38 PM EST

And I make no claim of creation - empathy is a property of sentient life as we know it. It's just that Spinoza's God qua Nature conception makes all life a part of His being.

[ Parent ]
re: good and evil (none / 1) (#364)
by infinitera on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 03:22:05 PM EST

The nature of the God is Good, and there is nothing outside of God's domain, so whence does this equality come? Well, among mortals, yeah. But not metaphysically speaking.

[ Parent ]
wha (none / 1) (#365)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 03:23:00 PM EST

Well, among mortals, yeah. But not metaphysically speaking

How do you get from one to the other without admitting that there's a big flaw in creation?
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

is your mitochondria.. (none / 1) (#367)
by infinitera on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 03:24:30 PM EST

Good or Evil?

[ Parent ]
obviously, it's part of a corrupted nature (none / 1) (#379)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 05:01:02 PM EST

Rather than being metaphysically autonomous.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
further.. (none / 1) (#370)
by infinitera on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 03:31:41 PM EST

Infinite substance (Good) vs. finite substance (sometimes evil in some discrete points of time).

[ Parent ]
but why should finite substance be evil at all? (none / 1) (#376)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 04:59:18 PM EST

/nt
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
because it's not capable of perfection [nt] (none / 1) (#383)
by infinitera on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 05:17:37 PM EST

Hence, finite.

[ Parent ]
if it's not capable of perfection (none / 1) (#385)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 05:18:37 PM EST

Then you're getting all Gnostic.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
i am? (none / 1) (#387)
by infinitera on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 05:23:17 PM EST

I thought it was a pretty simple notion, that the essence of perfection is being fully expressed/extended, and as such, only the totality of God is perfect/perfectly Good. Parts in and of themselves contribute to the Goodness, I suppose, but they are ambigious at best. A person is not capable of being pure Evil, nor pure Good, merely making choices that are in concord with God's will or not. Even a lifetime of bad choices does not preclude making a good one, so I can't see how we'd be completely evil, either.

But, I am mostly ignorant of Gnosticism. Where do I appear to be an advocate?

[ Parent ]

also (none / 1) (#366)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 03:24:18 PM EST

But not metaphysically speaking.

Please to explain 'natural evil,' such as death by lightning, earthquake, floods, wild animals; or the bottomless suffering of the animal world.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

an impulse-less god is not causually present [nt] (none / 1) (#368)
by infinitera on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 03:26:37 PM EST

Which is where I started this thread.

[ Parent ]
do you mean 'causally present'? (none / 1) (#377)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 04:59:54 PM EST

If so, your God isn't a creator, hence isn't God either.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
does not interfere with himself [nt] (none / 1) (#382)
by infinitera on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 05:16:53 PM EST



[ Parent ]
that doesn't clarify anything (none / 1) (#386)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 05:20:48 PM EST

Look, you're just obsfuscating the problem of evil.

God is perfect and perfectly good and, by your logic, that means He's totally alien to us - while we might have points of intersection, the world is, to put it bluntly, doomed to suffer forever in evil and sin. So either He's not a creator or an evil one. If not a creator, He's not fit to be called God, and you wind up with a distasteful form of Naturalism anyhow.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

prime cause is alien, i would think (none / 1) (#388)
by infinitera on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 05:25:00 PM EST

So is unguided creation.

Distasteful naturalism doesn't sound so bad. ;)

[ Parent ]

the whole point of Christianity (none / 2) (#389)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 05:28:35 PM EST

Is that, man having broken fellowship with God, God took humanity upon Himself to save mankind. No high-minded metaphysics, merely love & pity in defiance of logic.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
ah (none / 1) (#390)
by infinitera on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 05:32:19 PM EST

I'll stick to salvation through manifest Love, thanks.

AFAIK, that's still part of [some] Christian doctrines - heaven = closeness to/union with God.

[ Parent ]

although.. (none / 1) (#391)
by infinitera on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 05:34:52 PM EST

High-minded metaphysics as they may be, they give sentient life meaning and purpose.

I'll just close with some heresy from Erich Fromm:

The change in the social role and function of Christianity was connected with profound changes in its spirit; the church became a hierarchical? organization. The emphasis shifted increasingly from expection of Christ's second coming and the establishment of a new order of love and justice, to the fact of the original coming — and the apostolic message of man's salvation from his inherent sinfulness. Connected with this was another change. The original concept of Christ was contained in the adoptionist dogma which said that God had adopted the man Jesus as his son, that is to say, that a man, a suffering and poor one, had become a god [presence]. In this dogma the revolutionary hopes and longings of the poor and downtrodden had found a religious expression. One year after Christianity was declared the official religion of the Roman Empire, the dogma was officially accepted that God and Jesus were identical, of the same essence, and that God had only manifested himself in the flesh of a man [thus denying the role of man in his own salvation].


[ Parent ]
that's only half the story (none / 1) (#392)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 05:39:27 PM EST

One year after Christianity was declared the official religion of the Roman Empire, the dogma was officially accepted that God and Jesus were identical, of the same essence, and that God had only manifested himself in the flesh of a man [thus denying the role of man in his own salvation].

Yes, that is a rightly condemned heresy (Arianism) that has long been overcome by Athanasianism. I'm honestly surprised (and offended) that you would be so intellectually...lazy as to conflate Arianism with the church today.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

conflate? (none / 1) (#394)
by infinitera on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 05:45:00 PM EST

Where? All I did was quote Fromm for fun.

[ Parent ]
Two ways to read it, that's how.... (none / 2) (#351)
by unDees on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 03:01:15 PM EST

Some read the Paul passage as meaning that if one is not constantly putting the teachings of Jesus into practice (i.e., making Him live through one's actions and therefore making the resurrection kind of a literal, modern-day thing), then all was in vain.

Your account balance is $0.02; to continue receiving our quality opinions, please remit payment as soon as possible.
[ Parent ]
but that doesn't seem at all congruent (none / 2) (#353)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 03:05:10 PM EST

To the beliefs & behaviour of the early Christians. I mean, I always thought that Spong made a big deal out of the authentic tradition behind his readings, but there's no indication that anyone held this view before the Enlightenment.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
How much do we really know? (none / 2) (#373)
by unDees on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 04:46:02 PM EST

How much do we know about the early Christians? On the one hand, you have the sort-of-orthodox view that the first Christians were all practicing in pretty much the same way, and that the big decisions like the selection of the canonical scriptures were merely codifications of existing doctrine and practice.

Then you have people like Robertson, who claim that Christianity arose out of existing cults and practices that existed long before Jesus is said to have lived.

All these folks will cite lots of historical documents as evidence, so where is the truth of what early Christian worship was like? Somewhere in between these extremes? If so, that paints a picture of a tradition much more diverse than conservative American Protestants seem to portray.

Now back to your point: I haven't seen any super-ancient documents from the Christian tradition that support this more "liberal" reading of Paul, either. It is certainly possible that this reading is strictly a modern adaptation. But interpretation of scripture always seems to be influenced by the culture doing the reading; that's not necessarily a bad thing (and probably not avoidable, in any case).

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[ Parent ]

we're not talking about nuances (none / 3) (#384)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 05:18:04 PM EST

We're talking about the Christians, a pretty well-known group of fanatics, extremists, and zealots agitating the lower classes in pagan Rome. They were not particularly subtle, and the Roman artistocracy could make nothing but the most barbaric superstition out from interviewing prisoners. That seems to be an adequate refutation of the reading in question.

While I'll admit that Paul, in English at least, appears to admit of two readings, I've never seen any indication that anyone believed in Higher Criticism readings before the Higher Critics themselves.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

The fanatics are the ones who get all the press (none / 1) (#398)
by unDees on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 07:16:49 PM EST

I didn't explain clearly enough previously: I was agreeing with your point that there doesn't seem to be much evidence of more "modern" readings of Paul from the early Christians.

What is possible, however, is that among the patchwork of different permutations of Christian faith and practice that existed before things got unified at the point of the Roman sword, there may have been some people who didn't believe the resurrection was a historical fact.

I realize that this isn't quite what I said earlier; my bad.

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[ Parent ]

fine but (none / 1) (#427)
by Battle Troll on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 11:41:31 AM EST

What is possible, however, is that among the patchwork of different permutations of Christian faith and practice that existed before things got unified at the point of the Roman sword, there may have been some people who didn't believe the resurrection was a historical fact.

This is speculation without evidence.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

Speculation? (none / 1) (#438)
by unDees on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 03:34:36 PM EST

Not at all. See the Jeshua/Joshua cults, for one, which existed even before Jesus' time. In the link I cited above, Robertson lists and explains evidence that at least some of the early Christian writings may have simply been liturgical documents from rituals long in place.

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[ Parent ]
Huh? (none / 1) (#421)
by tkatchev on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 07:26:19 AM EST

What about the abosolutely massive amounts of highly literary documents dating from the third, fourth, fifth, etc. centuries?


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Those... (none / 0) (#454)
by unDees on Wed Jan 14, 2004 at 10:15:43 AM EST

...indicate a wide variety of views on the subject. And if you go back a little to the first and second centuries, you see the heretical Gnostic gospels and other writings.

The question under consideration is: are all these different views (whether or not the resurrection happened literally, whether or not the bread and wine are literally flesh and blood, whether or not baptism by immersion is strictly required for avoiding Hell, and a host of other questions) something that was added after the fact, or were they all part of the background under which Christianity emerged and in fact part of the variety of Christian faith and practice from the beginning?

It may make a difference who claim that their flavor of Christianity was the one and only one practiced from the very beginning, and that all other versions of the story are errors.

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[ Parent ]

Islamic sources (none / 1) (#345)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 01:45:11 PM EST

In my opinion, that's a rather severe taint.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
Different in tradition. (none / 1) (#420)
by tkatchev on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 07:23:45 AM EST

Not really. Mostly it's a question of putting the same old in a slightly different cultural context.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

that's what I mean (none / 1) (#428)
by Battle Troll on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 11:42:33 AM EST

Spinoza was using the Western philosophical tradition against itself, imnsho.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
You forgot to specify... (none / 2) (#154)
by Hector Plasmic on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 11:49:40 AM EST

Exactly what middle is being excluded?  Oops. :-)

[ Parent ]
it should be obvious :-) (none / 2) (#199)
by Battle Troll on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 08:37:19 PM EST

Oops.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
Is it so obvious (none / 1) (#440)
by Hector Plasmic on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 05:11:16 PM EST

...that you can't even point it out?  Then, my friend, it appears your emperor isn't actually wearing any clothes, doesn't it?

[ Parent ]
the paradox could be resumed as such : (2.16 / 6) (#44)
by xutopia on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 03:06:57 PM EST

God can see the future. This is why his prophets can allegedly predict things that will happen in the future. Because of that some people thought that God really was omniscient and that he knew the future. Yet God expresses suprise and allegedly gave us free will.

With free will the future is impossible to determine. Hence a paradox. Unless of course what the prophetizing isn't something we have a choice on.

I think that resumes the situation as people see it. Some other people see it differently. If you read Revelations you'll notice everything is vague and could be applicable to thousands of situations. And then when things don't happen as expected believers contend that it was God's will to change it. Circular notions like those can't really make people move forward.

If you read the Bible as an atheist you'll notice nothing convincing. If you accept symbolic ladden litterature with no real meaning as truth then surely your brain, a powerful tool that can find things where there aren't, will apply what it read to real events. Wether the Bible revealed it is a contention we can never be sure about. Something else would have happened of significance you'll surely find someone telling us that the bible told us so.

Just do a search for "9/11 bible prophecy" there are plenty of people that looked to find refferences in the Bible. If you look at the methods to find correlation surely the same people would have found something about that event too.

What if God was all powerful, but not all knowing? (2.00 / 9) (#46)
by JChen on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 03:11:55 PM EST

I'm being serious.

Like in a real-time strategy game; I'll take examples from Starcraft and Sim City, for example. You assume an all-controlling position, where you make your maps in the map editor, and place units there, and such. Then you press play, and stuff happens. You have the power to call in a big flood, to see what's going on in someone's head right now, to run simulations on what will happen in the future. You can order your units to do anything, you can put things in their favor or shun them because they did something bad. You have control over natural phenomena, you are able to plant dissent in men's hearts, ad nauseum.

But there are some "rules" that might not be able to be changed on the fly, such as independence levels. It's an interactive game, anyways, and to be able to control everything ruins the fun. What if, what if we looked at our world as just another simulation? A Matrix, even. So man does have "free will", a set amount of independence parameters set prior to starting this simulation. Maybe God got bored of the "biblical disasters" button, since he already has had fun with all of them (Big Flood, sin [without sin, it won't be as fun being God and sheparding mindless goody-goody types], etc).

Maybe our little SimUniverse has gotten complex enough that he's not showing himself as he has when times were simpler, when people can accept that they are talking to God, and the possiblility hasn't arisen that they're not being tricked by a hologram of man instead. Jesus, this is getting trivially deep.

Let us do as we say.

Problem with that (none / 2) (#56)
by SocratesGhost on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 05:12:29 PM EST

If he was all powerful, then he could will himself to be all knowledgeable.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
Ok, ok, so not ALL powerful, but damn near so. (none / 2) (#58)
by JChen on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 05:30:52 PM EST

Like the player of the strategy game, he may seem all powerful to the units in the game, but his existence outside of the game is limited; perhaps our God is nothing more than an introverted nerd who is in love with Himself amongst many other God entities?

Let us do as we say.
[ Parent ]
Does somebody need a hug? (2.20 / 5) (#59)
by SocratesGhost on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 05:36:33 PM EST

What you're talking about was obliterated in the Middle Ages. Manicheanism was later overwhelmed by Islam, but it proposed that the world is a struggle between equally powerful God and Devil.

So, really, they were the first ones to conceive of multiplayer.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
A (1.40 / 5) (#69)
by JChen on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 07:46:34 PM EST

blow-job will be much more preferable, kind sir.

Let us do as we say.
[ Parent ]
Dualism exists outside Manicheanism. (none / 2) (#80)
by waxmop on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 09:07:37 PM EST

Taoism, Zoroastrianism, Abraxas, etc. Dualism shows up in a lot of places.
--
We are a monoculture of horsecock. Liar
[ Parent ]
You ripped off my (tofubar's) article (1.41 / 12) (#50)
by paprika on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 04:16:02 PM EST

which got voted down for bullshit reasons it was well formatted etc.

Kucinich is a bitch -paprika

I'm so sorry. :-( (none / 2) (#83)
by SaintPort on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 09:13:36 PM EST

I did not plagorize your work, but it is possible that you posted something better in this vein in the past.

Please accept my apologies and condolances.

<><

--
Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

[ Parent ]

-1, proselytizer and jerk. (1.15 / 19) (#53)
by polish surprise on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 04:41:01 PM EST


--
Controversy is my middle name.

almost pegged (1.25 / 8) (#82)
by SaintPort on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 09:11:09 PM EST

except I am a USian & can say sayonara without sounding like I'm breaking wind.  Yeah, I know that's just a sig quote, but I take exception to it.

anyway...

Jesus Loves YOU!
<><

--
Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

[ Parent ]

Some things... (2.14 / 7) (#54)
by fae on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 04:52:54 PM EST

Who says God is omniscient / omnipotent? Maybe these are just exaggerations of fact. Maybe God has limits.

If God creates the universe through time-iteration (i.e. If in his own time dimension he creates our yesterday first and then our today), then he cannot know the future without first computing it. By computing it, he brings it into existence. Thus in God's time when he creates our now, he does not yet know our tomorrow.

I don't believe in free will (the nonsense kind), yet I still believe in responsibility. When a rag is dirty, you clean it or discard it. Does it matter who/what made it dirty? Anyone's shit is still shit.

God creates minds (through natural paths eg. childbirth), and then lets them develop according to the trustworthy laws of nature. Do not complain about being who you are, for you cannot be anyone else. The future is predetermined, and we have some control of it, because we are now, and now decides tomorrow. This is the nature of time, and that is why you are responsible.

Is tomorrow's version of you still responsible for the same things? No, for he is a different person.

As a speculation, I believe that God does not merely bring your almost-dead mind into heaven - a decrepit heap of memories and pain. No, I think he brings in segments of life. I don't know what he does with these four-dimensional worms, however. Which parts will he cut out of your life?

-- fae: but an atom in the great mass of humanity

Limits. (2.00 / 5) (#60)
by readpunk on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 06:18:17 PM EST

Philosophically speaking, to argue that god has limits on <insert genderless pronoun here>'s power would inherently mean that said being is not "god".

./revolution
[ Parent ]
no, the definition is pretty open. (none / 2) (#85)
by fae on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 09:23:21 PM EST

I mean, sure God can mess with our universe to a huge extent. Reason: He's the creator of our entire space-time. But he can't do logical nonsense like creating a colorless green gerbil. If you insist that a god must be able to do anything, then I'll just call him a creator.

If you look at some pagan religions you'll see plenty of gods that are incredibly wimpy.

-- fae: but an atom in the great mass of humanity
[ Parent ]

The ontological argument. (none / 2) (#97)
by readpunk on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 10:58:14 PM EST

To be clear, the being may be unable to make something random colorless, but they certainly must be able to make a world were that was a normal and natural thing, in the same way they must be able to make us believe it true if they so choose. To be anything less than perfect in all regards is to be something less than god and hence means that I could argue for another... superior being which would make your being not god and underneath the one I argue for.

Am I making any sense or does this just sound like rambling?

./revolution
[ Parent ]

a meta-god (none / 2) (#104)
by fae on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 11:28:15 PM EST

I don't think it's out of the question even for the Christian god to have his own creator. The Bible never really talks about it...

-- fae: but an atom in the great mass of humanity
[ Parent ]
Point still is... (none / 1) (#286)
by readpunk on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 06:04:17 AM EST

If the "Christian God" had a creator, then the "Christian God" would not be a god. Along with that, this being that is no longer "God" would have to cease having anything to do with Christianity because it would not be all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving.

./revolution
[ Parent ]
Not necessarily (none / 1) (#357)
by unDees on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 03:10:15 PM EST

Many traditions have gods which were created by other gods. Not so in Christianity, you say? Check out Gnosticism. Hardly orthodox, but still....

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[ Parent ]
Right. (none / 1) (#403)
by readpunk on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 09:09:50 PM EST

And once again, philosophically speaking to be "god" the being must be the first mover, the first being and all-knowing/all-powerful/all-loving. Gnostic point, although granted does show that some Christian sects do not see the god through Jesus as the ultimate creator, really tells us nothing about the monothiestic god we have been arguing about for 10+ posts now.

./revolution
[ Parent ]
Open (none / 1) (#355)
by unDees on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 03:09:18 PM EST

I'd say the definition is even more open than that. A lot of people use the word "God" to mean that which is beyond all dualities of creator/creation, good/evil, etc. Others use it to express their awestruck wonder at what a strange and wonderful and awful and terrifying place the universe is. And yes, many use it to mean some being that plunks worlds into existence and pulls puppet strings.

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[ Parent ]
God exists outside of time. (2.41 / 12) (#55)
by cburke on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 05:04:53 PM EST

God created time.  I don't have my Bible handy, so I can't quote you anything, but maybe someone (porkchop?) could back this supposition up.  I'm quite certain of its Biblical basis, anyway.  Whatever.  God created time, and exists outside of it, except for where He chose to exist within it (eg Christ).

So the question of how God can know the future and everything we will do, but still allow us free will, is not really much of a paradox at all.  He doesn't "see the future", He sees all moments in time at once, since time is only a boundary to us, not Him.  He knows what we are going to do because from His perspective we've already done it.

This is why it is possible both for us to surprise God with our actions, but also for Him to ensure that His plan is never derailed by our actions.

It only doesn't make sense to us because we are strictly three-dimensional creatures, aware of the 4th dimension only by our passage through it.

The paradoxes of omniscience and omnipotence that people try to come up with are usually a symptom of the difficulty of comprehending what omniscience and omnipotence are.  It's a human problem, not God's.


Actually, (2.25 / 4) (#79)
by SaintPort on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 09:05:38 PM EST

I prefer this model, but I have a hard time describing it.  I like the way you did.

Thanks.
<><

--
Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

[ Parent ]

Maybe (2.33 / 6) (#95)
by DeepOmega on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 10:58:06 PM EST

But this strikes me as an easy escape. You're basically saying "Don't worry about it - God's got this one covered, and mere mortals can't touch it." While perfectly valid and rational, it grates against me, and it's overly pre-Darwinian for my taste. I prefer a bottom-up God. God as a gardener, not a computer programmer.

Peace and much love...
[ Parent ]

Huh? (none / 1) (#190)
by cburke on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 05:57:11 PM EST

What's "easy" about it?  Because there isn't a paradox?

How is it pre-Darwinian?  I don't think I said anything about evolution.

I also can't think of what theologically significant point you could be raising between gardener and programmer, relative to what I said.  What do you mean by "bottom-up"?

[ Parent ]

I think what he means (none / 3) (#197)
by kitten on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 08:36:40 PM EST

It's "easy" in the sense that it sweeps any attempt at human understanding under the rug. Any challenge to human intellect, any attempt we make to understand the world we live in, the quick answer is "Nevermind, God did it" or "God's got it covered". It's a way to turn your brain off and stop asking questions.

Which, incidentially, is exactly what the Bible advocates. Knowledge and wisdom are derided, most viciously by Paul, while ignorance is held up as a virtue.

The gardener/programmer metaphor isn't difficult. The gardener plants a seed and lets it go from there, maybe occasionally stepping in to remove some weeds around it, or water it if the rain isn't good. He works from the bottom up - from the beginning, not the end.

The programmer on the other hand has a specific result in mind - he wants something specific to happen, so he takes the result he wants and works backwards to make it happen. He micromanages every step along the way to make sure the output of his program is what he wanted to happen.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
Thanks for clarifying my ideas <nt> (none / 1) (#204)
by DeepOmega on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 10:57:18 PM EST


Peace and much love...
[ Parent ]

Bottum up, top down... (none / 2) (#230)
by cburke on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 12:13:39 PM EST

It's "easy" in the sense that it sweeps any attempt at human understanding under the rug. Any challenge to human intellect, any attempt we make to understand the world we live in, the quick answer is "Nevermind, God did it" or "God's got it covered". It's a way to turn your brain off and stop asking questions.

Maybe for you.  I wasn't saying anything of the sort.  What did I say that sounded like "and thus you should not be intellectually curious"?  Just because an extra-fourth-dimensional being is difficult to conceptualize doesn't mean I shouldn't try, or be curious about the universe this being created.  At least for me; why do you feel differently?

Which, incidentially, is exactly what the Bible advocates. Knowledge and wisdom are derided, most viciously by Paul, while ignorance is held up as a virtue.

Jesus frequently lamented the lack of wisdom in those around him, particularly his disciples.  Knowledge wasn't derided -- knowledge without faith or wisdom (eg the scribes) were.

The gardener/programmer metaphor isn't difficult.

It wasn't, until I tried to figure out how it was relevent to what I said.  We were talking about the paradox of omniscience and free will.  I was saying free will does exist along side an omniscient God.  If computer programs had free will, I think you would find that programming was much more like gardening.  Does a gardener not have a final goal in mind that they are trying to achieve?  Do programmers not find behaviors in their program they weren't expecting, but nontheless serves the purpose they were trying to achieve?  And notice how this is only relevent if the concepts of "beginning" and "end" have meaning, which they don't outside of time.  The distinction at that point is only the degree to which God interferes directly with creation (micromanage vs guide) -- a matter which I did not speak about at all.  

I suppose the better question would be why do you think I was supporting one idea over the other?

[ Parent ]

Paul (none / 1) (#396)
by Ogygus on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 06:48:04 PM EST

Knowledge and wisdom are derided, most viciously by Paul, while ignorance is held up as a virtue.

For your consideration:
1. Paul was the 13th apostle.
2. Paul was the only self proclaimed apostle. The rest either worked with Jesus or were appointed by a vote of the remaining 11. (Once Judas was taken out)
3. A lot of what Paul taught was contradictory to what Jesus taught and advantageous only to Paul.

When the early Church (1st-3rd Century) was choosing which "books" to canonize, the ones most advantageous to the existing power structure (political and religious) were chosen. The seekers after Truth and Knowledge about the Christ (the Gnostics) were ruthlessly persecuted and their writings and teachings were eradicated from the Christian theology. Try reading the Bible without Paul's letters, without the book of Acts (written by a Paul groupie) and the book of Hebrews (written by a follower of Pauline doctrine).

Some of the misinformation that Paul laid on Christians:
No more Hebrew "laws". No more circumcision.
No more works leading to salvation. (Just faith and the grace of God)
Putting women in their place. (I think Paul really hated women)
The key thing that Paul did? He made himself an Apostle and Christianity bought it.

If you consider the Bible to be truth and the account of Paul's conversion to be Gospel, ponder this: Why couldn't it have been Satan that converted him on the road to Damascus?

The mice will see you now.
[ Parent ]
ha! (none / 1) (#267)
by davros4269 on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 09:55:56 PM EST

Well, if you believe the Bible and if you believe that God created time than, sure, it's not a paradox, lol!

Those are some mighty big IFs...I'd go so far as to say that the paradox remains a paradox until and not before, we can prove the Bible and God...tall order.
Will you squirm when you are pecked? Quack.
[ Parent ]

Um, wait... (none / 1) (#301)
by cburke on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 03:25:56 PM EST

The paradox is a prescient God but people with free will.

If you don't believe in God, then there's no paradox at all.

Just thought I'd point that out.

[ Parent ]

eh? (none / 2) (#409)
by Ubiq on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 02:55:21 AM EST

So (a or !a) is not a paradox unless you assume a?

[ Parent ]
doh (none / 2) (#410)
by Ubiq on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 02:57:29 AM EST

s/or/and/

Need coffee.

[ Parent ]

Question: (none / 1) (#281)
by Ni on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 01:55:14 AM EST

What does it mean to "create" something outside of the context of time? Creation is an event, and events only make sense temporally.

Think about it. Suppose god creates time. This means  that at one point there was no universe, then god created it, and after that there was a universe. But now we're talking about "before" time exists, which is a contradiction in terms.


<mrgoat> I can't believe I just got a cyber-handjob from ni.
[ Parent ]

Indeed! (none / 1) (#361)
by unDees on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 03:14:27 PM EST

"All [things] are marked with emptiness
They do not appear or disappear"


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[ Parent ]
tell me... (1.83 / 6) (#65)
by Run4YourLives on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 07:21:10 PM EST

What's love?

Explain the concept of love logically. I'm not sure about you all, but I'm pretty sure that I'll stumble on this.

Obviously, the concept of love is real, (well, as real as anything else) yet it's quite confounding and illogical.

Why should we insist that a God or being from which everything that is love flows himself be logical and defined? Quite clearly if the concept of love is astounding, why should we refuse to accept that the source of said concept isn't at least equally astounding?

In otherwords, why can't God be omnipotent while humankind at the same time pocess free will?
What construct prevens this from happening, and more importantly, why would God be subject to said construct?

   

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown

Love defined (2.00 / 4) (#94)
by SaintPort on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 10:55:05 PM EST

Love: Actions of selflessly following Christ's Way in eternal life, bringing others along gently, shining light on darkness and glorifying God.

refs:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
  -- 1 Corinthians 13 :: New King James Version (NKJV)


This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.
  -- John 15:12-14 :: New King James Version (NKJV)


For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
  -- Romans 5:7-9 :: New King James Version (NKJV)



--
Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

[ Parent ]
Very good point. (none / 3) (#189)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 05:46:57 PM EST

To generalize your comment somewhat: Not all that is true is rational; thus not all truth can be understood rationally.

--
"the internet is to the techno-capable disaffected what the United Nations is to marginal states: it offers the illusion of empowerment and c
[ Parent ]

Suspension of Omnitude (2.53 / 13) (#70)
by LairBob on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 07:57:50 PM EST

As an agnostic--but lapsed Catholic--who's been wrestling with these issues for a long time, let me offer what I've always found to be the most graceful perspective on this question...that God, for the sake of allowing us free will, willingly abdicates omniscience and omnipotence.

In many ways, this is a more direct expression of the more lyrical take that SocratesGhost had on this issue--that with our free will, we're almost a "work of art" in God's handiwork. You can find support for it running from Genesis, where God makes a point of informing man of the forbidden fruit, through Job, all the way through the New Testament, when Christ petitions that "they know not what they do."

I know this is not a new idea. I'm almost certain that it originates with some well-known Christian thinkers--like maybe Aquinas in his more enlightened moments--but I can't recall who, exactly, first advanced this premise. For someone who does feel a need to have the major pieces of the puzzle come together, though, it does offer a nuanced take on the whole picture.

I find the idea of a willfully self-limited God, who does so for the sake of creating something he cannot create in his full powers, more compelling and attractive than most of the more morally stark depictions of a deity. There's still a lot of room for interpreting his motives in such an act--whether it was as a chest-thumping capper, to create the one thing his powers should have made impossible, or whether it was just an esthetic "need" to imbue the universe with an ongoing sense of novelty--but they all imply more interesting Gods, to me, than the storybook all-knowing, all-powerful caricature so commonly assumed.

very nicely said... (2.25 / 4) (#81)
by SaintPort on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 09:08:09 PM EST

and thanks for the link.

<><

--
Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

[ Parent ]

great post (2.20 / 5) (#100)
by joeyo on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 11:07:08 PM EST

I like the idea of self-restrained omnipotence, but consider the following:

...if God knew in advance that the sin would be committed by the human in question, then how can he punish them for committing it?

Does it make sense for God to know of something in advance? Such concepts of linear time surely  do not apply to an omnipotent being, so the concept of Him knowing our sins in advance is nonsensical on its face. Rather, I would suggest that, from God's perspective, any sin you have, are, or will ever commit are occurring in some sort of eternal Now.

I'm not sure if that makes the situation any more palatable, but there clearly is more to omnipotence than meets the eye.

--
"Give me enough variables to work with, and I can probably do away with the notion of human free will." -- Parent ]

Artfully begging the question (none / 3) (#135)
by LairBob on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 08:36:42 AM EST

Your question on the nature of omniscience is compelling, but the premise I've proposed manages to duck that issue--it doesn't matter how that omniscience might work, just that the God in question chooses to abjure it, and is therefore not be aware of the sin until he's forced to judge it. Whether that's through an artificially imposed linearity, or some other means, there exists some state I such that God is ignorant of the sin, and therefore not responsible for our choice in committing it.

[ Parent ]
Age Of Unreason (2.20 / 5) (#101)
by OneEyedApe on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 11:10:15 PM EST

In the Age of Unreason series by J. Gregory Keyes, one of the characters (an angel) says that God essentially removed Himself from the universe so that mankind could enjoy free will

[ Parent ]
My theory is better. (1.23 / 13) (#88)
by Fen on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 09:43:42 PM EST

It's in diary and stories (well if it ever gets voted up).
--Self.
Great article. (2.28 / 7) (#89)
by waxmop on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 09:57:33 PM EST

I think you should take on the story of Job next. Although that story is much more the basis for the Jewish outlook, it is still one of the best and strangest stories in the Bible, and something that most Christians (and most k5ers) don't know shit about. Yahweh and Satan make a wager with Job's life -- Satan believes after a life of pain and suffering Job will renounce his faithful ways, so Yahweh lets Satan take a shot at breaking Job.

There's parallels between Job and the Sisyphus myth, in the sense that both maintain the human struggle against a more powerful force that wants to break his spirit, but there's big differences too. Job relies on his faith that Yahweh is just, while Sisyphus has a completely different motivation. Job begs for death, but never questions the injustice of his situation (to the extent of wondering how could Yahweh allow his suffering). Sisyphus, meanwhile, knows his suffering is meant to bring the gods pleasure, so he denies them in the only way he can.
--
We are a monoculture of horsecock. Liar

Have you read Jack Miles' interpretation? [n/t] (none / 1) (#115)
by Pop Top on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 12:30:21 AM EST



[ Parent ]
no. [nt] (none / 1) (#136)
by waxmop on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 09:13:15 AM EST


--
We are a monoculture of horsecock. Liar
[ Parent ]
The reason that God is God... (1.50 / 8) (#90)
by Azmeen on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 10:28:16 PM EST

is that He works in a way not at all even comprehendable by the likes of mere mortal...

Which makes you a heretic, and your God a fake because now you know how his Grand Scheme of Things (TM) work.


HTNet | Blings.info

If I started (2.00 / 5) (#91)
by SaintPort on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 10:33:06 PM EST

going by 'SaintPort - The Heretic'
would that be k3wl?

Or might that just make me appear more foolish than I already do?

seriously?

<><

--
Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

[ Parent ]

heh (none / 2) (#122)
by fae on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 01:26:58 AM EST

How do you know that God is unknowable?

IMHO, nothing is sacred.

-- fae: but an atom in the great mass of humanity
[ Parent ]

Well, (none / 3) (#174)
by tkatchev on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 02:02:29 PM EST

Nature is "unknowable" in pretty much the same way that God is.

This doesn't prevent us from studing physics and building steam battleships, however.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

However: (none / 2) (#213)
by spacebrain on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 03:36:54 AM EST

God is pretty much knowable by its social effects, which is mainly controlling the "free will" of the masses by some clergy...

Have fun with that ;-)

[ Parent ]

The Lord didn't read 'Mythical Man Month'? (2.22 / 9) (#93)
by JayGarner on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 10:39:32 PM EST

And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

As Fred Brooks says, build one to throw away.

Maybe he did... (none / 2) (#265)
by cburke on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 09:22:55 PM EST

and we're the result of "Second System Syndrome", the one you try to fix every flaw and add every feature lacking in the first one and it ends up an overcomplicated mess.  Heh.

[ Parent ]
Omniscience and omnipotence (2.50 / 10) (#98)
by Pseudonym on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 10:59:49 PM EST

One thing which has been brought up occasionally is that omnipotence gives you a kind of foreknowledge, because if you predict something, you can always arrange that it happens.

Thinking about it this way, prophecy (as seen in the Bible) makes a lot of sense. Note that etymologically, as well as theologically, "prophecy" is not about predicting the future ("foretelling") but rather about expounding God's will ("forth-telling"). Hence, predictions about the future can be interpreted as promises rather than predictions. So God can tell Israel "if you don't shape up, you're going to end up as slaves" just like a parent would say to a child "if you don't behave, you will be sent to your room".


sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
I've been thinking a lot about this lately... (2.50 / 8) (#99)
by DeepOmega on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 11:06:42 PM EST

Been on a bit of a philosophy kick. I started with Creation: Life and How to Make It, and I've been working my way backwards. Yeah, I know, it's not classic philosophy, but whatever. I'm building it inside out is all.

Regardless.

I tend to agree with the willful loss of omniscience idea. The analogy that springs to mind: Imagine a computer game, where you can do anything you want. Anything at all. The game is being run on a computer which is fast enough to project the outcome of the current state into infinity, and tell you exactly what it will be at any moment in time at the press of the button. At first, you'll naturally have fun with this tool - you can see it all! Predict the future, and control your world, making any change just to see what could happen. Keep in mind - you can do anything, including rewinding the time to undo your own actions.

After a while, this would get shit boring. I'd get tired of it so fast it'd make my head spin. The fun, then, would come from trying to create something and let it run - see where it goes. Give a start point and just watch it unfold, willfully avoiding the use of the "Prescience Button" and the almighty powers. Growth of a child will always be more interesting than making a static, "perfect" robot.

Peace and much love...

very (2.25 / 4) (#113)
by SaintPort on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 12:23:20 AM EST

well said.  This earth, after all, is created to please God, not bore Him.

<><

--
Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

[ Parent ]

Unless (2.20 / 5) (#127)
by kitten on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 02:30:08 AM EST

Growth of a child will always be more interesting than making a static, "perfect" robot.

Maybe, maybe not. To you or I, that might be the case, but you can't make such a statement about an infinite mind. We know nothing about how such an intelligence might perceive things. We cannot know. We can't even discuss it intelligibly - we literally have no idea what an infinite mind really entails.

And "fun" might take a backseat if you had a specific outcome and overall plan for where your little computer program would end up. Your free agents might be more interesting to watch, but your plan would be destroyed by them.

Your only chance to get things to come out right would be to let them do their thing, and step in to fix things when it got too out of hand - but then, what good did giving them free will do, if you're just going to thwart and subvert their plans whenever they get out of line?
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
In truth, (none / 1) (#173)
by tkatchev on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 01:58:39 PM EST

If you're omnipotent and omniscient, then free will is really the only thing that holds any value.

In effect, free will is really the whole point of the exercise. (Look up somewhere the concept of "deification".)


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

How do you figure? (none / 1) (#181)
by kitten on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 04:30:34 PM EST

I'm not really sure what you mean by that. Can you clarify?
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
Huh? (none / 2) (#185)
by tkatchev on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 05:27:57 PM EST

If you're already omniscient and omnipotent, the amount of "toys" you have is irrelevant, no?

Basically, the only thing that would matter to God is the deification of man. I think this as clear and obvious as can possibly be, no?


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Well, I don't know, that's the point. (none / 2) (#192)
by kitten on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 08:23:54 PM EST

Basically, the only thing that would matter to God is the deification of man. I think this as clear and obvious as can possibly be, no?

A perfect God shouldn't care about that either. His needs and wants are already, by definition, as fulfilles as they possibly can be. He shouldn't care one way or the other what men do, or if men even exist. I can't imagine why he'd bother creating them in the first place.

And that, it seems to me, is a large part of the problem. We can sit here and quibble about why a God would want this, or want that, or what does God need with a starship, but we literally have no idea what we're talking about. Besides "omniscient" and "omnipotent", both of which are words we use but don't really understand, God is said to be infinite, which completely pushes him out of the realm of our understanding and comprehension. To say that God would want this or wouldn't care about that is silly - how are we to know how an "infinite" mind works?
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
needs yes, wants no (none / 2) (#196)
by Battle Troll on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 08:36:09 PM EST

His needs and wants are already, by definition, as fulfilles as they possibly can be....I can't imagine why he'd bother creating [man] in the first place.

Christians think that God created man out of the boundlessness of His love - that His love was so great as to demand objects.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

Interesting.. (none / 2) (#203)
by DeepOmega on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 10:55:54 PM EST

But I really don't go much for a perfect God. While, yes, His love could be so boundless that it necessitated the formation of us in His image, that seems to be another form of want or need - His love could not be expressed fully until we were created. This is imperfect, no?

God as, say, a transcendent but still imperfect being strikes me as a far more interesting possibility. He can then have motivations, needs, wants - character, really. Of course, for all practical purposes, He is perfect, since He is so far beyond human knowledge, so it's kind of moot.

Peace and much love...
[ Parent ]

The problem then becomes different. (none / 2) (#205)
by kitten on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 11:05:08 PM EST

An imperfect God, one with wants, needs, desires, etc, suddenly becomes less enigmatic and impressive than the traditional view of Jehovah. It reduces God to an anthropomorphic level for our own edification and understanding, but how are we to distinguish such a god from Zeus, Odin, or any other "mythological" god?

By giving god things like wants and needs, you also plow the way for wrath, envy, and a host of other things that most Christians would not agree is part of their view of what God is or should be.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
Like jealousy? (none / 2) (#206)
by DeepOmega on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 11:15:51 PM EST

Jealousy is a moral failing, no matter how you slice it. The best you can say is it's OK for God to be jealous because he deserves everyone's attention all the time - but that's a bit sketchy.

Peace and much love...
[ Parent ]

There are plenty of people... (none / 1) (#369)
by unDees on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 03:28:28 PM EST

...for whom this idea is not problematic. For example, there are Hindu legends about one being splitting in two as soon as it says, "I am," feels loneliness, and realizes that for there to be an "I," there must be stuff that's not "I." After the split, it perceives the other, feels desire, and the two proceed to spawn a universe. Or something like that. IANAH.

Yeah, yeah, I know this discussion is mainly centered on the Christian God, so let's look at your assertion that "by giving god things like wants and needs, you also plow the way for wrath, envy, and a host of other things...." That seems to match the Old Testament picture of God quite nicely. He admits to jealousy in the Ten Commandments, and seems quite wrathful on occasion as well. Or perhaps that was exactly your point.

Your account balance is $0.02; to continue receiving our quality opinions, please remit payment as soon as possible.
[ Parent ]

ugh (none / 2) (#223)
by Battle Troll on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 09:57:31 AM EST

God as, say, a transcendent but still imperfect being strikes me as a far more interesting possibility.

If there were such a god, we would be morally mandated to resist his selfish designs with all our might. God's right to call good 'good' and evil 'evil' are contingent on His perfection.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

Contingent? (none / 1) (#375)
by unDees on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 04:48:18 PM EST

Why? There are times when children ought to obey their quite imperfect parents, no?

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[ Parent ]
Maybe... (none / 1) (#363)
by unDees on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 03:21:04 PM EST

Maybe if we were omniscient and omnipotent, but who are we to say what kicks an infinitely powerful being might get out of creating a bunch of robots instead? An infinitely powerful being should be able to avoid boredom without creating something external to itself, surely? Or maybe the whole play is being acted out in the mind of God, like a lotus emerging from the dreaming Vishnu....

Your account balance is $0.02; to continue receiving our quality opinions, please remit payment as soon as possible.
[ Parent ]
Judas Iscariot (2.14 / 7) (#102)
by acceleriter on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 11:15:21 PM EST

Heaven or Hell? Another case of "how can someone who had been prophesied to commit a sin be punished for it by a 'just and loving' god?"

Actually there is some disagreement on this. (2.20 / 5) (#110)
by SaintPort on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 12:20:45 AM EST

within the Body of Believers.

I read the book I, Judas by Taylor Caldwell.  It suggests the Judas was a devout, saved believer with a special task.

But, this is a minority opinion.  My personal position is that I leave these decisions to God, will desiring that all be saved.

--
Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

[ Parent ]

choice (2.14 / 7) (#106)
by m a r c on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 11:44:20 PM EST

if you have free will then that means that you have choice. Having choice results in you being given the power to decide your own actions from a selection of alternatives.

I'd like to know what peoples ideas are for their definition of omniscience... Does this mean that god would know about every result that could ever come about from any of our choices? Or does it mean that it would know about which choice we decided to make? Certainly the latter would contradict the idea of choice in the first place.
I got a dog and named him "Stay". Now, I go "Come here, Stay!". After a while, the dog went insane and wouldn't move at all.

the reason this is a paradox (none / 1) (#108)
by SaintPort on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 12:13:03 AM EST

is because the latter is assumed.  Hence this Op-Ed piece.

--
Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

[ Parent ]
The first interpretation makes no sense either (2.20 / 5) (#119)
by tk on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 12:44:35 AM EST

Because for God to know exactly what will happen if you make a certain choice, He must also know the choices that everyone else makes.

[ Parent ]
-1, fairy tale (1.11 / 18) (#109)
by sticky on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 12:18:28 AM EST

And an uncreative, poorly constructed one at that.


Don't eat the shrimp.---God
thanks for coming (2.00 / 8) (#111)
by SaintPort on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 12:21:25 AM EST

have some fish.

<><

--
Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

[ Parent ]

Ooops! (2.40 / 5) (#128)
by SaintPort on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 02:42:05 AM EST

I neglected to note and link to the part waxmop played in the genesis of this story...

waxmop's 700 Club Diary

Thanks waxmop!

<><

--
Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

-1, god kills people [n/t] (1.06 / 15) (#129)
by felixrayman on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 03:08:32 AM EST



Call Donald Rumsfeld and tell him our sorry asses are ready to go home. Tell him to come spend a night in our building. - Pfc. Matthew C. O'Dell

Both. (2.33 / 6) (#130)
by vastor on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 04:13:32 AM EST

I've heard it explained thus.

We have what we call free will. God is sovereign and omniscient. He knows what will happen and as a sovereign being can change anything he wants.

We can't control something while it has free will. If I wanted to control you, I'd probably have to give you a labotomy or the like first.

God has powers that we don't have. God can change us without totally removing us of any capacity to have free will. So yes, it is difficult to reconcile, but thats because we can't do what God can do.

Thus God retains full soveignty and we retain relative free will.

Calvin has something to say on it in his Institutes of the Christian Religion. He wisely points out that ever since the fall, we've had an inclination to veer towards sin. Romans also talks about this where it refers to us as either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness.

Take a look at http://www.bible.org/docs/history/calvin/institut/ci100016.htm
for Calvin's text.

I rather like the illustration of us being like a car with a flat tyre. Sinful natures lead us to veer towards sin, yet we can still struggle against it and the holy spirit can make the driving a lot easier (I think as we're progressively transformed we slowly lose that veering and gain one towards righteousness).

God already knows how everything will turn out, hence a Book of Life in Revelation. The passages referred to are poorly understood (it'd help if a better translation was used, particularly for the first).

Jesus is part of God. Does your right hand always know what your eye is doing? It is hardly a big deal that Jesus hasn't had the exact time disclosed to him. As he says, he says what the Father sent him to say.

Perhaps it would be better just to say we have a relatively free will rather than an absolutely free will. Our mere circumstances limits our will to a great deal, sin is just part of that and we all fit into God's plan.

However we do have an adequately free will to be found guilty of rebelling against God (which is basically what sin is). God knew Adam was going to sin - God knew Jesus would choose to go through with his sacrifice despite his desire not to in the garden.

I've seen it speculated that the whole situation is a setup so that God can be glorified. God creates man. Man stuffs it up. God bails man out with Jesus. God is then glorified. Proponents would suggest that creation is all about an opportunity for God to show his love and thus be glorified more than if he never had.

However since the Bible never really spells out why the world was created, it is pretty futile for us to be guessing at God's motivations... we know God only has good motives, so can be happy with that.

As for Hell. I'm a little wary of it myself, however as an area I've not investigated, I'm content enough with the vision of it being the place people want. A place without God and thus a place without anything good. Could just be a miserable place where people live regretting their rebellion and yet still refusing to repent and thus perpetuating their situation. However I'm not too sure that this really fits with references to it in the bible.

Whatever hell is like, it isn't something we should want people to experience. Besides, we want everyone to be returning to living God's way so that we can have eternity together with them in heaven. The stick may be there, but I think the carrot is quite sufficient reason for sharing the truth (Gospel) with people.


Re: (2.00 / 4) (#171)
by tkatchev on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 01:23:03 PM EST

Hell is not a place, hell is a state. Specifically, it's the state of absence of grace. (Thus, it probably wouldn't be much different from what most people experience anyways...)

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

And estrangement from God (n/t) (none / 1) (#416)
by morphwin on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 04:53:23 AM EST


The secret to happiness is not thinking about whether people love you enough, but worrying over whether you love others enough.
[ Parent ]

what is the source for this info? (none / 2) (#251)
by davros4269 on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 05:33:33 PM EST

What is the source for this information that you provide?

I mean originally. It may have gone through the interpretation grind, but originally, it comes from the Bible.

The day that we demonstrate the historical and scientific accuracy of this book is the day that I will listen to Biblical arguments. Let me clarify this a bit. We've found the city of Troy, though I doubt that the gods were involved in a human conflict - so the occasional reference to a historical tidbit is not what I would consider historical accuracy.

I have a computer manual that claims that my PC is the best. Therefore, it is?? Certainly more information is needed. Extra-biblical corroboration is required. None exists.

Until that day, if ever, we have just what we have - reason. It's not reasonable to accept an all powerful deity and free will both at the same time. It's a paradox.
Will you squirm when you are pecked? Quack.
[ Parent ]

Omniscience != Responsibility (none / 3) (#131)
by Milo Minderbender on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 04:44:00 AM EST

Just because I know you're going to kill your brother doesn't make me responsible. You should still be punished. If anything, while He's waiting for you to commit the sin, he can be thinking of a punishment. Oh, but wait! He's omniscient, so He already knows what punishment He will give you.

Omniscience would be really boring.

Speaking of boring, I'm only responding to the paradox in the intro. I couldn't make myself read much of the article's body.

--------------------
This comment is for the good of the syndicate.
Omniscience + Omnipotence == Responsability (2.66 / 9) (#138)
by pyro9 on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 09:18:54 AM EST

Just because I know you're going to kill your brother doesn't make me responsible.

If you create me, my brother, the handy gun, the provocation, my provocable nature, and the punishment all in advance, then, yes, you are responsable. You knowingly created me to suffer eternal damnation, and my brother to be murdered. If you wanted it any other way, you would have made me more forgiving, my brother less vexing, or murder less possible.

The whole theology taken together is not sensible. Some part of it is wrong. The possibilities are boundless. A few possibilities are: God is a sadist, damnation is not eternal, death is imperminant, God is limited.

Several of those possabilities (and more) can be consistant with scripture if we accept that scripture is metaphorical/allegorical or incomplete. Given that scripture attempts to explain the nearly infinite to very finite minds, it seems inconcievable that it would not be vastly simplified and metaphorical.


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
I agree (none / 1) (#139)
by Milo Minderbender on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 09:30:24 AM EST

Your spelling is atrocious! Why don't you excercise some free will and improve it? You're too intelligent to have people dismiss you for bad spelling. God wants you to...really!

--------------------
This comment is for the good of the syndicate.
[ Parent ]
Spelling (none / 2) (#143)
by pyro9 on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 10:59:09 AM EST

Yeah, but for typing sideways on a laptop before the morning coffee, it wasn't so bad! Spell checkers are for people who are awake.


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
Miss (none / 3) (#151)
by Hector Plasmic on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 11:46:54 AM EST

"Just because I know you're going to kill your brother doesn't make me responsible. You should still be punished."

Would you be responsible if you created something that you knew would kill your brother? :-)

[ Parent ]

You're right... (none / 1) (#182)
by Milo Minderbender on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 04:34:35 PM EST

If you assume that we have no free will, you're right. I was arguing from the opposite assumption.

--------------------
This comment is for the good of the syndicate.
[ Parent ]
Doesn't involve free will (none / 1) (#441)
by Hector Plasmic on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 05:12:51 PM EST

"If you assume that we have no free will, you're right."

Let us merely assume that something created us knowing what acts we would perform, as I stated.  If that has consequences for free will, shall we shrink from them?

[ Parent ]

+1 FP - Agnostic eough for my standards (1.16 / 6) (#134)
by alecsmare on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 08:00:42 AM EST


A flash of light, a cloud of dust and ... what was the question?


This is more likely (1.36 / 11) (#141)
by Fen on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 09:52:13 AM EST

Music and Love

Love seems clear, but what is music? Here, it is meant as harmonious randomness.

I. In the beginning there was Love. All ideas, in all their forms are here. So are numbers, and all relations between them.
Information wants to be free, and it already is. It exists outside of time. This very piece you are reading exists outside of time.

II. Love created two beings.
Solitude wanted to create just one being. But Love was the stronger, and prevailed.

III. The two beings create God.
It is not Love who needs God, but the two beings. Love could stand an eternity, but the two created beings could not. They needed a third to change things around. That third being could not love, however, as this would lead to jealousy.

IV. God projects the two beings into a larger, yet even, number of conscious entities.
Why did this happen? Perhaps the Two did this to spite their creator. Perhaps this was God's way of delivering variety. Or perhaps God spited the Two for having created him, a being who could not love.

What is this number? The significance must be abstract, as this was done "before" any particular rules of physics were laid down. This also leads to a prediction. What if we suddenly find that sentient beings can no longer be brought into the world? Perhaps only a trickle could be made.

V. God randomly sets up a qualifying ruleset of physics and starts a universe.
God does not interfere after starting. Thus this is a deist philosophy.

VI. Repeat the last step.
This establishes an endless cycle.

An entity is the self. It consists of free will coupled with storage.

This is the "soul" concept common in religions.

  • a. The amount of entities is finite, unchanging, musical, and even.
    Comment.
  • Each has no beginning.
    Steps I through IV occurred outside of time. The cycling has no beginning.
  • Each has no end.
    As well, the cycling has no end.
  • Each has a non-quantized infinite storage of previous input.
    It is infinite because there was no beginning to the storage. Because it is infinite, it contains all that can be experienced. However, it is ordered by time.

    It can only be added to, never deleted. It has been shown that completely erasing memories, while interesting to science fiction, is very hard to do. No matter what part of the brain is damaged, there remains some recollection of ingrained memory.

    Output is not stored. The output may be fed back as input and stored, though. God has output but no storage.

  • The storage cannot be shared directly. It must go through systems.
    All forms of telepathy have been found to be utter fraud. There is no direct communication between minds.
The beings spoke of in the beginning were not entities until the universes started.

A system is the fusion of one entity with one seat.
This, then, is a sentient being. Now what organisms seem likely candidates? Narrowing it down to animals seems likely. The seat presumably is somewhere in the brain. As many animals do seem sentient, it is probably in an older part of the brain that evolved long before humans. We are finding that all sensory information converges on certain areas such as the thalamus.

  • It has a beginning.
  • It has an end.
    The system is not just inactive--it has disassembled. So this is when we die. What then happens to that entity? This would be part of the system of physics set up. Perhaps he must wait until the next universe to start. Or perhaps he will be incorporated into a new system near the area of death. In our universe, the speed of light appears to govern the transmission of information. It would seem feasible that an entity cannot travel faster than this, and thus must be created within the light sphere starting at death.
  • It has a quantized input.
    This follows from the fact that the universe is quantized. Since the system exists in the universe (through the seat), it cannot deviate from the laws.
  • It has a quantized output.
  • It must be either active (inputting and outputting) or inactive (doing neither).
    General anesthesia can bring about the inactive state. Sleeping is still active, but the input and output do not leave the brain. The ability to inactivate leaves the question as to whether the system may have to end for changes to be made to the seat and surrounding material. Perhaps the ability to be unconscious would allow for the entity to be transfered to an entirely different seat (such as a silicon computer). Such a transfer would be indestinguishable from reincarnation, except for the ability to be certain where the entity will be reincarnated.
  • Output is determined by the entity's storage, system input, and free will.
    This gives a general definition of intelligence. Emphasizing storage over system input and free will is the quality of intelligence--to be able to reach deeper into your past.

A universe.
  • It is quantized.
    Quantized means it is reducible to bits of data. The one possible exception is dealing with entities not tied in a system. The universe can track them by where they separated from the seat, and assign them accordingly.
  • It begins when an entity recieves input.
  • It ends when no entity can recieve input any longer.
    This allows for heat death as well as a big crunch. There need not be a singular moment where the universe ends. At the point where the deterministic rules show that no system will ever become active, it ends. A heat death is more in line with predictions from this philosophy. A big crunch could allow for the possibility of infinite cycling in this univers.
  • It is finite.
  • It has musical rules of physics that are both determinite and bidirectional.
    By being determinate and bidirectional, it is possible to take the universe in either direction of time.
  • It has a system of managing how entities get coupled to seats.
    This is the only place where the rules may draw on randomness (provided by God). In order to match an entity with the first seat, it will have to be randomly selected. The rules of the universe cannot draw upon entity storage, which is the only way they differ. Later on, the rules may apply randomness in addition to deterministic rules but only for the selection of entities.
  • It cannot effect or be effected by other universes.
Free Will.
  • Can generate true randomness.
  • Seeks love and music.
  • Are all identical.
    Thus the only thing that makes two entities different is storage.
That's free will.

God.

  • Can generate true randomness.
  • Has no storage or input.
    Without storage or input, God remains outside of time. This gives him the power to generate an entire universe all at once.
  • Outputs quantized information.
  • Seeks music.
God, then, actually has a subset of the powers of every sentient being. God is essentially a random number generator.

Our Universe

Our universe is one of an infinite many, each strung back to back along time. Of high importance is the system of transferring entities around. One hypothesis is that it is tied to the speed of light. Upon death, the entity establishes an expanding light sphere. When a new being needs an entity, it will first check if it is in the sphere of influence of any entities. If it is, it will choose randomly (randomness provided by God) between them. Otherwise, it will draw from entities that have not taken part in this universe. If neither is available, the seat must go unfilled.
--Self.

yes, much better (none / 1) (#275)
by dlec on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 12:38:45 AM EST

Okay, this is the second explanation of the system that resonates with me -- possibly the best of the two. Where can I read more?

[ Parent ]
wow (nt) (none / 1) (#404)
by OneEyedApe on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 10:36:18 PM EST



[ Parent ]
That's true, but I've covered that. (1.40 / 5) (#167)
by Imperfect on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 01:00:58 PM EST

I said "if taken literally." More than 9/10ths don't take it literally, which nicely by-steps that.

Not perfect, not quite.
Bloody hell. (none / 1) (#168)
by Imperfect on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 01:02:28 PM EST

THAT didn't go where I wanted it to. Ignore me, I'm an idiot.

Not perfect, not quite.
[ Parent ]
Confusing on a higher level (2.16 / 6) (#180)
by blacksqr on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 04:13:06 PM EST

Claims for God's behavior are always contradictory, and I've noticed that attempts to resolve the contradictions always boil down to the same thing: God's omnipotence is after all limited or circumscribed in some way.

Your notion that God circumscribes His own omnipotence simply obscures the contradiction by layering on an additionally complex argument.

It's like the computer engineer who thinks threads are a fabulous programming technique, except every piece of code written with them is fatally hampered by race conditions, so the programmer writes an additional layer of checks and locks which in effect turns the threaded program into a serial program, but the code is so complex that the programmer doesn't realize it.

Does God have the power to limit His omnipotence irrevocably?  In that case He is in fact not omnipotent. Does He only limit His omnipotence provisionally?  If so it hardly changes the argument if He simply chooses not to look at the consequences of His actions.

The rational argument is simple:  if God is omnipotent, then he is fully responsible for everything that happens in the Universe and His punishments are perverse and cruel.  If God is not omnipotent, the he is subject to laws, and hence of no more or less interest than any other feature of the physical universe and not entitled to automatic worship.

Probs with that. (none / 2) (#186)
by tkatchev on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 05:30:28 PM EST

There are no "punishments". Everybody gets exactly what they want.

This is the point of free will and, in fact, the point of man's existence.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Interesting (none / 2) (#200)
by blacksqr on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 09:15:08 PM EST

Including the murdered babies?

Including the 25 million dead of Black Plague?

Including the entire population of Thera?

Including the 50,000 in Bam?

Every single one?

[ Parent ]

Those aren't punishments. (none / 2) (#219)
by tkatchev on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 05:47:23 AM EST

Those are crappy technological decisions of the ruling technocratic elite, most of whom are smart enough to pass a physics exam at an elite college, but not smart enough to plan one step ahead.

(Hint: building a stone building liable to crush you at the first hint of a tremor in the most seismically active region on earth is not a good idea.)


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

you are holding God responsible every time someone (none / 2) (#243)
by Battle Troll on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 04:41:06 PM EST

Dies.

You'd be much better served by using Krakatoa or Mt. St. Helens as examples.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

The Bible (2.00 / 6) (#198)
by the on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 08:36:48 PM EST

The Bible is a collection of texts assembled from myths developed over what may have been a span of thousands of years. Different parts were written by completely different people with completely different mindsets from completely different epochs in time. To carry out fine readings, as you have done, in order to find the trace of some evidence of a coherent view of the omniscience of God borders on the insane. To think someone would actually do this in an attempt to derive properties of an actual God - well that simply beggars belief.

--
The Definite Article
not if you believe (none / 1) (#242)
by Battle Troll on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 04:39:48 PM EST

That there was something guiding the texts' writing and complitation beyond the mere whims of those doing so.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
Wow! That's a weird belief! (none / 0) (#505)
by the on Wed Jan 21, 2004 at 04:43:42 PM EST

That would be like believing "The Lord of the Rings" was true. I defy you to find a sane person who actually believes such a thing.

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
working through inconsistency in the bible. (none / 3) (#201)
by kamera on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 09:24:00 PM EST

The case for validity of the old testament withers once anyone actually takes it upon themselves to study biblical history. One quickly realizes that the ancient Hebrew understanding of God changes significantly over a period of time. Gen1 and Gen2 are a good example. In Genesis 2, believed to be written by the Yahwist around the time of King David (around 1000bc), God is presented as a personable character capable of taking walks with Adam and Eve in the cool summer evening. He creates them out of clay and doesn't seem to have created the clay itself.

Gen 1 is believed to be written by the Priestly source around 500bc in a time of exile. This God creates the earth of nothing - what could be more powerful than creating something out of nothing? In the middle east in ancient times, If a people was defeated in battle, it was believed that their god was weaker than their enemies. Yes, much of the old testament was written in a henotheistic (believing in one god but accepting the existence of other gods) perspective. As the Hebrews suffered defeat, they retaliated by claiming that their God was truly more powerful than any other god ( it just so happened that their god was angry at them at this point). In fact, their god was so much more powerful that he was omnipotent.

There are definitely pieces of truth in the bible, but on the whole its a load of crap (especially the old testament). So quoting any random piece of text in support of an argument doesn't do much good, Im sure there are passages that will contradict what you are trying to support, this is because the bible is not a consistent piece of work.

Personally, I tend to believe that as a christian one must figure out a way to devise a filter to squeeze the truth out of the bible. Since Christ basically tells us to filter all laws through the greatest commandment: "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments? (Mark 12:28-31). Then in Galations 5 Paul professes what I have been saying to stronger degree. I'll admit this method is not perfect - in fact its probably little help on determining the problem of free will at hand - its just my best guess on how to extract the truth out of the bible. I'm sure others have interpreted these passages differently and can make a strong case for their interpretations. They also can probably quote 20 passages directly contradicting what these two passages say. But as far as I'm concerned, if you want to adhere to the principle of non-contradiction, you must filter the bible one way or another. Or you could just skip the whole bible thing and figure things out for yourself. Chances are your intuition is more reliable and less sketchy.

"Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live." -- Oscar Wilde

A question for christians (none / 2) (#269)
by 1j1 on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 10:27:07 PM EST

"Personally, I tend to believe that as a christian one must ..." This part makes me believe you're christian, but maybe i'm wrong.

There is something I find very curious about christian believers, let me explain:

I understand religion as a system of beliefs which encompases several things: a moral guide, a "knowledge" about the origin of the universe, some sort of superiour being(s), a set of rites which must be performed apropiatedly, and frecuently a justification of the status quo (at least until middle ages).

All these knowledge was built over the course of history, and from diferent sources: the bible itself, other authoritative (official) religious texts, from the catholic hierarchy (the pope, etc), and from local tradition also.

Now, what is intriguing to me is, what kind of "truth value" does christians attribute to its religion (or to its teachings)?

I mean, when reading the bible, or listening to some preast, do they really think it is about "reality"?.

Do they really think that someone called "Jesus" actually performed miracles?

It is clear that different people at different times or places have regarded the old testament as a "true" explanation of the origin of the earth/humanity.

But now, in light of scientific knowledge, I think not many people believe that (at least not literally). Well, perhaps it's just a metaphor (altough you really thing that the people who wrote the bible thought about it as a metaphor), but then, how do you know what's a methaphor and what isn't?

Could it be that the hole idea of God is a metaphor?

Also there's the situation of the origins of the bible. Forgetting the many modifications the bible has suffered along many centuries/translations, under which circunstances would you believe to someone who says he is writing under "divine influence"?

Is it impossible that Jesus was a mere mortal (even perhaps a great man), and the tradition was responsible for the miracles?

But of course they must regard the bible as a book having divine origin, because if not, żwhat's left?



[ Parent ]

The challenge of "thoughtful belief" (2.25 / 4) (#208)
by LairBob on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 11:52:51 PM EST

[Forgive the re-post to a "Topical" comment]

The main reason I've found this to be one of the more engaging recent topics here is that it stems from a relatively small seam of what you might call "disciplined faith", a desire to believe in the divine, but still find some way to reconcile that with the rational tools we use to carve out our humanity.

If you even just look at the responses in these threads, you can see breadth of the general human response to the conflict between the divine and the rational:
  1. Purely Faithful: God's Will, and its consequences, are as God wills them. It is not for us to judge God as perverse or cruel--the real challenge to the faithful is to accept that what he intends simply must be.
  2. Purely Rational: If God even really existed, then he'd be either omniscient and cruel, or he'd not be omniscient. The challenge to the faithful is either to accept one of those two disappointing implications, or abandon any pretense to rationality around their beliefs.
  3. Thoughtful Belief: To fulfill your potential as a rational being and as a devout being, you must find some way for your rational understanding of the world to accommodate the precepts of my faith. The challenge is therefore to find some way to describe God, and his intentions, in some way that doesn't fly in the face of rationality.
The struggle to walk that "third path" has, in many ways, been a hallmark of Christian intellectual thought from Aquinas through Montaigne and all the way to Kierkegaard and many others. (Not to characterize Christianity as particularly intellectual--as a matter of fact, in many ways, just the opposite. You could definitely make a claim that Christian intellectuals have had a harder row to hoe than most other world religions, most of which are not so explicitly hostile to rationality. Judaism has a long history of reason and debate at the center of its Talmudic tradition, and Islam has been the home and safe haven for much of the world's intellectual achievement throughout history. Reconciling Christian ideas of the divine with a rational world-view does seem to have been a particularly challenging objective over time.)

As I've mentioned before, I write this as a deeply interested observer, having spent a good time of my life struggling with the difficulties of that third path before simply stepping off and acknowledging that I've really been an agnostic for as long as I've really been a thinker. I have, though, continually watched family, friends and respected others as they've continued to wrestle with those same issues, and I've got to admit I've always found it a deeply noble approach. If I did deeply believe in a God, I'd prefer to believe in one that set the reconciliation of logic with faith as the central challenge to our humanity, as opposed to a jealous, finger-wagging bully. (Then again, judging what kind of God I'd "prefer" to have was part of the basic attitude that walked me off the path in the first place ;) )

question... (none / 3) (#210)
by kamera on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 01:27:32 AM EST

Why does and omniscient God and free will have to conflict? If we assume a God that exists outside of time, (why not?) God would not view time linearly as we do. Future would just be a moot concept. Consider then, if you made a decision in the past, did you not have free will? Well everything could be considered past to God. Thus, as God exists outside of time, God just sees the all of existence, he doesn't travel along a linear path as we seem to. Effectively, from the perspective of God all of our choices have already been made - by US. But from our perspective we have yet to make them. Foreknowledge may be the wrong way of looking at the question. God could just know. And knowledge of our choice doesn't preclude free-will, whereas foreknowledge implies it.

Nevertheless, to my knowledge, the bible never actually states that god is omniscient. It does however state that god exists outside of time in the first chapter of the Gospel of John. Regardless, it seems to be a terrible place to look for answers to this question.

"Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live." -- Oscar Wilde

The problem (none / 2) (#211)
by kitten on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 02:01:47 AM EST

Why does and omniscient God and free will have to conflict?

The problem is that if your actions are known with infallible certainty, in advance of you actually doing them, it's hard to say that your actions were "free" in any meaningful sense of the word.

Many have tried jiggling around different "theories" about God's alleged perception of time and so forth, but besides being pure speculation and rationalization with no real support, they don't really solve the issue.

The mechanism by which God perceives time is irrelevent - the argument is that God knows, and has always known from the moment of creation, exactly what you'll do, say, think, and where you'll end up. It's essentially predestination, and it's been so difficult to reconcile free will with God's omniscience that some sects, most notably hardline Calvinists, have given up and conceded that predestination makes more sense than trying to reconcile the two.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
but then again (none / 2) (#212)
by kamera on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 03:24:58 AM EST

it may not be a question about where we are to end up, but where we are. If we are to assume that time is linear, and we have many reasons to believe its not, then free-will and omniscience conflict. But why assume it is linear simply because we percieve it as so? Why does God have to predict our actions rather than just knowing them. And simply becasue he knows them does not mean they didnt involve free-will.

If we understand time as just another dimension, which we just so happen to move along, time could exist as a whole. If we were outside of this dimension, we could see all of existence at one - space and time. Thus, while observing existence as a whole, one could potentially see all that happens from beginning to end. Simply because something is determined does not mean there was no free will. It is already determnined that I went to the store today, but that doesnt mean I didnt have free will in doing it. Predetermination does not preclude free-will if predetermination only exists as a human concept.

Time doesn't even seem to work the way that it is commonly percieved. As Einstein argued, time and space are not receptacles for events and matter; instead they are relations between events and matter. If you took away all events, time would cease to exist; and likewise if you took away all matter, space would cease to exist.

So in response, no this does not answer the question if we restrict ourselves to the belief that time starts at one point and ends at another, and the latter points don't exist until they have been reached. But to view time that way when considering philisophical questions is outdated by most cosmology and other modern science. After all, how can time simply come into existence at the Big Bang? Our language can't even account for the occurrance. By most educated accounts, other universes exist (by other universes it is meant that humans cannot possibly observe them), which have created time in other big bang like occurances. It seems that to view time as it is traditionally viewed when asking the question is about as outdated as using the one dimensional political spectrum.


"Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live." -- Oscar Wilde
[ Parent ]

I don't think it works that way. (none / 2) (#214)
by kitten on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 04:56:38 AM EST

Why does God have to predict our actions rather than just knowing them.

He doesn't, and whether time is linear or nonlinear is really irrelevent. God's absolute and infallible knowledge of our thoughts and actions make it difficult to say we have "free will" in any meaningful sense.

In a sense it really is predestination, since God's knowledge of our fate means it is more or less written in stone, so to speak. You may have the illusion that you're doing what you want, but it was already known. As they say, "So it was written, so shall it come to pass."

You provide an example:
It is already determnined that I went to the store today, but that doesnt mean I didnt have free will in doing it.
If it was already determined, then could you have possibly done anything else? If so, then it wasn't really determined. If not, then it wasn't free will - you think it was, but you were "destined" to go to the store. There is no other way it could have happened - and that's where we run into the problem.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
nothing is destined, its all done and over with. (none / 2) (#217)
by kamera on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 05:35:52 AM EST

What Im trying to get at is that even if everything "is written in stone" we still may have had a say in it being written. By the store example I was trying to show that we may have already made all of our choices - that is if you look from a perspective outside of time. Our beings, at this exact point in time, have not yet come to realize what we decide in the future. But the future is a moot concept if you are outside of time. I know that I made the choice to go to the store and it is set in stone. But it was set in stone by my choice to do so. My action was not predetermined by anything but free-will. God doesn't know everyhting that will happen, he simply knows everything that has happened. There is an important distinction there.

I am not arguing that the future may not be set. I'm simply trying to say that it was my choices (thus free-will) that set it that way.I dont have the power to change the future just as I dont have the power to change the past. I know this may sound contradictory but think about it for a while.

Maybe an analogy would help. Think of a function where x is time and f is randomly generated which is applied to x at every point. If I have a graph of all 85 years I live, I see every choice I have made. Yet if I move along the graph I have no idea what will come next until f spits out a number. The value of 20 is actually determined by f. If I have the end graph, no it cannot change, but nonetheless all of its values depend on f. If a being saw the entire graph it could claim to know everything that would have happened on the graph, but not have caused or determined it to happen.

"Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live." -- Oscar Wilde
[ Parent ]

So what exactly, then (none / 2) (#233)
by X3nocide on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 02:45:38 PM EST

... is the difference between predetermined choice and a lack of free will? Your 'function' is predetermined, even if random. It completely skirts the issue. Allow me to facilitate the discussion: Is free will perceived or real?

pwnguin.net
[ Parent ]
predetermined means nothing. (none / 2) (#236)
by kamera on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 03:35:07 PM EST

Again, predetermined has no meaning unless you look at time in a linear fashion. The function is not predetermined, it just exists. It has determined all of the events and it is solely responsible for the outcome. And yes the function would be as real as every other element in the universe. From the end perspective our future is already set, but this does not mean that my soul didnt have any say in how it turned out.

"Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live." -- Oscar Wilde
[ Parent ]

the answer to your first point (none / 2) (#250)
by davros4269 on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 05:18:52 PM EST

As for the latter, yes perhaps Christians need to tone down the power of God in order to avoid paradoxes.

As for the former comment, my problem with the "outside of the universe, outside of time" argument is this: what do we know about this "region", for lack of a better word?

Nothing. As an atheist, it's non-constructive to me to hear Christians or anyone for that matter fall back on this, "anything is possible there" void. This works to prove or disprove _any_ argument:

me: giant crayfish rule the cosmos
Christian: no they don't, God does
me: we don't know everything. There may be other universes with other laws of physics. You can't prove there isn't a giant crayfish, can you?

It's rather silly to escape into metaphysical la-la land to justify a position.

Why aren't those concepts paradoxical? Because in this universe, according to reason and rational thought, they appear in every way to be a paradox, that's why :)

If the universe isn't as we perceive it, than we can say, "according to all current evidence and according to what seems to be the current universal norms, it's a paradox".

Lastly, saying these la-la land arguments are so because a certain book claims it is fine, so long as that book is first demonstrated to be factual and reliable. Thus far it has not, quite the contrary. Further, if we use la-la land to justify the Bible at the same time that we use the Bible to justify la-la land than we employ circular logic and therefore paradoxes as well.
Will you squirm when you are pecked? Quack.
[ Parent ]

not la-la land (none / 2) (#256)
by kamera on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 06:20:46 PM EST

This is not metaphysical la-la land I speak about, it is grounded cosmology (well as grounded as cosmology can be). To state that time is the way our brains percieve it day to day, contradict with how science percieves it.

The definition of a universe is the set of all observable and potentially observable phenomena. Universe does not necessary mean everything that exists - there may be multitude of other universes of which we as humans cannot observe. To claim that there are other universes is not out of the ordinary from a scientific standpoint. In fact, it is very mainstream (see hawkings, ferris, and other cosmologists). It doesn't seem all that unlikely that if there is a god-like being, it would be able to observe universes which we cannot. And it also makes sense that in observing a universes from outside (for lack of better word) one could see all dimensions (in our case 4).

So yes according to a more simplistic version of "reason and rational thought" this may seem paradoxical. But if you think about it, doesn't the theory of relativity? Without the complex reasoning to understand the concept (which no I don't personally understand), the idea that the speed of light remains constant in different frames of reference yet time will relatively speed up/slow down is entirely unrational. But as the reasoning becomes more complex, it is no longer paradoxical.

Lastly I never intended to argue this from scripture. I personally place little faith in the scriptures, especially when it comes to questions like this. Im mentioned the bible in response to the article. The point was that if you were to use the bible to solve this problem, it would be nice if the bible ever even acknowledges this problem (it never mentions that god is omniscient).

"Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live." -- Oscar Wilde
[ Parent ]

missed my point (none / 2) (#266)
by davros4269 on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 09:44:37 PM EST

We agree to some extent, but you missed my basic point.

I'm well aware of multiple universe conjectures, higher dimensions, "branes", m-theory, etc.

What I am saying is that when reasoning an argument, one cannot simple say that God, which gets his attributes from the Bible, lives in any of these extra-universal regions, and therefore:

1. cannot be disproven
2. _can_ exist
3. can allow any paradox, which by all other accounts, makes no sense

There may be other arguments for the above, but merely the existence of regions of which we know next to nothing is not enough for a valid argument.

You may not know what I keep in my closet and you could conjecture that there is a small elephant in there. Is this a good argument to prove that I own an elephant?

The argument that God is outside our laws and lives in universe number 14 instead of 37 which we reside in isn't any kind of argument. I can argue that a giant crayfish lives in universe 59, and therefore, can present a paradox which goes against all reason and say that it's possible because of the crayfish which is just outside of our understanding. This isn't any kind of valid argument, is it? The difference between giant crayfish and God, btw, is the Bible. I don't have a holy text describing the attributes of my crayfish. So, even if you avoid scripture, if your God has any specific attributes, such as being all powerful, the Bible does in fact come into play - for how else would you know anything about an extra-universal being? ;)

Further, while there may exist these other regions, we don't know enough about the properties of any of these regions to claim that God or crayfish live there.

It is certainly is a la-la land, wishy-washy, anything goes, argument.


Will you squirm when you are pecked? Quack.
[ Parent ]

I agree with you.. (none / 1) (#271)
by kamera on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 11:44:42 PM EST

I never wanted to argue a god with any of the attributes from the bible. I only wanted to show that the future can be "set", yet it was our free-will that set it that way. The omnipotent,omniscient, and omnibenovolent - yet violent, personal, and brutal - God of the bible doesnt really come into play there. So I guess we agree.

This same problem occurs in the argument from design and St. Thomas' cosmological argument. They may argue the existence of a designer or a first mover, but they in no way successfully argue a god with any of the attributes of the bible - even a conscious God. So I still don't think what I was arguing was la-la land.

"Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live." -- Oscar Wilde
[ Parent ]

ok then (none / 1) (#273)
by davros4269 on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 12:17:37 AM EST

Than we agree to agree.

ID is always interesting for that reason: giving any attributes to some extra/pre-universal god concept employs circular logic and is therefore not a valid argument for God.

I talk to many people that think ID is the end all argument, actually, it's rather simple in that it invlidates itself. But, that's off topic...

davros
Will you squirm when you are pecked? Quack.
[ Parent ]

As a neuroscientist I can tell you that (1.60 / 5) (#215)
by spacebrain on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 05:23:44 AM EST

there is no such thing as "free will". In fact, you don't need to be a neuroscientist to grasp that. A few simple thoughts are enough.
Just ask yourself, what does the concept of "free will" actually mean? Does it hold up? It can't hold up, however you turn it. It always leads you to a homunculus problem, and to infinite regresses in effect.
In short, the concept of "free will" makes sense only in a world which is not complete randomness, since per definition your will has to cause some action. And we perceive it as free just because we do not preceive all its causes.
In fact, you can measure a choice being made in the brain of a person about one second before the person perceives to have made it. This is not astonishing at all, it would be if it'd be the other way around, since then your "choice", whatever that would be then, would appear just out of the nowhere.

Well, I am not a theologist and thus my thoughts about the other concepts of your article are just lay thoughts.
But let me tell you that I see the concepts of "omniscience", and in fact the whole concept of "god" as at least equally vague than the one of "free will".

For me, all those concepts make sense as injunctive concepts only, not at all as descriptive ones. IMHO, they don't tell us anything about how the world is, at best they can show us a frame of thought unleashing some of our own powers. And luckily, there are many...

For a neuroscientist, you're a hack. (2.33 / 6) (#222)
by gzt on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 09:40:26 AM EST

Yes, "free will" only makes sense in a world which is not complete randomness, and as a scientist you should realize one can't assert the world is complete randomness without begging the question - one can take it as axiomatic, certainly, but don't expect to be taken seriously if you use it to dismiss "free will" out of hand.

Here: you say, "We perceive it as free just because we do not perceive all its causes". Unfortunately, this begs the question, as your following evidence does not really "prove" the assertion.

As a trained professional scientist, you should realize there is no possible experiment which could negate or affirm free will. The question of free will is not a scientific question, it is not falsifiable, it is a metaphysical assertion by its very definition. Questions about the mechanism of free will are sometimes falsifiable, but nobody cares about them, the metaphysical questions are the interesting ones. That said, you were on the right track to start with the homunculus problem.

[ Parent ]

The hypothesis of free will is easily disprovable. (2.25 / 4) (#234)
by gte910h on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 03:06:17 PM EST

If you can show deterministic descision paths in a persons brain (e.g. They see a picture of an apple, and they will always make a dumb joke about an apple when they do that because there are no other neronal pathways to allow some other action), you can show that the person has no free will with reguard to that action. If you can show that this neuron fires and hits that neuron, which leads to this action, always and without fail, the brain becomes as deterministic as a piece of electronics.

A lack of free will scares the bejeesus out of a lot of people, but it really doesn't change anything. And remember, just because you experience it, that doesn't mean it exists (think optical illusions and hallucinations).

If the brain is only made up of matter, its run by the laws of chemistry and physics. There is no where for a "free will" to change anything. All "choices" are a electrochemical reaction in the brain that we identify, thereby they become "a choice we made". (Quantum effects do NOT happen at the brain level, so you're not going to squeuze any explaination in there.). Our very identity, our concept of self, is nothing more than a model of the brain and social identity within the brain itself.

Good Reads About this Stuff:
Consciousness Explained, Daniel Dennett
The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes
"Is God A Taoist?", Raymond Smullyan, printed in A Minds Eye and in the book The Tao is Silent

[ Parent ]

Hmm... (none / 3) (#237)
by dagsverre on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 04:11:58 PM EST

We don't disagree about any facts or theories, merely the conclusions to draw from them.

If the brain is determinable (this neuron fires this neuron and so on) then the consciousness/self-consciousness/person exists within the same determined system as "the will" which freedom we are trying to determine. Now, even if you can from the outside determine what paths a brain will take, this doesn't affect the existence of free will from the perspective of the mind that you are studying. If a persons consciousness lives in the neurons (not in any magical meaning, but merely that the sum of the neurons actions are the person) and you are studying those neurons then any prediction is pointless, because you are studying the "soul" of the person at the same time... of course you can predict the actions of people you know well! (or have studied the brains of...), but that doesn't make their actions any less free. Consider the opposite: Could totally random behaviour in any way be characterized as free? You'd be the slave of the randomness...

One book I found interesting on this matter is The clockwork image - a Christian perspective on science, where the author (a brain scientist) deals with the "problem of free will"...he even takes the stance (or at least work from the assumption) that we have deterministic brains.

[ Parent ]

hah! (none / 2) (#240)
by Battle Troll on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 04:34:20 PM EST

If the brain is only made up of matter, its run by the laws of chemistry and physics.

Way to beg the question.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

dear sir: (none / 3) (#245)
by gzt on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 04:45:59 PM EST

Determinism is not falsifiable. HTH. HAND.

I am familiar with these earth-authors, thank you.

If you want a fuller response, I can defer to another thread by a man quite a bit brighter than I: doot doot. The short of it: you presume a mind/brain identity which I refuse to grant, you presume subjectivity is an epiphenomenon of the mind, which is quite silly, and you presume materialism, which is pretty damn presumptuous.

[ Parent ]

Arkgla! (none / 1) (#248)
by gzt on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 05:08:01 PM EST

I botched that, don't bother pointing out the slip.

[ Parent ]
deterministic decision paths (1.75 / 4) (#255)
by tgibbs on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 06:20:24 PM EST

If you can show deterministic descision paths in a persons brain (e.g. They see a picture of an apple, and they will always make a dumb joke about an apple when they do that because there are no other neronal pathways to allow some other action), you can show that the person has no free will with reguard to that action.

The notion of "deterministic decision paths" is the sort of thing that might make sense to a computer scientist but sounds ridiculous to a neuroscientist. All neural activity seems to have a random element to it. Neurons don't fire in a regular pattern, amplitudes of synaptic responses vary from response to response. Most biochemical mechanisms, including those involved in neurotransmission are dependent upon diffusion, which is a random process. And the complexity of the circuitry of the brain suggest that there are likely to be "chaotic" circuits.

[ Parent ]

Freedom doesn't slip in through randomness (none / 0) (#503)
by gte910h on Tue Jan 20, 2004 at 11:04:35 AM EST

Epictetus completely debunked the idea that random action in the mind gives one free will way back in the classical era. There still is no room for an agent of free will to slip into the brain.

And I understand that you can't determine which way certain reactions are going to go often times. The chaotic nature of the system does not lend anything other than making it more probabalistic. I am actually a simulations researcher, who deals with that situation much more than the deterministic one. I was simplifying for means of discussion.

But coming from that, you can say where a system can go, and in a neronal system, even in one in which one  only has a probablistic firing model, you CAN bound what it can do, sometimes to the degree you can give verifyiable precentages on what the person's action will be.

[ Parent ]

More books (none / 1) (#264)
by 1j1 on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 09:19:08 PM EST

Another extremely interesting book is:

I of the Vortex: From Neurons to Self, by Rodolfo Llinás.

[ Parent ]

haha (none / 1) (#285)
by tkatchev on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 06:02:35 AM EST

kewl troll

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

define "free"! (none / 1) (#323)
by spacebrain on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 06:26:27 AM EST

Thanks for yout comments, I like 'em.
However, they do not say much as long as we didn't define what we actually mean by "free", which is not at all easy.

I find that "free" is a wacky concept in itself, just as e.g. "new" is. Nothing is truly new, and everything is at least a bit new. It's (0,1), not [0,1], i.e. just a scale without the extremes. The same holds for "free".

Btw. a similar concept is that of "autonomy", which is viewed in modern embodied AI as a matter of the interaction between agents, not as a property of an agent by itself. The latter view caused many problems in classical AI.

[ Parent ]

free will and neuroscience (none / 3) (#254)
by tgibbs on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 06:07:08 PM EST

In short, the concept of "free will" makes sense only in a world which is not complete randomness, since per definition your will has to cause some action. And we perceive it as free just because we do not preceive all its causes.

Speaking also as a neuroscientist, I would define 'free will" as a decision-making process that combines both stimulus-driven and random/chaotic elements. This is entirely consistent with what we know of neural mechanisms.

God, on the other hand, if he is indeed omniscient, cannot have free will, since omniscience implies perfect foreknowledge of His own actions, denying Him the option of making decisions.

[ Parent ]

Relevance? (none / 2) (#263)
by gyan on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 08:53:29 PM EST

I would define 'free will" as a decision-making process that combines both stimulus-driven and random/chaotic elements

 I'm not sure how this relates to the concept of 'free will'. As the term is colloquially used, it means that the conscious entity has deliberate control over the course of its future actions. What's the free part and will part in your definition got to do with the regular usage of the term? Also, as I understand it, chaos is not randomness. Just that due to the subtle and complex interplay of deterministic elements, a small change in parameters does not export a similar and linear small change in output.

********************************

[ Parent ]

chaos and randomness (none / 0) (#504)
by tgibbs on Wed Jan 21, 2004 at 12:31:58 PM EST

Also, as I understand it, chaos is not randomness. Just that due to the subtle and complex interplay of deterministic elements, a small change in parameters does not export a similar and linear small change in output

Chaos is a deterministic mechanism for generating random outcomes. In a chaotic system, the effects of all perturbations, no matter how small, grow exponentially with time. This means that undetectable perturbations will ultimately have macroscopic effects. Since the original perturbations are undetectable, their macroscopic effects appear random.

[ Parent ]

half lies ... (none / 1) (#272)
by dlec on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 11:58:22 PM EST

I wonder that you can truly believe this, since the implications are so fantastic. What are your hopes and dreams? And why do you cling to such pointless ideas if you truly believe the outcome of your life is pre ordained, or at least inevitable.

What does it mean to good or to do bad, if there are no choices anyway. If you truly believe, then why do you still get angry when somebody does wrong by you? And why haven't you yet forgiven yourself for the the times when you did wrong by others?

When you truly believe what you say you will also be truly evil, and I hope that's never the case.

[ Parent ]

way too simplistic... (none / 2) (#321)
by spacebrain on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 05:56:58 AM EST

Well, I can assure you that I truly believe what I wrote! Your conclusions are just wrong!
As gte910h wrote in a comment down the line, "the lack of free will doesn't change anything". (Apart from that I agree with the critique of tgibbs to said comment.)

What are your hopes and dreams?

My hopes and dreams are pretty much the same as anybody elses. This alone shows clearly that our so called "free will" cannot be that free as many people believe, since then you would have a hard time explaining why the hopes and dreams of most humans are so similar, wouldn't you? My hopes and dreams are a product of my own individual history and the one of all my ancestors - back to the first replicators living some 3.6 billion years ago. My hopes and dreams are not separable from the requirements to survive and to reproduce - note well, not just for my individual self but for all related beings (exponentially decreasing with genetic and/or memetic distance). (Selfishness seems to be located on the replicator level, not on the level of individual organisms. I am not a single replicator, I am a set of a huge number of replicators.)

And why do you cling to such pointless ideas if you truly believe the outcome of your life is pre ordained, or at least inevitable.

The outcome of my life is not at all pre ordained, and even it it was, that has nothing to do with the question if our will is "truly free", whatever that might mean. The outcome of my life might be predictable for a god-like being having all knowledge about the complete universe. At least I don't have that knowledge, so for me it does not make any difference if there could be such a knowledge or not. And the final outcome of my life - i.e. death - is actually inevitable in any case ;-)

What does it mean to good or to do bad, if there are no choices anyway.

  1. There are choices, just not in the classical direct sense. I cannot deny the existence of my conscious being, and I would be a fool if I did. What I do deny is dualism, since that always leads to a homunculus problem and infinite regresses. Dualism is a nice little mental crook, finally a social construct. Thus, what I perceive as being "myself", is one part of the puzzle, just not the whole picture.
  2. Moral categories principally cannot be justified scientifically, at best they can be explained partly by looking at their evolutionary and cultural origins and history.
If you truly believe, then why do you still get angry when somebody does wrong by you? And why haven't you yet forgiven yourself for the the times when you did wrong by others?

Exactly because our will is not "free" in the classical sense! If it was, my actions would not necessarily have any influence on the actions of others, would they? The very notion that actions of others have an influence on my own (actions, thinking, feeling, will, ...) shows that my will is not completely free.

When you truly believe what you say you will also be truly evil, and I hope that's never the case.

Since my will is not completely free, there would have to be reasons which made me truly evil, but in fact there are not.

[ Parent ]

The "Problem" of Evil (2.64 / 14) (#221)
by localroger on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 09:32:06 AM EST

As several others have pointed out, it is clear that the early Jews did not think JHVH to be either omnipotent, omniscient, or omnibenevolent. They did think he was very powerful, very wise, and very benevolent, but not so much of any of those things as to trigger a paradox. And indeed throughout much of the Old Testament God is one short-tempered asshole.

As time went on, though, this thinking consolidated toward extremes. God was no longer one God among many who happened to choose the Jews; he became the most powerful God, then the only God. This then meant he must have created the Universe, which meant he must be not just very powerful, but omnipotent.

Meanwhile, the Jews had an original thought with the idea that God made the Universe, in the way a potter shapes clay and fires it to make a pot. This was a sharp departure from previous thought, which tended to liken the origin of the universe to a birth or hatching. Nobody would make the idiotic mistake of thinking a mother has perfect knowledge of her child, but any potter who was unskilled would make a crooked leaky pot. So God, the maker of the Universe, must have perfect knowledge of it or it would be malformed. (It would be 3,000 years before chaos theory would finally put a dagger into the heart of this common misconception.)

Then, expanding on the idea of God as a craftsman, it seems clear that he put a hell of a lot of effort into making the Universe as big and diverse as it is. Hell of a guy that God, to give us life and such a big neato place to live it. Nobody else has done anything that nice for us lately. Extrapolating just a little more, if God is that good maybe he's perfectly good. Yeah, that's nicely symmetrical with those other omnis he's been collecting.

Of course this nicely symmetrical set of superlatives also gives rise to the question of how such a perfectly wise, powerful, and benevolent guy could create a Universe containing Adolph Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, and disco music. Well see, he obviously must have a reason which we imperfectly mortal schmucks are just too dense to see. Yeah, that's the ticket. If you meditate on that long enough in a monastery while eating no meat on Friday it will actually start to make sense.

In fact, why stop at one stupid paradox that doesn't make any sense when we can have a few more, like the "mystery" of God's supposed three in one nature. The central absurdity makes all other absurdities seem natural and even necessary.

The need to dance around the Problem of Evil has kept Christian intellectual thought remarkably shallow. You simply can't look at it too closely or the whole thing falls apart. So while people of other religions are inventing decimal math and gunpowder, the Europeans are too busy debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin to even notice the Crab Supernova. Big bright light in the sky for a week? God did it, no big deal, move along.

Of course when so much, um, intellectual effort has been invested in something it becomes very hard to let go, no matter how ridiculous it starts to appear. It's much easier to close your eyes and keep on believing than to admit it: I have been stupid. This is why you get people with college educations who are capable of ignoring all the evidence to the contrary and insisting that the world was created by fiat 6,000 years ago. If the Problem of Evil doesn't give you fits, creationism makes perfect sense by comparison.

Of course the problem with believing in things that are crazy is you eventually get handed a Reality Check. The Christian reality check has been going on for several hundred years now, in the form of an explosion of Protestant offshoot faiths and an explosion of technology that keeps forcing our attention to those paradoxes we dare not look at too closely.

It makes sense that more and more Christians are of the fanatical variety because it takes a very deep level of commitment to continue believing everything is OK while the house is burning down around you. Muslims have the same problem for the same reason, since except for very minor doctrinal differences Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are essentially the same religion.

Meanwhile, religions like Hinduism and Buddhism don't have this fundamental incompatibility with common sense. Neither do most paganist constructions, nor the Eastern philosophies like Confucianism and Taoism. Indeed, most of these systems are quite compatible with the idea that their gods and mythos are human creations allegorizing the natural flow of the Universe. They can get away with that because their myths make sense and they do allegorize the flow of the Universe -- they aren't, well, stupid.

In this regard common sense is kind of like the tomato. For centuries tomatoes were thought to be as poisonous as nightshades. They were not widely cultivated or eaten; why would you risk eating such a dangerous thing? Even though a few people knew the truth about tomatoes they didn't become popular until the mid-19th century.

Of course today we take it for granted that tomatoes won't kill us; they're found in all our favorite foods. I figure it will take about the same amount of time for us to collectively figure out that exercising common sense won't damn us to hell.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min

local roger, (2.16 / 6) (#226)
by Battle Troll on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 10:15:14 AM EST

You are not a theologian. Give it up. You are a sub-Iain Banks (!) website writer and programmer, for which I commend you, but your theological 'insights' are invariably based on ideas you've utterly failed to understand.

As several others have pointed out, it is clear that the early Jews did not think JHVH to be either omnipotent, omniscient, or omnibenevolent.

This is obviously intended to demonstrate either that Christianity has stupidly imposed contradictions where none existed before, or that it is somehow inauthentic w/r/t paleojudaic thought. That's rather like criticizing modern physics because it's often unintelligible in terms of Newtonian physics. I notice that you're willing to overlook the much larger inconsistencies in polytheistic religion in order to attack those you perceive in monotheism; but you miss the whole point of theological development, that the Church Fathers tried to develop the least inconsistent ideas that they could.

The need to dance around the Problem of Evil has kept Christian intellectual thought remarkably shallow.

How so? Christian concepts of good and evil led directly to the Enlightenment philosophy worshipped by many g**ks past and present. The very idea of 'human rights' is only intelligible in a monotheistic context. And now that I've made a big assertion, try defending yours before attacking mine.

...except for very minor doctrinal differences Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are essentially the same religion.

Unspeakably perverse. The Muslims, Jews and Christians don't seem to think so, so who the hell are you to tell them differently?

Meanwhile, religions like Hinduism and Buddhism don't have this fundamental incompatibility with common sense.

And yet, the Hindu religion supported a history of institutionalized, licensed violence in India far beyond the scope even of that in Europe. Historic Hinduism is fundamentally antagonistic to human rights, because one's low station in this life is completely justified as evidence of evildoing in the previous one. Hinduism had morally licensed class violence at a time when the only wars in Christian Rome were between professional volunteer armies.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

Well... (2.16 / 6) (#228)
by localroger on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 11:25:31 AM EST

Extracting the actual content from the snideness...

You are not a theologian.

No, I realized when I was 15 that tomatoes are not poisonous. I was however raised by devout Baptists and attended a Catholic high school (that happens a lot in New Orleans) so I am not completely ignorant of Christian thought.

Christianity has stupidly imposed contradictions where none existed before

Bingo. You do not show how there is a problem with this statement. The comparison with physics makes no sense.

I notice that you're willing to overlook the much larger inconsistencies in polytheistic religion in order to attack those you perceive in monotheism;

Polytheistic religions do not generally require faith, do not assert that theirs are the only gods or that the forms they use are the only forms their gods take, or prosyletize that people should be forcibly converted to their version. There are exceptions of course, but these are the general trends. The Roman state religion and Hinduism are actually unusual, and even they are much more open about alien thought than Christianity.

Most polytheistic religions are syncretic, allowing that any god conceived up by anybody exists (whatever that means) and many acknowledged with a nod and a wink that the gods are only metaphors for the sometimes unknowable forces in the natural world. I am not talking about modern Wiccans, either -- the ancient Egyptians were like this.

Christian concepts of good and evil led directly to the Enlightenment philosophy worshipped by many g**ks past and present.

Alchemical ideas led directly to the philosophy of science that made modern technology possible, but that doesn't mean the alchemists were right or that the half-formed ideas of early scientists like Isaac Newton were totally correct.

The very idea of 'human rights' is only intelligible in a monotheistic context.

Well, if you see rights as something handed down from above, you'd be right. But I see them as an emergent property which are not created, but arise on their own much as life itself did.

The Muslims, Jews and Christians don't seem to think so,

That's because they are all too busy arguing amongst themselves over the color of God's beard and who his favorite prophet was to notice that they all share the concepts that God is:

  • Individual
  • Male
  • A "craftsman" who deliberately created the Universe
  • Paying attention to "every sparrow that falls"
...and that hardly any other religious systems anywhere in the world share any of these ideas. From the standpoint of a Taoist or a Shintoist (or, for that matter, an atheist) they are all the same religion, with slight variance in the accepted holy texts.

[Re: Hinduism]

Yes, Hinduism has some sordid components. The Caste system is probably the only single religious idea in the history of Man to cause as much misery as the Christian penchant for categorizing everything as either "good" or "evil" with no middle ground. Fortunately, Hinduism is not a typical polytheistic religion, and economic forces are dragging them out of this rut as surely as technology is dragging the Christians.

Meanwhile, Hindu scientists are much less bothered by the collision between faith and work than their Christian counterparts. This is not idle speculation either, as I've known Hindu scientists who basically told me this straight up.



What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

nuts to you, local roger. (1.75 / 4) (#239)
by Battle Troll on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 04:30:57 PM EST

> You are not a theologian.

No, I realized when I was 15 that tomatoes are not poisonous.

Who's snide here? You're conflating religion with superstition, which is begging the question rather hard.

Find me the theologian who connects tomatoes with the Trinity.

I was however raised by devout Baptists and attended a Catholic high school (that happens a lot in New Orleans) so I am not completely ignorant of Christian thought.

Come off it. I attended Catholic school too, for eleven years. I was an atheist at the time. I couldn't believe the miserable ignorance of most of my schoolmates on subjects theological, or others for that matter. The point is that saying 'I attended Catholic school' only proves that you've been exposed to Catholic culture, not that you're in a position to offer a sweeping criticism of all Christian thought ever in history.

[Christianity] prosyletize[s] that people should be forcibly converted to their version.

This is news to me. Christians have done so; there have been billions in history & that covers a wide range of behaviour. It doesn't seem to me that forcible conversion was ever the norm outside of Spain and its satellites, or medieval Prussia. In particular, billions of Christians worldwide seem to be doing fine without forcible conversion in the modern world.

...many acknowledged with a nod and a wink that the gods are only metaphors for the sometimes unknowable forces in the natural world. I am not talking about modern Wiccans, either -- the ancient Egyptians were like this.

I see. That's why they built the most spectacular monuments in human history out of mud bricks to entomb their kings, and that's also why the average middle-class Egyptian would save for most of his life in order to be able to afford mummification.

Your four points of contact between Christianity and Islam are trivial and inane. For example, Christianity does not teach that God is male, whatever that would mean. Here's an article explaining the majority Ortodox view. I presume that Judaism and Islam also reject the idea of reducing God to a sex. Male language is usually used to talk about God, but that's something else entirely. In Christianity, it derives from Greek thought rather than Judaism. By the way, you would be well-advised to admit that Christianity is as much a Greek as a Jewish religion.

Meanwhile, Hindu scientists are much less bothered by the collision between faith and work than their Christian counterparts. This is not idle speculation either, as I've known Hindu scientists who basically told me this straight up.

Well, I'm sure that these scientists' extensive experience with being Christian puts them in a unique position to analyze this in depth.

Here's the thing. The Western Church attempted to systematize all knowledge in the mould of theology. Thomism was the systematic application of Aristotelian logic to the theological opinions of the medieval Western Church. Protestantism inherited that and, without a church tradition upon which to base theological opinions, resorted to biblical literalism. A biblical literalist would indeed have a difficult time reconciling much scientific work with his religion, because his religion makes natural-historical claims. He's much in the same boat as a primitive Buddhist who believes that the Buddha really was born from a lotus blossom.

But biblical literalism is a dead theological letter. It was never influential outside of the Anglo-American world anyway, and while it continues to command adherents in the USA and Australia, it's irrelevant to Christianity in the Catholic and Orthodox worlds - which account for some 60% of nominal Christians worldwide even now. Ca. 400 AD, Greek monks were developing the first non-literalist approaches to the Bible, and though the Bible was the most comprehensive and authoritative historical document in the Roman and post-Roman world, it was hardly claimed as an ironclad, literal history. The mainstream of Christian thought has always been considerably less interested in the history of the Old Testament than in the revelation of the New Testament.

Frankly, the experience with Christianity of which you boast is casual, surface-scratching, amateurish, informed by glaring biases, and uninformed by substantive research. If it were otherwise, even were you still to be anti-Christian, you'd at least have better arguments.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

Nuts back (1.75 / 4) (#252)
by localroger on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 05:39:42 PM EST

Find me the theologian who connects tomatoes with the Trinity.

You either didn't read the original post, you're very stupid, or you're trolling. I leave it as an excercise to the reader to decide which.

I attended Catholic school too, for eleven years. I was an atheist at the time.

I wasn't. I have been exposed to more religious theory than I care to remember. You mistake my seldom-expressed contempt for ignorance.

billions of Christians worldwide seem to be doing fine without forcible conversion

Unfortunately, they aren't the ones trying to turn the government of my country into a theocracy.

Christianity does not teach that God is male

It most certainly does. Christian text consistently refer to him as "Father," which is a much different concept than "Mother" no matter how you are skewing your metaphors. Furthermore, when you speak of "a religion" as the sum of all its followers, you cannot pick the musings of the few fairly enlightened intellectuals who have pondered the sexlessness of the Deity to excuse the overwhelming popular image. Show me a well-known artistic reprentation of Jehovah which is not an elderly bearded man and I'll buy you a beer. Or is that "just some guy" touching Adam's finger on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel?

Well, I'm sure that these scientists' extensive experience with being Christian puts them in a unique position to analyze this in depth.

There experience with scientists who were Christians certainly did.

He's much in the same boat as a primitive Buddhist who believes that the Buddha really was born from a lotus blossom.

I have never met or even heard of a Buddhist who literally believes this. That's the core difference between Judeo-Christianity and other religions. I have on the other hand met many biblical literalist Christians, speaking of which...

But biblical literalism is a dead theological letter.

Really? You need to turn on the TV more. Those are the very Christians who are most rabidly intent on converting the whole world to their narrow brand of thought -- because their brand of thought is so narrow it is deeply threatened by the mere existence of any other brand.

Maybe you're better than this, but if so you better watch your back. The fundies are in ascendancy in case you didn't notice, and they're not staying in thier anglo-American cradle. They're converting Latin Americans at a clip the Catholics find bothersome, and some of them are even intent on moving into the Middle East. (Good luck with that, but they want to try.)

The only way to prevent Christianity from devolving into this kind of assholery is to pull its claws -- admit that the metaphors are metaphors and be civil about it, like the Methodists. But the Methodists aren't rabidly intent on converting the whole world. That would be the Pentecostals and their ilk, and like it or not they are becoming the global face of Christianity.

I was raised in this tradition (Baptist, remember) so I know very well how it works. These people would skin you alive for even suggesting the Bible could be in error -- and not just any Bible, the KJV. Does that sound stupid? Well it does to me too but there are millions of people who believe such foolishness.

As for the great depth of Catholic thought compared to Protestants, I will just note that most Protestants (and for that matter most Western Catholics) sensibly use birth control while the Mother Church resolutely clings to dogmas that are clearly obsolete and anti-life in the long run.

Ultimately you are making exactly the same mistake the Fundies do. You have defined Christianity in your terms, excluding those heretics who have distorted your precious system of thought outside the parameters you accept. In a complex and threatening world Fundamentalism is very seductive. The introspective thought systems you are talking about are on the decline. It is, as in most venues, the loudmouths and bullies who will force themselves upon us.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

or option d: PBPR (1.75 / 4) (#253)
by Battle Troll on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 06:04:24 PM EST

You either didn't read the original post, you're very stupid, or you're trolling.

Or I don't buy your analogy.

[T]hey aren't the ones trying to turn the government of my country into a theocracy.

Yeah yeah, a theocracy. You're running hard for the border between 'eccentric' and 'looney tune.' The ACLU is alive and well, and unlike many European states, the USA has no established religion.

Show me a well-known artistic reprentation of Jehovah which is not an elderly bearded man and I'll buy you a beer.

Congratulations, you've just proved that you're not willing to extend the same liberties to Christians as to Romans or Hindus (unless, of course, you really are claiming that the Romans believed that a physical entity called Janus existed with two faces, or that Hindus believe that Krishna has blue skin and lives on Kolob.)

Really? You need to turn on the TV more. Those are the very Christians who are most rabidly intent on converting the whole world to their narrow brand of thought -- because their brand of thought is so narrow it is deeply threatened by the mere existence of any other brand.

I don't care about theological fads in the USA. They prove nothing about Christianity past present or future throughout most of the world.

The fundies are in ascendancy in case you didn't notice, and they're not staying in thier anglo-American cradle. They're converting Latin Americans at a clip the Catholics find bothersome, and some of them are even intent on moving into the Middle East.

Bully for them. Unlike you, I don't view them as human bacteria, mindlessly and inevitably reproducing themselves, so it doesn't bother me that people are spreading their faith. A religious scholar commented that, ca. 1770, Methodism was nothing; ca. 1870 it was everything; and ca. 1970 it was nothing again. You need to get some perspective. Pentacostalism is going to be exactly the same thing.

These people would skin you alive for even suggesting the Bible could be in error -- and not just any Bible, the KJV.

Goodness! I hope that when they do so, it makes the NYT. I'll worry about it then. So far, I've only heard rather sincere, wooden arguments from that lot - no death threats.

You have defined Christianity in your terms, excluding those heretics who have distorted your precious system of thought outside the parameters you accept.

I have no intention of calling the Pentecostals, Baptists, or even (God help them) the Mormons un-Christian. I'm just pointing out that their theologies are feeble and consequently, like the numberless other charismatic personality cults, their days are numbered. On the other hand, 2000 years of history suggests that there's always going to be a recognizable apostolic church. By the way, the 1.2 billion Catholics and Orthodox are hardly a fringe group.

If you had been alive ca. 1870, I'm sure you would have been exhorting me about the dangers of the crazed Methodies, whom you might be interested to learn were once a great deal less tolerant and secular than they are now. They used to be crazy, tongue-speaking fundamentalists. Much has changed. I mean, if Pentacostalism grew forever, it'd take over the world, but on the other hand, if a bacterium were to maintain its initial rate of division forever and among all its progeny, we'd be fifty feet deep in solid bacterial mass by now.

It is, as in most venues, the loudmouths and bullies who will force themselves upon us.

I presume that your answer is armed resistance - indeed, it's the only one possible in what you obviously consider a totally hostile world.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

Nice Troll (1.00 / 4) (#262)
by localroger on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 08:35:27 PM EST

Or I don't buy your analogy.

No, if you didn't buy my analogy you would not have conflated the analogy with its topic. This and a couple of other clues in your last round of posts show that you're just trolling, well done, tally ho, don't let the screen door hit you on the way out.

Oh, and *plonk*.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

Wow (none / 2) (#276)
by gzt on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 12:39:12 AM EST

And this lets you off the hook of his arguments how?

Here's a hint: whether or not he's a troll, the point of his little spiel remains and must be addressed. Mr. Troll may in fact be a troll, but he's not a Robotslavian troll trying to wind you up, he's a Socratic/Kierkegaardian troll trying to change you, and if not that, inform you.

[ Parent ]

Wrong (none / 2) (#287)
by localroger on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 08:53:27 AM EST

I will argue with someone who has an honest difference of opinion with me, until one of us is convinced to rethink things or or we agree to disagree.

I will not argue with an asshole who is simply trying to increase the amount of noise in the world, who leads every post with an ad hominem attack, and who deliberately twists my words in order to keep the argument going.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

This is ridiculous. (none / 2) (#313)
by derek3000 on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 11:27:13 PM EST

If you look at BT's comment history, you'll see that he has consistent views on these matters. Just admit that you need to do some research for your rebuttal. There's no shame in that.

-----------
Not too political, nothing too clever!--Liars
[ Parent ]

Better Answer (none / 2) (#290)
by localroger on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 10:54:19 AM EST

I left a deliberately provocative post because what I said needed to be said. I knew it would likely provoke an argument, but it is important to note that provoking an argument isn't the reason I left the post. I would have been quite happy if it had no responses at all.

Here is why I terminated the discussion:

Localroger:

In this regard common sense is kind of like the tomato. For centuries tomatoes were thought to be as poisonous as nightshades. They were not widely cultivated or eaten; why would you risk eating such a dangerous thing? Even though a few people knew the truth about tomatoes they didn't become popular until the mid-19th century.

Of course today we take it for granted that tomatoes won't kill us; they're found in all our favorite foods. I figure it will take about the same amount of time for us to collectively figure out that exercising common sense won't damn us to hell.

Battle Troll:

You are not a theologian. [ad-hominem follow-on deleted.]

Localroger:

No, I realized when I was 15 that tomatoes are not poisonous.

Battle Troll:

Who's snide here? You're conflating religion with superstition, which is begging the question rather hard. Find me the theologian who connects tomatoes with the Trinity.

Rather, find the place where I said theologians connect tomatoes with the Trinity. This is not an argument; it's a sound bite, and one that makes no sense at that. Battle Troll is not arguing anything; he is rearranging words to deliberately confuse the issue. (I also cut out the part where he's insulting as hell, which is not relevant to whether we were having a debate or not.)

The reason I cut off the debate is that it is impossible that Battle Troll actually believes what he is arguing; if he did, he wouldn't have resorted to a cheap debate class tactic to answer this point, he'd have addressed the original point, which is that my version of "common sense" is healthy, is only unpopular because it is misunderstood by the masses, and will one day be much more popular.

On other fronts Battle Troll was starting down the path of defining out of existence 99% of Christians; hey, if they conceive of God as male then they aren't Battle Troll's kind of Christians. When arguing about something as broad as a religion, you can use this technique to unpaint yourself out of any corner. Got something bone-crushingly stupid in your dogma? Oh, us real Christians don't believe that.

It's an especially convenient technique if, like Battle Troll, you don't have any strong convictions of your own; because no matter what you're confronted with you can claim you believe something else. In fairness I've seen actual Christians make this kind of argument, but usually they get a little embarrassed by the time they realize they've defined most of Christendom out of existence. Again, having no real stake in the proceedings, Battle Troll is free to use the technique to maximum advantage.

I realize this kind of argument style is a skill which people deliberately cultivate, but I have never seen much honor in it. I also realize it's necessary for certain professions, but I don't see much honor in those professions, either.

I try to make no assumptions about people up front. I will give anyone a chance. Some of my best friends have been very devout fundamentalist Christians; we would occasionally make our case and civilly agree to disagree. But I have no use for an argument for the sake of the noise, with someone who is consistently abusive and underhanded. Thus, the argument is over.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

Horseshit, roger (none / 2) (#291)
by imrdkl on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 12:28:33 PM EST

You've been trounced, old son. Your spite for all Christiandom is evident in the root comment, and every single followup in the thread, and his persuasion, his urging to moderation, fell on completely deaf ears.

I submit that your calling him a troll, and worse, a faux-believer, is little more than putting your fingers in your ears and singing, "la la la, I can't hear you".

I enjoyed reading this debate, coming from two clearly well-considered viewpoints, but it's also quite clear to me that you've hardened your heart (and quite possibly your head) to the possibility that you might not have it all figured out just yet.

[ Parent ]

No (none / 2) (#297)
by localroger on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 02:09:18 PM EST

Please offer any other believable explanation for the specific exchange I quote in the post to which you replied. Nothing else -- just that exchange. How is it possible that anyone more advanced than a toddler would have offered the final response Battle Troll offered?

If you can explain that I will reconsider my opinion that he is faking.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

You sure carried on the discussion a long time (none / 1) (#303)
by imrdkl on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 04:17:01 PM EST

To declare it moot for something said at the first level of reply. If what he said really irked you that badly, I can't understand why you didn't end it there and then, instead of using that as your justification for ending it 5 levels deeper.

In any case, I must agree that his slight of your tomato was perhaps rude, but I found the reference to the tomato a bit odd myself, having always liked them.

If you feel you're being trolled by this fellow, and I still say that you were both making valid points, but if you feel that way, then I'll understand you breaking off the discussion. But again, I wonder, how you were able to carry it on so long.

[ Parent ]

Fairness (none / 1) (#305)
by localroger on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 07:37:46 PM EST

I give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Of course Battle Troll has been known to troll before (I mean his nick is like DUH a clue) but if he was sincere in his reaction (and despite the rudeness his first response was pretty well formed) then he deserved a response. However, if he was insincere, he didn't deserve the time of day. I reserved my decision on that until I was sure.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]
bah (none / 1) (#328)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 10:40:43 AM EST

Battle Troll has been known to troll before

When?

(I mean his nick is like DUH a clue)

Actually, it's from Njal's Saga.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

dear sir: (none / 3) (#298)
by gzt on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 02:47:25 PM EST

Mr. Troll is either a sincere intellectual Christian or the best trolliste of the insincere school I've ever seen.

The point about tomatoes is a minor miscommunication, and I advise you to read charitably, keeping in mind that the best of us may err. You are indeed conflating religion with superstition. As for the rest, you're being silly.

[ Parent ]

get a grip (none / 2) (#300)
by Battle Troll on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 03:18:40 PM EST

You need to take time off of this website if it makes you this upset.

The point about tomatoes: you are conflating religion with superstition by arguing that, like the fear of tomatoes, it's a cultural vermiform appendix. I'm not willing to concede that premise, understandably so as it would demolish my position as soon as I articulated it.

On other fronts Battle Troll was starting down the path of defining out of existence 99% of Christians; hey, if they conceive of God as male then they aren't Battle Troll's kind of Christians.

Not at all the point. Lots of people pray to saints for favours, but no theologian would allow that and priests step on it whenever they can. Similarly, a lot of Christians think of God as male, but that's almost irrelevant theologically - there are few exigeses on the subject, and while you may prefer that people imagine God as an energy or aether, the concrete image of the Father is easier for people to relate to. It's true that this tends to lend to God a masculine character in many people's imaginations, but that's not what you were arguing, so why bother?

Look, calm down, and let's get back to arguing, or if you want a breather, post in my diary sometime.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

While I'm enjoying this exchange (none / 1) (#340)
by JohnnyCannuk on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 01:04:01 PM EST

I must correct one glaring error:

He's much in the same boat as a primitive Buddhist who believes that the Buddha really was born from a lotus blossom. No Buddhist anywhere at anytime has ever beleived this. The Buddha's own words state that he is nothing more that a man, an enlightlened teacher. His life story has been wrapped in metaphor to explain some of the tenents of Buddhism (the 4 Noble Truths, The 8-fold Path etc), but never has he been endowed with supernatural powers or anything other than a normal human life.

BTW, most references to the Lotus in Buddhist texts and beliefs (he he - if you were a Buddhist, you'd find that funny) is a metaphor for enlightement and the path to enlightenment. Just as a lotus starts growing under water, it will eventually break through the surface and bloom (enlightenment). Other Lotus may be at different levels of growth, nearling the surface (each is at a differnt stage on the path to enlightement). The lotus, a beautiful flower, represents the beauty of all people.

Notice I didn't even mention the word God? Buddhism is essentially and atheistic religion - there is no God or Gods controling things, just the interconnectedness of all things...

Just thought you'd like to know..


We have just religion enough to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another - Jonathan Swift
[ Parent ]

get off your high horse (none / 1) (#343)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 01:09:12 PM EST

No Buddhist anywhere at anytime has ever beleived [the lotus flower myth.]

This is nonsense. Ethnic Buddhism is as much a mishmash of magic and superstition as the most primitive folk Christianity. I mean, you're leaving out an entire vehicle if you exclude salvation by means of devotion to the gods.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

High Horse? (none / 1) (#429)
by JohnnyCannuk on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 11:55:19 AM EST

I'm sorry, but I must have confused you or you missunderstand Buddhism as a "religion".

Please do not confuse the wide range of cultural practices and folk myths in various Buddhist countries as being part of the religion. That's like thinking that Christmas trees and Easter eggs have anything to do with Christianity. Both are examples of pre-existing pagean/ancient festivals and rites that simply remained popular when a new religion became the norm. Nothing more.

Buddhists do not beleive there is a God or gods. Any mentions of them is via allegory for teaching a lesson or as a metaphor to represent how people live in the world today. So there is really no need for "salvation" from anything or and gods to give devotion to.

If you want some insight into what Buddhism really believes, so you can troll more effectively next time, I would recommend "What the Buddha Taught" by Rahula Wapola (a classic), "How to Practice" by His Holiness the Dalai Lama or just about anything by Thich Nhat Hahn
We have just religion enough to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another - Jonathan Swift
[ Parent ]

Ever Been to Asia? (none / 1) (#349)
by cephlon on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 02:57:35 PM EST

Just as in Chrisitianity, the practices of most Buddhist's in a society where Buddhism is the majority religion looks more like superstition then a well developed religious philosophy. The actions of the majority of believers can not be used to determine the dogma of the religion. They are many times in conflict.
"Hey, what are you? HR Shove 'n Stuff?"
[ Parent ]
See the comment below...(NT) (none / 1) (#430)
by JohnnyCannuk on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 11:57:46 AM EST


We have just religion enough to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another - Jonathan Swift
[ Parent ]
another thing (1.50 / 4) (#260)
by Battle Troll on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 06:43:22 PM EST

W/r/t omnibenevolence vs. omnipotence re: problem of evil, this problem arises because any being even worthy of the name God would have to be both omnibenevolent and omnipotent. Any lesser, imperfect being would not be divine, but rather some kind of cosmic tyrant and abortion. That's why the early Christians got so concerned about the theodicy in the first place. So they weren't introducing contradictions but reconciling Jewish and Greek thought. The fact of the Jews' not working out an abstract idea of perfection the way the Greeks did is not very relevant to the discussion.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
God and evil (none / 3) (#231)
by shokk on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 12:47:16 PM EST

Then, expanding on the idea of God as a craftsman, it seems clear that he put a hell of a lot of effort into making the Universe as big and diverse as it is. Hell of a guy that God, to give us life and such a big neato place to live it. Nobody else has done anything that nice for us lately. Extrapolating just a little more, if God is that good maybe he's perfectly good. Yeah, that's nicely symmetrical with those other omnis he's been collecting.

Expand this a little further. For God to be omnipotent, you cannot limit Him by saying He is only perfectly good. Only something totally balanced can be considered perfect, and that introduces the idea that God also knows perfect evil. This is a role not filled by Satan because he is only a former angel and definitely not on par with God to balance things out.


"Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart, he dreams himself your master."
[ Parent ]
ugh (1.00 / 4) (#241)
by Battle Troll on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 04:38:36 PM EST

For God to be omnipotent, you cannot limit Him by saying He is only perfectly good. Only something totally balanced can be considered perfect, and that introduces the idea that God also knows perfect evil.

Way to beg the question by assuming the metaphysical equality of evil with good. You might as well say that "God cannot be perfect without being feline, because if He's not then he fails to be a kitten."
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

One way of looking at it (none / 3) (#249)
by localroger on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 05:13:18 PM EST

Congratulations, you have just described Gnosticism. It is of course the most obvious solution to the Problem of Evil -- that the evil must originate within God. This is such a sensible idea that it has re-arisen every century or so from the time of Jesus himself to the Renaissance, and every time it's popped up those life-loving Christians have exterminated the heretics to the last man, woman, and child.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]
your cards are on the table now (none / 3) (#259)
by Battle Troll on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 06:40:11 PM EST

This is such a sensible idea that it has re-arisen every century or so from the time of Jesus himself to the Renaissance...

God is evil, just like your parents. So, like the hero of your Justifiable Columbine story, you're resisting God to the fullest extent of your powers.

Lo-cal Roger - truly a hero in his own mind!
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

Local Roger. (none / 3) (#296)
by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 01:45:11 PM EST

Except for the God word you are VERY religious. You might as well be a fundy. It would make your moralizing bearable.

--
Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
[ Parent ]

Is this a good metaphor? A mixed-metaphor? (1.75 / 4) (#232)
by big fat idiot on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 01:36:21 PM EST

Speaking of metaphors (and allegories), I think that your methods of scriptural interpretation perhaps take literally that which was meant figuratively.

The most obvious example is the passage from Luke which seems to be a rhetorical question. Such use of rhetoric abounds in the words of Jesus in the canonical gospels.

The fourth century Christian bishop John Chrystosom explained how such verbiage is to be approaced in his usually verbose manner:

For words spoken in reference to God have not the same force as when spoken in reference to ourselves: for instance we say God is jealous, God is wroth, God repents, God hates. These words are human, but they have a meaning which becomes the nature of God. How is God jealous? "I am jealous over you with the jealousy of God." Is God wroth? "O Lord reproach me not in thine indignation." Doth God slumber? "Awake, wherefore sleepest thou, O Lord?" Doth God repent? "I repent that I have made man." Doth God hate? "My soul hateth your feasts and your new moons." Well do not consider the poverty of the expressions: but grasp their divine meaning. God is jealous, for He loves, God is wroth, not as yielding to passion, but for the purpose of chastising, and punishing. God sleeps, not as really slumbering, but as being long-suffering.
Taking such verbiage as a literal description of the deity does some damage to understanding what the authors of the text were trying to get across. Some early Christians, such as Origen of Alexandria, stated point blank that sometimes the authors of the gospels deliberately wrote falsehoods (fiction) in order to get across a point.

Therefore, I consider this article to be interesting but have a very poor basis for its thought experiment.

Hey! (none / 2) (#238)
by problem child on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 04:21:10 PM EST

Check out the ads Google is generating!

Is there a problem? (none / 1) (#295)
by John Asscroft on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 01:25:09 PM EST

Remember, unless you have been Saved and have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, you're going to Hell. That is why it is a genocide of Americans when those LIEberals prevent us from returning America to its Christian roots by preventing us from mandating Bible study in every public school classroom.

Yours in Christ,
John Asscroft, Attorney General, United States of America


We must destroy freedom to save it from the terrorists who want to destroy freedom. Else the terrorists have won.
[ Parent ]

Freedom of the will (2.25 / 4) (#247)
by dangerbum on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 05:06:20 PM EST

A prescient deity would be fixed in the timeline just like us. Seeing ahead means being behind. But the center of time is outside the line.
All things all at once. And yet.
What difference could anything we do possibly make?
Unless there's layers there too.
And what we're taught to see as God is an impostor.
A little impostor.
A little desperate impostor who depends on belief and obedience to exist.
The closed system of our choices means we act out the inevitable. So that choosing isn't any more than  bud and bloom. This much sun, that much rain, and there you go.
Unless there's more.
Unless there's a lot more.
A quick glance around shows opportunists in every nook and cranny pretending to be this, pretending to be that, in order to procure the energy of the credulous.
And for the credulous, the safety and security of pretending not to see, as well.
The givens always give it away.
The assumption is the Biblical God is what's there. Because he says so, or rather because the Bible says he says so. The tautology of mightiness. The chain of command arcs with lightning from a roiling sky. The unknowable has no advocacy in the arena of forensic publicity.
This life matters, this life is meaningless.
Would that choosing alone could make it so.
What is it all by itself? Without our prejudice, without our propaganda and cunning?
Ask a cow stumbling toward the ramp.
The answer's in the twinkling fractals of the micro-infinite. I really believe that.
Negative proof in the persistence of identity below the nominative threshold. I am sort of, in a way that's not stuck in the mirror of name and face. And my being proves something, you too. I think. We are. There's proof in that.
And in the scornful snorts of the priest/scientists confronting the childlike wonder of the unitiated questioning and contemplating that one observable infinity we all can point toward.
The stars below us.
-
Debating the nature of God in these circumstances is like arguing moral philosophy with the guard who brings your meal tray.  

On free will (none / 3) (#261)
by auraslip on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 07:03:16 PM EST

The most moving examination of free will I've ever read comes from John steinbecks "east of eden".
The story of cain and abel is as follows: Adam and eve have two sons, cain and abel. Cain plows the fields and Abel hunts. They both bring their offerins to god, and god looks at Abels rabbits with good. Cain gets jelous and kills abel. God sends Cain into exile.
This is where things get interesting. In different versions of the bible the following line is delivered differeantly: "thou will be free of sin" or "thou shall be free of sin". One is a promise and one is an order. Neither offer free will, but the hebrew word used in the original book reads "timshel" or "thou mayest be free of sin".

Lee's hand shook as he filled the delicate cups. He drank his down in one gulp. "Don't you see?" he cried. "The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in 'Thou shalt,' meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel--'Thou mayest'--that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on man. For if 'Thou mayest'--it is also true that 'Thou mayest not.' Don't you see?
"Yes, I see. I do see. But you do not believe this is divine law. Why do you feel its importance?"
"Ah!" said Lee. "I've wanted to tell you this for a long time. I even anticipated your questions and I am well prepared. Any writing which has influened the think and the lives of innumerable people is important. Now, there are manmy millions the their sexts and churches who feel the order, 'Do thou,' and throw their weight into obedience. And there are millions more who feel predestination in ' Thou shalt.' Nothing they may do can interfere with what will be. But 'Thou maest'! Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filith and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win." Lee's voice was a chant of triumph.
Adam said, "Do you believe that, Lee?"
"Yes, I do. Yes, I do. It is easy out of laziness, out of weakness, to throw oneself into the lap of deity, saying, 'I couldn't help it; the way was set.' But think of the glory of the choice! That makes a man a man. A cat has no choice, a bee must make honey. There's no godliness there. And do you know, those old gentlemen who were sliding gently down to death are too interested to die now?"
Adam said, "Do you mean these Chinese men believe the Old Testament"?
Lee said, "These old men believe a true story, and they know a true story when that hear it. They are critics of truth. They that these sixteen verses are a history of humankind in any age or culture or race. They do not believe a man writes fifteen and three-quater verses of truth and tells a lie with one verd. Confucius tells men how they should live to have good and successful lives. But this--this is a ladder to climb to the stars." Lee's eyes shone. "You can never lose that. It cuts the feet from under weakness and cowardliness and laziness."
John Steinbeck
East of Eden
___-___

A Thought (none / 1) (#270)
by Eight Star on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 10:30:53 PM EST

I have not explored this deeply, but I think that the problem of evil dissapears or at least becomes less daunting if Multiple Worlds Theory is true.(Whenever a quantum event occurs, all possibilities happen in new alternate universes)

Briefly:
God is omniscient- She knows every past present and future possibility in every alternate universe.
God is omnipotent- She can make changes to any alternate universe without the change itself incurring the creation of an alternate universe in which it did not occur.
God is omnibenevolent- She will eventually bring all universes to a state of perfect good, regardless of the free-will choices of its inhabitants.(something along the lines of the second coming of christ, with universal salvation)

Free will of man for the glory of God (none / 3) (#274)
by FearUncertaintyDoubt on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 12:20:53 AM EST

I believe that God is omniscient and omnipotent. However, I think that God is also capable of creating a being that can choose his path. One of the problems faced by dealing with this is the idea that God does not exist in time. Talking about God knowing the result beforehand is to put God into the time stream, which I think is incorrect. Since we have no frame of reference to understand something which is not subject to time, I don't think it is possible to answer the question, why did God make humans if he knew that man would fall?

Unfortunately, our scientific attitude thinks we can dissect, analyze, and understand God. We cannot. To take the mystery out of God is to make him a creation, rather than the Creator. I can't explain or understand the infinite wonders of the universe or the mysteries of the atom. Is it credible to think that I could understand the nature of the one who created these things?
<tangent>
Unfortunately, a lot of "religious" people are doing what I think is a disservice to God by trying to dumb down the mystery. People want someone with all the answers. Someone who says, "I can't really understand God, but I believe in him and love him" is not a very appealing thing. So today, we have a ton of evangelical types who think that if they can answer all the questions, solve all the dilemmas, then they can present the iron-clad argument to the hardest-core atheist and that atheist will suddenly believe. </tangent>

That said, I do believe that God's purpose in making man was to create a being that could freely choose to love and obey God's will. We know that compulsory affection is no affection at all. The analogy I use is a cat. Sometimes you can pick up a cat and it will purr and be happy to let you hold it and pet it. Sometimes, a cat will struggle and claw you to get free. If you force the cat to submit so you can pet it, what does either you or the cat get out of the deal? In the same way, I don't think God wants to compel man to submit because that doesn't give him the pleasure of one who freely makes a choice to submit to God.

I make no claim that this is a complete picture or necessarily correct, but it seems to make the most sense for me out of a very difficult problem. In the end, I guess if my faith it didn't require faith, they would have called it something else.

Unknown vs Unknowable (none / 3) (#282)
by bugmaster on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 05:36:01 AM EST

I can't explain or understand the infinite wonders of the universe or the mysteries of the atom.
This is a common mistake, but an important one. The difference here is that God is often claimed to be unknowable, in principle. No one will ever know the mystery (whatever the current mystery happens to be) of God. The infinite wonders of the atom, etc. are unknown, but, in principle knowable. In fact, many mysteries of the atom have been unlocked in the last century -- we have a pretty good idea by now of what items are made of, and we can even split them for energy (or to blow up our enemies).

Thus, the pragmatic approach (atoms) actually encourages investigation and gathering of additional knowledge. The unknowable nature of God shuts down any further inquiry -- while managing to explain nothing at all. Why did God punish us for screwing up when he created us explicitly to do so ? It's unknowable. How come the Bible contradicts itself ? It's unknowable. What are these lights in the sky, and how come some of them move ? It's unknowable. How does God make the lightning come down from the sky ? It's unknowable. That kind of attitude just leads to stagnation.

On a more personal note, I feel that this kind of answer -- "the answer to every contradiction is that God is unknowable" -- is simply intellectually dishonest. When I am faced with a contradiction in my belief, I strive to reconcile it. If I can't, I am forced to abandon my belief. Now, granted, I am just an atheist, and thus unable to comprehend how a believer might see the world... But the theist approach just feels like a cop-out to me.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]

Mistake? (none / 1) (#302)
by FearUncertaintyDoubt on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 04:15:53 PM EST

This is a common mistake, but an important one...infinite wonders of the atom, etc. are unknown, but, in principle knowable.

I don't think it is a mistake at all. Scientific theory is about using observation to produce a theory that explains observed phenomena, and predicts future behavior. I think it is hubris to think that at some point we'll have everything figured out. Centuries went by while scientists were sure that Newtonian physics perfectly explained the universe, until Einstein blew up that idea.

I think that it is hubris to think that man could truly understand the universe in the same way God understands it, which is to say, to know the blueprint. It seems that, as we learn more, the mysteries of the universe multiply, they don't diminish. So it is with a creative God. He made such wonders that we will never know them all, and some that we cannot understand. I do not suggest we don't try with all our might to reveal everthing we can. I am amazed and delighted by the efforts to delve into the mysteries of the universe. The unknowable of the universe is not really a scientific question, but a theological one, in that we can't let that stop us or slow us down from trying to learn, or rope off certain paths of inquiry, but that I acknowledge my place in God's universe with humility. The problem with the Tower of Babel was not that it was too high, but that man had the gall to think he could challenge God with it.

The unknowable nature of God shuts down any further inquiry...I feel that this kind of answer -- "the answer to every contradiction is that God is unknowable" -- is simply intellectually dishonest.

This is a common criticism from atheists. It casts Christians (or other religious people) as willfully ignorant. As if there is only black or white! That if you don't reject your faith in the face of questions, then you must shut down any further probing. I have never heard any Christian, not even the most rabid evangelical, say something like "the answer to every contradiction is that God is unknowable." It's an attempt to characterize believers as utter fools using a distortion of their beliefs. I would say that a far more accurate response to a contradiction is to say, when faced with a contradiction in my belief, I trust God. I don't have all the information, and I am reserving judgement. Which is the way that scientists deal with incomplete information -- they don't abandon their theories, but press on for more understanding and information. This is also the way that we deal with people. Prejudice is making judgements about people or situations before we know the facts. I find God to be immense enough that I should expend a great deal of effort learning his ways before writing him off.

This means that the way to resolve the contradiction is to try to understand the nature of God better, in contrast to "the unknowable nature of God shuts down any further inquiry." As with scientific knowledge, understanding that there are things I cannot know does not stop my efforts to know all I can. Yes, I actually do try to understand God. I strive to reconcile, to study God, to further my learning, and to apply that to the philosophical questions. But when I come up short, to abandon by belief, is to say, it is not the limitation of my mind, it must be the limitation of God. I have no such faith in the infallibility of my own mind -- I am confronted by too many examples of it's weakness every day.

I find it interesting that both a Christian and an atheist, once he's struggled with the questions with the existence and nature of God, fought his conscience, prayed and waited, and so on, to the point of making a definitive decision for the course of his life, will often expect the other to immediately come to the conclusion that he has, without the benefit of the journey he himself traveled. And if the other does not, then he must be a fool or worse. Christians cannot provide a scientific proof for the existence of God, and atheists cannot provide a moral argument for a lack of existence.

[ Parent ]

Re: Mistake ? (none / 3) (#308)
by bugmaster on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 08:51:10 PM EST

I don't think it is a mistake at all. Scientific theory is about using observation to produce a theory that explains observed phenomena, and predicts future behavior. I think it is hubris to think that at some point we'll have everything figured out.
This is a true, yet empty, statement. It is quite possible that we may never know everything. However, this is very different from designating things as "unknowable" just because they're unknown at present. We have unlocked some great mysteries already -- why does the Sun rise, why is the sky blue, what makes the lightning come down, etc. -- all of which the various religions have marked as being outside of the domain of Man. As you yourself have said:
Centuries went by while scientists were sure that Newtonian physics perfectly explained the universe, until Einstein blew up that idea.
Centuries went by, and yet we figured it out. Centuries may go by until we figure out the next bit of knowledge that serves us best. It's a good thing Newton didn't just write down that gravity is unknowable. Note, however, that Newtonian physics is perfectly usable for all kinds of things, such as launching satellites in orbit; most scientific theories share this property. Even limited knowledge is much better than nothing.
The problem with the Tower of Babel was not that it was too high, but that man had the gall to think he could challenge God with it.
I am somewhat puzzled by this sentence, especially in light of the previous one, where you state that seeking knowledge is perfectly ok. Wasn't the whole point of the Tower of Babel affair to illustrate how "there are some things which Man was not meant to know" ? After all, the Universe is God's domain; technically, anything we do that's not specifically commanded by the Bible/Koran/$Holy_Book_N would be considered hubris.
I would say that a far more accurate response to a contradiction is to say, when faced with a contradiction in my belief, I trust God.
How is this different from the cop-out I mentioned in my previous comment ? Sure, it sounds better, but it's the same thing. I can't speak for all skeptics, but I personally try to take as little on faith as possible. If a contradiction comes along, I don't "trust" anyone in spite of evidence -- I abandon my views. So do many Christians, in fact, when they start really exploring their religion. Are they all black sheep, or just people who are honest with themselves ?
I find it interesting that both a Christian and an atheist, once he's struggled with the questions with the existence and nature of God, fought his conscience, prayed and waited...
I am not sure whether you mean any specific people, or whether you're speaking in generic terms. Please elaborate. On a sidenote, an atheist obviously can't pray, or, at least, he can't pray without feeling silly or dishonest. It would be like a Christian praying fervently to Shiva.
Christians cannot provide a scientific proof for the existence of God...
If you can't provide a "scientific proof" (i.e., sufficient evidence) for some idea, that makes the idea pretty weak. For example, I can tell you that I just bought an Apache helicopter gunship with a full complement of Hellfire missiles for $20, but without some evidence, you probably won't believe me. Of course, you can try and prove an idea mathematically, f.ex. "x+2=3 ergo x=1", but these kind of proofs really only work in math, formal logic, and other disciplines where the axioms are decided by convention.
... and atheists cannot provide a moral argument for a lack of existence.
I am not sure what you mean by this at all... Please clarify.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
If there is no God (none / 3) (#283)
by gpmap on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 05:41:56 AM EST

I wish to contribute to the discussion without mentioning God, as "Is it possible to have a deterministic universe sporting free-will?" (by deterministic universe I mean one where the future is uniquely determined by the past). Our universe is deterministic only if we accept some form of the Everett interpretation of quantum physics. Otherwise, there is some kind of magic effect that kills off all possible outcomes of the current state of the universe, except one selected randomly, as soon as an act of observation by a conscious observer takes place. So if we choose another interpretation of the foundations of physics, we can hold the concept of free will in the universe. If we choose the Everett interpretation, the state of the universe (reality) evolves without random effects, but our consciousness only perceives a specific projection of the state of the universe (our reality), which by itself does not contain any information or laws that could permit predicting deterministically its evolution in time. In this case, there is a Platonic metareality that we do not perceive, but we can hold the concept of free will within the universe that we perceive.

WTF? Do you guys never learn? (none / 3) (#299)
by vyruss on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 02:57:55 PM EST

Never mind what the Bible says, the Christians will always use the following to explain:

Yes, the Bible is the Word of the omniscient God, BUT it was written by humans, who are by definition fallible. Wait, no, except the Pope, no wait, >=GZZZZZZT=

  • PRINT CHR$(147)

what? (none / 3) (#424)
by SaintPort on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 08:46:25 AM EST

Yes, the Bible is the Word of the omniscient God, BUT it was written by humans, who are by definition fallible.

I have never said this.  Never will.  I submit this is used by folks who either have not read the entire text, or don't have the stomach for the truth.

--
Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

[ Parent ]

Note: (none / 0) (#458)
by vyruss on Wed Jan 14, 2004 at 01:55:07 PM EST

I don't include myself in the group of Christians I mentioned :>

  • PRINT CHR$(147)

[ Parent ]
Omnis are limited. (none / 3) (#304)
by Kwil on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 06:26:22 PM EST

Omnipotence is limited.

For instance, God cannot create a legal note of US money.
He can create a perfectly forged counterfeit.
He can cause a legal note to be created.
But by the definition of what makes a note legal, he cannot create it on his own.

Similarly, there's the whole paradox of "Can God create a stone he cannot lift?"
  If He can't, he's not omnipotent.
  If He can and can't lift it, he's not omnipotent.
  The typical answer is, "If he doesn't bother with such silly things, it's never an issue" which doesn't really answer the question.

So we see omnipotence is limited by definitions, at very least.

Now, for omniscience, look at what that means: All-knowing. This means God knows all there is to know. All there is to know consists of knowing everything about the present and everything about the past. Since we know God is limited by definitions, the definition of the future as a point in time which has not occured, lets us see that God may not know the future.  Since the future has not yet occured, there is nothing about it to know yet. You can make predictions, but you can't know it, just as scientists cannot prove anything, merely have such a huge preponderance of evidence that believing otherwise would be folly.

Omnibenevolence is probably the easiest of the three to deal with. Parents do not slap their children in irons to prevent them from getting hurt as they realize that some hurt is a necessary part of growth. Similarly, an omnibenevolent God lets us bring tragedy on ourselves so as to let us learn on our own and better for it. It is because of omnibenevolence that we have free will and thus can use it to hurt ourselves, rather than in spite of it.

I think God's surprise comes from our continued stupidity rather than any specific action -- he gave us the capability to learn better from our actions than we do, but we seem to be bound and determined to avoid it.

That Jesus Christ guy is getting some terrible lag... it took him 3 days to respawn! -NJ CoolBreeze


Huh? (none / 2) (#380)
by d4rkst4r on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 05:02:34 PM EST

Omnipotence is unlimited by definition. Your statement that He cannot create a legal US note is nonsense. It is only by His power that we live and breathe, let alone do anything. Your 'stone lifting' argument is pure logical bullshit. By definition, it would be impossible to build something too large to lift for an omnipotent being. By definition.

God is all-knowing. That means He knows all that happened, all that is happening, and all that will happen. Your argument that He cannot know the future is absurd. You limit God by your limitations. In reality you attempt to redefine God as man, and then argue that because man cannot know the future, God does not. Excuse me. God created all that exists. He does not exist in the limits of the universe, He exists outside any restrictions.

[ Parent ]
Oh? (none / 0) (#493)
by Kwil on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 04:52:23 PM EST

.. prove it.

That Jesus Christ guy is getting some terrible lag... it took him 3 days to respawn! -NJ CoolBreeze


[ Parent ]
Omnipotence (none / 1) (#402)
by Mut on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 08:48:20 PM EST

I think you have to be a little careful with that line of argument. You're arguing that even an omnipotent being can't create a paradox, and hence isn't omnipotent, and hence is a paradox, and hence can't exist. I don't fully buy that, since the argument is circular: it assumes that paradoxes in general cannot exist in order to disprove the existence of a specific (alleged) paradox.
Of course, if paradoxes can exist then the universe isn't fully rational, but I don't think that's incompatible with the existence of a deity -- after all, pretty much by definition they're going to break laws of nature left, right and centre. That conclusion isn't terribly friendly to rigorous philosophy and Occam's razor favours the alternative (no paradoxes, no deity), but the universe doesn't have to be designed to make the lives of philosophers easy.

[ Parent ]
Your Right... But Not For The Reason You Stated (none / 1) (#405)
by rma on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 10:51:54 PM EST

When I first heard God was not all-powerful, I was disturbed. I was reading The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel In the book he interviews Peter John Kreeft PH.D. who explains that
[God] can do everything that is meaningful, everthing that is possible, everything that makes any sense at all. God cannot make himself to cease to exist. He cannot make good evil... because he is all powerful, he can't do some things. He can't make mistakes. Only weak and stupid beings make mistakes. One such mistake would be to try to create a self-contradiction, like two plus two equals five or a round square.
Anyway I suggest the book (ISBN: 0-310-23469-7) for anyone strugling with many of the topics that are discussed here. Here are the eight objections he covers in the book: 1) If there's a loving God, why does this pain-wracked world groan under so much suffering and evil? 2) If the miracles of God contradict science, then how can any rational person believe that they're true? 3) If God is morally pure, how can he sanction the slaughter of innocent children as the Old Testament says he did? 4) If God cares about the people he created, how could he consign so many of them to an eternity of torture in hell just because they didn't believe the right things about him? 5) If Jesus is the only way to heaven, then what about the millions of people who have never heard of him? 6) If God really created the universe, why does the evidence of science compel so many to conclude that the unguided process of evolution accounts for life? 7) If God is the ultimate overseer of the church, why has it been rife with hypocrisy and brutality throughout the ages? 8) If I'm still plagued by doubts, then is it still possible to be a Christian?
--Jayme
[ Parent ]
You lost me at "Suppose that God..." (none / 2) (#309)
by actmodern on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 09:38:37 PM EST

After all the bible thumping in the beginning of this article, which is beyond absurd, you lost me the second you setup a metaphor to explain God.

If the Christian God truly did exist don't you think in all of his greatness you'd at least be able to prove his presence without resorting to metaphors? I mean really. Suppose that I'm the King of England. Let's suppose that shall we?

This entire article is absurd.

We have this amazingly good, omniscient, and personal God loving us all and it is not apparent to us. With all the fantastical bullshit that you're spewing you cannot simply pull a cord, open a set of curtains, and present your God. Instead you have to resort to metaphors.

Don't you see what's wrong here?


--
LilDebbie challenge: produce the water sports scene from bable or stfu. It does not exist.

yes, its called not believing (none / 1) (#371)
by relief on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 04:30:25 PM EST

and my free will says i dont need to believe.

----------------------------
If you're afraid of eating chicken wings with my dick cheese as a condiment, you're a wuss.
[ Parent ]
Faith (none / 2) (#415)
by morphwin on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 04:32:22 AM EST

I believe that the reason we can't prove God is because of the importance of faith. Because anyone will believe if they can see it.

But blessed are those who believe even when they don't see. Those who follow God by faith is more important.

The secret to happiness is not thinking about whether people love you enough, but worrying over whether you love others enough.
[ Parent ]

Cult talk (none / 1) (#437)
by actmodern on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 03:32:53 PM EST

In a cult you are taught never to question and to accept certain truths as self evident. While some truths are self evident (gravity, death, taxes), others are certainly not.

The answer "but you must have faith" is for the weak of mind and will. You are so impotent and helpless that you need to have "faith" that something, which is completely absurd, is true.

I wonder how many Iraqis had "faith" in Saddam.

--
LilDebbie challenge: produce the water sports scene from bable or stfu. It does not exist.
[ Parent ]

I never said I don't question (none / 0) (#451)
by morphwin on Wed Jan 14, 2004 at 07:18:12 AM EST

Hmm. To me, having faith is different from not questioning. I believe every christian should continuously question things, in order to gain wisdom from God and grow as a christian.

that you need to have "faith" that something, which is completely absurd, is true

Can you prove that God is an absurd concept? What is the basis of your claims?

My belief of God isn't unfounded. I became a christian through personal experiences. Whether you believe that is up to u :)

The secret to happiness is not thinking about whether people love you enough, but worrying over whether you love others enough.
[ Parent ]

Absurdity of a personal god (and vanity) (none / 0) (#465)
by actmodern on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 02:18:02 AM EST

To claim that there is a personal God who created us in his image is just as vain and absurd as claiming that Lilith, the first mate of Adam, was an evil wench who would not obey him.

Both are myths created to govern our ethics. The Lilith myth grew from men's insecurities of women. The myth of a personal creator (the Christian God) grew from the insecurity of rulers.

In fact do a little research into Christian history. It was a Roman ruler who brought christianity into the mainstream. Go do some research as to why. Go do some research as to why Catholicism came about. Go do some research as to why Protestants came about.

In fact if you study all the Christian movements in history you will find two things are constant:

(1) Rewrite of the bible to reaffirm someone's viewpoint (and reaffirm their power).
(2) Death caused by religious strife.

You are part of a cult that has no purpose other than furthering the power of a few, and has done nothing but kill people.

I mean if you actually want to follow a decent religion at least find something that hasn't caused mass genocide and doesn't change every couple of hundred years.


--
LilDebbie challenge: produce the water sports scene from bable or stfu. It does not exist.
[ Parent ]

you sound much like a cult member yourself (none / 0) (#478)
by relief on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 10:09:20 PM EST

gravity, death, taxes are not self evident. self evident itself is an oxymoron you turd.

also i don't find faith to be a value of impotence / helplessness, if it helps you have healthy children, there is nothing wrong with it in the evolutionary sense.

nobody can understand the whole line of "reasoning" that leads to the conclusions of god, gravity, life, etc. everything you know is based on something else someone else knew, nature or nurturewise, and you can't help the fact that you are as blind as this christian here.

Also considering that "miracles" DO happen to people, because of the sheer number of humans on this planet freak accidents that seem like miracles MUST happen to people, it is logical that some for some people God is a reasonable induction. You cannot deride these people based on their faith because you don't know what they've experienced.

foo

----------------------------
If you're afraid of eating chicken wings with my dick cheese as a condiment, you're a wuss.
[ Parent ]

Good for you. (2.50 / 6) (#310)
by GhostfacedFiddlah on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 09:51:32 PM EST

Questioning and exploring aspects of your religion as you're doing now is incredibly important.  I'm one of the guys that usually tears into the religious types for voicing their views.  This article has made me realize that it's not the religion I hate - it's merely the blind obedience.  I find it heartening to see someone questioning some commonly-accepted "facts" about their beliefs.  If all believers (and non-believers for that matter - we should be just as capable of questioning our worldviews) were like you, [insert good consequence of your choice].

Thanks for doing your own little bit to restore my faith in the faithful.

yeah (none / 1) (#342)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 01:06:06 PM EST

This article has made me realize that it's not the religion I hate - it's merely the blind obedience.

One of the depressing things about Protestantism is the intellectual fascism it's spawned.

Free Orthodox speech all the way!
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

No (none / 1) (#374)
by d4rkst4r on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 04:46:50 PM EST

Protestantism did not anything resemling intellectual fascism. It followed the bible where so-called orthodoxy totally fails.

[ Parent ]
more on intellectual fascism (none / 2) (#381)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 05:05:06 PM EST

did not anything resemling intellectual fascism

Of course Protestantism resembles intellectual fascism. There are 1,000 competing Protestant organizations, most claiming legitimacy at the entire expense of all the others (and most lacking any coherent critique of Orthodoxy, by the way.) The early Protestant organizations threw out the principle of conciliarity, meaning that any twit with a Bible and some followers could set himself up as a prophet.

Re: following the Bible. If this were non-controversial, there wouldn't be 1,000 competing Protestant organizations, each with its own wildly divergent idea of just what 'following the Bible' means, but each claiming its legitimacy from its own particular hermeneutic or interpretative school. There is no Bible without the church anyhow.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

Huh? (none / 0) (#447)
by d4rkst4r on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 07:22:40 PM EST

Of course Protestantism resembles intellectual fascism. There are 1,000 competing Protestant organizations, most claiming legitimacy at the entire expense of all the others (and most lacking any coherent critique of Orthodoxy, by the way.) The early Protestant organizations threw out the principle of conciliarity, meaning that any twit with a Bible and some followers could set himself up as a prophet.

Please explain what you are trying to claim. Where do you get this '1000 competing Protestant organizations' from? The best I can identify are perhaps 20, and that is counting some that are cults, not Protestant believers. Also, could you please be more specific as to what you are calling Orthodoxy? The early Protestant organizations very carefully followed Biblical teaching. Under no circumstance would such a group be fooled by some twit pounding a Bible and calling himself a prophet.

[ Parent ]

The Riddle of Epicurus (none / 2) (#316)
by ComradeFork on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 03:01:00 AM EST

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

Both the punishment argument and the free will argument fail (you can either look it up, or argue it here).


Free will (none / 1) (#372)
by d4rkst4r on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 04:42:07 PM EST

God created man with free will. If man rejects God then he receives eternal damnation. If he accepts the gift of salvation through Jesus' death and resurrection, he will be united with God and enjoy God's blessing eternally. It is man's choice. The evil of man against man comes directly from his choice to reject God. If God prevented evil, then man would not have free will.

[ Parent ]
A Malevolent God, then (none / 2) (#406)
by deadcow on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 12:00:26 AM EST

A good answer to the riddle, I think. But inadequate, for the paradox remains. This answer takes the route of the second question: "Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent." For God is able, under the free wil scenario to give succor to man, but chooses not. But then again--perhaps man's suffering is not malevolence but a choice and a chance to prove one's worth. But if He love us, why test us? Because he's God I guess, and he can be as vengeful or as lenient as he chooses...It may not be a blessing to give one a life of luxury, for it is more difficult for a camel to pass through the needle of an eye than for a rich man to enter heaven (or some such). But then again, there would be no need for good works if God made it all good. Why bother giving us free will if not for some malevolent purpose? Eden existed, and was lost in a blink of an eye through no discernable fault of mankind--it was satan's fault really. And I mean, who leaves a loaded gun on the kitchen table?? it's like we're children in a whole world full of loaded guns--not very benevolent...If we think back to good old Jonathan Edwards, maybe our god today is a little bit whitewashed--God is not LOVE, then, but a vengeful god, and we are but spiders hanging on a slender thread over the fiery maw of the cauldron of hell--even second in which we do not fall into the abyss is a second which we owe to the mercy of God. People fainted in his sermons, you know, because of the images of fire and brimstone that he conjoured up. I guess you could see the mercy of God as Love if you really tried hard though. It's like having some guy throw you in a pit full of rabid dogs, then thanking him for pulling you out. I mean, wtf, it was his fault in the first place. But since it's God, you kind of have no choice but to be grateful. Cuz, I mean, it's God! He's doing it for your own good. And if you recognize this, then you're enlightened, like Job, and a thousand angels will welcome you into heaven where you can sing hosannahs in his name for all eternity.

[ Parent ]
Not malevolent (none / 2) (#413)
by morphwin on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 04:23:10 AM EST

He is able, but chooses not to. But not because He's malevolent. On the contrary He has the best intentions for all of us. But it doesn't mean he doesn't allow suffering and testing.

Why? Because if He doesn't test us, then how can we learn to become the people He made us to be? Remember, we were born imperfect and sinful because of Adam and Eve's free will choice - to disobey God.

Where is the honour in us worshipping God when he gives us everything we desire? When we are so comfortable? The integrity really shows when we are in strife, but still worship and honor God the way He deserves.

So really, because He loves us, He tests us. By testing us, He gives us a chance to redeem ourselves and receive forgiveness, and be able to have a relationship with God in the way He wants us to.

And about the loaded gun thing - in the beginning, God made everything good. Adam and Eve had everything they could ever need, and they had a perfect relationship with God. But then God needs to check his work, in order to have pride in it. Just like software needs to be tested to assure quality. So God decided to give man just ONE commandment: Not to eat from ONE tree. Just ONE tree. The rest were free to pick from.

Satan tempted Adam and Eve, and they through their free will chose to disobey that one command. Well from then on, nothing was fair after that. Because they were not fair to God. Therefore our punishment was to be removed from God and have to toil and suffer...

Yet He loved us so much he brought Jesus down to save us. To take upon Himself our sins, such that we can be acceptable to God and once again have the relationship with Him.

That's the mercy of God.

So when you suggest that God testing us is being malevolent, really what is happening is that if we obey God's will, then nothing bad will happen. But it's because of our pride and selfishness that we dont do God's will, then ofcourse we're gonna be punished.

Now, if you're wondering why God didn't just make us obey Him rather than give us free will, then that'snot the point either. Because God wanted to have a relationship with us. He wanted us to *choose* Him.

I hope this helps :)

The secret to happiness is not thinking about whether people love you enough, but worrying over whether you love others enough.
[ Parent ]

Blah blah (none / 1) (#418)
by spiralx on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 06:57:49 AM EST

So God decided to give man just ONE commandment: Not to eat from ONE tree. Just ONE tree. The rest were free to pick from.

But they had no idea of sin at that point, so surely had no concept that they could do anything bad. Therefore by letting the Serpent into Eden to tempt them God is like a crooked casino owner who has rigged all the games in their favour.

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

Huh? (none / 1) (#445)
by d4rkst4r on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 07:12:15 PM EST

But they had no idea of sin at that point, so surely had no concept that they could do anything bad. Therefore by letting the Serpent into Eden to tempt them God is like a crooked casino owner who has rigged all the games in their favour.


Why did they have to have any knowledge of sin? Sin is failling to do God's will and Adam and Eve knew God's will. He had expressly told them not to eat of the fruit from that tree. But God created man with free will to choose to obey God and love and honor Him, or not to. But having the freedom is meaningless unless there exists the chance to excercise it. Satan's presence in the Garden was not an accident.

[ Parent ]
This is my problem with Christianity in a nutshell (none / 0) (#457)
by thejeff on Wed Jan 14, 2004 at 11:37:56 AM EST

It's not about right or wrong, hurting or helping, or anything that could be rationally considered good or bad, it's about doing what you're told.

[ Parent ]
Yes (none / 0) (#466)
by morphwin on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 05:59:46 AM EST

Yes it is about doing God's will, and therefore doing what He tells you to do. You can take it as dictatorship (and therefore having bad connotations) or as surrendering and humbling ourselves to the will of one who has our best interest at heart, and knows what is best for us, because we do not.

So while it seems as though we are being asked to do what we're told like robots, we are actually being asked to *choose* to do what God wills, which is actually a very hard task. And that's why He gave us free will in the first place, because He wants us to actively and intelligently choose Him over our selfish desires :)

The secret to happiness is not thinking about whether people love you enough, but worrying over whether you love others enough.
[ Parent ]

God... Or Men? (none / 0) (#470)
by Ogygus on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 02:55:15 PM EST

Yes it is about doing God's will, and therefore doing what He tells you to do.

Just curious, do you accept what the Bible says as the literal word of God or do you rely on the interpretations of men?

The mice will see you now.
[ Parent ]
The Bible is the literal word of God (none / 0) (#472)
by d4rkst4r on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 07:26:20 PM EST

He dictated what would be written and oversaw the entire authorship.

[ Parent ]
Oversaw? (none / 0) (#475)
by thejeff on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 09:10:27 PM EST

Just the original versions? Or all the conflicting translations ? Copying errors?

[ Parent ]
Canonicity (none / 0) (#476)
by Ogygus on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 09:20:32 PM EST

Have you considered the question of the books that were chosen for inclusion by a variety of men for a variety of reasons? Better yet, have you done any reading in the writings of the early Christians that were not included by men and their councils? Specifically, on what do you base your faith in the Apostleship of Paul?

The mice will see you now.
[ Parent ]
Yes (none / 0) (#479)
by morphwin on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 06:41:19 AM EST

I know it sounds hard to prove and hard to put faith in, but I believe that when the disciples and writers wrote the different books of the Bible they all had the Holy Spirit in them, which meant that it was the words of God rather than just the interpretations of the men... Although the accounts are according to what the men saw, but they had the hand of God guiding their words.

The secret to happiness is not thinking about whether people love you enough, but worrying over whether you love others enough.
[ Parent ]

Not Hard At All (none / 0) (#483)
by Ogygus on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 10:26:18 AM EST

Have you ever studied the canonicity and the process by which certain writings were included and others were excluded?

The mice will see you now.
[ Parent ]
Sorry, but certainly not so (none / 0) (#471)
by d4rkst4r on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 07:21:02 PM EST

You claim good and bad do not enter the picture. Quite the opposite. God is holy and good and the moral precepts He laid down are designed for our best. When left to ourselves, we will always choose the course of action that we consider in the short-term to be in our best interest. Not what is best for us, and there lays the difference. God knows what will help us and what will hurt us and gave us guidelines, such as telling Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit of the tree of Knowledge of good and evil. He loves us and wants the best for us. But when left to our selves, we will do those things that seeming gratify our immedate interests without considering the consequences. Christianity is not about a set of do/don't do rules, but about the freedom to live life to the fullest, which is what God wants for us to experience. We will never experience that without God simply because we will always make self-destructive choices without God.

[ Parent ]
But... (none / 0) (#477)
by thejeff on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 09:21:56 PM EST

It's proof by assertion. The rules are for our own good, even when we don't see how, because God said so and He's good because ...
Because He said so?

The Tree being the first example of an arbitrary rule. Or are you claiming that was for our benefit as well?

By the way claiming "we will always make self-destructive choices without God" is perilously close to making a falsifiable hypothesis: Non-Christians always make self-destructive choices. I doubt you could find an even vaguely mainstream church that would make that claim.

[ Parent ]

The tree of knowledge? (none / 0) (#481)
by morphwin on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 07:04:27 AM EST

The existance of the tree of knowledge of good and evil I believe is there in order for a choice to be given to Adam and Eve to test their faithfulness to God and His rule.

So it was to our benefit that the tree existed, because it enabled Adam and Eve to make the right decision. But unfort they didn't.

It's just like the 10 commandments (plus the dozens of commandments God gave in Exodus). It's not about God exerting His control over us, but more such that we will know sin and learn to avoid it. Because we would never have known not to covet our neighbour's possessions unless we were told it was wrong to do so...

The secret to happiness is not thinking about whether people love you enough, but worrying over whether you love others enough.
[ Parent ]

As I said arbitrary (none / 0) (#487)
by thejeff on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 01:48:06 PM EST

It was only to our benefit in the sense that they would be punished if they made the wrong choice. Hardly a benevolent deity, then.

Because we would never have known not to covet our neighbour's possessions unless we were told it was wrong to do so...

Now I know you're joking.

[ Parent ]

Am I? (none / 0) (#495)
by morphwin on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 09:04:36 PM EST

Think about it. Is our sense of morality inbuilt or is it taught?

The secret to happiness is not thinking about whether people love you enough, but worrying over whether you love others enough.
[ Parent ]

Nature or Nurture? (none / 0) (#499)
by thejeff on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 08:23:01 PM EST

That's been debated for centuries with no final answer. Probably some of both.

But your implication was that without God giving the 10(+) commandments, we would have no moral code. But what we know of cultures before the time of Moses and of more recent cultures that had no contact with Mosaic tradition, shows that they all had moral codes of some kind. Usually with similar basic ideas about murder, some property rights, sexual mores  etc. Those rules that helped keep society stable.

[ Parent ]

Point (none / 0) (#501)
by morphwin on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 07:37:31 AM EST

Although to my understanding, it was because the Israelites were under slavery in Egypt for ages and ages before Moses lead them out into exile and the promised land, and as a new nation they had no government, and needed guidance, which is what the 10 commandments were for - to establish a moral framework for the Israelites to work under, and for them to know wat sin is.

While before there were moral frameworks in Egypt as well as other places before, I think God still needed to set one formally so that people are no longer "ignorant" and make up their own rules (or follow the rules of other nations that God doesn't approve of), but instead to follow God's directly.

Therefore if people sin, they sin knowingly, and there will be no loophole out of obedience. However God provided concessions in his commandments to show His mercy and grace.

The secret to happiness is not thinking about whether people love you enough, but worrying over whether you love others enough.
[ Parent ]

a camel through the needle of an eye (none / 1) (#442)
by Fon2d2 on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 05:16:48 PM EST

You mean the eye of a needle. I almost missed that. It didn't sink in until a couple sentences later.

[ Parent ]
Why? (none / 1) (#412)
by ComradeFork on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 04:14:56 AM EST

Why does God need our praise? Why does he become offended when we deny him?

Which do you think is more likely:

1. The benevolant Creator will smite us if we say that he doesn't exist.
2. Religious people will become offended if we say their particular God doesn't exist.

I'm not advocating atheism, I'm simply saying that an almighty Creator wouldn't become offended simply because we worshipped our boots or whatever. It might provide entertainment, but not jealousy.

If you had a kid, and he denied that you were his father, would you torment him for eternity?

[ Parent ]

Well He did create us (none / 1) (#414)
by morphwin on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 04:29:08 AM EST

He gets jealous and offended because if we are to worship anyone or anything, it should be Him!

To worship anything or anyone other than Him is like being unfaithful to a spouse, but to an even much higher degree.

I'm simply saying that an almighty Creator wouldn't become offended simply because we worshipped our boots or whatever

But how can you criticise the nature of God? By saying this you're effectively saying you're better than God. Now is that possible?

The secret to happiness is not thinking about whether people love you enough, but worrying over whether you love others enough.
[ Parent ]

Er (none / 1) (#417)
by ComradeFork on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 05:41:36 AM EST

I'm not criticising the nature of God. I'm criticising the what the Jewish people wrote about the nature of God thousands of years ago.

He gets jealous and offended because if we are to worship anyone or anything, it should be Him!

So if we don't worship him, we get everlasting torment for it? Would you do that to your kid? Have you considered that you making your God to be abominable? Would he be more worried about some of his creation ascribing such kind of a nature to him?

[ Parent ]

Willing and able, but... (none / 2) (#425)
by trimethyl on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 09:36:41 AM EST

God is both willing and able to prevent evil. He does not, however, prevent every evil because of the limitation of man's intellect. A world without any evil whatsoever would not only deny mankind free will, but also the understanding of who God is. Without evil, or the lack of God, man would have a difficult time understanding the concept of God.

One of the reasons for the creation of the universe was to bring glory to God. In light of such, it is easier to understand the "problem of evil". God can bring about glory to his name in spite of the evil that man does. He rewards those who are good, and punishes those who are evil - in effect showing the love he has for His creation, bringing Him glory.

God has used his saving power against evil (Exodus) to show His great love for us. Furthermore, the understanding that a loving and faithful God is in control offers reassurance to the believer - a grace not understood by the atheist. This knowledge of the depth of God's love grants the believer freedom from worry about the temporal affairs of the world, allowing the contemplation of greater things.

Yes, evil does exist in the world, but contrary to its intentions, God uses such to bring about a greater good.



[ Parent ]
Unable (none / 1) (#433)
by bugmaster on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 12:28:43 PM EST

He does not, however, prevent every evil because of the limitation of man's intellect...
This still falls under the category of "unable"; i.e., God might have wanted to create Man in such a way that Man would never do evil, while still having a perfect understanding of divinity -- but in practice, God was unable to do so. In simpler terms, God is sort of like a Microsoft engineer: he could not design a perfect (or even reasonably decent) system from the outset, and thus he has to release patch after patch (Exodus, Jesus, etc.), with no end in sight.

This is actually a perfectly reasonable concept of a god, and, in fact, I think this is the kind of god that most Christians believe in. Sure, this god is not omnipotent, but at least it makes some sort of sense.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]

That is assuming... (none / 0) (#453)
by trimethyl on Wed Jan 14, 2004 at 09:16:53 AM EST

That God wanted to create man in such a way. I do not believe that He did. For evidence, consider that animals are not capable of sin, as they are not capable of reason or understanding beyond what is necessary for basic survival.

So yes, God could have made man in such a manner. But by giving Man reason, he enabled the possibility that sin and evil would enter the world. It did. But any posited imperfection of this plan is subject to question, because:

  1. For the believer, a finite amount of suffering evil in this world results in an infinite amount of joy in the next. After the beginning of their existence (that is, their life in this world), the faithful of God will never experience evil.
  2. Without free will, we could not love. Since [part of] God's design was to have us share in His love, He achieved a far greater design by giving us free will than would have been attained with a perfect understanding of divinity.
  3. Were everyone to attain a perfect understanding of divinity, only the truly insane would choose other than submission to God. Thus, the proof of love is excluded, if for no other reason than the pragmatic reasons of obedience.

It is possible that Man's creation came about as a result of God's intention to shame Satan. Being less than perfect, Satan cannot see his own flaws; mankind is the objective observer whose obedience to God shows (to Satan) that God is indeed better than he.

But no, the fact that we have a limited intellect doesn't mean that God is unable to remove evil from the world - it merely means that mankind alone cannot. Since God can use the evil actions of man to bring about greater goodness* (thus spiting Satan), the "problem of evil" is not necessarily a problem to God.

* for a good example of this, read the stories of Maxmillian Kolbe or Jim Elliot, whose deaths have helped spread the Gospel.



[ Parent ]
Still unable (none / 0) (#456)
by bugmaster on Wed Jan 14, 2004 at 10:22:23 AM EST

But by giving Man reason, he enabled the possibility that sin and evil would enter the world. It did.
It sounds like you're still saying that God was unable to create Man without any design flaws. Somehow, God could not fix the "reason causes sin" bug. Thus, God is still not omnipotent. On a sidenote, I think that the problem is that God did not give men enough reason; in general, reasonable men do not murder each other, do not steal, don't indulge in gluttony, etc.

After the beginning of their existence (that is, their life in this world), the faithful of God will never experience evil.
This sounds like one of the "patches" that I mentioned above. It's better than nothing, and I can see a limited yet concerned God acting this way.

I must confess, I don't understand your love/Satan argument at all, so I can't really reply. Still, it seems to me that a perfect God would be able to create intelligent beings that don't murder each other for fun; he would also be able to create a world where earthquakes don't kill millions of people, where brushfires never threaten homes, where lightning never hits anybody, etc. etc. Clearly, then, the Christian god is either malevolent or imperfect.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]

few points. (none / 0) (#468)
by trimethyl on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 01:24:46 PM EST

1.) "reason causes sin" bug? Reason does not cause sin, but rather the lack thereof. Someone completely apprised of the situation and consequences would never choose sin in response to reason; because sin always separates the sinner from God and causes harm to himself (and possibly others), a truly rational person would never sin. Why does sin then occur? Well, because people aren't rational! Consider the person who murders a friend in a fit of rage, only to find that he has lost the companionship he now desires, or worse, is put to death for it. Surely if he had known the full consequences of his actions and had full control over his temper, he would never have done such a thing. Yet men (and women) continue to ignore their reason, instead choosing deception and temporal pleasures over lasting peace and goodness.

I must confess, I don't understand your love/Satan argument at all...

Well, without an understanding of love, it is very difficult to explain _why_ God does things. St Augustine described love as "to will the good of another." But without actually feeling this toward someone, it will be very difficult for someone to understand the things of Heaven. It isn't necessarily "logical" in the materialist sense, nor is it self-seeking.

As for the "patches" argument, consider this. Suppose that God created Heaven and all of the angels. 1/3 of the angels fought against him, got kicked out, and now there's quite a few vacant upscale apartments in Heaven. Seeking to fill those spots with those worthy of Himself, God chooses then to create Earth and mankind. But this time, in order to get into Heaven, a person is going to have to show their worth by first choosing to do good while they are on Earth. Once God is satisfied that a person is fit for Heaven, He calls them home.

Please understand that this description leaves out a lot of important details regarding the timing of events, love, grace, etc... It isn't a definitive explanation, but it shows that God didn't necessarily need to act in a perfect way in order to be perfect.

So here's a reverse paradox. Supposing that God had to create everything perfect in every way, would it be possible for God to create anything? Probably not - perfection is a singular item, not multiple. So, if anything differs from anything else, it may be said that one is more perfect in one particular way than the other. The argument that God can't exist because His creation is imperfect is inherently flawed; if He could only create perfect things, He could only create one thing: Himself. Furthermore, He couldn't possess free will, as we do, because He couldn't choose to create an imperfect creation.

Now, from the standpoint of God's perspective - that is, a being who is completely perfect, omnipotent, good, and loving, the creation of "imperfect" beings serves His purposes rather well. Without an imperfect world, there can be no suffering. Without suffering, there can be no compassion. And without compassion, no love (at least not from the _human_ mind, it seems). If everything was perfect - no loss, no killing, no evil, etc... - we could not experience pleasure. Without pain, a person cannot understand pleasure. I could go on about how humans understand things in relative, rather than absolute terms, but will spare you.

The imperfections of this world serve as a mechanism for divine understanding. A person can choose to act contrary to his animal impulses (transcendence). A person may choose to give up something for the sake of making another happy (love). A person can choose to forego what he is owed so as to ease the burden of another (grace). A person who wrongs another can reconcile himself with the one he has wronged and experience (hopefully) forgiveness. A person living in a "perfect" world, that is, one without evil or loss, could not experience these emotions. In short, their lives would probably be concerned with pointless and unprovable philosophical musings rather than anything we would consider productive or worthwhile. These questions with which we bother ourselves would not even be asked.

Well, I hope this helps. If you still don't understand, well, perhaps we should discuss this offline in email.



[ Parent ]
Re: few points (none / 0) (#482)
by bugmaster on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 08:22:13 AM EST

Reason does not cause sin, but rather the lack thereof.
I would tend to agree (and I even said as much). But earlier, you said:
But by giving Man reason, he [God] enabled the possibility that sin and evil would enter the world. It did.
So, which is it ?
St Augustine described love as "to will the good of another."
Sounds good to me. But if God really wishes us well, why does he keep pummeling us with earthquakes, floods and plagues ? And why did he create us in such a way that we could even be harmed by all these things ? Come to think of it, why did God even kick us out of Heaven to begin with, when he knew (being omniscient and all) that we would eat of the fruit on the tree that he put smack dab in the middle of it ? It's the same question as before, I just rephrased it a bit.
Suppose that God created Heaven and all of the angels. 1/3 of the angels fought against him, got kicked out, and now there's quite a few vacant upscale apartments in Heaven. Seeking to fill those spots with those worthy of Himself, God chooses then to create Earth and mankind. But this time, in order to get into Heaven, a person is going to have to show their worth by first choosing to do good while they are on Earth.
This is a nice idea, even though it's not mentioned anywhere in the Bible... In fact, if I had any talent at all, I'd consider writing a fantasy book based on this idea. However, it just weakens your argument, as opposed to strenghtening it. How could angels rebel ? Did God create them knowing that they would ? Why would he do that ? Unless, of course, he was unable to do it in any other way, or did not foresee the consequences of his actions, or wanted to play Starcraft with angels for units.
...but it shows that God didn't necessarily need to act in a perfect way in order to be perfect.
This is an intriguing idea, but I can't find support for it in anything that you've written so far. Personally, though, I'd think that a perfect being would have to at the very least act perfectly... otherwise, there could be someone more perfect than him, which introduces yet another paradox.
Supposing that God had to create everything perfect in every way, would it be possible for God to create anything? Probably not - perfection is a singular item, not multiple. So, if anything differs from anything else, it may be said that one is more perfect in one particular way than the other.
I don't see why this has to be true. I can certainly imagine something like "for(i=0;i < PERFECT_NUMBER; i++) { createPerfectBeing(); }", and I'm not nearly as smart as God. Furthermore, it could be argued that God really did just create one thing -- the Universe itself.
Furthermore, He couldn't possess free will, as we do, because He couldn't choose to create an imperfect creation.
So you're saying that God has no choice but to create an imperfect world ? In this case, God is technically not omnipotent, since he cannot create a perfect world. Which is a weaker form of what I've been saying since the beginning -- I've been saying that our world is not merely imperfect, but massively flawed -- but I guess that's pretty close.
Without suffering, there can be no compassion. And without compassion, no love...
Why not, and why not ? If God is omnipotent, he should be able to create beings that are capable of love but not suffering; in fact, AFAIK this is what our souls are supposed to be like in Heaven -- so God, being omniscient, should be able to pull this off.

In general, it seems to me that you haven't really thought your philosophy through. Out of curiosity, why do you hang on to this concept of an omnipotent God ? Many, if not all, of the critical contradictions that came up so far could be eliminated if you gave up this concept, and it seems like your core ideas would still remain intact.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]

Hope this helps. (none / 0) (#484)
by trimethyl on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 11:03:00 AM EST

I said reason when I meant free will; reason allows a man to see the truth, free will the freedom to ignore it.

And yes, the perfection argument wasn't well thought out. After I posted I realized the while the definition of something perfect in every way must be unique, there could exist multiple instances.

I think the crux of the argument rests on whether you consider the universe perfect or flawed. If the purpose of the universe is to bring glory to God, then the universe is not flawed. If you consider the purpose of the universe to serve man, then the universe is not perfect.

As for omnipotence, I would say this: God can do anything that's possible with an infinite degree of power. Omnipotence in the sense of God being able to do something logically impossible is not included, as I consider that such situations will never present themselves in the real world. My dependence on God would never extend so far as to need Him to create a stone so heavy He couldn't move it....

As I understand it, your argument rests on the supposed inability of God to create a universe that is perfect for mankind. It appears that you assume that a perfectly loving God would not allow sin or misfortune of any kind to be present.

God has created just such a world - a world where there is no sin or suffering at all. But you aren't a part of it yet, and won't ever be if you allow sin to keep you from it. It's called Heaven, and it's the final end of those whom seek righteousness. In a way, this universe could be considered the womb from which we will enter either Heaven or Hell when we die.(or live!)

I would argue that this world is perfect from God's perspective. This is based on the following:

  • God values love more than mere obedience. He could have created a world in which there was no free will, but without free will, the choice to love someone cannot exist, and hence, love cannot exist. Thus, free will is a necessary condition for love, and carries with it the attending possibility of sin. In order to create a being which is capable of loving Him, God also created a being capable of sin and having free will. Without both free will and the possibility of sin, human love cannot exist.
  • God values true growth and goodness in His creatures. The overcoming of sin allows a man to understand something about God with even a limited intellect. Furthermore, those who are able through the mastery of will to overcome their physical limitations show themselves to be transcendent of their environment, rather than dependent on it. In this regard, they become like God.
  • Through loss and hardship, a man's character is refined. There's a saying in the Army: "Pain is fear leaving the body". I can attest to the truth of this statement; those who have suffered routinely report that they feel themselves stronger after having undergone the ordeal. In a world without pain, sin, or free will, humans could not be compassionate, loving, or strong.

The fundamental objection of man's imperfection is likewise unnecessary. A man does not need to be perfect to show his worthiness to God; in fact, physical imperfections often provide a convenient way for showing the depth of one's love. A person who gives what comes easy and without pain does not love as deeply as one who gives what was hard-earned and painful. If indeed, the purpose of this world is to show both our love for God, and God's love for us, then an imperfect world makes the proving rather easy. If everyone was perfect, why wouldn't we love them all? And if they were perfect, couldn't it be said that we loved them because of self-interest, rather than genuine charity?

Of course, making man imperfect creates the possibility that someone will suffer some loss they don't truly deserve. One might suggest that a loving God would not allow suffering at all. In response:

  • We don't truly know if a person ever receives undue hardship or loss. While public injustice would (and should) make us cringe, we don't know that God isn't using such to punish someone for some other sin that we are unaware of. Furthermore, we also don't know if God is going to use such injustice to bring about a greater good for everyone. For an example of this, consider how the murder conviction of someone who was indeed innocent brought light to the injustices of the legal system; in Illinos, the Governor granted blanket clemency to death row inmates.
  • More importantly, God might consider the strength gained through a person suffering a hardship to be of greater value than the sorrow of suffering itself. Indeed, if such suffering does lead to a person turning their life from an evil to an upright one, it is well worth the cost. Someone who turns from evil to God because of a particular hardship will literally gain an infinite return on their few moments of pain in this world.
Thus, the presence of imperfect man is no indication of malice on the part of God; rather, it is a condition which allows mankind to possess qualities transcendent of his physical being. It is my belief that God values spiritual perfection over the temporal, physical perfection.

Well, I hope this is clearer. God doesn't need to create a perfect mankind in a perfect world in order to love his creation perfectly. Given that in Heaven there will exist the perfect mankind in the perfect world, and given that life will be eternal, I can't really find fault with the manner in which God made man or the universe.

One last point. I didn't do anything to deserve being created by God. It wasn't of my own worthiness, nor of any debt owed, that I came into this world. Having been created by God, He would not be beyond His rights to demand of me eternal service and hardship - after all, I owe my very existence to Him. But instead, I've been given the opportunity to use the hardship and suffering of this world to perfect myself so that I can live forever in joy of Heaven. I didn't deserve either being born or access to Heaven, yet I've been given both. And only through God is the potential for a finite investment to yield infinite return. How could that be wrong? How could that be malevolent?



[ Parent ]
Re: Hope this helps. (none / 0) (#491)
by bugmaster on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 08:26:55 AM EST

I said reason when I meant free will; reason allows a man to see the truth, free will the freedom to ignore it.
So it seems that God gave us free will in plenty, but not nearly enough reason. How come ? A similar question could be posed about angels, since they clearly have free will (they rebelled) but little reason (they rebelled against an omnipotent and thus unbeatable foe).

It's called Heaven, and it's the final end of those whom seek righteousness. In a way, this universe could be considered the womb from which we will enter either Heaven or Hell when we die.(or live!)
This makes perfect sense if the creator has limited powers -- you do the best with the skills you've got, as every programmer knows. However, an infinitely powerful creator should be able to create humans in their perfect states from scratch, without the need for all that growing up in our harmful world. Furthermore, a loving and omnipotent being would never condemn his creations to the eternal torture which is Hell. It seems that, once again, God's omnipotence comes up short. On a sidenote, I don't think the Bible says anywhere that can enter Heaven/Hell in physical form (so to speak), so you "or live !" remark is a bit puzzling.

The rest of your arguments mostly restate what you have said before, except for this:

We don't truly know if a person ever receives undue hardship or loss. While public injustice would (and should) make us cringe, we don't know that God isn't using such to punish someone for some other sin that we are unaware of.
This sounds like the cop-out that I mentioned elsewhere on this thread (I think): "well, it looks like my worldview has a contradiction in it, but God is unknowable, so I'm ok". This position has always struck me as intellectually dishonest (note: I am just bashing the position, not you personally). How come God is only "unknowable" when there's some logical contradiction ? How come he becomes suddenly very "knowable" when the Christians want to condemn certain behaviors, or promote their faith, speaking on God's authority ?

Essentially, it looks like your argument basically states, "suffering is required in order for us to have free will, and in order for us to love God more fully". I have raised many questions about this statement before, and I have some new ones based on your latest comments. Here is a very incomplete list:

  • Why is evil a requirement for us to know good ?
  • Why couldn't an all-powerful God create us fully-formed, without resorting to this Earthly intermediate stage ?
  • Why does an all-powerful, all-knowing God demand (or even desire) love or worship from very finite creatures such as ourselves ?
  • Why would God create a person, knowing ahead of time that the person would choose to excercise his free will in a way that would condemn him forever to Hell ?
  • Why does God choose to kill innocent children with earthquakes, plagues, fires, etc. ?
Obviously, you can answer all these questions by saying, "well, it seems like I don't have an answer, but the answer is that God is unknowable"; however, this really wouldn't get you anywhere.

But it seems to me that the most important question of all (which I have raised in my previous comments) is:

  • Why do you keep hanging on to the idea of an omnipotent God ?
All the contradictions that I mentioned throughout this whole thread would vanish if your God was merely very powerful, not omnipotent. So... Why not just give up omnipotence ?
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
Too earth-centric (2.25 / 4) (#317)
by Highlander on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 04:15:02 AM EST

This really shows that our current concept of God comes from an age where we thought ourselves alone in the world( and the universe ).

We should consider that God may allow something bad happening on Earth because it may prevent something worse happening when humans eventually meet some ant-shaped alien that God cares about just as much.

If you think that a god caring for alien ants is really ridiculous, just (esp. as a christian or moslem) consider that a believing jew may consider their God to care for them, not for the rest of world. To put it in other words, they get a special deal. We, as non-aliens, like to believe we got a special deal too. But even if we got a special deal, this doesn't prevent anyone else getting a special deal, too.

Can God make everything right without taking away free will ? I would say that God needs to restrain himself to allow us the illusion of a world that makes sense and follows rules. Rules like apples (and guillotines) falling down, not up, give us a sense of security. What would you think of a world where consistently out-of-whack things would happen ?

Read http://members.fortunecity.de/wurzel/hoppe/SundayPlentyOfWorlds.html for more out of whack thoughts on existence and god(s)

Moderation in moderation is a good thing.

i probably agree with this (none / 2) (#326)
by the sixth replicant on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 10:32:27 AM EST

more than the other theories (thought not by that much).

Also, another side to this is the fact that actions can go from good to bad and conversely depending on the time scale.

Insert bad man here was a bad man but did killing him really make the world a better place? Did killing him make us journey in a future where we end up destroying a planet and killing a few billion people. In a short time scale we saved a few million - in a longer one we killed a few billion. Was kiiling the bad man a good act or a bad one knowing this?

Ciao

[ Parent ]

Why, oh why, KJV? (2.40 / 5) (#330)
by haydentech on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 10:44:32 AM EST

Splitting theological hairs using the KJV as your translation of choice is a wasted exercise at best. There are over 1500 words used in the KJV that have changed meaning significantly since its writing. A few even convey a nearly opposite meaning! If you want the best available translation, you don't even have to get out of your chair, just go to NET Bible and you can read any part of it for free. (And no, NET doesn't signify the Internet. It stands for New English Translation.)

overstated methinks (none / 2) (#422)
by SaintPort on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 08:43:03 AM EST

I used to use NIV and got roundly blasted, every single time.  The most requested version has been KJV.

However, out of respect for your comment, I will look into this 'net' version.

Thanks for your interest.

<><

--
Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

[ Parent ]

NET? Try the Catholic NAB (none / 1) (#432)
by k24anson on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 12:14:36 PM EST

The foot notes and prologues are the best. Those guys put an excellent Bible together, no doubt in my mind. I put all other Bibles I was using down and only use the NAB whenever I pick up a Bible. Any one new to reading the Bible? If you want to stay rational and contemplative, the NAB is superb. I can't heap enough praise on that particular version of the Bible. Gotta go.
KLH
NYC

Stay focused. Go slow. Keep it simple.
[ Parent ]

the problem of evil in a nutshell (none / 2) (#331)
by Legalphilomania on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 10:49:22 AM EST

For a long time in philosohy hte problem of the existence of evil in the world has been juxtaposed with the so-called free will of man. One of the paradoxes that always seem to arise is the omnicience and benevolence of god in respect to the existence of evil in the world. The more pessemistic among us would say that god may not even care, that he created a world that doesn't really mean much to him or in general, or that god really can't affect this world. So what are we really asking when we pose such a difficult theological/philosophical question? There isn't a good answer to that one either. This needs perspective. The Bible says that humans have free will, and that god is all powerful and good. One perspective is that we can never know of anything so high or so powerful. Evil exists because we can't know that god exists, so to say that god and evil should be mutually exclusive falls to the logic of a statment of ignorance. But that doesn't work so well. Peter Van Inwaggen argues for what he calls the common western metaphysic. Part of that construction of reality is the concept that we, as animals, are determined by our needs of homeostasis. This position references the possiblity that we may or may not be "free" in the Biblical sense because it brings the concept of humanity back to a physical entity dependent on the world we live in. This is an interesting point, but where does god fit in? The deistic (sp?) perspective is that god is there, knows what is going on, but just let the world spin. This perspective allows us to understand the existence of god, the state of the world, and our freedom as beings. On its face this works, but this isn't the conception of god we are dealing with. To get the the point, we can look at the state of the world as a Platonic spectrum. Evil really doesn't exist as we preceive it, rather, evil is the absense of god. The value of evil in our actions is the inverse relation to the amount of god in our actions. This seems a better way to look at evil, since it allows us to consider our free will and the notion that god exists as benevolent and omniscient when it it empirically appears otherwise. The "Platonic" scheme works well. God created the world to be all good, but he placed beings here capable of thinking and acting with a relative perspective of goodness compared to the benevolence of god. Is this a good way to look at it?

re: God as a scientist (none / 3) (#341)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 01:05:04 PM EST

Ugh. SaintPort, this is not your finest hour.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
Wonderful example (none / 3) (#408)
by starX on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 12:50:44 AM EST

Once God opens the box and peers into our future, He fixes the reality. Therefore, He chooses to view time and events linearly along with us, to grant us free-will.

For my part, I like this example a lot.  I'm not a Christian in the sense that we use the word today, but the concept of Free Will in a universe with an omniscient God is one of those things that comes up in literature/philosophy a lot, and consequently I've thought a lot about.

"I like you starX, you disagree without sounding like a fanatic from a rock-solid point of view. Highfive." --WonderJoust

Simple (none / 1) (#423)
by Roamerick on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 08:43:25 AM EST

There is no God but that which man created, in his own image, to face the uncertainty of all that surrounds him.

The very concept is born out the of ignorance of ages past, and survives by the politics of present day.

God, the Tooth Fairy, Unicorns and Santa Claus all share the same basic traits:

*Their existence cannot be disproved
*Belief in them makes one feel good
*The details of their form change according to culture, but the idea remains the same

Faith is the tool used by those with power to stop those without it from questioning the status quo. It is the humans' decision to willingly shut their eyes to reality. Faith is one's buy-in to a self-inflicted delusion.

So I'm glad to see one questioning his own beliefs, for it is only by posing questions that we may see that some of the answers we have been given, good as they may make us feel, are not necessarily true.

No (none / 1) (#443)
by d4rkst4r on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 07:01:47 PM EST

That God created heaven and earth and all that is is them is fact. Not fiction like evolution and the other mental nonsense tossed up to supposedly prove God does not exist. God's existence did not originate in man. God made man and revealed Himself to him. God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden before man's fall. To provide the way for man's salvation, God sent His son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross and pay the penalty demanded by a holy God for man's sin. Then Jesus rose from the dead to show His dominion over death. Jesus' birth, death on the cross, and resurrection are historical facts, not some cleaverly made up fair tale.

[ Parent ]
That's great.. (none / 1) (#444)
by cosmokramer on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 07:09:05 PM EST

But that's your belief.  (either that or your being rather sarcastic :) ).  Not saying there is anything wrong with believing it.  But if you try to say "your belief is wrong because mine is right" then you are not making much of a point for yourself, no?

[ Parent ]
Re: That is great.. (none / 0) (#448)
by d4rkst4r on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 08:33:31 PM EST

No, I was not trying to make a point. I was stating the truth. Somewhere we have left reality and start arguing that any belief system is ok as long as you do not try to claim one is superior to another. That is a lie. We are talking about true and falsehood. The truth is that God created man and loves man and wants a relationship with him, but man, because of sin, has seperated himself from God. God sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross to pay the penalty that our sins demanded, i.e., death, in our place so that we, if we accept the free gift of salvation, can restore the relationship with God. Man has a choice: either to accept salvation through faith in Jesus, or to be seperated from God forever in hell. The choice is man's. To claim that there is any other option is a lie and would be hateful, not loving, on my behalf. No man has of his own accord risen from the dead. Jesus Christ, God in the form of man, did just that. This is a historical fact. To deny it is to proclaim a lie. But don't believe me because I say so, do the research yourself. Read the Bible. Prove the accuracy and inerrency of His word. The evidence, if examined honestly, is overwhelming. But you must make the journey honestly.

[ Parent ]
Thank you (none / 0) (#452)
by Roamerick on Wed Jan 14, 2004 at 08:48:42 AM EST

You could not have proven my point better.

[ Parent ]
As if! (none / 0) (#486)
by trimethyl on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 01:40:14 PM EST

I might be inclined to agree with you, but you must realize something. An atheist cannot accept just any evidence. Anything that disagrees with his worldview is not relevant, nor admissable to the field of debate.

That is why an atheist cannot consider the Bible. While a Christian can consider both science and scripture, understanding the limitations of both, an atheist's field of view cannot be expanded to anything beyond his own arbitrary horizons.

You'll never win an argument in which you let your opponent define the playing field. Atheists aren't dumb - they deliberately reduce the size of the playing field so that they can't objectively consider the possibility of God's existence.

I have read some rather heretical stuff. I'm open to it. But after I've taken it in light of everything else I know, I always come back to the same conclusion: God does exist. Science is a good tool for explaining the universe, but it just doesn't have the capability to define it completely.

Humans have observed things which science plainly says can't happen. Burning bushes, local rabbi healing blindness (which we still can't do, btw..) walking on water, etc... So what do you do?

A scientist would modify his theory to fit the data.

An atheist would reject the data outright.

Now tell me, which is going to gain a better understanding? What if Galileo had rejected Tycho Brahe's observations as spurious because they didn't fit the model of a geocentric universe?

Quite frankly, you're wasting your time to offer explanations to those who lack the capacity to learn from it. Of course, I might be doing this very thing now!?



[ Parent ]
Agreed.. (none / 0) (#490)
by cosmokramer on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 07:47:10 PM EST

I have read some rather heretical stuff. I'm open to it. But after I've taken it in light of everything else I know, I always come back to the same conclusion: God does exist. Science is a good tool for explaining the universe, but it just doesn't have the capability to define it completely.

"God does exist" pretty much sums up that you are rejecting possibilities as it is possible he does not. Just had to point that out.

Humans have observed things which science plainly says can't happen. Burning bushes, local rabbi healing blindness (which we still can't do, btw..) walking on water, etc... So what do you do?

I'm sorry but I just cannot accept things like this without proof and as yet I've never heard any. Given this, are you saying UFO's definitely exist then too beceause people claim to have seen them? (I'm not claiming they don't I'm just saying you must believe in them which means you believe in aliens which is against the bible, no?)

[ Parent ]

Nitpicky... (none / 0) (#497)
by trimethyl on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 01:10:11 PM EST

And it is likewise possible that the sky isn't blue, but I don't think you'll have much success convincing someone when they can step outside and prove you wrong. It's the same thing with the existence of God - I've seen too much evidence to believe otherwise. Yes, it is theoretically possible that He doesn't exist, but I have no compelling evidence suggesting that my determination of His existence was based on faulty or incorrect evidence. Every claim against his existence has been based on faulty logic, or lack of thorough examination.

I don't mean to troll, but I understand the reaction I'm going to get. I'm going to say this anyway, because I think it needs to be said:

Many have undertaken to "prove" that God doesn't exist by showing that His existence doesn't make logical sense - i.e., the properties commonly attributed to God create logical contradictions. However, I would say this: the inability of reprenting God in a given logical model suggests that the model is at fault, not that God doesn't exist. Even science, which has been seduced by the correlation equals causation fallacy, is not subject to such outlandish assumptions; a scientist who finds that the data doesn't match his hypothesis will change his theory to match the data, rather than go about trying to prove the data false.

If one's logical model is consistent only so long as certain data is excluded (and most are), then such a model cannot possibly be used to determine a universal truth such as whether or not God exists. Applying logical constructs to problems outside of their proven context doesn't prove anything!

And you are uninformed with regard to the UFO comment, as the existence of such presents no theological problem with the existence of God. (No, the Bible doesn't claim UFO's don't exist. (as in LGM, not unexplained apparitions in the night sky)). Furthermore, I do not doubt the observation of UFO's; but since we haven't seen any Little Green Men, we can't say that they don't exist, only that we haven't seen evidence of them. I really have no problem with someone believing in UFO's so long as their belief is based on reliable evidence. But given the following, I do believe it is reasonable to believe that they don't exist:

  • The observation of UFO's as vehicles carrying LGM is a phenomenon restricted primarily to western cultures in the past few hundred years. The existence of God has been posited since recorded history, and spans every every major culture.
  • Experiencing God is far more common than UFO's. It is much easier to find someone with a personal God experience than to find someone with UFO experience; hence, any conclusion about the existence of God can be based on a much larger body of evidence than conclusions about UFO existence.



[ Parent ]
Not meaning to troll... (none / 0) (#498)
by trimethyl on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 01:13:15 PM EST

I know the comment I posted in reply sounds rather trollish, but I'm not really finding too much fault with your post. I understand, though, that a lot of people will take your comment about rejecting possibilities as Gospel proof that God doesn't exist. I do generally agree with what you said.

[ Parent ]
Not quite that simple .. (none / 1) (#446)
by cosmokramer on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 07:17:33 PM EST

I won't say it was born out of "ignorance" of ages past.  I mostly agree with your belief's in this and I believe that God was created to make people more comfortable in a world that was otherwise inexplicable.  Science is our new "God" .  It is what we believe will provide us with all the answers to the world around us but we really have no idea about much of anything.  

There are no true answers however, the possibility of some sort of "God" *IS* real however it is only a possibility which as you point out is neither provable nor disprovable.

You are right (or atleast match my belief's) on the concept that faith is a tool used by those with power to get what they want and this is vastly evident in politics where (I hate to use Bush as an example but it works) create's an arena of fear to push and justify what he wants by using people's faith that he is doing it in there best interests.  

It is certainly good for anyone regardless of belief to question themselves from time to time.  Ignorance exists most commonly in blind faith regardless of what that faith may be.

K i'm rambling. :)

[ Parent ]

Not a fair comparision. (none / 0) (#459)
by kitten on Wed Jan 14, 2004 at 02:41:42 PM EST

I won't say it was born out of "ignorance" of ages past.

Of course it was. Yahweh was hardly the first god invented by man. The first gods were made by people who wondered what thunder was all about, and came up with a "thunder god" to explain it. Their ignorance of meteorology is the reason they required a supernatural force to explain what was going on around them. They had fire gods, gods of the sun and moon and stars, gods that pretty much had dominion over anything they couldn't explain without knowledge.

But comparing science to God - "Science is our new "God" . It is what we believe will provide us with all the answers..." - is ludicrous. You state that we claim knowledge through science but don't really know anything, in spite of the fact that you're saying so on a computer, requiring an intimate understanding of electromagnetism and silicon semiconductor physics, among the thousands of other technologies based on science that allow your computer to function at all, nevermind send a message to someone on the other side of the planet.

Science may be almost worshipped by some, but unlike God, science produces definitive and reproducable results, and so the "worship" is, in a large way, justifiable. Science is so accurate that we can predict the outcome of events with almost infallible certainty, so long as we know the variables involved.

God, on the other hand, produces zero results except those who claim to have had a "personal experience", which cannot be verified or reproduced in any way, or even coherently discussed, really. God does not explain anything, nor is God a useful concept to predict anything.

The bottom line is that science delivers, but the concept of God essentially fails in every single aspect it is expected to perform in, other than making people feel good, and even that is extremely questionable (the Christian God does nothing but tell you how worthless you are and what a disappointment and failure you are to him, hence your need for 'salvation').
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
'Science' is useful... (none / 0) (#460)
by Roamerick on Wed Jan 14, 2004 at 04:15:33 PM EST

But not complete. At least not yet, as new sciences emerge all the time. The 'Science' we traditionally refer to does not even take into account concepts as pervasive, yet elusive, as 'Quality.'

Quality does not exist in science. It is not measurable in scientific terms. It's even hard to define. What is Quality to any of us, personally? Yet Quality, as a concept, exists.

I wont go into a rant about Zen and the Art, philosophy etcetera; I'm simply trying to show that Science as we know it and understand it cannot encompass some concepts into its universe, and, unchanged, would therefore always fall short of explaining the entirety of the human experience.

One of the great things about science though, is that it allows us humans to pursue new avenues of thought, bringing us bit by bit a little more understanding of what existence is all about.

[ Parent ]

Well, of course. (none / 0) (#461)
by kitten on Wed Jan 14, 2004 at 05:16:39 PM EST

I'm simply trying to show that Science as we know it and understand it cannot encompass some concepts into its universe,

That's fine, and I agree. Science cannot explain love except as a biochemical reaction which helps propegate the species, and even that wouldn't explain the love you feel for, say, your pet.

But the problem is, the concept of God doesn't explain it either. Using God as an explanation is to say nothing more than an unknowable entity, using unknowable means, 'caused' something to happen for unknowable reasons through some unknowable process. It doesn't matter what you're using God to explain - it always boils down to that.

However, science doesn't say it will explain such things. Science concerns itself with the measurable and objectively observable, and delivers exactly what it promises to deliver. Religion promises to explain everything and utterly fails at most of it.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
Speaking of faith.. (none / 0) (#489)
by cosmokramer on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 07:37:59 PM EST

You seem to have a lot of faith in science.. I can't claim to be quite so convinced as science is constantly proven wrong and corrected just as religion's are and science is essentially a practice of evolving theories and rarely of truth's?  My biggest respect (and the reason I lean towards) for science comes from the admittance of theory and the allowability to be open-minded although even the science community tends to throw stones at people who have "ridiculous" theories.

[ Parent ]
Reason and faith. (none / 0) (#485)
by trimethyl on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 01:24:46 PM EST

In your comments about politicians, you could exchange the word faiths and reason without changing the meaning. The fact that a politician has twisted faiths to achieve his own ends is hardly an indication of the merits (or lack thereof) of faith. Politicians have used science to justify racism, you know...

And if I really wanted to troll, I could bring up the fact that the Nazi's performed "scientific studies" which showed the Aryan race superior to all others.

But I guess you can't question the accuracy of science.



[ Parent ]
No contradiction here - just put away your Bible. (none / 2) (#426)
by xfrosch on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 11:05:25 AM EST

For most of my life I was a devout Christian. I was in my mid-30s before I found a theology textbook that clearly and unambiguously stated that the task of theology is not to empirically explain the world, but rather to begin with the answers we want to hear and come up with an explanation of them.

Christian theology has spent 1700 years trying to make the available evidence support the answers that were dictated to the church by Constantine and Sylvester at Nicaea. Unsurprisingly, the best explanation the theologians have been able to come up with is "mystery". This is what comes of starting your argument with some lost culture's creation myths and oral history.

Now bear with me in what follows; I am not a physicist. I welcome corrections from this point forward, as long as your argument doesn't come from some obsolete collection of holy superstitions.

If the Minkowskian universe we know was created by an external intelligence, that intelligence must exist outside the Minkowskian manifold, and must have created that manifold in all its detail. (I'm not buying any arguments of "partial creation".) If, for the sake of argument, we postulate such a creator, then, trivially, omniscience and prescience are necessary attributes.

Also, since we're postulating that the universe was created, the only sense in which any intelligence inside it can have free will is as an agent of the creator. If you postulate that all minds and actors inside the creation are agents of the creator, then the problem of free will goes away.

This however violates the theological axiom that some minds and actors are good (accordant to the so-called will of God), and others bad (contrary to that will). Personally, I don't have a problem with that. In a universe created by an omnipotent God, the only meaningful definition of "will of God" is that set of events that is permitted to actually happen.

Of course, if you subscribe to the many-worlds interpretation, there's no point in talking about a will of God at all, since everything that could possibly happen does in fact happen.

Mu (none / 1) (#434)
by skyknight on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 01:11:02 PM EST



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
God Arguements (none / 0) (#455)
by Jumery on Wed Jan 14, 2004 at 10:18:30 AM EST

What is with all this christian nonsense.  You do realize that sensible philosophical discussions can, and must if it is to be rational arguements, without the Bible or other religious dogma?

Appeals to authority, like the Bible, are not a basis of rational arguement.  Of course it hardly needs to be said that many do not consider the Bible as an authoritive body of knowledge anyhow ;).

So lets do some simple *rational* arguements.  First lets define God as a 'perfect being'.  (This is our axiom, and if you do disagree with this statement then any arguements based upon it will likely not be compelling for you.  Needless to say as well we are assuming that God exists.)

Lets explore the nature of this perfect being now (God).  What gender is God?  Since perfect beings do not want or lack in anyway God must be genderless, otherwise if god was masculine it would lack that which is feminine.  Since God does not lack then God is not masuline.  (Same arguement as to why God is not feminine, it would then lack that which is masculine).  Now that we have gained understanding and know that god is genderless we can refer to it as It.

Many other interesting features flow from perfect beings, other then being genderless.  I'll leave you to reason them out.


Lacking nothing... (none / 0) (#488)
by lil on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 02:42:40 PM EST

If God is genderless, wouldn't "It" lack *both* the feminine *and* the masculine? It seems to me that God would have to have both genders to be perfect according to your definition. I'm not sure that lacking something means a being is not perfect... A god that lacked nothing would be perfectly good and perfectly evil at the same time, would be both man and woman, sane and insane, and even if we restrict ourselves to a person-type god, would have a whole host of other seeming contradictions. A perfect being does not imply a being who incorporates everything, in my opinion.

[ Parent ]
The relevance of God (none / 1) (#464)
by octavius314 on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 12:52:26 AM EST

There are many arguments for/against god. Neither are conclusive since it really concerns the subjective interpretation of an event or a concept.

However, it would appear that the consensus is that we have free will and God chooses not to intervene. Then would the belief in God relevant? (Assuming of course the disbelievers don't get banished to hell after-life if God does exist.)

Throwing a child into fire did come into his mind. (none / 1) (#467)
by Focx on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 10:25:55 AM EST

What about Abraham? God even asked for it. And don't tell me he didn't mean it and just did it to test Abraham - even then, it was in God's mind.

And what works for men should work for God - we can do everything to each other what we can think, and that's an awful lot...
--- "Even anywhere, humans are always connected." - lain

Actually that's exactly what He did (none / 1) (#480)
by morphwin on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 06:55:59 AM EST

It wasn't in God's mind ever to sacrifice Abraham's son, but he wanted to test Abe's faithfulness by asking for it.. but at the last second he provided a lamb for Abe to sacrifice instead... So yes it was a test

Why does what work for men should work for God? In this way you're saying men's actions should dictate God's... But God is perfect while men are not...

The secret to happiness is not thinking about whether people love you enough, but worrying over whether you love others enough.
[ Parent ]

Test ? (none / 0) (#492)
by bugmaster on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 08:29:39 AM EST

It wasn't in God's mind ever to sacrifice Abraham's son, but he wanted to test Abe's faithfulness by asking for it..
Wait a sec, I thought God was omniscient ? If he already knows the answers to everything, why does he need to test anybody ?
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
So that we can learn (none / 0) (#494)
by morphwin on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 08:56:04 PM EST

I've been asking myself that same question too, and the answer I believe is that while God knows whether we'd pass or fail the test, we do not, and in order for us to learn to be the people God wants us to be, we need to be tested in order to give us tangible results and learn from our mistakes when we do fail a test.

The secret to happiness is not thinking about whether people love you enough, but worrying over whether you love others enough.
[ Parent ]

What's to learn ? (none / 0) (#496)
by bugmaster on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 10:08:30 PM EST

If God is omnipotent and omniscient, as you said, then he knows whether we will pass any given test. He also knows what kind of people we will become -- after all, the did create us -- being omniscient, and knowing how well we do on tests, he could figure it out. So... why would God create certain people just to eventually send them over to Hell ?
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
got you thinking (none / 0) (#500)
by SaintPort on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 09:37:42 PM EST

but in Abraham's case, the proof of his faith inspired the peoples of Judism, Islam and Christianity.

--
Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

[ Parent ]
Eh ? (none / 0) (#502)
by bugmaster on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 11:19:17 AM EST

First of all, there was no Islam or Christianity at the time, so Abraham couldn't have possibly inspired them. Thus, only the Jews were inspired. But... to do what ? To sacrifice their children to their God ? That seems pretty gruesome. If God just wanted to give a pep-talk to his people, why didn't he just do it in person, or send an angel to do it, or something ? And, come to think of it, why does God need to inspire anyone to do anything ? He can just "make it so", as Picard would say, being omnipotent and all.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
Inspiration. (none / 1) (#507)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Thu May 27, 2004 at 08:55:24 PM EST

Very late comment, I know, but nonetheless I'll make it.

To say that inspiration had to happen direct after the event isn't a sensible statement to make. It still inspires Christians and Muslims alike today.

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]

Define Omniscience (none / 1) (#473)
by Persistence of Penguins on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 07:58:42 PM EST

Sorry for posting this again, but I made the mistake of classifying this as Editorial and not Topical.

Having just finished reading The Case For Freewill Theism by Basinger, I can see that what you've written here is a fairly typical argument. Basinger insists that if one intends to deal with this topic, it's worth taking the time to define what omniscience is.

Sure, it's easy to say that to be omniscient is to know all that is knowable. But what is knowable? If I remember rightly, Basinger identifies these:

  • Present knowledge: All that has happened and is now happening, but nothing in the future.
  • Simple foreknowledge: All that will happen. This is a fairly standard definition of what is knowable and is probably the least helpful definition for the case of freewill.
  • Middle knowledge: What will happen in every possible situation but without the guarantee that any particular situation will actually happen without divine intervention.

I like that you're taking on this subject matter but I think you've not gone deep enough into it to evaulate all the ramifications of the concepts of omniscience and freewill.

It should also be said that Basinger's book is a bit of a dull read if you're not in the mood and also that I don't necessarily agree with everything he writes in it. However, he pays attention to a lot of issues of definition in his analysis.



"Serve hot... with lashings of butter."

Free Will... (none / 0) (#506)
by MarshallInMiami on Tue Mar 16, 2004 at 12:31:46 AM EST

"You MUST believe in free-will; there is no choice." -- Isaac Bashevis Singer and... "God is a concept by which we measure our pain." John Lennon
--/\/\arshall in /\/\iami * "The future is already here, it's just distributed unevenly." - William Gibson
The Omniscience of God and the Free-Will of Man | 507 comments (469 topical, 38 editorial, 1 hidden)
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