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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the www.comereason.org Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Showing posts with label free will. Show all posts
Showing posts with label free will. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Did God Make Life on Other Planets?



This month, the seventh Star Wars movie is set to debut. Fans are looking forward to seeing not only the action but the fantastic inhabitants of far off worlds, like those found in the now-famous cantina scene from A New Hope. The sheer number of diverse creatures from a host of worlds pictured there plays on our sense of wonder.

It also leads us to think about the real world and our place in it. Are we alone in the universe or could there be intelligent life found in some planet or galaxy far, far away? In our galaxy alone there exists some 200 billion stars1, many which have the potential for planetary systems, and ours is just one galaxy out of billions and billions. If God created such a vast universe, wouldn't it be likely that at least a few others would have life on them?

The Bible Doesn't Rule Out Life on Other Planets

First, it is quite possible that some kind of life could exist on other planets. There is nothing in the Bible that says God only created life for the earth. He could have created some kind of life elsewhere, too. Even on earth, when we travel to the harshest environments, such as volcanic vents in the ocean floor, we are surprised to find life in such unrelenting places.2 Microbes have even been found surviving in the stratosphere, miles above the earth. So to have some kind of an ecosystem found on another planet, even when that planet could not support human life is not as inconceivable as it may seem to be.

However, when this question is asked most of the time, people aren't asking about fungus, moss, or microbes. They want to know whether intelligent life—life capable of communication and abstract thought like humans are—is possible on other planets. I think the answer is such life is highly doubtful.

If advanced life were to exist on other planets, we begin to run into the same theological issues on free will and sin that have so frequently become a part of our conversations on evil and God's existence. In order to be truly free, alien beings must also be capable of sinning. However, if they were to sin, it would place them in a greater predicament.

The Need for a Redeemer Like Us

In the book of Hebrews, the writer explains why Jesus is greater than the angelic beings, who were held in high esteem by first century Jewish culture. He quotes Psalm 2, then explains that human beings, not the angels ae the beneficiaries of Jesus's salvific work on the cross:
But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers...

For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Heb. 2:9-11, 16-17, ESV).
Later, the writer explains that Jesus's sacrifice was a singular event: "He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself." (Heb. 7:27, ESV).

Therefore, if alien beings were advanced enough to make free choices for themselves, they would either need to be perfect throughout all eternity (which is highly unlikely) or irredeemable. Given the verses above, one can see why fallen angels cannot be redeemed and why God had to create Hell for them.

Thinking through the Presupposition

I've been asked this question many times, and I think it's a helpful one. It shows that human beings tend to think spatially about our world. If our planet takes up such a little place in the great big and vast universe that God created, certainly he would have placed life elsewhere, right? But God is an immaterial being. He doesn't value us on the basis of our mass. He values us because we bear his image. Therefore, I have no problem believing that God could have created the entire universe just to support life on one single planet, so he could have creatures who know and love him. That's true value.

References

1. Rayman, Marc. "How Many Solar Systems Are in Our Galaxy?" NASA. NASA, n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2015. http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/review/dr-marc-space/#/review/dr-marc-space/solar-systems-in-galaxy.html.
2. "'Alien' Life Forms Discovered" NOAA. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2015. http://www.noaa.gov/features/monitoring_0209/vents.html.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Why God Doesn't Reduce the Evil in the World?



The invention of the automobile was a pivotal moment in human history. The locomotive had been around for nearly 100 years and was instrumental in moving people and goods long distances. But the fact that locomotives ran on rails didn't make it functional for short trips to varying destinations. People still had to rely on horses or horse-drawn buggies.

When the mass-produced automobile debuted, it changed everything. People had significantly more freedom once they owned an automobile. They could choose to go where they wished at any time they wished. They could take luggage and supplies with them. Roads, being much cheaper to build and maintain than rails, also began to appear everywhere and highways stretched across the country opening up even more opportunities.

Of course, as the number of drivers increased, the number of accidents increased as well. Cars could be dangerous, especially to pedestrians. If cars were placed on tracks, the number of fatalities could have been decreased, but doing so would defeat the purpose of the automobile. A car on rails is an amusement park attraction, not an automobile.

God Created Humans as Free Creatures

I offer the automobile as one kind of illustration to help answer one objection for God's existence. When I'm on college campuses, I usually hear the question "Why would an all-good and all-powerful God allow evil in the world?" I normally offer the Free Will defense, stating God wanted to not simply create creatures, but he desired creatures that could freely choose to love him. Some may acquiesce to the idea that God would have to allow people to choose and therefore some kind of evil is inevitable, but many offer a second objection. They usually ask, "But why would a good God allow so much evil? There's just too much suffering in the world for God to exist."

Of course their objection is loaded with assumptions. One may be that God could just remove all the truly evil people in the world. The first question I have is where should God draw the line? How much evil should he allow and how much should he quell? You may think that a gang-banger who kills people should definitely be included, but then we've lost a Nicky Cruz, who later event on to become a powerful evangelist, leading thousands to Christ. What about cheats and liars? How did you do on your taxes last year? God will at some point remove all the evil in the world; that day is known as Armageddon, the end of the world. Until then, God allows the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike.

Couldn't God just suppress the evil people do?

Another assumption is that God can somehow tamper with someone's evil desires, yet not have people lose their autonomy. They seem to be saying that we could have a world much like our own, where human beings are truly free, yet their freedom to choose evil ways is suppressed. Just how does God do that? An all-powerful God could take away the ability of people to choose to kill or rape or steal, but what would be the result? God would be making them something less than full human beings. They would be limited to run on the tracks that God provided for them rather than have the freedom to choose their own path.

If we recognize God as wholly good, it would be an evil thing for God to change a free creature to something that is less than free. No one wants to be a Stepford Wife against his or her will. Just as an automobile is reduced to something less when it is placed on tracks, so human beings are reduced to something less when their ability to make free choices is removed.

We do see a lot of evil in this world. But that doesn't mean God is doing nothing about it. We see God working to stem the evil through his teachings and through his church. That's one reason Christians are so passionate about issues like human sex-trafficking, feeding the poor, and ministering to those with drug and alcohol problems. It's also why we're so passionate about issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, where others would resist these moral principles. We want to stand against evil, even though it can be unpopular. However, to assume there can be less evil in the world without substantially altering the free choices of human beings is to assert more than one can prove.

We can think of it this way: the first and greatest commandment is to love God with one's heart, soul, mind, and strength. To not love God is a sin; it's evil. Believing in God would go a tremendous way in stopping murders and rapists from their evil ways, too. So, how many atheists are willing to let God forcibly change their minds about His existence?

Image courtesy Thomas Mielke and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic (CC BY 2.5) License

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

God Allows Evil for the Good


There is a lot of evil in the world. I don't think that's controversial statement; most people would agree with it. But is the presence of evil good evidence to hold that God does not exist? That's what many atheists argue. They claim an all-good God could have created a world where no evil exits. Some have gone so far to argue that the fact that evil exists at all proves an all-good God doesn't.

But is this argument sound? I don't think so. In his book God, Freedom, and Evil, Alvin Plantinga lays out a very careful argument for why an all-good God would create a world where evil exists. Plantinga writes:
A world containing creatures who are significantly free (and freely perform more good than evil actions) is more valuable, an else being equal, than a world containing no free creatures at all. Now God can create free creatures, but He can't cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if He does so, then they aren't significantly free after all; they do not do what is right freely. To create creatures capable of moral good, therefore, He must create creatures capable of moral evil; and He can't give these creatures the freedom to perform evil and at the same time prevent them from doing so. As it turned out, sadly enough, some of the free creatures God created went wrong in the exercise of their freedom; this is the source of moral evil. The fact that free creatures sometimes go wrong, however, counts neither against God's omnipotence nor against His goodness; for He could have forestalled the occurrence of moral evil only by removing the possibility of moral good.1
I think this argument is correct. God valued significantly free creatures so much that he allowed them the ability to choose to do evil. I've previously offered a digestible example in a short video you can find here.


Plantinga, Alvin. God, Freedom, and Evil. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977. Print. 30.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

How Can Naturalism Account for Moral Freedom?

Yesterday, I explained that for ideas like good and evil to make sense, one must hold there are real moral duties and obligations that fall upon human beings. These moral laws must be real, not merely preferences or false beliefs, and they must come from a source outside the created order. But the concept of right and wrong depend on more than the existence of transcendent moral laws. Right and wrong only make sense if human beings are moral agents who are free to choose whether to obey these laws.


Morality means we are able to make meaningful decisions

It has been pointed out that certain species in the animal kingdom show some very disturbing mating habits. For example, the female praying mantis may eat the head of her mate after copulation.1 Female wasp spiders, too, are known to consume their counterparts.2 Perhaps even more disturbing (for women at least) is the fact that male chimpanzees will kill and eat babies that are not their own.3

Such behavior is shocking, as those who were visiting the Los Angeles County Zoo and witnessed one such attack discovered.4 Yet, we don't classify chimpanzees as evil creatures simply because they act in a way that would be considered barbaric by human standards. Why? According to primatologist Craig Stanford, the male chimps seem to be able to make a distinction between the offspring of male competitors and his own. Stanford explained that the action is "something that primatologists are accustomed to seeing regularly" in the wild and he labeled it "part of their behavior."5 Thus the zoo chimp was not euthanized but continues to live at the Zoo entertaining visitors.

Why weren't the chimp's actions thought of as evil? Why consider this normal behavior, not meriting punishment? It is because chimpanzees are not capable of distinguishing right from wrong; they are creatures of instinct that will do certain things because it is in their nature to do that. They cannot meaningfully choose to oppose what their biology tells them to do. That's why you can housebreak a dog but not a chimpanzee. Chimps will naturally defecate where they sleep; dogs have a lair instinct where they are averse to doing so. Thus, if the dog sees his "lair" as the house, he may be trained to relieve himself outside. Not so with the chimps.

Human beings have real moral freedom

Because human beings are rational creatures, we have free will to choose whether or not to obey our urges, lusts, desires, and appetites. We would immediately label a man who killed the baby of his wife's adulterous lover as evil and a murderer. The urges produced by our biology or by the emotion of the situation don't matter. The man could have chosen to not act in spite of those. Human beings have the capability to choose the good.

However, on a naturalist account of humanity, how does one account for such freedoms? If all we are amounts to chemical processes and electrical impulses, then how do any of our action differ from those of the chimp I described above? If there is no component of man that can transcend our biology, it strikes me that in all of my actions, I'm simply the slave of the chemicals in my brain, acting in accord with my instinctual nature and whatever stimulus I receive from the outside word. Basically, my actions are nothing more than a very elaborate row of dominoes, where one will fall inevitably after another given a certain set of circumstances.

Without freedom, morality makes no sense

If that description of human action is true, it means that there is no real freedom. Freedom is a word we use because we may not be able to predict which way the dominoes will fall. But you and I are no more culpable for our actions than the chimp at the L.A. Zoo. Yet, we assume that people could have done otherwise. We chide them and jail them for not choosing the good.

How does the naturalist account for this capability of choice? For the Christian, we anchor our choices in the soul. We understand that there is an immaterial aspect to man that rises above his biology and gives him the capability to make meaningful moral choices. This is what being created in the image of God means. We are created with a sensitivity to moral obligations and duties. We don't just march to our biology, but we also recognize there is a right and wrong way to act. The ability to rise above our passions and desires and oppose them is what makes us morally culpable when we violate a moral law.

Some people lose their ability to freely choose how to act in certain situations. Think of the person suffering from Tourette's syndrome who may shout out a term of bigotry or the individual suffering from kleptomania. In those instances, we hold them to be ill, not evil, and we want them to seek help. But they even have the freedom to seek that help to attempt to get their uncontrollable tendencies under control. So, moral accountability appears even there.

Just as I said in my last post, when one claims to account for morality without God, there are some significant problems that arise. One is what is the basis of moral obligations themselves? Just because the universe is a certain way doesn't mean we have to abide by it. The second is where does the ability to recognize the existence of those moral laws and the capability to obey them in spite of our biology come from? If we are only material beings, I don't see how this can be done logically.

For part three, click here.

References

1. "Do Female Praying Mantises Always Eat the Males?" Entomology Today. Entomological Society of America, 22 Dec. 2013. Web. 11 Mar. 2015. http://entomologytoday.org/2013/12/22/do-female-praying-mantises-always-eat-the-males/.
2. "Wasp Spider." The Wildlife Trusts. The Wildlife Trusts, n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2015. http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/species/wasp-spider.
3. Bardin, Jon. "L.A. Zoo Chimp Killing: A Q&A with Primatologist Craig Stanford." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 27 June 2012. Web. 11 Mar. 2015. http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jun/27/science/la-sci-sn-why-did-a-chimp-kill-a-baby-chimp-at-the-la-zoo-20120627.
4."Zoo in Shock after Baby Chimpanzee Killed by Adult Chimp." LA Now Blog. The Los Angeles Times, 27 June 2012. Web. 11 Mar. 2015. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/06/zoo-in-shock-after-baby-chimpanzee-killed-by-adult-chimp.html.
5. Bardin, 2012.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

What is Middle Knowledge?

One of the more contentious issues within theology is the tension that exists between God's predestination of the saints and the individual's ability to freely choose to follow Jesus. The Bible recognizes both, and there have been many arguments as to how to reconcile these views. Some have suggested that man doesn't really have free will, but that God controls all aspects and choices of every life. However, there are problems with this position, most notably how it reduces human beings to puppets and makes God responsible for evil. Others believe that man has absolute freedom apart from God, but this view also presents difficulties. Some include the issue of God not being able to foresee the future or being a part of time as we know it. It also in no way answers the biblical fact that man is predestined by God.



It's easy to see why this debate has raged on for hundreds of years! Choosing to emphasize one side seems to contradict the other. However, there is another position that I feel more completely explains both God's predestination and man's libertarian freedom by showing both can be true and not in competition with one another. It is a theory first put forth by a Spanish monk named Luis de Molina in the 16th century called "middle knowledge" or Molinism. We'll base our outline on William Lane Craig's understanding of the doctrine found in his book The Only Wise God.

God Knows the World As It Actually Is

Craig explains that God holds different kinds of knowledge. God has what is termed necessary knowledge. This is knowledge that can never be false. It encompasses things like the laws of logic and the idea that 2+2=4. God also has free knowledge. Free knowledge is knowing creation as it actually is, including the past, present and future. Another way to state this is free knowledge is how God actually chooses to make the world. God was free to make any kind of world he desired (thus the "free" designation) and he chooses to make this specific world with all the events that go along with it.

The difference between free knowledge and necessary knowledge, though, is that "God could lack [specific free] knowledge and still be God. He must have this sort of knowledge to be God, but its content would be different. For if he would have created a different world, his free knowledge would be different." 1

Examples of God's free knowledge may be found in Isaiah 45, where God speaks directly to Cyrus, the conqueror of Babylon 150 years before he was born. Craig also offers other examples of free knowledge. "God's knowledge seems to encompass future contingencies: God foreknows Nebuchadnezzer's divinations to determine his battle routes (Ezek. 21:21-23). Even more remarkably, just as God knows the thoughts that humans have, so he foreknows the very thoughts they will have."2 Psalm 139 also supports this idea.

So God knows all of the events of human history, past present and future. This includes every detail of the universe - the thoughts that we think, how lots will be cast, when cocks will crow, everything. God knows this to be true because it exists in reality. If reality were different, though, God's knowledge would be different. God only knows the truth to be true.

God Knows All Possibilities

Not only does God know exactly how the world really is, He also knows the way the world would be if events were different. A favorite example of may own is in Acts 27:21-32 where Paul is aboard a ship to Rome and a great storm arises. The ship's crew were terrified for their lives, but Paul delivers a prophecy given by God saying "there will be no loss of life among you , but only of the ship" (v. 23). However, some of the sailors still sought to escape by  lowering the life boat. Paul then warns them that "unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved" (v. 31). Paul knew that all aboard would be saved. But if events were different, he knew that the outcome would be different and the prophecy would be false.

Craig offers 1 Samuel 23:6-13 as another example. He writes "the story was understood to show that God knew that if David were to remain at Keilah, then Saul would come to get him, and that if Saul were to come to get David, then the men of the city would hand him over."3 

In either case, we have different outcomes for the same event if the choices of the individual involved were to be different. God knew both outcomes, yet he also know which choice the individuals would freely make. Thus God created a particular situation to achieve a particular end (delivering Paul to Rome or sparing David from Saul), not by controlling the choices of those involved, but by knowing which choices they would make when faced with that situation.

Middle Knowledge

The idea that God knows what would happen in any situation were that situation different is termed middle knowledge. Adherents to middle knowledge hold that God not only knows what is, but He knows what would be if something were different.

This is the key to solving the predestination and free will problem. God knows all aspects of every possible world he could create. It's part of his natural knowledge and is essential to him. His middle knowledge consists of "what every possible free creature would do under any possible set of circumstances and, hence, knowledge of those possible worlds which God could make actual."4 God then freely decides to create the actual world in which we live and knows every detail, past, present, and future, of how that world will be.

The ramifications of this idea go far and deep. God doesn't just "look ahead" into the future and predestine someone he knew would choose him. He decides to create a world in which that person will actually exists to choose him, knowing that he will choose that way given those circumstances. He personally decides to give life to everyone and every event in our world after looking at all possibilities and scenarios, in order to suit his purposes! It's a much bigger picture of God that still maintains the reality that our choices are freely made and significant.

Using the concept of middle knowledge, we can see how God can predestine each one of us to a saving grace in Him while at the same time preserving the idea of human freedom to choose. God loves you enough that his entire creation is ordered so you would choose to follow him. It's pretty amazing to think about.

References

1.Craig, William Lane The Only Wise God
Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Pub., 1999. 127-128.
2. Ibid. 32
3. Ibid. 132
4. Ibid. 131.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Problems with Open Theism

For centuries, scholars have argued about the tension that exists between God's predestination and our free will. Some have backed a model of determinism, but such a position holds certain problems, such as the inability of human beings to make choices that are truly free. This may lead to even greater difficulties such as making God ultimately responsible for evil actions.



Because of those problems, some Christians have opted to abandon determinism all together and swung radically to another extreme: Open Theism. Open Theism is a view that basically says God has the ability to do anything logically possible and know everything there is to know but undecided future events cannot be known. The main proponents of this view are Clark Pinnock, Gregory Boyd and William Hasker.

Basic Views Of Open Theism

1. God does not have to control everything to be sovereign

All Christians agree that God is sovereign. But does this necessarily mean that God has to control every detail of His creation to be sovereign over it. Bruce Reichenbach writes "To be sovereign does not mean that everything that occurs accords with the will of the sovereign or that the sovereign can bring about anything that he or she wants. The ability of the sovereign to determine the outcome depends, in part, on the freedom granted to the governed."1

Reichenbach notes that sovereignty requires two classes: the governor and the governed. He then goes on to argue that while the sovereign has the power and authority to control all aspects of the governed, he also has the power and authority to grant them some autonomy. "And the more freedom the sovereign grants his subjects, the less he can control their behavior without withdrawing the very freedom granted."2

2. True free will is contrary to determinism.

An important point in the position of indeterminism is the idea that free will necessarily entails agents to be able to choose a path other than the one that was actually chosen. If God determines you to do X, and everything that God decrees must come to pass (He is God after all), then you must do X and you are really not free to choose another option. Therefore, in order for a person to be free, God cannot determine all of that person's future.

Reichenbach writes, "Freedom is not the absence of influences, either external or internal. ...Rather, to be free means that the causal influences do not determine my choice or my actions." He then says "where we are free, we could have done other than we did, even though it might have been very difficult to do so."3

3. God cannot know certain things.

Christianity has always held that God is omniscient and omnipotent (all knowing and all powerful). However, this has never meant that God could know or do what is illogical. For example, God cannot create a square circle because a square circle is a contradiction. Also, He cannot tell you what color unicorns are since they don't really exist.

Similarly, open theists maintain that if God would want to create a world where truly free beings exist, He has the power to do so. However, in order to do so it means that God must limit Himself, like the sovereign mentioned above. He must voluntarily give up the ability to know the future decisively.

According to open theism, because free will means that choices become real only at the time of the choosing, it would be impossible for God to know what that choice will actually be. Hasker states "So if God knows such a choice, it is the actual choosing itself that he knows, and nothing else. But if the choice is never in fact made, then there is no 'actual choosing,' and thus nothing for God to know."4

Gregory Boyd supports this point when he writes, "One is not ascribing ignorance to God by insisting that he doesn't foreknow future free actions if indeed free actions do not exist to be known until free agents create them."5

4. God experiences the future with us.

Because choices don't exist until the chooser makes them, open theism holds that God experiences and adjusts to events as they happen. Boyd tells us, "The Lord frequently changes his mind in the light of changing circumstances or in the light of , he expresses regret and disappointment over how things have turned out, he tells us he's surprised at how things turned out, for he expected a different outcome, and in several passages the Lord explicitly tells us that he did not know that humans would behave the way they did."6

Clark Pinnock concurs: "God gives us room to make genuine decisions and works along side us in the temporal process. What we do matters to God. God responds to us like a dancer with her partner..."7

Objections to Open Theism

The Knowability Of The Future

One of the main tenets of Open Theism is that God cannot know future free actions, since those actions do not yet exist in reality. They are merely possibilities; and if an agent is truly free, that agent cannot be bound in any way to one possibility over another. However, this viewpoint has problems both philosophically and theologically.

In looking at claims about future free acts philosophically, William Lane Craig answers the common objection offered by open theists that there is no good reason to deny the truth or falsity of such statements. Such claims  are usually posited in this way: "Why should we accept the view that future-tense statements about free acts are neither true nor false?...About the only answer given to this question goes something like this: Future events, unlike present events, do not exist. That is to say, the future is not 'out there' somewhere."8

Craig answers this charge by showing that statements dealing in past-tense events can be and are considered true or false even though the events of the past, like those of the future do not exist in our present reality. "For example, [the statement] 'Reagan won the 1980 presidential election' is true if and only if Reagan won the 1980 presidential election... Long after the election is over... this statement will still be true. A future-tense statement is true if matters turn out as the statement predicts, and false if matters fail to turn out as the statement predicts."9

God's Claim To Know The Future

The other problem here is God does claim to know future events (ref. Isaiah 46:10.) There are many examples of God knowing the future choices of individuals within the pages of Scripture as well. One of the examples that Gregory Boyd tries to explain is Peter's denial of Jesus. Boyd writes "we only need to believe that God the Father knew and revealed to Jesus one very predictable aspect of Peter's character. Anyone who knew Peter's character perfectly could have predicted that under certain highly pressured circumstances (that God could easily orchestrate), he would act just the way he did."10

I find this explanation wanting. We must remember that Jesus' words weren't just "you are going to deny me" which would be predictable, but "you will deny me three times before the cock crows". In order to "orchestrate" such an event, God would have had to make sure Peter would wind up in a place where he would be forced to deny the Lord, and that his accusers would ask him three times within a defined time period. How Boyd can reconcile the free choices of all these individuals with all these events being destined to take place, he doesn't discuss. Needless to say, it would take more than just perfectly knowing a person's makeup to have the specifics of this prophecy fulfilled.

The Biblical Concept Of Predestination

Of course, the main focus of the Open position is to answer the problems a hard determinist view raises regarding fatalism and man's freedom . However, in denying that God in some way determines the actions of man, the open theist is also denying a Biblical concept - that God has indeed predestined some to salvation before the beginning of the world. Romans 8:29 is the pivotal verse. It states "Those whom God foreknew, He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son." Boyd tries to explain this to mean  "Paul had [spiritual] Israel as a corporate whole in mind, not individual Jews "11 In other words, the church as a group. He uses this same reasoning regarding Ephesians 1:4 and 2 Timothy 1:9.

But we must remember that Romans 8:28 explicitly states that those who belong to the church are referred to as "the called". In the same chapter, Paul states that Christ is at the right hand of the Father "who makes intercession for us" (v.34). If we are to be consistent in this approach, we would have to say that Jesus' intersession only applies to the church as a corporate entity and not to individual Christians. But this doesn't make sense in light of the preceding verses where Paul talks about his individual suffering and how we (as individuals) eagerly await the redemption of our bodies.

There are other problems raised by the open view, how God sometimes changes His mind, for example. But in focusing on our discussion, I think you can see how the open view is a less than satisfying answer to the problems raised by determinism.

References

1.Reichbach, Bruce "God Limits His Power" Predestination and Free Will
Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1986. 105.
2. Ibid.
3. Reichbach,. pg. 103
4. Hasker, William. "The Openness of God" Christian Scholar's Review 28:1 (Fall, 1998: 111-139) Web. http://www.opentheism.org/hasker,_csr.htm
5. Boyd, Gregory. God of the Possible
 Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000. 16
6. "A Brief Outline and Defense of the Open View." ReKnew. ReKnew, 29 Dec. 2007. Web. 17 Oct. 2014. .
7. Pinnock, Clark "God Limits His Knowledge" Predestination and Free Will
Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1986. 158.
8. Craig, William Lane The Only Wise God
Wipf and Stock Pub., 1999. Eugene, OR: pp.55-56
9. Ibid p.57
10. Boyd, Gregory God of the Possible
Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Mi. 2000 p. 34
11. Boyd, Op. Cit. p. 48

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why Didn't God Create a World Where Everyone Would Go to Heaven?

Christianity teaches that God is all powerful, all knowing, and all loving. However, it also teaches that salvation is exclusively through Jesus and God "is not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance"(2 Pet. 3:9). If God has all knowledge, He would know that certain people will choose not to follow Him. Yet he creates these people anyway, resulting in  many souls being lost. Why would He create such a world? Wouldn't He look through all possible worlds He could have created and chosen to create one where everyone is saved?



I have argued elsewhere that hell is a logical result of a person choosing not to follow Christ. So, the assertion shouldn't be stated "why does God send anyone to hell", but rather "why wouldn't God create a world where all people choose Him and are saved".

Now, we know that God created us with the freedom to choose His ways or our own ways1. People are condemned to hell because they reject the righteous ways of God and seek their own pleasures (ref: Rom. 3:12, Matt:7:14). William Lane Craig asserts this when he writes, "People who are damned are so because they willingly reject God's grace and ignore the solicitation of His Spirit."2

Logical Limitations of God

The assertion above, though, assumes that there could exist such a world where everyone is saved and that world would suit God's purposes. This isn't necessarily so.

God is omnipotent (all powerful), but it is well recognized that omnipotence does not include performing that which is logically contradictory. In other words, to ask if God can make a rock so big that He can't lift it is nonsense. It's not a lack of omnipotence.

Similarly, it may not be logically possible for God to create a world where a significant number of people exist, all people are given freedom of choice, and all people choose to be saved. Dr. Craig writes "For God's ability to actualize worlds containing free creatures will be limited by which counterfactuals of creaturely freedom are true in the moment logically prior to the divine decree."3 Since truly free people have the ability to reject God, there may be no possible world where everyone freely accepts Christ's atonement. If that is true, then it is illogical to demand that God make such a world that can't exist.

Choosing Between Possible Worlds

But, even if some world is possible where everyone chooses salvation, it is also possible that the total number of individuals is so small that an all-loving God would choose to create another. Craig continues:
Suppose that the only worlds feasible for God in which all persons receive Christ and are saved are worlds containing only a handful of persons. Is it not at least possible that such a world is less preferable to God than a world in which great multitudes come to experience His salvation and a few are damned because they freely reject Christ? Not only does this seem to me possibly true, but I think that it probably is true. Why should the joy and blessedness of those who would receive God's grace and love be prevented on account of those who would freely spurn it? An omnibenevolent God might want as many creatures as possible to share salvation; but given certain true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom, God, in order to have a multitude in heaven, might have to accept a number in hell.4
Here Craig shows how it is not contradictory to believe that an all-loving and all powerful God could create a world where many people are not saved. As Craig points out, it is entirely possible that God would want to bestow His grace to as many as possible - not merely a handful. It is not out of the realm of possibility that certain free persons exist who—no matter what the circumstance—would simply never choose to follow Christ.

God, Salvation, And This World

Craig argues what God has done is bring into reality a world that maximizes the number of people who are saved while minimizing the number of people who are lost. He states "it is possible that God wants to maximize the number of the saved: He wants heaven to be as full as possible. Moreover, as a loving God, He wants to minimize the number of the lost: He wants hell to be as empty as possible. His goal, then, is to achieve an optimal balance between these, to create no more lost than is necessary to achieve a certain number of the saved. But it is possible that the balance between the saved and lost in the actual world is such an optimal balance.

"...It is possible that the terrible price of filling heaven is also filling hell and that any other possible world which was feasible for God the balance between saved and lost would be worse."5

Ultimate Ends

So, it is possible that if God were to create any world at all, the one in which we live contains an optimum balance between the saved and lost. An objector may counter "then God shouldn't have created anyone at all". However, this ignores the fact that people do choose their actions. It isn't reasonable to say that some shouldn't enjoy eternal life with God because others will willingly choose to rebel against Him. God is not responsible for those individuals rebelling, even if He knew they would before they were ever created.

References

1. See the article "Does Man Have Free Will?" at http://www.comereason.org/free-will.asp
2. Craig, William L. "Middle Knowledge and Christian Exclusivism." Sophia 34 (1995): 120-139.
http://www.reasonablefaith.org/middle-knowledge-and-christian-exclusivism
3. Craig, William L. "'No Other Name': A Middle Knowledge Perspective on the Exclusivity of Salvation through Christ". Faith and Philosophy 6. (1989): 172-88.
http://www.reasonablefaith.org/no-other-name-a-middle-knowledge-perspective
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

J.P. Moreland on Why God Won't Force People Into Heaven

If you were to force people to do something against their free choice, you would be dehumanizing them. You would be saying that the good of what you want to do is more valuable than respecting their choices, and so you're treating people as a means to an end by requiring them to do something they don't want. That's what it would be like of God forced everyone to go to heaven.

If God has given people free will, then there's no guarantee that everybody's going to choose to cooperate with him. The option of forcing everyone to go to heaven is immoral, because it's dehumanizing; it strips them of the dignity of making their own decision; it denies them their freedom of choice; and it treats them as a means to an end.
God can't make people's character for them. And people who do evil or cultivate false beliefs start a slide away from God that ultimately ends in Hell. God respects human freedom. In fact it would be unloving—a sort of divine rape—to force people to accept heaven and God if they didn't really want them. When God allows people to say 'no' to him, he actually respects and dignifies them.

- J.P. Moreland quoted from Lee Strobel's The Case for Faith (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000).

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Problem of Evil - The Free Will Defense Explained (video)




Why would God allow evil and sin to plague humanity? In this short clip, Lenny explains how God's desire to create creatures that truly love Him means that God must allow those creatures the freedom to choose. That means they could also choose to rebel. This clip is taken from a longer teaching entitled "How Could a Loving God Allow Evil in the World?"

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