Stop trying to bake the cockroaches of Nonsense into my cupcake of Mystery

August 3, 2009    By: Geoff J @ 3:29 pm   Category: Foreknowledge,Theology

Remember that mini parable they used to teach in church about a delicious cupcake (or cookie or whatever) being just right except for that one nasty ingredient (cockroach, rabbit poo, or whatever)? The moral of the story was that the old “it is fine except for that one scene/lyric/part” excuse just won’t do.

Well the same message applies to the Mysteries of God. Don’t pollute the beautiful mysteries of God with poppycock (aka self-contradictory and incoherent nonsense).

Here are some examples of great mysteries: We don’t know how God hears our thoughts; We don’t know how God manages to speak to our minds; We don’t know how God heals the sick; We don’t know how God parts seas, moves mountains, causes or stops rains, converts water to wine, or any of the miracles we know of. The list of specific mysteries is innumerable.

But separate from mystery list is the paradoxical nonsense list. The thing that makes this a “nonsense list” is that by definition these things are self contradictory like the following: God can make a circular square or God can create a married bachelor. Remember that banal one they used to ask in elementary school? Can God create a rock so big that he can’t lift it? These are all part of the paradoxical nonsense list. Add to the list the claim that God can travel to or see our actual future and yet we still have real (libertarian) free will. The reasons why this last one is nonsense have been discussed ad nauseum here in the past. The simple explanation is this: If the future exists to be traveled to or known then it is fixed. If our futures are fixed then our stories are already written. If our stories are already written we are not writing them with our free will right now. Period.

On a side note, I am always amused at the way people get all huffy about this truth. Once cornered (and people always end up cornered when defending sheer nonsense) a popular response is to scream “Philosophies of men!!” and stomp off. But truth is truth and the fact that some men believe it shouldn’t be a problem.

[Note: I re-read this post and toned down the rhetoric a little. I was annoyed and in a hurry when I first wrote it.]

246 Comments »

  1. Geoff, are you responding to the recent post on M*. A paradox is a paradox is a ……..?

    Comment by WVS — August 3, 2009 @ 4:18 pm

  2. Yep — that post and a lot of comments in other threads where people have been feverishly trying to defend their pet paradoxes.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2009 @ 4:19 pm

  3. Oops. Missed the link.

    Comment by WVS — August 3, 2009 @ 4:25 pm

  4. Mmmmm… cupcakes

    Comment by C Jones — August 3, 2009 @ 4:30 pm

  5. BTW — Jacob posted on this same subject in a more technical way some time ago. See his post here.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2009 @ 5:12 pm

  6. On an amusing note — J Max Wilson, the author of that post I linked to over at M*, has a personal beef with me (possibly because I think he is an annoying wanker and told him so in no uncertain terms) so he has been deleting all of my comments over there. It will be interesting to see if the admins over there have the cajones to reign JMax, the Dolores Umbridge of the bloggernacle, in.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2009 @ 5:16 pm

  7. If anything, I am glad J. Max is at M*, that blog needs the help, and it’s good to see a little fire in the engine here…

    Comment by Matt W. — August 3, 2009 @ 5:25 pm

  8. Geoff J: At this point you appear to just be trying to shout down and bully the opposition. Well, I guess that’s ok here, since it’s your blog afterall. Carry on!

    Comment by Bookslinger — August 3, 2009 @ 5:33 pm

  9. Geoff J, you may or may not have noticed that we have had a tragedy regarding one or our most active bloggers. We need content — Jon is a good writer who can provide content. I don’t always agree with what he writes, but I don’t always agree with anybody.

    My advice is: forgive and forget, and if you don’t like what he writes, then just ignore it — or better yet, write your own response on your own blog! (ta-da!) His post does not mention you by name at all and simply expresses his opinion on a topic. You have responded on your own blog. Seems like there’s no reason to blow things out of proportion.

    Comment by Geoff B (and thus not Geoff J) — August 3, 2009 @ 5:42 pm

  10. Do you count me as one who screamed “philosophies of men!” and stomped off? You shouldn’t. I merely recognized the futility of even trying to understand or be understood when your response to one commenter after another was nothing more than “You’re stupid, and I’m right.” That isn’t even philosophy.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — August 3, 2009 @ 6:02 pm

  11. Bookslinger: At this point you appear to just be trying to shout down and bully the opposition.

    Ah yes, the classic ad hominem defense. You can’t remotely defend your position so you call me a bully. Nice Bookslinger.

    Geoff B — Consider Dolores ignored.

    Ardis — Et tu? Come on now. I never called you stupid because I know you are not stupid. If you are convinced real free will and a fixed future are compatible surely you aren’t going to give up without any resistance at all…

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2009 @ 6:09 pm

  12. Geoff J: Your OP here exemplifies your bullying, in that you used the command form of verbs to tell others what not to say. Your OP exemplifies your own ad hominem attacks by calling Wilson names. Sir, I think you exemplify some negative things which you are ascribing to others.

    Keep this up and we’ll need a ‘Nacle Beer Summit.

    Comment by Bookslinger — August 3, 2009 @ 6:29 pm

  13. Bookslinger,

    1. The title of the post was meant to be kind of amusing and I think it succeeded in being kind of amusing. If you feel bullied by it then that is a reflection on you, not on the title.

    2. I didn’t mention any “Wilson” in the original post so you are wrong about that.

    3. You need to be more specific about the negative things I am ascribing to others. In the post I say some people unwisely like to embrace nonsensical paradoxes. Where have I embraced paradoxical nonsense?

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2009 @ 6:39 pm

  14. Mmmm…cockroaches…

    Comment by Hunter — August 3, 2009 @ 6:46 pm

  15. Hehe. I suppose the are delicacies in some cultures Hunter…

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2009 @ 6:50 pm

  16. Geoff J, I do believe that God can both grant me my free will and also know the future. I believe he can leave a door wide open, yet know absolutely that I won’t walk through it.

    J. Max is right. You set up the rules, then insist that God is bound by them. You’re like the geometer who insists that, by definition, parallel lines cannot meet — and you’re so locked into that primitive position that you’ll never be aware of the higher spaces where parallel lines must meet. I don’t think God is a Euclidean the way you are — I think his logic is as orderly and tidy as yours, but that he doesn’t recognize the definitional limits that you pretend to bind him with.

    I even think that someday you might experiment with the possibility that some of your rational limits aren’t limits at all, and be willing to see where that takes you.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — August 3, 2009 @ 7:02 pm

  17. The idea of a ‘naccle beer summit is so exciting to me! I may go buy podcasting equipment just so I can set it up.

    Comment by Matt W. — August 3, 2009 @ 7:04 pm

  18. Ardis: You set up the rules, then insist that God is bound by them.

    What rules did I set up? I mean this fixed future concept is not based on any of my personal rules. It is just a future (our future) that is currently fixed and that exists to be known.

    You’re like the geometer who insists that, by definition, parallel lines cannot meet — and you’re so locked into that primitive position that you’ll never be aware of the higher spaces where parallel lines must meet.

    You lost me here. What are you talking about? Is this a real thing or some hypothetical you made up?

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2009 @ 7:11 pm

  19. Geoff J, I haven’t read the other post so I can’t speak to your manner of presentation, but I can say that I’m right with you in terms of the argument in question.

    For those who haven’t thought through the issue of how a fixed future is incompatible with true free will, I recommend “Time and Omniscience in Mormon Theology” as a good starting point. That can be found here:
    https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/pdf/021-17-23.pdf

    The question isn’t whether or not if God is “omniscient”. It’s “what is the extent of His knowledge”. I believe it was Matt W. who said it here before, and I’ll echo it again, that I personally reconcile this by saying God knows all things that are knowable.

    Sitting in my church meetings on Sunday I knew the general plan for the future in terms of when the meeting was going to end and that we’d have a closing prayer, etc. I didn’t know all the details, though, of how it was going to turn out because I hadn’t experienced them yet. Likewise, I believe that there are still things God is experiencing, which means he hasn’t experienced everything yet.

    I don’t question whether “all things are continually before” God, but I do question to what extent we interpret that. If He truly already knew every one of my future thoughts or actions, then I wouldn’t truly have free will and I couldn’t truly alter my future. I would only have the appearance of free will.

    Comment by Clean Cut — August 3, 2009 @ 7:24 pm

  20. Umm, no, I didn’t make it up. It’s called non-Euclidean geometry. If space curves as some scientists say it does, then parallel lines must meet (think of the lines of longitude that are parallel at the equator but meet at both poles).

    The logic you practice puts limits on God that may not be any more real than the restriction against parallel lines meeting.

    (I don’t know the field of philosophy well enough to use an analogy from philosophy; I’ve used one from the most logical field I do know.)

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — August 3, 2009 @ 7:31 pm

  21. Ardis, do you think there is only one possible future that God knows, or because we have free will, there are as many futures as choices we have to make? I am just trying to make sure I understand where you are coming from. For me, the concept of infinity is mind boggling, in that by definition it has no end, and thus by definition the ends thereof are unknowable. Do you believe Time is not infinite?

    Like I said, I really want to understand your point of view. You are someone I really trust and respect, and I want to understand you.

    Geoff: You did call J. Max a Wanker and Delores Umbrige. You are name calling. I know he called you arrogant, and I know you feel justified in being angry, and I do think J. Max is on shaky ground, but I think your attitude is just going to entrench him more into his position. It sort of reminds me of our old arguments with Blake where he’d get angry with me for not agreeing with him.

    Comment by Matt W. — August 3, 2009 @ 7:33 pm

  22. Can I say that calling our cultural linguistic sense of “free will” as “true free will” seems odd somehow? If it turns out that we have free will but it doesn’t match up with our particular cultural use of the term I don’t think that makes it false free will somehow. But maybe that’s the physicist in me who just sees most language as wrong and who has become used to it.

    Comment by Clark — August 3, 2009 @ 7:48 pm

  23. Matt, I can’t answer your question; I don’t think like I’m in the middle of a science fiction novel!

    I believe that I have free will because that is one purpose of mortality: if I don’t have free will, then God can’t prove me to see if I will do all things whatsoever the Lord my God shall command me. I also believe that God cannot lie. I also believe that God knows the future because he has announced that his purposes fail not, neither are there any who can stay his hand.

    According to Geoff’s rules, if God doesn’t know the future, then he doesn’t know that his purposes will succeed, and therefore he lied when he said otherwise. Also, if I don’t have free will, then his test is meaningless, and he lied when he set that as a purpose of mortality.

    I can’t believe the conclusions Geoff’s rules lead to, so I believe that his logic is too puny to measure God’s reality.

    And I expect that he will say “You’re stupid, and I’m right,” because I’ve used some word here that has a peculiar definition to a logician, or because I’ve used bad grammar or bad punctuation, or for any other reason or none at all, because he always wins in his own backyard.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — August 3, 2009 @ 8:15 pm

  24. Ardis, that actually doesn’t follow. Just because I don’t know everything about the future doesn’t mean there aren’t things I can know simply because I am able to bring them about. Doubters of robust foreknowledge usually make a distinction between God’s knowledge via some sense about the future from God’s knowledge due to his power. So if God knows he has the power to do X and knows there is no one who can stop him from doing X then he knows his intention to X will succeed.

    While I have problems with foreknowledge skeptics, I think the argument you put forth is an unfortunate one and unfortunately a common one.

    As I said at M* the debate is ultimately a semantic one. This is very clear to the philosophers on the subject. Unfortunately when transposed into a religious context the fact it is a semantic debate is often missed.

    Comment by Clark — August 3, 2009 @ 8:23 pm

  25. Thanks for the clarification and interesting example Ardis. I don’t mind you adding some assumption a la the new assumptions non-Euclidean geometry brought to geometry to this foreknowledge subject. But in the absence of new assumptions and rules we are left with the fairly straight forward idea of a fixed future and thus fixed fates that we are moving toward.

    From the wiki on parallels we get this line:

    In non-Euclidean geometry it is more common to talk about geodesics than (straight) lines.

    So even in that example they have found new and more nuanced words to describe what they mean. I mean when two lines meet they are not really parallel any more right? So saying parallel lines meet is probably a paradox. So much so that non-Euclideans apparently don’t refer generally to them as “parallel lines” as far as I can tell. (Though I am no expert on that).

    I found these definitions from that wiki instructive though:

    3. ultra parallel: they do not even intersect in the limit to infinity

    In the literature ultra parallel geodesics are often called parallel. Geodesics intersecting at infinity are then called limit geodesics.

    So based on that author’s opinion (and I realize it is just a wiki so I am not saying it is gospel) in general it appears that even among non-Euclideans parallel means what we usually think of it meaning. When they mean something other than the common meaning of the term they reportedly call it something else.

    Now I think the type of nuance you could add wold be easy enough. Just say God is powerful and competent enough to be the ultimate predictor of the future. He does that both by working to bring about his predictions and being good at predicting.

    Maybe you could call that foreknowledge* to differentiate it from the kind of foreknowledge that logically requires a fixed future.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2009 @ 8:24 pm

  26. Ardis: According to Geoff’s rules, if God doesn’t know the future, then he doesn’t know that his purposes will succeed

    This isn’t my position. If God knows all the bounds and details of the universe and knows nothing in the universe can defeat him then he would know he would succeed despite the future being open. That position allows for you to have free and for God to be able to make promises he knows he can keep.

    And I expect that he will say “You’re stupid, and I’m right,”

    What’s up with the rudeness from you Ardis? I have never said “you’re stupid, and I’m right” to you. (In fact, with the exception of that recent post over at 9Moons I can’t recall ever even disagreeing with you online before.)

    because he always wins in his own backyard

    There you go again with the bad manners. What did I do to deserve that from you?

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2009 @ 8:30 pm

  27. Clark (#22), does it make a difference if I say “real” free will rather than “true” free will. I’m just saying that in order for me to have freedom, I must have alternatives in my future that are truly open to me, and not just the appearance that they are open. To me, this seems incompatible with a future that’s already set in stone in every detail.

    Although I do believe God knows what His plan is and how to go about accomplishing it, as a believer in real free will I have to be cautious and ask what is meant by one who says that “God knows the future”?

    I do believe that God knows me better than I know myself (and has known me for a long, long time) and thus he may “know” a lot better than I do what kinds of choices I will be most likely to make in the future. I’m can’t predict what choices my daughters will make, but I’ve been their dad long enough that I can see patterns of behavior and decisions, but still there are times that they surprise me.

    I guess the question is, to what extent is God’s foreknowledge possible without contradicting free will?

    And on a side note, can anyone fill me in on how a Calvinist who believes that everything is already predestined make sense of the idea of “free will”?

    Comment by Clean Cut — August 3, 2009 @ 8:38 pm

  28. That’s cool Ardis, I can totally respect that. Your Argument is very similar to Bruce R. McConkie’s Argument to Eugene England in a somewhat famous letter about whether God Progresses. Bruce R. McConkie was a great Man, and so there is nothing wrong with sharing the same opinion as him. As I noted over at M*, there are other points of view also held be general authorities. I think we can all agree with David Paulsen, who I quoted there.

    Comment by Matt W. — August 3, 2009 @ 8:52 pm

  29. Right, but you do realize that this is a semantic debate over the meaning of our sense of free will, right? That semantic debate can become rather sophisticated in the philosophical literature but all the philosophers writing on the various sides of the debate agree it is semantic debate.

    Sometimes I think people forget that.

    I think what it means for something to be open is also a semantic debate. I recognize what you mean by open, I’d just note that even though I tend to believe in a block universe I talk about open choices to. I just mean something different. Some people clearly have a psychological desire for a certain sense of free and open. I’m not sure that means it’s real or true.

    A Calvinist (and I am not a Calvinist, I should note) thinks that freedom is doing what you want to do. If you can do what you want to do you are free. I disagree with that but I’m pretty skeptical of open theology as well.

    The conflict tends to be over two aspects of freedom. The first is “freedom from” and your sense of openness tends to be tied to that intuition. The other is “freedom to.” The difference between compatibilists and libertarians tends to be over which has the higher priority. Although, as I said, it’s ultimately a semantic issue.

    In answer to Geoff’s comments about, those skeptical of open theology don’t have a problem with God having power to bring about his will. Rather their skepticism is over God making predictions in which it seems highly immoral if his knowledge comes about by his bringing something about. i.e. ironically the open theists move into a more Calvinist place where events come about because God makes them that way. So to me my problem is that the Open Theist God and the Calvinist God are just too similar for my tastes.

    (There’s no need to rehash this with Geoff since we’ve been through that debate many times here in the past – this is more for readers perhaps coming here after reading at M*)

    Comment by Clark — August 3, 2009 @ 8:54 pm

  30. Clean Cut: And on a side note, can anyone fill me in on how a Calvinist who believes that everything is already predestined make sense of the idea of “free will”?

    They don’t emphasize free will and they, of necessity, reject libertarian free will. They basically go for the compatibilist version of free will which is also referred to as “hypothetical free will” where while we are all predestined we have the illusion of open choices and that is good enough. Obviously that should not be good enough for Mormons.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2009 @ 8:55 pm

  31. Clean Cut, I’d ask a Calvinist.

    Clark is a physicist, so he probably has in mind space-time and relativity and all that non-euclidean stuff. Like Ardis said, experiments show that as light travels in a straight line across the universe, it actually curves, or something like that. I’m no physicist. I always get hung up on whether there was a moment before the big bang, which would require ultimately there to be a time major and a space major within which spacetime existed, which is why I am a presentist to begin with.

    Comment by Matt W. — August 3, 2009 @ 8:56 pm

  32. The Euclidean – non-Euclidean geometry analogy isn’t a good one since the claim that parallel lines don’t mean was made purely in an Euclidean context. The real issue in Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry wasn’t the postulates and proofs you could make in either system. The issue was which one was physically real. For a long time it was assumed Euclidean geometry was the geometry of the universe. Even after people were working on non-Euclidean geometry. Then with Einstein we discovered that the universe was non-Euclidean and all that developed mathematics was actually useful in physics.

    Comment by Clark — August 3, 2009 @ 8:57 pm

  33. Clark, that’s basically what I was trying to say at Waters of Mormon recently, re One notable issue with Open theism.

    Comment by Matt W. — August 3, 2009 @ 9:00 pm

  34. Clark: So to me my problem is that the Open Theist God and the Calvinist God are just too similar for my tastes.

    I don’t think the Open Theist conception of God could be more different than the Calvinist view so I think you are out in left field on this one Clark.

    The Calvinist says God makes all the choices for everyone (in one way or another at least). The Open Theist says God does not choose for people. Now there are clearly differing opinions among libertarians on how God is able to prophesy accurately but that still doesn’t bring Open Theists even into the same galaxy as Calvinists.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2009 @ 9:01 pm

  35. It’s merely a difference of degree if God’s foreknowledge of the crucifixion was brought about by his power.

    Comment by Clark — August 3, 2009 @ 9:08 pm

  36. (And yes I’m obviously familiar with Blake’s apologetics to explain away that example)

    Comment by Clark — August 3, 2009 @ 9:09 pm

  37. I don’t know what assumptions you are working under that make you think you have a good point here Clark because I don’t see a good point in your crucufixion example.

    So God knows the nature of mobs (with their momentum and groupthink and all) and God himself knew that if Jesus claimed to be God in the right environment the mob would kill him. How hard to figure out is that? That is nothing like the Calvinist worldview. What am I missing here?

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2009 @ 9:14 pm

  38. Philosophies of men!! {stomp, stomp, stomp}

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — August 3, 2009 @ 9:15 pm

  39. Hehehe.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2009 @ 9:23 pm

  40. Geoff, The open theist perspective as put forth by Pinnock is that God’s foreknowledge is based on his power to make things happen. Thus from that perspective he does not know Jesus was crucified due to predictive power, but because he caused Jesus to be crucified.

    Comment by Matt W. — August 3, 2009 @ 9:28 pm

  41. All,

    I re-read my original post and the rhetoric got pretty combative. I guess that is what happens when you fire off a 5-minute post while irritated. I toned it down a little just now.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2009 @ 9:29 pm

  42. Matt,

    I don’t really see the issue with that since Jesus is God. Predicting one’s own actions is hardly coercive.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2009 @ 9:30 pm

  43. What’s up with the rudeness from you Ardis? I have never said “you’re stupid, and I’m right” to you. (In fact, with the exception of that recent post over at 9Moons I can’t recall ever even disagreeing with you online before.)

    If I say I’m wrong or stupid before you do, Geoff, then it doesn’t sting so much. I don’t mean it as rudeness, just self protection, and I feel the need for self protection because you’ve dismissed everything anybody has offered in opposition to your position.

    For a long time it was assumed Euclidean geometry was the geometry of the universe. Even after people were working on non-Euclidean geometry. Then with Einstein we discovered that the universe was non-Euclidean and all that developed mathematics was actually useful in physics.

    That’s pretty much my point, Clark. Geoff assumes his logic is the logic of God. The men who questioned the parallel postulate — and that’s exactly where the entire field of non-Euclidean geometry started, regardless of where the wiki says the field is today — weren’t bound by the logic that men had insisted was the only way to view the universe, and came up with a system that better matched reality (regardless of how much later it was before we were able to discern that reality). I’m saying that when Geoff learns what God’s logic really is, I suspect he will look back at threads like this one as being as quaint as Euclidean geometry is.

    Geoff, I don’t like the word “predicting.” In my mind, that’s equivalent to guessing. I don’t feel very secure with a God who only guesses. I can’t agree to several of your other words, either, and since words are all we have, there’s not any point to continuing this. Thanks.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — August 3, 2009 @ 9:40 pm

  44. Good Point Geoff. Laptop Battery is dying though, so I’ll have to wait and see Clark’s response in the morning.

    Comment by Matt W. — August 3, 2009 @ 9:41 pm

  45. Geoff, by the Open Theist’s logic God doesn’t know it will happen. He just knows it’s likely. But many likely don’t happen. So that means for God to know it God must bring it about. And there’s more to it than just mobs like to kill upstarts. Think of the role and free choice of Pilate for instance.

    Further, as I pointed out last time we discussed this here, the issue isn’t just Christ’s dying but rather the manner of Christ’s death. Did God ensure that Assyrian torture methods became the popular method of execution in Roman Palestine? If so, what does that say about God ethically?

    One could continue. The apologetic for this, which Blake has adroitly presented at this blog before, is to simply argue that claims about foreknowledge of the crucifixion are late additions, bad translations or too vague to apply. (Talking about passages like 1 Ne. 11: 33) I personally don’t find this convincing in the least but I can understand why people already committed to open theism would latch onto it.

    This is but one example though.

    Comment by Clark — August 3, 2009 @ 9:47 pm

  46. Ardis, let me be pedantic because in this case I think one needs to be. The issue isn’t logic but premises. In Euclidean geometry there are explicit axioms. I raise this because people talk about the “philosophies of men” as if it applied to reasoning. (This was what was raised at M*) but I think it would be better said to be “the premises of men.”

    My ultimate point, which I suspect you’ll agree with, is that those most open to throwing out scientific knowledge are those least likely to question the premises of how they read and interpret scripture. i.e. they prefer to read scripture in a way in which they don’t investigate it deeply nor have sufficient humility in their own personal assumptions. (Not saying in the last that this applies to anyone in this discussion – just that I think we’ve all met people like that)

    Comment by Clark — August 3, 2009 @ 9:51 pm

  47. Ardis,

    If what you are after is a God who knows he will overcome then you have that in the explanation I gave in #26. The future need not be fixed for God to know his purposes will be fulfilled.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2009 @ 9:56 pm

  48. I just wrote a full talk on this, but I decided to keep it simple. God knows the future. He has given revelation to prophets that have proven true. God knows the future. Whether or not it is seeing it come to pass or knowing by his Infinite wisdom, or by other means, He knows the future, perfectly, precisely and godly.

    “in the presence of God, … where all things … are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord.” (D&C 130:7.)

    Ardis is right; You have made rules and expect God to be bound to them. Namely: Laws of Physics and Time and Philosophy authored by Geoff J

    If the future exists to be traveled to or known then it is fixed. If our futures are fixed then our stories are already written. If our stories are already written [then] we are not writing them with our free will right now. Period.

    Other than Geoff J, who says that? Not God’s physics book.

    Truths: God knows the future.
    God has given us a free will, and defends it. (Hence pre-mortal war in Heaven)
    God cannot deny our free will, by Eternal Law.

    These truths, just to name a few, contradict what your detail in your post.

    I just want to end by saying that I am always amused at the way people get all huffy about this incontrovertible truth. Once cornered (and people always end up cornered when defending sheer nonsense) a popular response is to scream “Philosophies of men!!” and stomp off. I have bad news for those folks — truth is the territory of God and God doesn’t believe nonsense.

    Comment by "The Glory of God is Intelligence" — August 3, 2009 @ 10:00 pm

  49. To add the other problem open theists have is that one can’t calculate probabilities. One is always stuck with something else since free choices for the open theist aren’t probabilistic. They are something between randomness and determinism. Something other. So God can say mobs often do X but he can’t really say, according to the logic of the open theist, how probable something is except in a very, very loose qualitative sense.

    Comment by Clark — August 3, 2009 @ 10:00 pm

  50. One should note that all future things might be manifest to God but that not all that will happen in the future is a thing. It may refer to realities that apply to the future without claiming that every event is such a thing.

    That is you assume events are the things D&C 130 talks about but my personal opinion is that they are more eternal patterns that repeat through time. (Say like the laws of physics) Generals rather than particulars. I say this while thinking God does have foreknowledge.

    Comment by Clark — August 3, 2009 @ 10:04 pm

  51. Clark,

    Your crucifixion example has all kinds of points of failure. The first is your assumption about that passage of scripture. In order for your complaint to get off the ground you must dismiss the “expansion theory” possibility regarding it.

    Even if we do dismiss that and assume Nephi was shown a crucifixion, you are mistaken if you say God nudging and influencing people here and there is somehow coercive. If one person influences another is that coercion? Yet God and angels are celestial people. I don’t see the coercion problem you claim. Was God immoral when he appeared to Saul of Tarsus or Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah? Was that coercion? If not then how is a prompting here or there or billions of promptings here or there coercion?

    Further, if we assume contingency planning this becomes even easier to deal with. So Pilate made that decision that day. If we grant he could have chosen otherwise that day don’t you think God would have had contingency plans in place to accomplish his purposes?

    I just don’t think you are being imaginative enough nor are you giving enough credit to God for his resourcefulness in a universe with an open future. The Calvinism comparison fails miserably for you in my opinion.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2009 @ 10:04 pm

  52. The Glory of God is Intelligence (#48),

    First, you gotta think of a better screen name dude. I suggest going back to your old one.

    Second, selectively quoting scriptures (with ellipses and all) doesn’t work very well when we all have access to the source material. Here is the passage:

    6 The angels do not reside on a planet like this earth;
    7 But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord.

    So while one could read that to mean the future is continually before the Lord, I think a better reading is that either the angels are continually before the Lord or that “all things for their glory” are continually before the Lord.

    I do like how verses 4 and 5 refute the oft-repeated claim that God lives out of time though:

    4 In answer to the question—Is not the reckoning of God’s time, angel’s time, prophet’s time, and man’s time, according to the planet on which they reside?
    5 I answer, Yes. But there are no angels who minister to this earth but those who do belong or have belonged to it.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2009 @ 10:14 pm

  53. @ #50 Clark: Your comment cannot be claimed as fact, for it is based on your thesis of the true nature of time as God sees it, which you cannot claim to know.

    Comment by "The Glory of God is Intelligence" — August 3, 2009 @ 10:14 pm

  54. @ #52 Geoff: I commend your interpretation, and I believe we are on the same side, but I refer to Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s interpretation from “The Inexhaustible Gospel,” Apr 1993 Ensign.

    Comment by "The Glory of God is Intelligence" — August 3, 2009 @ 10:18 pm

  55. Hey, I just want to add one more quote, read right after the afore mention scripture in Elder Maxwell’s talk:

    The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “The past, the present, and the future were and are, with [Jehovah], one eternal ‘now.’ ” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 220.) How different the Lord’s “now” is from ours.

    Neal A. Maxwell, “The Inexhaustible Gospel,” Ensign, Apr 1993, 68
    Thanks,
    “The Glory of God is Intelligence”

    Comment by "The Glory of God is Intelligence" — August 3, 2009 @ 10:32 pm

  56. So Geoff,

    I have wanted to ask you this because I think it bears asking. Also think it may have been asked anyway but I am going to try here because I am not in to deep in either camp. In a way I see both sides of the argument.

    However, my first question is do you believe we have absolute free will, in other words God simple acts on our actions, using his best understanding of the options to create the winning conditions as it were.

    Second, if you believe that then how does God reveal to Enoch all of the the history to the flood and beyond? How does he reveal to Nephi all the history and downfall of his people in what seems to be pretty good detail.

    In other words I would say you are bollocking prophesy based on the fact there is no way to BE sure. Free will would mean their may or may not be a need for an advent of Christ in America. There may never be a collapse of the Nephitish people into a final battle leaving none who believe in Christ save Moroni.

    I guess my point is that God would be on the level with Satan, neither able in do more than influence, with only periodic interference in person.

    So looking at it that way I cannot see how, with all the possibilities open to both sides, that God can be so sure of ultimate victory. If not then why all the apocalyptic verse? Is it a boogie man thing to tell his spirit children to do the right?

    I personally think it is far more complex than that but when one simply looks at the role of prophesy in our holy books it would seem a fools errand for the Lord to reveal what he does. In some ways it would give validity that instead is what you have is prophetic redactors giving place for what has already happened to justify where they were.

    Or are Isaiah, John, Joseph, Abraham, Enoch, Moses, Daniel, and Nephi really just on a big drug induced trip?

    Comment by JonW — August 3, 2009 @ 10:38 pm

  57. Clark: It ought to be pretty clear that the very term “free will” was invented by Arminians to distinguish it from “will” – which was the neutral term of the debate.

    It is only relatively recently that compatibilists have come along and decided to invent the idea that “free will” isn’t really “free” in the sense the originators of the term intended.

    I quote from an 150 year old translation of the canons of the Council of Trent, which was held by the Catholic Church between 1545 and 1563:

    If any one saith, that, since Adam’s sin, the free will of man is lost and extinguished; or, that it is a thing with only a name, yea a name without a reality, a figment, in fine, introduced into the Church by Satan; let him be anathema. (Canons of the Council of Trent, Chapter XVI, On Justification, Canon IV)

    This in the middle of a long section of rejection of doctrines of Calvinism. The material point here is the Calvinists were saying that free will was either gone with the Fall, or is a complete fiction.

    There is no reason for modern determinists to co-opt the term “free will” contrary to its original meaning. The term “will” will do nicely, and won’t be implicitly dishonest subterfuge – a hijacking of a term that was perfectly clear hundreds of years ago, in the Latin, as: liberum arbitrium, the very thing that Calvinists denied. Compatibilism is nothing more than a linguistic sleight of hand, a way for determinists to pretend to claim the very liberty they in actual fact deny.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 3, 2009 @ 10:43 pm

  58. Geoff, 26:

    If God knows all the bounds and details of the universe and knows nothing in the universe can defeat him then he would know he would succeed despite the future being open. That position allows for you to have free and for God to be able to make promises he knows he can keep.

    I’m carried about by every wind of doctrine on this subject; I agree and disagree with everybody because I can’t find anyone that has a completely satisfactory answer. In what I quoted, Geoff, you lay out an assumption that I can’t get past:

    You reject the idea that God knows the future. Easy enough starting point, but then to maintain a God who is still reliable, you have to believe that he knows everything that does exist and fully understands everything’s capabilities. I don’t see how it’s possible for him to know that there’s nothing he hasn’t thought of. Why do you reject the idea that God is acting on faith a lot like he asks us to? i.e., he truly believes that charity will always eventually win over evil and so he believes he will always hold the stronger position.

    Comment by BrianJ — August 3, 2009 @ 10:43 pm

  59. Thanks for doing a once-over, Geoff. Much better.

    Clark (49), I’m not convinced God needs to actually calculate probabilities. I mean, perhaps He has the math to do that (if anyone does, He does), but I don’t think one needs a quantitative analysis to plan for various contingencies, only the ability to recognize the possible branchings and the possibilities to which they lead.

    I’m with Geoff on coercion. I don’t think God steps over any free will line, following D&C 121:41-3. So I don’t really see the Calvinism-Open Theism connection.

    Also, in some sense, something is moral by definition if God says to do it, so I don’t see any ethical problem with God allowing crucifixion to become popular in Roman times.

    Ardis, Geoff’s posts are among the few places I see you get sorta cantankerous. For some reason it cracks me up.

    Comment by Ben Pratt — August 3, 2009 @ 10:46 pm

  60. #55,

    See more on Elder Maxwell’s ideas on pages 75-76 here. See footnote 30 as well.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2009 @ 10:51 pm

  61. Clark: I am using “Arminian” in the general sense, of course. The debate probably preceded Calvin, if not Augustine.

    BrianJ: The problem is that knowledge of the future is death – to effectively cease to exist as a morally responsible, independent being. An acquaintance of mine once claimed “God doesn’t make any decisions” – well of course he doesn’t if he knows the future, because there is nothing he can possibly decide. The only freedom he might of exercised in such a case would be logically prior to creating the universe out of nothing.

    TGGI: You misquoted the scripture, leaving out the critical qualifier “for their glory”. This nullifies your argument.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 3, 2009 @ 10:54 pm

  62. JonW (#56),

    Rather than speculate on how God makes accurate prophesies I’ll just say it is a mystery to me. But is it not self-contradictory nonsense to say God is smart enough or resourceful enough to be able to give prophesies. As I mentioned in the post — I appreciate a good mystery as much as the next person. I just don’t want my mysteries polluted by self-contradictory paradoxes.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2009 @ 11:06 pm

  63. BrianJ: I don’t see how it’s possible for him to know that there’s nothing he hasn’t thought of.

    I didn’t say that. I just speculated that God knows enough about the universe and enough about himself* to be able to confidently say his purposes will be fulfilled.

    Of course our scriptures say pretty clearly that it is logically possible for God to fail so if someone is angling for a religion where God failing is not even a logical possibility then Mormonism ain’t the place. But just because something is logically possible does not mean it is a practical possibility. God says he won’t fail and we have faith in God.

    * I use the term “himself” loosely because the One God is not just one divine person according to our scriptures.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2009 @ 11:11 pm

  64. Mark D: The problem is that knowledge of the future is death – to effectively cease to exist as a morally responsible, independent being.

    Amen. For that reason a fixed future is a non-starter.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2009 @ 11:13 pm

  65. Geoff, as I said, I’m familiar with the apologetics. This is of course the problem with the expansion theory of scripture. It allows one to discount anything inconvenient. Without some gauge how is one to decide what to discount? Couldn’t one discount the post-Enlightenment view of free will? See? It works both ways.

    Ben, the problem isn’t with God allowing crucifixion to become popular. Rather because in open theism he needs to account for all contingencies God must bring about the crucifixion as a torture method or be willing to do so which allots him a kind of responsibility exactly of the sort the Calvinistic God faces. It poses significant problems to account for the problem of evil.

    Mark, of course it’s debatable whether determinism of any sort entails the death of responsibility. While I think the appeal to responsibility is the strongest argument Blake and Geoff has one has to acknowledge there are many very, very smart philosophers who have no trouble reconciling responsibility and determinism. John Fischer being the obvious example. While one can, of course, disagree with Fischer (as Blake and presumably Geoff do) I think one has to acknowledge that things aren’t as clearly resolved here as some portray it. i.e. it is very much an open topic of philosophy.

    Mark, I’m not sure what you mean by “recently.” Pretty much since the enlightenment until recently (say the last 30 years) the dominant philosophical position was compatibilism. Now if you mean the era of late antiquity or early medievalism that might be. I don’t know off the top of my head what was or wasn’t dominant then. But then I’m not sure it really matters that much.

    The point is that the modern debate is rather modern. The very ideas of will and so forth as found in the modern debate while having a genealogical connection to earlier Scholastic debates can not be reduced to them.

    As for Calvinists, I was referring to how they portray their position in terms of the modern debate. Which is they adopt compatibilism.

    JonW, I think Geoff’s position is the same as Blake which is that anything which looks like prophesy is actually late editing of the texts which takes place after the events transpired. As I said the problem with this position is that there’s no way to really tell if it is true and it explains too much. It reduces to simply rejecting any text that contradicts ones philosophical commitments.

    Now there is something to that. I think we all reject as editorial modifications things like claims the sun goes around the earth or the like. However generally I think a hermeneutic wherein one is conservative and only rejects with good reasons is preferrable. Of course Blake and Geoff feel their commitment to open theism fits because they feel it is necessary to be morally responsible. I disagree of course but that gets into a long argument. (For the record I’m agnostic on the issue of whether the future is knowable although over time I’m more inclined to think it is with all the ontological implications that holds)

    Comment by Clark — August 3, 2009 @ 11:15 pm

  66. “Intelligence” no I’m not having that as my premise. Rather I was pointing out the premise of how you are using the scripture. My point is that we don’t know the answer. Thus we have to be open to the various ways the scripture can be read. Rather my point is that you are injecting a premise you can’t know into the text in order to use it as a prooftext. A premise which as you note you simply can’t know.

    Comment by Clark — August 3, 2009 @ 11:17 pm

  67. Oh, that last comment to our pseudopigraphal “intelligence” is to post 53. But I am delighted with the unintentional irony in that comment.

    Comment by Clark — August 3, 2009 @ 11:18 pm

  68. Regarding the quote from TPJS 220. I’d note the important qualifier to the text. (And I’m not sure of the providence of that particular text – maybe Ardis knows?)

    The great Jehovah contemplated the whole of the events connected with the earth, pertaining to the plan of salvation, before it rolled into existence, or ever “the morning stars sang together” for joy; the past, the present, and the future were and are, with Him, one eternal “now;” (emphasis mine)

    Comment by Clark — August 3, 2009 @ 11:29 pm

  69. Clark,

    Interesting link to John Fischer. I see he claims that moral responsibility can be independent of the LFW question but I have no idea how he defends that claim.

    But of course most of the uninitiated in these threads are not making any such nuanced claims. Most people want to claim that we have free will in the LFW sense of the word and yet God also has exhaustive foreknowledge. In other words, they are holding out hope that LFW and a fixed future are compatible. Even you know that is not the case.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2009 @ 11:53 pm

  70. He has several very well received books on the topic Geoff. I’d assumed you’d read them.

    Comment by Clark — August 3, 2009 @ 11:55 pm

  71. BTW – I think most people are more or less thinking something like LFW is compatible. Precisely because they don’t hold to a nuanced position I don’t think one can say they hold to LFW. Indeed as you know the empirical philosophy movement has done lots of tests on people intuitions and they hold to compatibilism or LFW depending upon the context. That suggests how people think about free will simply isn’t pure LFW.

    Comment by Clark — August 3, 2009 @ 11:57 pm

  72. BTW – this is a pertinent discussion of the latest research there. The weakness in the study is that it conflates free will with responsibility which given semi-compatibilism is a bit of a no-no.

    BTW2 – that should read “experimental philosophy” and not “empirical philosophy.” Sorry. It’s way past my bedtime. I don’t often have time to blog anymore and I’ve wasted way too much time here tonight.

    Comment by Clark — August 4, 2009 @ 12:03 am

  73. Sorry, not trying to overwhelm with a series of short posts. But I probably won’t be able to post again for a while. Anyway a recent post at GFP is relevant.

    Comment by Clark — August 4, 2009 @ 12:05 am

  74. Geoff J and Mark D: You’re not really addressing my question (which is probably because I didn’t state it clearly). I totally follow you on the problem of a fixed/known future. I’ve followed you on this since it was discussed however many years ago on this blog. Known future = no free will.

    My question is about how you view God’s ability to reliably make promises. Geoff’s position seems to be: God is reliable because he knows everything there is to be known, knows all the calculations and permutations and possibilities, and has determined that he can never lose. My questions:

    1) Why do you believe that God knows everything that exists to be known?

    2) How does God know that there is nothing that he doesn’t know? (and why would you believe him?)

    You said, “If God knows all the bounds and details of the universe and knows nothing in the universe can defeat him,” from which I extrapolated that he “knows that there’s nothing he hasn’t thought of.” You rejected that, but I think it follows from what you said. “If God knows all the bounds and details,” as you speculate, then he also knows the exact limit of his knowledge, which in this case is things that don’t exist (e.g., largest number, the future). And that’s all; everything that does exist is known by God, and as soon as something exists it becomes known by him. Thus, for God to maintain his position of universal knowledge he must know that there is nothing he does not know.

    Granted, in your reply you use less absolute language to describe God’s knowledge: “I just speculated that God knows enough about the universe and enough about himself* to be able to confidently say his purposes will be fulfilled.” “God knows all” –> “God knows enough“; “knows nothing can defeat him” –> “able to confidently say.” (In quoting you like this I’m not trying to trap you in some corner, btw, just to understand your argument.)

    3) Is it possible that God believes that there are some things that exist that he does not know? Is it possible that there are some possibilities in the future that he hasn’t considered? Is it possible that when God says, “I know _____,” he says it in the same sense I do when I say, “I know God lives” (i.e., faith)?

    Comment by BrianJ — August 4, 2009 @ 2:53 am

  75. Forgive my late and my possibly tangential comment as it relates to the firestorm surrounding J. Max and his post on M*.

    Jon Max Wilson has been an invaluable help to me as I have often struggled to keep M* and WordPress functioning without too many hiccups. He has never sought public recognition, nor has he ever sought any form of remuneration for that assistance. My sql skills are severely lacking (actually, non-existent) and could not have moved M* from B2E to WordPress without his help. M* was founded and continues to run today in large part thanks to Jon Max Wilson. I cannot thank him enough for his technical contributions.

    I understand the complexities of the Bloggernacle and the social dynamic of the same. Frankly, it reminds me of my years attending junior and senior high school. For me, life is much too short to engage in some of the bickering that takes place between the various blogs and bloggers. I simply do not have the time nor the tolerance for disagreement.

    My testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ does not hinge on what one blogger may or may not say. We each have our own opinions on gospel topics and it makes for some exciting discussions and friendly disagreements.

    I am not here to take sides or chastise anyone. My plea is simply for a return to calm and measured responses when disagreements arise. If disagreements cannot be settled, or fences mended to everyone’s satisfaction, then perhaps walking away from the argument is the best thing for all involved.

    Sorry to intrude, Geoff. I’ll pull my shirt back down so as not to expose the lint in my navel. ;-)

    Comment by Brian Duffin — August 4, 2009 @ 6:59 am

  76. BrianJ: In my opinion, the answer to the question of how God can ensure that his purposes never fail is the doctrine of exaltation.

    If there was no exaltation, I would say that the possibility is reasonably open that the originator of a sub-par plan of salvation might be rejected in favor of the author of a radically superior one.

    Exaltation, however, ensures that that the power of the divine concert is ever expanding, and in particular gives no one a fundamental reason to ultimately disagree.

    The second part is that one must reasonably assume that all else being equal, a group that internally operates by righteous principles will have superior internal cohesion, performance, contentment etc. to a group operating by any counterfeit. So that it will win in the long run, if only by a stream of defections from possible alternatives.

    In addition, if there are (or were) more than one group operating on such principles, they must recognize that they won’t ultimately succeed unless they band forces together. I would call that the most basic principle of the plan of salvation – love God (in the ultimate sense), love one another are two sides of the same coin.

    In a world such as this it is certainly possible for the plan of salvation to suffer setbacks of considerable duration. The fundamental principles of the plan, however, are what I claim ensure its ultimate victory. I believe that God knows this, and makes his promises based on that fact.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 4, 2009 @ 7:45 am

  77. @ # 74 Brian J: I just recently read a talk from Lael Woodbury (found in D&C Study Guide for v. 130)
    Here is an excerpt:

    “The evidence suggests that God . . . perceives time as we perceive space. That’s why ‘all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things’
    [D&C88:41]. Time, like space, is ‘continually before the Lord.’ . . .

    “. . . Right now we perceive music in time as a blind man perceives form in space—sequentially. He explores with his fingers, noting form, texture, contours, rhythms. He holds each perception in his mind, one by one, carefully adding one to the other, until he synthesizes his concept of what that space object must be like. You and I don’t do that. We perceive a space object immediately. We simply look at it, and to a certain degree we ‘know it. We do [not] go through a one-by-one, sequential, additive process. We perceive that it is, and we are able to distinguish it from any other object.

    “I’m suggesting that God perceives time as instantaneously as we perceive space. For us, time is difficult. Lacking higher facility, we are as blind about time as a sightless man is about space. We perceive time in the same way that we perceive music—sequentially. We explore rhythm, pitch, amplitude, texture, theme, harmonies, parallels, and contrasts. And from our perceptions we synthesize our concept of the object or event—the musical artwork—that existed in its entirety before we began our examination of it.

    “Equally complete now is each of our lives before the Lord. We explore them sequentially because we are time-blind. But the Lord, perceiving time as space, sees us as we are, not as we are becoming. We are, for him, beings without time. We are continually before him—the totality of our psyches, personalities, bodies, choices, and behaviors.” (Continually before the Lord, Commissioner’s Lecture Series [Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1974], pp. 5–6.)

    Hope this helps.

    Comment by Intelligence — August 4, 2009 @ 8:28 am

  78. BrianJ,

    There are lots of assumptions one could make that would allow us to arrive at the conclusion that God is reliable despite the future not being fixed. Of course the real answers to that are mysteries. But my point in this thread is that there is nothing wrong with Mysteries. We just shouldn’t pollute our mysteries (the “we don’t know how he does that’ things) with clear paradoxes.

    Now with that said if you are interested in speculations on those mysteries Mark has some pretty good ones as noted in #76. I actually am somewhat partial to the idea of a finite (though inconceivably massive) universe in terms of space with a finite number of beginningless spirits. But of course that is just speculation.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 4, 2009 @ 8:53 am

  79. Brian Duffin,

    There was never anything remotely like “firestorm” here. There was one grouchy comment in this thread by me. It was over by comment #11 and I like it that way since that was completely off topic to begin with.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 4, 2009 @ 8:57 am

  80. Intelligence,

    See here for a post called “God is not timeless — deal with it”. It seems like that is the specific topic you want to discuss.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 4, 2009 @ 9:00 am

  81. Geoff J.,

    I really appreciate (and fully agree) with your theological argument. I guess I am a bit of a natural law guy and I think that the sound logic of man can be an expression of the logic of God. Not sure why certain wingnuts feel that their logic is somehow that of God. Keep up the good fight.

    Comment by Chris H. — August 4, 2009 @ 9:17 am

  82. Geoff J said, “We just shouldn’t pollute our mysteries (the “we don’t know how he does that’ things) with clear paradoxes.”

    I quite agree with this statement. That is not to say paradoxes don’t have their use. Things that result in clear paradox tend to be things that are not true. Thus paradoxes help narrow the field of speculation. As Joseph Smith said,

    Although all is not gold that shines, any more than every religious creed is sanctioned with the so eternally sure word of prophecy, satisfying all doubt with “Thus saith the Lord;” yet, “by proving contraries,” truth is made manifest…

    Comment by A. Davis — August 4, 2009 @ 9:22 am

  83. Geoff J,

    My post, #77, is clear and supported church doctrine. It is not my words. If you don’t like it, jot a letter to Church Curriculum.

    No matter what Jacob J. writes, it is not recognized doctrine. (Sorry Jacob!) Compelling read, though.
    Thanks,

    Comment by Intelligence — August 4, 2009 @ 9:24 am

  84. Intelligence,

    “Recognized doctrine” (as in popular and oft repeated doctrinal ideas) is not the same as “truth”. If you want to believe paradoxes by all means do. Men are free to choose and all that.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 4, 2009 @ 9:29 am

  85. If “Recognized doctrine” is not the same as “truth”, then none of our rousing conversation has any basis and is thrown out of the window. Thanks. I might as well stop attending church, because I know that I will always get the truth from New Cool Thang blog.

    Comment by Intelligence — August 4, 2009 @ 9:37 am

  86. Intelligence, I don’t know what you mean by “clear and supported church doctrine” but a talk from some guy I’ve never heard of sure isn’t on par with a prophet giving scripture to me. I’d also say that when someone uses words like “suggest” that he’s hardly presenting something as mainstream established doctrine either.

    Comment by Clark — August 4, 2009 @ 9:38 am

  87. That Church Curriculum presents in its texts one interpretation of D&C 88:41 does not make it “clear and supported church doctrine”.

    The interpretation you present passes precisely 0 of the doctrinal tests suggested by the Church in Approaching Mormon Doctrine.

    Comment by A. Davis — August 4, 2009 @ 9:40 am

  88. Recognized doctrine can be understood to be what we believe to be truth based on revelation and the understanding thereof. As our understanding of revelation can and has changed, recognized doctrines have changed. That shouldn’t be a problem.

    Comment by A. Davis — August 4, 2009 @ 9:42 am

  89. Nicely said A. Davis and Clark. I added a clarification to my #84 as well.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 4, 2009 @ 9:44 am

  90. After reading Blake vol 1 in 2004, I’m still with Clark in thinking that we don’t have the answer. I can easily read scripture concerning God’s foreknowledge and free will in a variety of ways.

    All are right, all are wrong. Perhaps there will be a third, truer option, which no one has yet considered, due to lack of information.

    I think we would do well in our discussion to discuss, but keep an open mind. After all, there are many who would consider the concept of God being anthropomorphic as heretical. And they think they can prove themselves right by pleading to the Bible.

    Keep an open mind, but not so open that all your brains fall out.

    Comment by rameumptom — August 4, 2009 @ 9:46 am

  91. No matter what Jacob J. writes, it is not recognized doctrine. (Sorry Jacob!)

    Ha. No need to apologize, I would never suggest that what I was writing was “recognized doctrine.” I would suggest that it is based on sound logic, but then, that probably just demonstrates my arrogance.

    In the end, a rejection of logic is a rejection of thinking and rationality. Since no one really rejects thinking and rationality, I conclude that the people who seem to say they reject logic either (1) selectively reject whatever logic leads to conclusions they don’t like, (2) don’t realize the logical implications of their rejection of logic (hehe), or (3) don’t really reject logic in any sense, but think the argument they don’t agree with is not logically water tight and rather than doing the hard work of finding the leak they start making accusations of arrogance.

    Of course, you should realize that just because Lael Woodbury said something it doesn’t make it so either. Appeals to authority are fundamentally unpersuasive on a matter such as this. I made arguments which can be engaged. If you can’t refute them, then pointing to what Woodbury or anyone else has said is not going to be a substitute for sound argument.

    Comment by Jacob J — August 4, 2009 @ 9:52 am

  92. The standard answer to appeals to scriptures such as D&C 88:41 is that if the future is not fixed, it can hardly be considered a “thing”, in the proper sense of the term.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 4, 2009 @ 10:11 am

  93. Intelligence, you remind me of myself a few years ago. Relax! We talk about crazy stuff all the time, and many of us are pedantic, picky about definitions, and somewhat anal. Even so, it has been my experience that what someone writes on a philosophical or doctrinal post tells you exactly nothing about the faithfulness of that particular blogger or commenter.

    Comment by Ben Pratt — August 4, 2009 @ 11:10 am

  94. Hey, are you guys having a conversation here and now everything that could be said is pretty much said; and I didn’t get to throw in my two cents?* Why is it that at NCT a posting reaches 100 comments within 24 hours and then crickets chirp for a week?

    *My two cents: Mega dittos**

    **Mega dittos: “Love the show, hope it never goes away!”

    Comment by Kent (MC) — August 4, 2009 @ 11:11 am

  95. Two quick points from the big thread I missed while it was happening:

    (1) Ardis, I can assure you that Geoff doesn’t always win in his own backyard. I know this because I’ve beaten down his arguments lots of times {grin}. To his credit, he invited me to stay, which is evidence that he is very willing to have robust debate with people who disagree.

    (2) Brian Duffin, I appreciate you sharing some of the good stuff J. Max Wilson has done behind the scenes. I have no beef with him personally, but his decision to delete Geoff’s totally benign comments over at M* based on personal animosity is inexcusable and he should know it. You may need content over there, but for the record this sullies my opinion of M* considerably.

    Comment by Jacob J — August 4, 2009 @ 11:12 am

  96. All,

    As an amateur attempting to follow along it’s nice to have people like Jacob J and Geoff J(among others) who actually take the time to demonstrate their position as apposed to just dropping GA names or Church Publication quotes as the last and final word on what’s what. It’s condescending, and less than productive.

    Intelligence,

    I assume most of us have had previous access to, and the ability to read, 99% of the quotes you provided. But I think it would be more helpful if you expound on the quotes you provide as apposed to thinking they settle the question.

    Not to be rude, but it’s more than just a little ironic that your call name is “Intelligence” when really, if the rest of us were pick you new name which reflects your method, then “Lazy Mimicry” is more suitable.

    We all have read those sources, so please know it would be more beneficial to the rest of us (and yourself) if you would demonstrate your position with more than Authority statements. If not, then this whole thing ends up being “well my GA is bigger/more-righteous than yours”. As Blake once put it: “If we had to make sense of every little thing every GA ever said we would be in one Mell-of-Hess.”

    Comment by Riley — August 4, 2009 @ 11:38 am

  97. Someone help me with this. I have always thought of this life as a chess game. God knows all of the moves that I can make, but not every move I will make until I make it. He may be disappointed in the moves I make, but never surprised.

    I am a decent chess player, not great, just decent. If I play a beginner, there is not doubt that I will win. I can even make moves that will set up a play that I want my opponent to make. They do not have to fall for the trap, but usually do.

    As long as we do not believe that God can time travel, (something I do not believe God can do) then why would my way of seeing this not work for a view of free will?

    Comment by CEF — August 4, 2009 @ 1:58 pm

  98. CEF,

    The chess model does indeed preserve free will. I recommend some variation of it to all.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 4, 2009 @ 2:44 pm

  99. Mark D, 76: thanks. It sounds like you support (to some degree) the “God promises by faith” model I proposed—unless I totally misunderstood you.

    Geoff J: Oh I know that wasn’t what the post was all about. Still, I wanted some philosophies of Geoff mingled with scripture speculation. :)

    Intelligence, 77: That doesn’t help because a) I’m not trying to stake a claim here, just discuss an idea, and b) I already reject that God knows or sees the future.

    Comment by BrianJ — August 4, 2009 @ 6:41 pm

  100. I almost find myself persuaded by your argument. It definitely makes more sense than the other explanation. But I still don’t feel that you’ve convincingly argued why something God does should make sense to us. You haven’t really addressed the heart of J. Max’s argument that we can’t choose which answer sounds the most logical if our sense of logic is constrained by extremely narrow earthly bounds.

    Why insist that our idea of the future and time make sense to our human logic but not how God heals people and turns water into wine? Both offend our human sense of reason; why can’t the former also be chalked up to mysterious miracle? Can it not be possible that there is an explanation that we can not ever think up? The way we cannot imagine a color we have never seen?

    I’m not a fan of nonsense explanations either, but I’m also not a fan of having to explain mysteries with human logic. I’m not in the camp for example who believes that God was once a man because how else could he have been created? I’d like to think that God is bigger and more mysterious than that. I don’t know how God became God. And that’s fine with me.

    Comment by Katie M. — August 4, 2009 @ 8:44 pm

  101. BrianJ: I agree that God is indeed acting on faith, albeit that he has much stronger justification for his faith than we do. Rising to the point where he knows more or less what everyone in the world is thinking, being able to respond in kind, and to inspire and direct the forces of righteousness everywhere, to start with. Not to mention a track record that goes back who knows how many million years.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 4, 2009 @ 8:48 pm

  102. Katie M: There is nothing contrary to *logic* about healing people or turning water into wine. It is contrary to everyday experience, but that is a completely different thing.

    Logic, strictly speaking, is a kin to mathematics, and the basic rules of logic are no more likely to be violated than 2 + 2 = 4. In fact, strictly speaking, the basic rules of logic *cannot* be violated, any more than two plus two can be something other than four.

    If one wants to maintain exhaustive foreknowledge, the way is wide open – simply maintain belief in a timeless, unembodied God who created a deterministic universe with compatibilist free will out of nothing. Or confess that we have no idea what exhaustive foreknowledge even means. Without basic logic there is no such thing as meaning.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 4, 2009 @ 9:15 pm

  103. Katie,

    But I still don’t feel that you’ve convincingly argued why something God does should make sense to us.

    Over at M* I linked to my post addressing that question but I hadn’t linked to it here. The post is titled Why Obey the Laws of Logic? and in addition to the post I would add that this comment added an important clarification of my position.

    Comment by Jacob J — August 4, 2009 @ 9:28 pm

  104. I’m not arguing that we should throw out logic, just that our view of what is and is not logical is incomplete. What we call logic is premised entirely on our knowledge of natural laws in 2009. How can we know what is logical if we know but the tiniest sliver of what the universe is really like? Geoff’s theory is based wholly on one concept of time. But what if time isn’t at all what we think it to be and instead God’s universe operates with rules that we cannot imagine?

    Comment by Katie M. — August 4, 2009 @ 9:51 pm

  105. Katie M: Why insist that our idea of the future and time make sense to our human logic but not how God heals people and turns water into wine?

    I tried to explain this in the post. There is nothing self contradictory about healing people or turning water to the wine. We certainly don’t know how God does it but that makes those things mysteries, not paradoxes. The “cockroach” is the self-contradiction. I love the fact that there are mysteries of God — that is why I called it a cupcake. It is something wonderful and delicious. But it is folly to mix the wonderful mysteries of God with things which are by definition self contradictory in my opinion. A circular square is an example of something self contradictory. Claiming that our future already exists but we are creating it right now is another example. The former is trivial, the latter is incredibly important.

    Geoff’s theory is based wholly on one concept of time.

    This is not true. How time really works is largely moot in this discussion. Rather, the key question is are we creating our future now or does it already exist. These two things are mutually exclusive. Given that one of them must go to avoid self-contradiction it is a no brainer to go with agency. Exhaustive foreknowledge would be useless to God and a fixed future makes Mormonism false in my opinion.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 4, 2009 @ 10:07 pm

  106. How time really works is largely moot in this discussion.

    To me it’s not moot because your argument is based on the concept of linear time. A different concept of time opens up more possibilities of solving this question. If time is actually one eternal round, then we have indeed already lived and made our choices. In some dimension the choices have already been made and in some dimension we are still making them. And thus God can see both the present, the past, and the future. I have no idea how this works, but I believe it is possible and doesn’t necessarily contradict logic.

    Comment by Katie M. — August 4, 2009 @ 10:37 pm

  107. Katie M: To me it’s not moot because your argument is based on the concept of linear time.

    I am happy to grant you non-linear time for purposes of this discussion. It remains moot. Linear time, non-linear time, circular time, loop-dee-loop time — take your pick. The key question is: Are we creating our future with our choices now or is our future already fixed and fated?

    Now if you are willing to say we aren’t really making free choices here then the paradox is solved. (It appears you are leaning that way with your “If time is actually one eternal round, then we have indeed already lived and made our choices.”)

    But of course by solving the paradox in that way you have a whole new set of problems, most important of which is that Mormonism fails and is false if we aren’t really making free choices here.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 4, 2009 @ 10:46 pm

  108. Katie M: You appear to be using “logical” in a colloquial sense, where we are using it in a formal sense.

    None of the contra exhaustive foreknowledge arguments here make any reference to natural laws other than the proposition that the past is past, i.e. it cannot change nor can it be changed. If the past can change, all bets are off.

    Did Joseph Smith really sail the ocean blue with Christopher Columbus in the year fourteen ninety two? Who can tell? Sure he sailed with Columbus in the year 1492 today, but I am not so sure about tommorrow. If we wait long enough I am sure he was the President of the United States, a secret advisor to Napoleon, and the long lost heir to the British throne too.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 4, 2009 @ 11:16 pm

  109. Thank you Geoff, I have always wanted to ask that question about Chess, but was afraid it would appear just plain stupid.

    I like the example, if time travel was possible, then someone from the future would have already come back to visit us a long time ago.

    If one takes this idea to the max, (time travel, one eternal round) I suppose one could suggest someone from the future could have visited the earth on the very first day of creation. That would be interesting, but just seems wrong to me.

    Comment by CEF — August 5, 2009 @ 8:55 am

  110. No, actually I’m using “logical” in the formal sense, like to reason correctly. Geoff is agruing that either we are making free choices right now or our lives are determined and we don’t have free will. And that it is a contradiction to therefore say that we have free will and God knows the future.

    I am arguing that it is not necessarily a contradiction if a different state of time exists. If time is an eternal round, it is possible that we are both making free choices and that those choices have already happened. Just because we cannot grasp how this can be, doesn’t mean that it’s not possible or that it constitutes a contradiction of reason.

    I brought up natural law because it was discussed on the thread Jacob J. linked to. On that thread you argued that miracles are not violations of natural law, which Geoff agrees with when he argues that it’s not illogical to turn water into wine. I would argue that having free will and God knowing the future is not a violation of natural law either, and that there is a way to be in all time at once using the natural laws of the universe.

    I have to say you lost me with that Columbus business….

    Comment by Katie M. — August 5, 2009 @ 8:59 am

  111. Katie M,

    The eternal round (strict eternal recursion) idea fails because it implies that we first made the real choices at some point and now we are in an endless tape loop. What is the use of that?

    (BTW — Such a scheme would be nothing short of cruel for the brutally victimized children of the world who might have to relive their short painful lives over and over and over again)

    If time is an eternal round, it is possible that we are both making free choices and that those choices have already happened.

    Can you explain this sentence to me? I can’t make any sentence at all out of it. If we are free then we can make new choices for the very first time right now. If we are predestined and in some eternal tape loop where the same thing happens over and over we are only under the illusion we are making free choices now since the real (first) free choice was made in a previous round on that model. Those two models are not compatible with each other.

    PS — The Columbus example is showing the absurdity of a non-fixed past.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 5, 2009 @ 9:08 am

  112. Katie,

    It is true that in the comments on that other post Blake was trying to make a case for logic being dependent on natural laws but I was consistently arguing against that notion (starting here). There is a sense in which logic depends on natural law, but that is not the sense in which I am talking about logic. In the post I linked to, I focused on the most basic logical principle of which I am aware: the law of non-contradiction. I don’t think this law of logic depends on natural law. There are a lot of tempting reasons to reject the law of non-contradiction which is why many great thinkers have done so. I just think that when someone does so, they undermine the meaning of all thought which is too great a price to pay.

    There are plenty of paradoxes to go around. The telling thing to me is to watch how people react to a paradox. Do they start claiming that paradoxes are magically resolved because one of the participants in the paradox is God, or do they look for ways to untangle the paradox. I view paradox as evidence of an error. I don’t think it is arrogance which demands that our views of God make logical sense. That is where J. Max and I part ways.

    Comment by Jacob J — August 5, 2009 @ 9:30 am

  113. Katie M., The formal sense of logic is not to reason correctly. The formal sense of logic is to transform abstract propositions into abstract conclusions.

    Reasoning correctly requires additional processes that formal logic doesn’t deal with at all – generating an sufficiently accurate propositional model of the real world, and then transforming the results of the logical process back into real world conclusions.

    These processes are a function of epistemology and metaphysics, to the degree that no one logically says such and such is the case, rather they say that given these formal premises, these formal conclusions follow. Whether the formal premises are valid or not is not a question that logic can deal with.

    It is like saying that if there is libertarian free will, the future is not fixed. That is an inescapable relationship due to the very definition of the term libertarian free will.

    Whether we actually have libertarian free will is something that no amount of science or philosophy is yet able to establish. At present, it is essentially a theological question.

    So we introduce theological premises, such as God exists and either he has now, or at some point in the past he had the power to change the future.

    If God ever had such power, the future either is not fixed, or was not fixed at some point in the past. Creating the universe out of nothing is the conventional way to satisfy the latter constraint.

    Since Mormons generally reject creatio ex nihilo, libertarian free will is the only way for God or anyone else to affect the future at all, in a way that is ultimately traceable to their own actions, rather than some collection of initial conditions in the infinite past.

    What logic tells us is not whether God has libertarian free will, or whether he created the universe out of nothing. It tells us that certain formally defined premises are compatible with each other, and also which formally defined conclusions invariably follow from the truth of certain formally defined premises. Which formal premises are true is a matter of faith, experience, and intuition.

    No amount of science, for example, can ever strictly establish the truth of any proposition. There is always a potential gap between theory and reality. Science can, however, effectively establish that some propositions are false, or that some theories are inaccurate.

    Logic, on the other hand, can effectively establish that some combinations of propositions are invalid. That is what we are using it for here.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 5, 2009 @ 9:55 am

  114. I’m open minded on all this, and have not chosen a side. But the argument for God experiencing our future in any way, regardless of the timeframe.

    If God is where there is no time, or a modified time, and has both our present and future in front of him, how does he know the difference? He still has to make determinations based upon linear time, because it affects our linear time. If he in any way knows for a certainty the future, then it is already accomplished, whether he has caused it or just foreseen it. We cannot help but do what is done in our own future, if the future is fixed.

    Now, if God views things like a master chess player, he can foresee what the various choices and moves will do to future events, and he can adjust his actions accordingly to ensure his goals are accomplished, while still allowing libertarian free will.

    But then, you have problems like the crowds rejecting Jesus, Judas, Pilate, or Nephi foreseeing the cross – each of these would mean God would potentially have to get involved and coerce the people to accomplish his will. There is, of course a basis for this, in the story of Moses, where God filled Pharaoh’s heart with anger so he would not give in to Moses. With this comes the question of how can God judge others, if he is coercing them to do his will?

    So there are issues involved in both sides of the free will debate. And both sides have valid and powerful arguments.

    Comment by rameumptom — August 5, 2009 @ 10:13 am

  115. This thread is getting long and I’m getting busy and will probably drop out after these comments.

    Rameumpton (114) I think that’s an excellent point about God being out of time. If he’s out of time then he has to act where there is time which raises all the traditional problems.

    Just to emphasize once again though there is a difference between something being likely and something being known. If God has to make the likely into the certain by acting himself that implies an involvement similar to the Calvinist view of God with the associated moral conundrums due to an active responsibility for evil.

    Mark (113) While I agree with what you say, I should note that there are different kinds of logic. There’s deductive logic which is what the philosophy of logic normally studies. What is necessarily the case. However inductive logic, which is what constitutes most of regular arguments, is much more open to error. So we should be careful not to confuse induction with deduction. I think many when they are using the term logic are using it to refer to just deduction whereas others are using it (properly I might add) in a broader sense.

    Katie (114), it might make things clearer if one points out that logic deals with the structure of arguments but not the content. So one can be logical but still reasoning incorrectly. It’s very important to keep those separate.

    The “eternal round” view of time actually is popular anciently. (It was a big point of doctrine with the Stoics for instance) However it simply doesn’t avoid the problems linear time faces. Indeed it actually makes them far worse since it implies there is no escape and that everything repeats exactly endlessly. So circular time implies strict determinism. (And it is no surprise that all adherents to circular time were explicitly determinists)

    Once again let me emphasize again that the free will debate is a semantic debate over the meaning of free. If there is circular time people might still use the word free but they mean by necessity something quite different from what a person who accepts an open future typically means.

    Comment by Clark — August 5, 2009 @ 11:04 am

  116. Just to add, I don’t think Joseph’s use of the ring analogy implies the “eternal round” the way the Stoics held it. For various reason.

    I think that Joseph saw a pattern in creation that repeated though. So even though the particulars changed there were real eternal patterns that didn’t. As I’ve noted when he talks of God seeing all things as “now” he tends to qualify it in a way that suggests it’s a pattern or plan that he’s seeing. The idea is that of an endlessly repeated perfect plan.

    I don’t think seeing it in this way implies in the least that God has no foreknowledge. However it does suggest that popular prooftexts for foreknowledge are more complex than they first appear.

    Comment by Clark — August 5, 2009 @ 11:10 am

  117. Clark: If God has to make the likely into the certain by acting himself that implies an involvement similar to the Calvinist view of God

    Once again I think you are out to lunch with this claim. Calvinism entails strict predestination where God directly controls every intricate detail of every act on earth. By contrast, saying that God might somehow influence free willed people in an LFW universe without coercion leaves innumerable options open to God so comparing the two just shows a lack of imagination on your part and somewhat of a lack of confidence in the mystery, power, and resourcefulness of God in an LFW universe.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 5, 2009 @ 1:25 pm

  118. Clark: I am of course aware of inductive logic and abductive logic, and I wouldn’t dream of confusing them with deductive logic, which is what I am referring to here. They are an entirely different breed to the degree I would hesitate to consider them formal systems of logic at all.

    Inductive logic, for example, can hardly be done without regular resort to less than formal metaphysical assumptions. More like science than mathematics.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 5, 2009 @ 1:54 pm

  119. If God has to make the likely into the certain by acting himself that implies an involvement similar to the Calvinist view of God

    I would say the theory of divine interventionism is so radically different from the Calvinist doctrine of God’s Eternal Decree it is hard to make any rational comparison between them at all.

    In the former, God is an actor in a world with other actors. In the latter God is the only actor and all others are epiphenomenal.

    Is God dictating every thought you think and every sin you commit really comparable with (say) bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man by means of long suffering and persuasion?

    Comment by Mark D. — August 5, 2009 @ 2:05 pm

  120. Well, debate over the matter of “formal” seems a bit beside the point. Certainly formal logic entails that if the premises of the argument are true the conclusions must necessarily be true. My point is we ought expect people to be a tad confused given the different kinds of logic are called logic. The fact is that induction is logic and folks get confused about this easily. So I’m not criticizing you, just suggesting we all be aware of where misunderstandings are likely to occur and be a bit charitable about them.

    Mark, the nature of the intervention is different. (Although I’m not sure how a Calvinist looks at miracles) My point is that the accountability is the same. God’s intervention entails a certain kind of responsibility. And it is the responsibility issue relative to the Calvinist God that I think most find deeply troubling. The difference is only over the degree of control.

    Comment by Clark — August 5, 2009 @ 2:36 pm

  121. Clark: The difference is only over the degree of control.

    You still seem to be missing the point. As Mark accurately noted:

    In [a world with LFW], God is an actor in a world with other actors. In [a Calvinist world] God is the only actor and all others are epiphenomenal.

    We are not talking about degrees on the same scale. We are talking about completely different categories.

    If you conflate all influence on free agents with “control” then any time one of us influences another we would be impinging upon free will. That is absurd.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 5, 2009 @ 2:46 pm

  122. Clark, I agree that for example, the idea of God hardening Pharoah’s heart is problematic. I don’t believe it at all. That is micro-Calvinism for an instant.

    Calvinism, by the way, does not require strict causal determinism. What it does require is that all divine interventions (quasi-causal and otherwise) solely originate with God as a matter of divine providence prior to the creation of the Universe. No action-reaction cycle, for example.

    Suppose that every quantum wavefunction “collapse” wasn’t actually random, nor causally determined, but determined by God’s Eternal Decree prior to the foundation of the world, an a way not traceable to any temporal antecedents. That is a pretty good analog of the Calvinist theory of miracles.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 5, 2009 @ 3:10 pm

  123. To clarify, Calvinists do not require that any causal chain connect an event at time t1 to an event at a prior time. God acts outside time, and in a timeless manner, so he can instantiate events at any time, not just set things rolling “in the beginning”.

    Again the important thing is that he doesn’t react to what is happening – he timelessly determines everything that happens, logically prior to the foundation of the world whether any temporal (i.e. immanent) causal chain connects the state of the world in the beginning to the state of the world at the time of the event or not.

    This view was so pervasive that it was nearly the death of natural philosophy in Protestant countries for some time. Strictly speaking it implies there are no natural laws, nor any strict constraints on God’s own nature. Who are we to judge? Whatever God does is good, by definition. The temporal consistency so highly valued by the Thomists was out the window.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 5, 2009 @ 3:46 pm

  124. Geoff, I’ll not belabor the point. Clearly there is a difference between the Mormon view of God and the Calvinist view of God. The problem with the Calvinist view is his responsibility. The problem for those adopting open theism is his responsibility. I’m certainly not saying they are the same. However you keep focusing in on their differences while avoiding the similarities.

    Mark, I don’t think I suggested Calvinists were causal determinists. I’ve met lots of Calvinists who were occasionalists.

    Comment by Clark — August 5, 2009 @ 4:51 pm

  125. And the problem for strict determinists is his lack of responsibility…it is hard to be responsible when you are impotent.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 5, 2009 @ 5:17 pm

  126. Clark,

    I have not been making the obvious point that Calvinism has massive differences with open theism (and Mormonism). My point was that that your categorization is misleading. You say both Calvinism and Open Theism have problems dealing with the responsibility. But what theological school of thought does not have a “problem” with God’s responsibility then?

    When it comes to responsibility the problems Calvinists face are so radically different than those faced bey open theists that it is misleading and useless to even mention them in the same breath. What am I missing here? (I’m genuinely confused by your perspective on this)

    Comment by Geoff J — August 5, 2009 @ 5:25 pm

  127. Geoff, the other kinds of responsibility arise from action rather than inaction. What the open theist and Calvinist share is God acting to intentionally bring about what many would see as evil.

    Certainly it is the case that an argument can be made for God’s inaction also being evil. But that is a weaker argument if only because one can still appeal to freedom.

    So I disagree it’s misleading but since it is here distracting from the point rather than clarifying I’ll drop that comparison. (Even though to me it is my major concern with open theism)

    Comment by Clark — August 5, 2009 @ 5:58 pm

  128. Clark,

    Your assumption seems to be that open theism requires God to intervene on earth significantly more than, say, Arminianism requires. But I don’t think that is necessarily so.

    What school of theistic thought beside the totally non-interventionist Deists escape this problem of an intervening God you mention? Basically I don’t think Open Theists necessarily have any more problem than Arminians or your run of the mill “I haven’t given it much thought” views.

    Calvinism on the other hand is a theistic category unto itself because in it there is only one morally responsible actor.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 5, 2009 @ 6:36 pm

  129. Note, I was just dealing with how open theists explain prophecy. Of course it is open to the open theist to simply discount all scriptural accounts of prophesy in which case this problem goes away.

    Comment by Clark — August 5, 2009 @ 8:09 pm

  130. Again, Clark you are trying to pin God down as to how he predicts the future. That won’t do. You and I just don’t know how God does what God does. Your assumption that an open future must entail infringing upon LFW is wholly unsupportable.

    Also I think a good categorization is the folks who believe in an open future vs. those who hold to a closed/fixed future. People who believe in real free will should line up in the open future line while hard determinists and predestinationists and the like can line up in the closed/fixed future line.

    People who want to cling to both can line up in the whack upside the head line I suppose…

    Comment by Geoff J — August 5, 2009 @ 9:06 pm

  131. Prophecy isn’t a problem except for those instances where if the prophecy was made, recorded and transmitted accurately, it is arguable that the fulfillment of the prophecy required or requires God to cause others to sin.

    However, the scriptures also record that:

    Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
    But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. (James 1:13-15)

    Or what about this one:

    At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.
    (Jeremiah 18:7-8).

    The principle here is that no prophecy of evil is unconditional. The next two verses say the same thing about specific prophecies of blessing and reward. The message here should be obvious. God simply doesn’t cause people to commit sin, no matter how many inspired prophecies to the contrary.

    The Book of Jonah, chapters 3 and 4, provides another excellent example of unfulfilled prophecy. The people of Nineveh repent in sackcloth and ashes at the prophesying of Jonah that their city was going to be overthrown in forty days. God withdraws the promised judgement accordingly. Jonah is angry, and after teaching him a small object lesson, the Lord says to Jonah:

    Should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?

    Comment by Mark D. — August 5, 2009 @ 9:09 pm

  132. Should read: “inspired (or uninspired) prophecies that superficially imply that may be the case”

    Comment by Mark D. — August 5, 2009 @ 9:12 pm

  133. Ok Geoff, I think I understand your position better. In fact my wife basically picked out your position better than I could explain it.

    In her example she used our kids, we have six, and a plate of cookies.

    If one was to leave say 20 cookies on a plate, go out from the room (leaving a video camera to document while away unbeknown to our kids). How would we think our kids would react. If say all were told before we left that they should not touch them.

    Going in age order:
    1. would be expected to take one cookie maybe two because he knew it might be undetected.

    2. who is a very black and white child would probably leave them alone.

    3. might be tempted and if hungry might eat four or five.

    4. Would most likely leave them alone as long as she did not see others eating.

    5. Would eat at least five.

    6. If no one is watching would eat one, maybe two and then spread the rest throughout the house (she is two).

    We know this not because we are sure. In fact we are not. However past behavour makes the odds pretty good.

    So while we cannot know the future, we can see a trend. So we take steps to stop that trend when needed.

    So our kids have free will, we do not know the future yet we can see the probable future thus adjust for it thanks to previous experience.

    Not sure if that gives me a mind of God but it does allow me to continually try and survive my children.

    Comment by JonW — August 5, 2009 @ 10:03 pm

  134. Oh and if I put them up really high I might get one or two.

    Comment by JonW — August 5, 2009 @ 10:03 pm

  135. Well I’ve bowed out as I’m a bit out of my depth here (different kinds of logic!). But thanks for respectfully engaging me on my thoughts. I’m actually really a proponent of the chess model but I was trying to work out this idea in my head about time being an eternal round to see if it made sense. But alas it does not. But yeah, thanks for the discussion!

    Comment by Katie M. — August 5, 2009 @ 10:16 pm

  136. JonW — That is a fine example of leaving real free will intact while still making well informed predictions. It not too unlike the chess analogy that is often used.

    Katie M. — I’m glad you participated. Come by any time.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 5, 2009 @ 11:04 pm

  137. Geoff, I don’t think God’s acting in an open future entails violating LFW. I’m not sure how you got that from my comments. I’m afraid my injection of my problem with Calvin has had the opposite effect I intended. Rather than clarifying things for you it appears to have led you to make all sorts of implications contrary to what I am asserting. I regret I ever brought it up at all now.

    Mark, yes I certainly agree. But the issue I’ve brought up (although there are many) is the crucifixion. It seems hard to reconcile preserving that as a torture method so that Christ could die on the cross with ethical behavior. Now the choice, as Blake has noted here in the past, is to just discount those scriptures in the Book of Mormon as bad translations or later expansions. Likewise open theists can reject the Adam account. I’m sure any other example I’d provide they’d simply reject.

    While I’m more sympathetic to OT rejections simply because it was compiled out of unknown sources after the exile by relatively uninspired scribes, I find rejections of modern scripture a tad more problematic. That is I think more evidence is necessary than it merely going against ones conception of responsibility.

    As to your other point that “no prophecy of evil is unconditional” I just don’t think the scriptures make that principle the way you are using it. There is a difference between a prediction of what will happen and a pronouncement. Pronouncements change when we repent a predictive prophecy doesn’t. I think you are simply denying that there ever is predictive prophecy and suggesting there are only curses/blessings. But that just goes against a lot of scripture IMO. (Once again the cross scriptures in the BoM)

    Comment by Clark — August 6, 2009 @ 11:17 am

  138. The problem John, is that the choices God predicts hinge not on a single habitual choice but on many. Once again consider the death of Christ. How many free choices were there to preserve the cross? Even if every necessary choice is an amazingly high probability (and I doubt that but let’s concede it) the mere fact that you have so many means the overall probability is low without intervention.

    Comment by Clark — August 6, 2009 @ 11:19 am

  139. Clark,

    Using the bad translation or expansion approach to explain those modern revelations about the crucifixion is just one of many possible solutions. If you don’t like that approach then reject it. Big deal. The key point is that there is nothing logically self-contradictory about God predicting crucifixion way in advance even in a universe with an open future.

    Therefore, this “problem” you are pointing out with predicting crucifixion is no more of a problem than trying to figure out how God converted water to wine. The only problem if you must call it that is that it is mysterious to us how God does it.

    You are acting like your not being able to figure out this mystery is somehow evidence that the future may not be open. I don’t think you have a remotely compelling case on that front though.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 6, 2009 @ 11:29 am

  140. There’s nothing self-contradictory however there clearly are some issues with it.

    Comment by Clark — August 6, 2009 @ 5:15 pm

  141. Just to be clear I’m agnostic on the issue. While I’m inclined to think foreknowledge is possible and that likely our terms “fee will” and “responsibility” need revision that’s partially because I think few of our terms map on to natural kinds in terms of our intuitions.

    I never thought prophecy would convince anyone committed to open theism simply because for them a certain kind of view of responsibly and freedom is important for them emotionally. Those without that are probably far more open to revising the semantics of the terms. What’s persuasive certainly will vary according to the biases of each individual person. I have mine, you have yours and the difference in those biases is why on ambiguous issues like this we don’t think the same.

    Comment by Clark — August 6, 2009 @ 6:05 pm

  142. Yes Clark, well there are “some issues” with God turning water into wine too but since we are Christian we sort of live with “some issues” by default. In this post I referred to those issues as mysteries.

    Regardless of your thoughts on free will and responsibility it seems there is a discreet choice between a fixed future or an open future for us. If the future is fixed it is pretty safe to say there is no real (libertarian) free will for us here.

    Further, in Mormonism there is much more than an emotional commitment to an open future. If the future is fixed then many of the pillars of Mormon theology — this life being a test, free agency, judgment after this life, etc — fail. So there is a lot more at stake in Mormonism than emotional preferences for an open future. Non-Mormons have a lot more leeway to be “open to revising the semantics of the terms” than we have.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 6, 2009 @ 6:54 pm

  143. Water into wine is at best a technological issue. I don’t see any problem with that. The point I raised seems much beyond that.

    As to your last paragraph, I just don’t think that the case. It only applies to certain senses of the terms. But since those are the very topics under discussion (the semantics) it seems to me that you can’t make that sort of claim. I recognize you believe it. But simply recognize not everyone agrees with your understanding of the terms.

    Comment by clark — August 6, 2009 @ 8:59 pm

  144. Water into wine is at best a technological issue. I don’t see any problem with that. The point I raised seems much beyond that.

    This is what I’m hoping you will explain. On what basis do you assume it is “beyond that”? Both are mysteries after all so why assume converting water into wine is somehow easier than giving accurate prophesies in a LFW world? Since they are both beyond our knowledge who is to say that converting water into wine isn’t the more difficult or complex of the two miracles to pull off?

    Comment by Geoff J — August 6, 2009 @ 9:17 pm

  145. Also, beating this semantics horse as you so love to do is only getting you so far. I gave some discreet options that were not semantics sensitive (since I made it clear what the terms meant). Either the future is open or fixed. You know what that means when I say it and we are not debating those terms here.

    Yes there can be a battle over ownership of the term free will but I clarified that I meant LFW in #142 so again the semantics claim seems like a red herring at this point.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 6, 2009 @ 9:21 pm

  146. I think the biggest problem with a fixed future is that it entails strict determinism. Strict determinism means that time is an illusion. The past is just the future out of focus.

    So we look far back in the past with our special magnifying glass and we can see anything we want to see about the future just by adjusting the focus. The only difference between the present and the past is a matter of perspective.

    I have a Nortel phone sitting next to me on my desk. It defies credibility that I could take my special magnifying glass, look at the state of the universe 15 billion years ago, and with a twist of the hand see me sitting here typing this comment with my trusty Nortel telephone sitting next to me, with nine digits, asterisk, pound, generating a combination of two tones with each button push that the phone switch down the street uses to direct my calls over a network of no small complexity.

    All this is a metaphysical accident of the highest order, that no person or persons is ultimately responsible for in any way shape or form. How can that possibly be distinguished from hard Platonism? The world as a collection of eternal forms the manifestations of which come and go with each tick of the clock, but never really go away?

    Comment by Mark D. — August 6, 2009 @ 10:49 pm

  147. Setting aside occasionalism for the moment, I should say.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 6, 2009 @ 10:52 pm

  148. Geoff, when a popular show that suggests technology from only a few hundred years away could do this, the “miracle” quality of water into wine isn’t great. (i.e. veiled jab at Star Trek)

    Where is the impossibility of water into wine? So God teleports in a bunch of wine components to the water. Advanced technology, yes. But not something fundamentally against the laws of physics as we understand them.

    Mark, I think the reason time isn’t an illusion is that there is still a “now” even if there is a block universe. So it means we think about time in two ways. One is the geometric aspect in which time becomes more like space. But ever since Einstein most scientists have been thinking about time like that anyway. (i.e. for nearly 100 years) The second one is the more phenomenological aspect of psychological time where there is a presence for me. But that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the other. Some wish the two were linked and ultimately that’s the appeal of Presentism: that external and internal time are the same. However technically the two have been kept semi-separated even in philosophy for a long time. (Arguably Augustine’s Confessions have the best initial discussion of psychological time – although one can find elements before him)

    As I’ve oft noted it seems a common feature in many philosophical discussions to try and reduce 1st, 2cd, and 3rd person phenomena to just one of those three categories. My personal feeling is that much of the discussion of time is also attempting to do this.

    Comment by Clark — August 7, 2009 @ 9:06 am

  149. That is my point Clark. On what basis are you assuming that giving accurate prophesies in an LFW universe must be more difficult than converting water to wine?

    Comment by Geoff J — August 7, 2009 @ 9:11 am

  150. Geoff, certainly either the future is open or not; either foreknowledge is possible or not; etc. However the ultimate debates rest upon the semantic issues. Now it’s not always the case, of course. There are many arguments for Presentism or Four Dimensionalism independent of the responsibility/free will issue. But here those haven’t tended to pop up much. (And when they have I’ve usually been the one raising them)

    Comment by Clark — August 7, 2009 @ 9:39 am

  151. Geoff, regarding accurate prophecy, if prophecy is God’s actively bringing things about there’s no problem beyond the ethical one if he brings about actively evil merely to make a prophecy true. (i.e. bring about crucifixion in order to make Nephi’s prophecy true)

    Comment by Clark — August 7, 2009 @ 9:41 am

  152. Clark,

    God actively bringing about evil to fulfill the prophesy is not required in an LFW world. You are making assumptions that are unsupportable again (and that is at the heart of my gripe with your approach to this).

    Any number of other explanations would work that would not require God actively bringing about that evil.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 7, 2009 @ 9:50 am

  153. Making accurate prophesies in not a problem in my mind. If one believes in the law of return, (you reap as you sow) and/or the secret, (the law of attraction)then it is (in my mind) pretty easy to see how God could accurately predict what the future will be. And of course there is inspiration, none of these would compromise one’s free will. Would they?

    Comment by CEF — August 7, 2009 @ 10:41 am

  154. But Geoff, all rest upon dubious means. Please note I’ve never asserted that necessarily LFW is incoherent. I likewise don’t think foreknowledge is incoherent with responsibility, merely a particular semantic sense of responsibility.

    So I’m not quite sure what your beef is here, Geoff. I’m making an argument against your reading of scripture but I’d never deny there weren’t other ways of reading scripture. Indeed if you go back through my comments I always presented the LFW response. The problem is that it is all ambiguous and depends upon ones hermeneutic of scripture. But (and this is my main argument) the ultimate reason one picks one above the other will be due to your emotional commitments and values. Since I don’t share the same commitments you do I read scripture differently than you do. But both our readings are completely supportable.

    CEF, how does the law of return deal with God instituting crucifixion? The only explanation there is that a prophecy isn’t really a prophecy at all.

    Comment by Clark — August 7, 2009 @ 11:23 am

  155. Just to note, we’re getting pretty far afield from the original topic. So if you want to pursue this perhaps you ought make a new post?

    Just to clarify I’m not at all saying LFW is incoherent. I am saying that a more conservative reading of scripture wherein one doesn’t simply discount everything inconvenient in the BoM as fiction or Joseph’s error leads one to an incoherency. (i.e. God’s goodness and the requirement for bringing about prophecy)

    Comment by Clark — August 7, 2009 @ 11:27 am

  156. Clark,

    My beef is with your assumptions. I know you realize that LFW is a coherent position. I know you suspect that somehow responsibility and foreknowledge are compatible (though you seem to avoid explaining how that might be).

    But Geoff, all rest upon dubious means.

    False. Perhaps all the rest of explanations you can conjure up rest on dubious means but why assume you’ve thought of everything?

    You seem to still be missing the point of this post. As long we can add miracles (like accurately predicting the future) to the Mystery bucket and not to the self-contradictory Nonsense bucket then we are fine. There is nothing wrong with being humble enough to say that we don’t know how all miracles are accomplished. Accurately predicting the future in an LFW world is one of those mysteries/miracles.

    You act as is if your lack of comprehension of how God makes accurate predictions is evidence against their existence but it is not.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 7, 2009 @ 11:39 am

  157. I confess I’m not following the point you are trying to make.

    Comment by Clark — August 7, 2009 @ 12:48 pm

  158. Are you saying the problem is my assumption that God predicts by bringing events about? I’d just note that was your assumption. The problem is that a prediction to be a prediction rather than absolute knowledge (i.e. determined) must potentially be wrong. If it might be wrong then the only way it can be knowledge (i.e. satisfy truth conditions) is if God either brings about the events or is able and willing to bring about the events but merely coincidentally doesn’t need to.

    So if you say those assumptions go into the “mystery bucket” then I confess I don’t see why someone else can’t say foreknowledge and free will are reconcilable in the same way.

    Is your beef with this problem and not the scriptures which suggest there is prophecy of morally evil acts? I was assuming your were just focusing on the scriptural accuracy/exegesis issue.

    Comment by Clark — August 7, 2009 @ 1:06 pm

  159. Clark: Are you saying the problem is my assumption that God predicts by bringing events about? I’d just note that was your assumption.

    I am saying we don’t know how God might accurately predict the future in an LFW world. Sure we might speculate on how he could do it (and I have my guesses) but for the purposes of this discussion I am happy to categorize it as a non-self-contradictory mystery.

    If it might be wrong then the only way it can be knowledge (i.e. satisfy truth conditions) is if God either brings about the events or is able and willing to bring about the events but merely coincidentally doesn’t need to.

    This is precisely where I think you are overstating your case. I don’t believe God actively bringing about the event is the only way knowledge of some future can be called knowledge. What do you base this assertion on?

    So if you say those assumptions go into the “mystery bucket” then I confess I don’t see why someone else can’t say foreknowledge and free will are reconcilable in the same way.

    Take a look at the original post again Clark. I am differentiating between Mystery and Nonsense. Mystery is loosely defined in the post as logically possible things that we haven’t figured out. Nonsense is being loosely defined as self-contradictory, logically impossible things. The reason people shouldn’t reconcile exhaustive foreknowledge and libertarian free will is because they are not logically compatible.

    Is your beef with…

    My gripe is with your characterization of the situation. As far as I can tell you are basically saying:

    - Yes there is a compatibility problem with LFW and a fixed future (You agree with the Nonsense problem)
    - There is also a problem with figuring out how God predicts the future in an LFW world (You see a Mystery problem)
    - These problems are basically equivalent (You imply that the Mystery problem is on par with the Nonsense problem)

    This last implication, that the Mystery problem is on par with the Nonsense problem is directly contrary to the position I am taking in the post. So of course I disagree with that implication.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 7, 2009 @ 1:43 pm

  160. I would say that a mystery about a verse or two is problematic, where the idea of a fixed future (and a a strictly causally determined future in particular) makes the whole book complete nonsense. There is no contest.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 7, 2009 @ 5:54 pm

  161. Geoff J: While I am sympathetic to your argument, but to call one a mystery without further scrutiny, and to drill down on the other and declare it paradoxical nonsense seems sort of problematic. If you have guesses as to how God may predict the future without being responsible for it’s causation, do share.

    Comment by Matt W. — August 7, 2009 @ 5:55 pm

  162. No proponent of an open future here has suggested that God can exhaustively predict the future.

    There are no end of means where reliable partial predications may be made. A scientist doesn’t need to know the details of cosmic rays impinging from galactic space to reliably predict the position of the planets for the next umpteen thousand years, for example.

    I have quoted scriptures that state that no prophecy of reward or condemnation is unconditional. So, on the off chance that Jesus’ contemporaries would not reject him, we can be more than certain that the plan of salvation would roll on unimpeded, in fact more effectively than if they had rejected him.

    If, per chance, the plan of salvation requires Jesus Christ to be killed, then the plan of salvation requires that God himself do the killing – or inspire and reward those that do. As Paul said, shall we do evil, so that good may come? God forbid.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 7, 2009 @ 6:17 pm

  163. Mark #160 — Amen

    Matt #161 — I don’t mind eventually looking at the ingredients in the cupcake of Mystery. But in this post we are talking about the first order of business which is the separate the cockroaches of Nonsense for the ingredients before all else.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 7, 2009 @ 10:11 pm

  164. Geoff, I don’t have time to say much. Maybe an other day. (I’d suggest a dedicated post – if only because this one is far too long to load on my iPhone)

    I think you are not grappling with the problem of prediction. Which is odd since structurally it is nearly identical in argument with why LFW is incompatible with foreknowledge. The issue is the truth condition, now how the prediction is made. The predictive aspect is almost the least interesting. The interesting part is the gap between prediction and truth.

    But I think we’re going around in circles.

    Mark D, certainly many see a fixed future as entailing meaninglessness. I confess I just can’t fathom why people feel that way. I understand the reasoning they use and that they feel that way. I’m unable to really grasp it on either an emotional or intellectual level, despite trying. I’m very skeptical it is anything more than a particular kind of intuition I’m likely to be skeptical of. Meaning and value is often like that.

    Mark, the exhaustive prediction is a bit of a strawman. No one on either side (the LFW or the skeptical of LFW side) has proposed that.

    Regarding Christ’s death, the issue isn’t his death, but the manner of his death and the morality of bringing that about.

    Comment by Clark — August 7, 2009 @ 11:39 pm

  165. Clark: I think you are not grappling with the problem of prediction. Which is odd since structurally it is nearly identical in argument with why LFW is incompatible with foreknowledge.

    No, no it is not structurally nearly identical in argument.

    Again, LFW is logically incompatible with exhaustive foreknowledge. Prediction of individual (and non-dated) future events is not logically incompatible with LFW. Therefore the problems are in completely different categories and therefore not at all similar structurally. That, again, is the point of this post.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 7, 2009 @ 11:56 pm

  166. That’s true if and only if the prediction can be false. That’s my point. If a prophecy must be true like the cross one, then you end up with a situation structurally identical due to the truth conditions.

    Now if you’re point is just to deny prophecy, that’s fine. But then you are really addressing a different argument.

    Comment by Clark — August 8, 2009 @ 12:27 pm

  167. If there was a fixed future for God to know in the first place, what could he do about it?

    Nothing.

    Suppose God today (and eternally before that) knows that a tree will fall on little billy next Saturday afternoon killing him.

    Could God stop the tree if he didn’t like the result?

    The answer is, no, he could not.

    If he does stop the tree from falling, then that will mean he, in fact, did not know the future earlier. And you are stuck with a denial of God’s foreknowledge.

    Thus, if there is a fixed future for the universe, God is utterly impotent to do anything about it.

    Such a view diminishes God, in my view.

    Comment by Seth R. — August 8, 2009 @ 1:02 pm

  168. Clark,

    Well if the future is open in an LFW universe then of course things that are metaphysically possible remain logically possible Clark. But saying that is not denying prophesy. (I mean God could prophesy his own behaviors yet even those prophesies are contingent on God not changing his mind.)

    Comment by Geoff J — August 8, 2009 @ 1:07 pm

  169. True dat Seth. Exhaustive foreknowledge is fool’s gold. It would be useless to the being that held it to begin with.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 8, 2009 @ 1:09 pm

  170. Clark: Generally something has meaning if someone intended it to be a certain way rather than some other. If we accept compatibilism of intention, however, intention, like responsibility can’t generally be traced to the person doing the intending.

    Same deal as before – if Fate sets all future intents in motion, it is hard to see how intent is anything but an epiphenomenon – the same we might suggest a safety valve has when it releases excess pressure in a boiler. How can we possibly tell the difference?

    So it appears that in a strictly deterministic world, all intent, all meaning, all will, all action, all responsibility, all consciousness, etc are epiphenomenonal, precisely because to the degree they may be considered to exist at all, they all flow from a metaphysical accident.

    If the First Cause intends everything to be that way, then we get Calvinism, otherwise we seem to get some sort of theatre of the absurd, where nothing non-trivial appears to happen for any reason at all.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 8, 2009 @ 1:50 pm

  171. Another way to look at it: in any energy conserving deterministic system, any objective measure of progress is on average no more likely to increase than decrease, due to the Poincare recurrence theorem.

    How can one possibly consider the universe to contain intelligence if any objective measure of progress is guaranteed to be reversed in due time? That sounds more like the plan of eternal damnation than that of eternal salvation to me.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 8, 2009 @ 2:08 pm

  172. Mark, I don’t agree with that conception of meaning. For instance it leads to problems with joint efforts. Secondly we can find events meaningful independent of any intentional creation. A rainbow can be quite meaningful, and I don’t think in a derived sense. As can many works of art independent of having the meaning present to the creator at the time of the creation. I can even write a program to randomly generate words and will find many of them meaningful.

    So I think we have to distinguish between what someone means with from meaning in general. In any case I’m very dubious that meaning can be traced to “an intender” whether or not LFW is true at all. Put an other way, I don’t find that a terribly persuasive argument.

    Second one can accept determinism without accepting a “fate [i]which[/i] sets all future intents in motion.” That’s simply a false dichotomy the LFW often create. (Interesting one of the studies I linked to earlier was studying whether peoples intuitions towards LFW were tied to misunderstanding the implications of a non-open future.

    Also, be careful not to conflate determinism (the claim there are truths about the future) with causal determinism (the claim that the state of affairs picks out an unique future).

    Comment by Clark — August 8, 2009 @ 3:53 pm

  173. Geoff (168) I can’t quite figure out what you are arguing.

    My claim is simple. Assume that the prophecies about the cross in the Book of Mormon around 600 years prior to events are true and accurate. So clearly there is an assumption the LFW proponent can (and has) denied. But given that assumption, an open future and the requirement of truth then God has to bring about the event for it to be a true statement. (i.e. it is made true via God’s power) That gives God responsibility for the bringing of the event. (Whether or not he does it – he is willing to do it) The event in this case is a morally reprehensible torture method. Therefore we have a logical contradiction.

    Now once again, this logical contradiction depends upon a premise of how to read scripture. Just as the FW/determinism contradiction depends upon a particular meaning of freedom and responsibility.

    Comment by Clark — August 8, 2009 @ 3:56 pm

  174. Clark (#173), You are assuming that all prophecies must come to pass. I have previously quoted scriptures to the effect that is categorically not the case.

    Clark (#172), You say that this and that is a misconception, but you never make any actual arguments explaining why. Where do you trace ultimate responsibility for Tom’s decision to rob a convenience store? If you say nowhere, or everywhere, that sounds like Fate to me. If you say the nature of Tom’s eternal spirit as the limit as t goes to minus infinity, that sound like a roll of the dice as well, certainly nothing that Tom deserves credit for.

    Sure people from a compatibilist perspective make decisions, it is just impossible to trace ultimate responsibility to any one of them, or all of them collectively, because there is no ultimate responsibility traceable to other than the limit of the initial configuration of the universe, a state that in now way reflects the will of anybody.

    That is why I say that strict determinism is pretty much indistinguishable from Calvinism, with Fate, initial conditions, Big Bang, or whatever (nothing maybe) taking the role that God does in Calvinism – instead of God’s Eternal Decree dictating everything whatsoever that comes to pass, we have Fate’s Eternal Decree, or the Big Bang’s Eternal Decree, or what have you’s Eternal Decree.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 8, 2009 @ 8:08 pm

  175. Clark: Assume that the prophecies about the cross in the Book of Mormon around 600 years prior to events are true and accurate.

    Ok.

    So clearly there is an assumption the LFW proponent can (and has) denied.

    No, this does not follow from that assumption. I can assume God made a prediction 600 BC and that prediction proved accurate 600 years later while still believing in LFW. As Mark noted, not all prophesies must or do come to pass. If a prophesy does come to pass we may not fully understand how God so consistently makes accurate prophesies in an LFW world but there is nothing wrong with admitting we don’t know how God does everything God does. The problem is with trying to hold to self-contradictory nonsense (which was the point of this post).

    Comment by Geoff J — August 8, 2009 @ 9:15 pm

  176. Mark, I am not claiming all must come to pass, just that some must. I then focus on those some. The problem with the scripture you mention is that you are applying it to all prophecy and it just doesn’t say that.

    Regarding “ultimate” responsibility. I guess my answer is why can’t we have responsibility without ultimate responsibility? You’re assuming we can’t but that seems very dubious to me. Even if there are irreducible agents I don’t think it follows there are ultimate responsibilty. Put an other way, I think responsibility is very complex.

    Comment by Clark — August 8, 2009 @ 10:22 pm

  177. Geoff, I’m afraid I think I’ll have to spell it out line by line for you. It’s just a variation of the exact same argument that shows the incompatibility between foreknowledge and free will. (Structurally they are nearly the same) As with that argument the “how” of God’s foreknowledge just doesn’t matter. It’s kind of funny since by stressing the how you’re making the exact same move that people who don’t see an incompatibility between LFW and foreknowledge do.

    I don’t have time to do it now, but I’ll see if I can’t write something up tomorrow at my blog.

    Comment by Clark — August 8, 2009 @ 10:27 pm

  178. Clark,

    Yes, please do spell out your argument so I can finally show you how you are wrong.

    Just to spell out my position to you: I am not arguing for “foreknowledge”. I am arguing for an open future and for a God who is surprisingly good at predicting that open future. (Am am trying to avoid for now speculations on how he predicts so well because that is a different though related subject.)

    Comment by Geoff J — August 8, 2009 @ 10:41 pm

  179. Clark: The scripture in Jeremiah doesn’t grant any exceptions. If a prophecy of evil comes to pass, it is at best a probability, there is no must about it.

    As nonsensical as hard determinism is, the idea of exhaustive foreknowledge is even worse. In fact the irrationality of personal behavior under conditions of exhaustive foreknowledge is one of the best arguments against determinism, although it is a better argument against itself.

    I foresee myself eating Cheerios tomorrow morning – but wait, there are no Cheerios in the cupboard. But no problem, I foresee myself going to the grocery store. But wait, I foresee myself forgetting to buy the Cheerios and then going to a late night activity. How will I get those Cheerios? But wait, someone at the party needs to pick up some cough syrup. And I foresee myself giving them a ride and remembering to get some Cheerios anyway. I guess all is right with the world now – no worries that I won’t miss those Cheerios after all.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 8, 2009 @ 11:48 pm

  180. I have learned my lesson – no worrying about the future any more, I can just take it easy. No more studying, no more extreme measures. But wait, a strange coincidence of forces inside my head is compelling me to study for the test anyway. I though t I had it easy. Although, I guess it is a good thing I didn’t foresee myself failing the test after all. Foreseeing myself having to go to summer school is no fun.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 9, 2009 @ 12:04 am

  181. Note I’m not claiming exhaustive foreknowledge. Just limited foreknowledge.

    Comment by Clark — August 9, 2009 @ 11:22 am

  182. Just to add, if it is of any help, what I suspect you want to say you disagree with isn’t my argument but my premises. I’m not quite sure why you keep attacking the argument.

    Comment by Clark — August 9, 2009 @ 11:29 am

  183. If you are going to phrase your argument in terms of “If determinism is true, such and such is the case” or “if prophecies are generally infallible, then such and such is the case”, then fine. Otherwise the validity of the premises seems altogether germane to me.

    If one says, God expects such and such to come to to pass based on these factors, his own personal intent, and so on and so forth, that is a justified probably-true belief in most cases.

    If one says, God has infallible knowledge as the time, place, and nature of any future event because the universe is deterministic and somewhere the mathematical transformation is performed to convert infallible knowledge of the present state of affairs to infallible knowledge of any precisely temporally and spatially located aspect of a future state of affairs, it is very hard to see how the same means that leads to strictly infallible localized limited foreknowledge does not lead to strictly infallible exhaustive foreknowledge.

    The same goes for direct acquaintance theory as well. How could one strictly know the details of a wildly contingent event far in the future without infallibly knowing what one is going to choose to have for breakfast tomorrow?

    If one cannot were are back to the probable expectations + character consistent personal actions model, which doesn’t require a fixed future, determinism or strict foreknowledge at all.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 9, 2009 @ 1:45 pm

  184. I should say that if we agree on the probable expectations + character consistent personal actions model, then there remains no theological argument for a fixed future at all.

    And if there is no theological argument, there is no case to be made that the idea of a fixed future should be universally accepted as an article of faith.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 9, 2009 @ 2:03 pm

  185. Mark, not sure what you are saying in 184 nor what you see constitutes a theological argument. The main argument for foreknowledge is that there are many scriptural texts that portray there being such. While the open theist can explain some away, some of the explanations are stronger than others. I find the explanations of some of the prophecies in Nephi rather implausible myself.

    Now those who, like you, have very strong feelings as to what is necessary to be an agent will see those as more important. All I’d ask is you recognize not everyone shares those feelings about what constitutes an agent.

    As for my argument, it only requires that a single prophecy is “infallible” which has negative ethical implications. (i.e. the prophecies of the cross in Nephi)

    Comment by Clark — August 9, 2009 @ 9:34 pm

  186. Clark: As for my argument, it only requires that a single prophecy is “infallible” which has negative ethical implications. (i.e. the prophecies of the cross in Nephi)

    I obviously read your comment #173 differently than you intended it Clark. (Hence my reply in #175 assuming predictions that end up coming to pass.) Yes, with an open future there is technically no such thing as an infallible prophesy because even God could logically change his mind about his own intentions. Of course this is not a big deal in Mormonism because in Mormonism God could technically/logically cease to be God.

    But again there is no reason to assume the prophesies by Nephi were “infallible” at the time even if they ended up being accurate in the end.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 9, 2009 @ 9:46 pm

  187. Clark: What Geoff said. The fact that a prophecy comes to pass in and of itself in no way retroactively makes the prophecy infallible. I could say that I am going to work tomorrow. Infallible prophecy, I don’t think so. I’ll get back to you on that (smile).

    Also, you haven’t clarified what you mean by “limited foreknowledge” and how anything of the kind with regard to the details of the distant future is possible without also making exhaustive foreknowledge possible.

    What I said about theological arguments was premised on your apparent agreement on that issue. Otherwise we are back to God foreseeing himself inspiring Columbus rather than deciding to. Why contemplate anything when you can just foresee yourself doing it? Telling Nephi about your plan to inspire Columbus is not exactly the same thing.

    People have had visions of events that were explicitly conditional (Wilford Woodruff, not ending polygamy, for example). The fact that there is some sort of vision is not solid evidence that the vision is direct, rather than representative of divine plans and consequent expectations of future events. D&C 101 says that the constitution of this country was established by “wise men” “raised up to this very purpose”. That is clearly a plan that God intended to carry out, and did. No arm twisting required.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 10, 2009 @ 12:32 am

  188. Clark – Sorry it has taken me so long to get to your question. I have been busy and I did not know if I could answer your question.

    I just finished a couple of books, “Outliers” and “Blink”, by Malcolm Gladwell. Very interesting books. I would highly recommend them. I think “Outliers” is a must read if you are raising kids. It is too late for my children, but I have passed on the information to my kids so they can raise their kids better than I did.

    In “Blink” Gladwell talks about how we can know something, but lack the ability to explain it, unless we are an expert in that area. Has something we the way the brain works. Not being an expert at anything, here is my best attempt to answer your question.

    Using the chess analogy again, if I play a novice player, just beginning, I can say before the game even starts that I will win with 100% accuracy.

    Transferring this to God, I do not see why God could not predict/prophesy what kind of torture a group of people will use in any given period of time. Obviously this does not work for you, so maybe you could explain why. Or maybe you have and I just missed it.

    I realize this thread if over, so no real need to restart it on my account. I just did not want Clark to think I ignored him.

    Comment by CEF — August 11, 2009 @ 10:34 am

  189. Geoff: I was listening to SMPT last night and thinking about one possible way god predicts the future with extreme accuracy.

    Here is my working formula. It risks being called determinism, but so be it.

    Assumptions:
    1. God knows me perfectly
    2. God knows everything around me perfectly
    3. I have a finite number of options at any given moment
    4. God computes predictions at really fast rates
    5. this is true

    Keep in mind #5 is where the term “mostly” from below comes into play.

    Concept
    1. I have freedom to choose right now, but God mostly knows what I will choose based on knowing me perfectly.
    2. based on knowing everything around me perfectly, God knows how everything around me will react.
    3. God, knowing me perfectly, mostly knows how I will react to everything.
    4. and so on.
    5. For anything God can not predict, he has a contingency

    Possible issues
    1. If birth is random, throws the whole thing off, or severely limits it.

    Comment by Matt W. — August 14, 2009 @ 8:07 am

  190. Add to the list the claim that God can travel to or see our actual future and yet we still have real (libertarian) free will.

    I have started a response five or six times. That’s why this posting is so late. But I’m stuck on what devil is Libertarian Free Will? And, I’m a bit frustrated. (So if this comes out a bit strong please forgive me.) I went to the net. I typed in “definition of libertarian free will.” I looked all over for a concise definition. I found definitions, too many definitions. I wound up at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. I got,

    “Free Will” is a philosophical term of art for a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives. Which sort is the free will sort is what all the fuss is about.

    Some define FW this way and some disagree and define it that way. I was then directed to Incompatibilist (Nondeterministic) Theories of Free Will. Don’t philosophers agree on anything?

    I gave up that approach. I thought that surely you guys know what you’re talking about. I searched site for a definition of LFW. Here is what I came up with, written by Geoff,

    “The power or ability to rationally choose and consciously perform actions, at least some of which are not brought about necessarily and inevitably by external circumstances.” “Libertarian free will requires that there is more than one possible outcome to a given situation”.

    Now this is opposed by what Geoff calls compatibilist free will.

    “The idea of compatibilist free will is that people are actually causally determined and as such all — as in 100% — of our choices are the result of a prior state of events that cause us to make such choices.”

    Geoff’s definition for Libertarian Free Will doesn’t say anymore than SEP for Free Will. Silly me, I thought when you put an adjective in front of a phrase it slightly changes the nature of the phrase. Plus it seems that Geoff’s definition implies LFW exists alongside determinism. Now I know I read where Geoff agreed with Blake that LFW couldn’t coexist with Determinism. It’s one or the other. I then started reaching for the aspirins.

    I did run across Blake’s excellent description of agency. However, agency is not LFW. It may be a part of it but Blake’s description didn’t discuss various alternative actions and how one chooses one. Of course, that wasn’t his topic. He clearly lays out how a course of action is created. But, I’m left wondering how multiple courses of actions are laid out and the process by which one chooses among them. That seems to be a general requirement of Free Will.

    Observation: If you are going to assert that God cannot know the future because it would violate LFW, somewhere you should have it laid out what you guys believe LFW is. I’m looking for something like what Blake did for agency.

    Let’s turn to God’s knowledge of the future and how it fixes our future. The idea originally came from the Stoic idea that the universe is an emanation from the mind of God., air, water, and earth. Thus God’s foreknowledge is determinant. In the Stoic idea, God existed outside the universe and projected the universe. Now we have God inside the universe and bounded by this universe. Thus any foreknowledge he has binds the future of the universe.

    I can understand God being inside the universe if we have a static eternal universe. Astronomers ruined that idea. Now we have an expanding universe that proceeded from a singularity (big bang). If God is still inside the universe then God was created by the Big Bang. The alternative is that God preceded the big bang, caused the big bang and is not a part of the resultant universe. If God is outside the universe, I see no reason why His foreknowledge would be a causal factor within this universe.

    And now we can revise Katie M. critique. She asserted that Geoff’s argument is based on a linear understanding of time. And it is. It was her assertion that God is not bound by linear time. There are a number of assertions in the scriptures that God’s time is not our time. I think she made a lot of sense. If the Celestial kingdom resides outside this temporal universe then why should temporal time be the same as eternal time (whatever that turns out to be).

    And so we get to Geoff’s question: The key question is: Are we creating our future with our choices now or is our future already fixed and fated? While you deny it, your question is based on a linear concept of time: now versus future. If God’s time frame is past, present, and future as one, then what he knows has no relevance to a linear time frame He could well be viewing us as we are using our LFW, whatever that is.

    As for logic, formal or otherwise, it is not some kind of urim and thummim by which we can gaze into and understand celestial eternity. Reason and logic are tools by which, if properly grounded can gain us terrestrial information which was not previously known. That’s why we use it to solve terrestrial problems.

    And now I bring upon Jacob J’s stern disapproval: It is the person who cavalierly disregards logic that I think is being foolish. Not when you replace logic by revealed truth. To me, it is the person who depends on logic to understand the nature of God who is foolish. The only source for knowledge of God is God Himself.

    So, I for one, reject the choice of LFW (whatever that is) or determination through God’s foreknowledge as a false dichotomy first thought up by Alexander and the Stoics (sounds like a rock band) because they had nothing better to do.

    Now if I only knew what LFW is I’m sure I could explain responsibility without LBW. And, I won’t need chance to do it. :))

    Rich

    Comment by Rich K — August 18, 2009 @ 10:06 am

  191. Rich: what devil is Libertarian Free Will?

    This wiki give a decent overview. Libertarian free will is what is normally thought of as free will or free agency. That is, it means we are really free to choose between legitimate options. In discussions like this we specify LFW because the determinists have managed to hijack the terms for their own use at times with their so-called compatibilist free will (sometimes called “hypothetical free will” because they claim that we can only hypothetically (but not actually) choose other than our determined fate.)

    Comment by Geoff J — August 18, 2009 @ 10:22 am

  192. BTW Rich K — We cannot be wholly determined and have libertarian free will. These are mutually exclusive by definition.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 18, 2009 @ 10:24 am

  193. Thanks for the response Geoff. Let me see if I have it. Free will says that we are nondeterminate at the moment of choice. That choice is made after rational analysis. There is a split among free will advocates: those who believe free will is compatible with determinism; these are called compatiblists. There are those who believe the two are not compatible; these are called libertarianists.

    Questions? What is the origin of the choices (or does that matter)?

    Rational analysis implies a comparison of values to goals. How are the goals established? And, what is the nature of the values being compared?

    Rich

    Comment by Rich K — August 18, 2009 @ 4:20 pm

  194. Those are insightful questions and the subject of much debate Rich.

    I lean toward a position called “agent causal libertarianism” which says that agents themselves are the ultimate origin of choices. I think this position is particularly strong in Mormonism where we preach that all of us are beginningless and uncreated agents.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 18, 2009 @ 4:32 pm

  195. You’re saying this just to make my life difficult, aren’t you? :)))

    So, among libertarianism there is “agent causal libertarianism” and what I suppose is “event causal libertarianism”. Can you say a bit about them?

    As background, my Church calling is instructor for the High Priest Quorum.

    Rich

    Comment by Rich K — August 18, 2009 @ 4:54 pm

  196. Rich K,

    See this article on a few varieties of incompatibilism over at SEP. I won’t pretend to really comprehend the Non-Causal and Event Causal theories. It seems to me they mostly replace determinism with indeterminism of any kind (including randomness) so they in some ways appear no more appealing in a Mormon context than determinism.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 18, 2009 @ 11:20 pm

  197. Thanks Geoff.

    Rich

    Comment by Rich K — August 19, 2009 @ 9:01 am

  198. I apologize first off for my writing. I am not nearly as talented as many of you. Now, as per my promise to explain responsibility without the use of the concept of LFW:

    Geoff J writes,“I am convinced that if there is no free will in the libertarian sense then the entire structure of the gospel fails.” I am equally convinced the idea of LFW is not compatible with the Gospel.

    The idea behind LFW is that nothing should diminish the agent’s control of choice at the moment of choice. And, agent’s control is exercised through a rational process. Unresolved is the origin of choice and the value system used during the rational process.

    This is really a question of ‘responsibility’. Are we responsible and can be held accountable for our choices or not.

    First off, responsibility is not about choice. It is about behavior. Choice is a means to an end not an end in itself. Second, accountability, as Mormons understand it, needs to be understood from a Jewish tradition not a Greek tradition. The Jewish tradition speaks of yetzer or influences not freedom and determinism. The Jewish tradition speaks of man dealing with yetzer ha‑tov or good influences and yetzer ha‑ra evil influences. Influences are not deterministic and they precede the moment of choice. Responsibility and accountability are assessed in how well our behavior is consistent with the influences of good and the goals we have been given.

    The concept of responsibility, in the early church would have been dominated by the Jewish idea of yetzer. Later platonism dominated the early medieval church, philosophically speaking. I don’t know how platonism deals with responsibility. However, during the twelfth century the major works of Aristotle became available to the western church (probably through Arab translations of earlier Aristotelian texts). One of the major classical commentators of Aristotle was Alexander of Aphrodisias (200 AD). It was he who coined the phrase “free will.” When one speaks of “good will” one is referencing his term. He based his argumentation on Aristotle. However, what became free will was never of great interest to Aristotle. The need for the term only arose to combat the Stoic concept of the deterministic nature of God’s foreknowledge. It was through the works of Thomas Aquinas that Aristotelian philosophy (including Alexander’s term of “free will”) became integrated with Christian theology. The Jewish concept of yetzer, used by the early church, was replaced with the concept of “free will.”

    The LDS approach to responsibility is much the same as the early church. Like the Jewish tradition of yetzer the Church teaches we are influenced by the spirit of God and the spirit of Satan. We are drawn to do good and we are drawn to do evil. These are pre-existing conditions to choice. Our responsibility is to strengthen one and minimize the other. Therefore, responsibility predates choice. Choice simply illustrates whether you grew to love good or whether you grew to love evil.

    The gospel also acknowledges deterministic events (not Determinism). It acknowledges there are times when we simply cannot obey the law. In those situations the Lord judges us on the intent of our heart. In other words, He judges you on the basis of what you would have done had those deterministic impediments not existed.

    I can further attack the viability of the concept of ‘free will” through the use of neurobiology at the neural network level. No need to go into individual neurons, axons and dendrites. Forget about action potentials, synaptic clefts et al. These are just the building blocks of neural networks. I will refrain because the question was what other concept, beside LFW, can explain responsibility and accountability within Mormon thought? I’m quite confident the Jewish concept of yetzer is a much better fit than LFW.

    So, for my part you can add “Free Will” to that nonsense list of yours.

    Next week boys and girls we will show why determinism based on God’s foreknowledge is all “wee weed up” to quote our President. [humor]

    Rich

    Comment by Rich K — August 23, 2009 @ 5:34 pm

  199. Rich K,

    Interesting attempt. Of course it fails, but at least it is a fairly novel whack at attacking LFW in a Mormon context so I commend you for that.

    First off, responsibility is not about choice. It is about behavior.

    This is an example of begging the question. If it is about behavior then it must also be about choice. Either we freely choose our behavior or we don’t. LFW claims the agent is the ultimate source of the behavioral choices. Determinism claims that the great causal chain of the universe is the ultimate cause of all “choices”.

    Responsibility and accountability are assessed in how well our behavior is consistent with the influences of good and the goals we have been given.

    See above. We either freely choose our behaviors or we don’t. We either freely choose our responses to external stimulus or we don’t.

    So how again do you think we can be morally responsible if we are not free to choose our behaviors? (Or as the BoM puts — our “thoughts, words, and deeds”)

    Also, do you believe God also is a causally determined being or do you think that God has real free will?

    Comment by Geoff J — August 23, 2009 @ 7:51 pm

  200. Rich K,

    First off, responsibility is not about choice. It is about behavior.

    Do you hold your car morally responsible when it breaks down? Do you feel the same way about a broken car as you do about, say, Bernard Madoff?

    Comment by Jacob J — August 23, 2009 @ 8:13 pm

  201. Rich K, although the history is interesting it is more or less irrelevant to the truth of matter.

    Augustine was a compatibilist. The problem with compatibilism in general is that it makes actions, choices, free will and moral responsibility into epiphenomena. Epiphenomena as in completely gratuitous to a comprehensive understanding of the world.

    The moment of choice, the instant when an action is initiated, the locus of responsibility, etc. are all completely irrelevant to a compatibilist point of view. Any placement will do – it is all a matter of appearances.

    For example, if we look at the case of a circuit breaker triggering under an overload condition, a compatibilist can give no principled answer to the question of whether the circuit breaker made a choice, initiated an action, evidenced free will, or exercised moral responsibility. It is all a matter of appearances. No amount of information can settle the question.

    The reason why this is the case is that it is impossible for a compatibilist to logically distinguish the actions that ensue in the real world from those generated by a Laplacian calculator, or computer simulation. From a compatibilist point of view the only fundamental distinction between a circuit breaker and a human soul is a matter of degree. As a consequence the compatibilist world is literally suffused with moral responsibility. My sock is exercising some right now.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 23, 2009 @ 9:46 pm

  202. I should say, of course, the compatibilist can give one principled answer – (1) moral responsibility is everywhere.

    It is also worth mentioning that no classical theist (Augustine included) is strictly speaking a compatibilist, because in classical theism God’s own actions in the moment of creation are not determined by any prior causes.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 23, 2009 @ 10:06 pm

  203. Interesting attempt. Of course it fails,

    Hummm, I’m wrong because you’re right. Of course that’s bogus. You see, you guys don’t get to vote. You’re participants and participants don’t vote on what fails and what doesn’t. This is done by proper argumentation. Therefore, what is needed is not a vote but rather to show how the Jewish doctrine of Yetzer is not an acceptable method for explaining accountability. You also need to show that yetzer is not compatible with LDS doctrine. You’ve done neither. Therefore, until that’s done, you can’t claim LFW to be only game in town.

    What you did was allow yourselves to get sidetracked challenging my assertion about the primacy of behavior. Yetzer can be discussed solely on the issue of choice. However, all is not lost. Mark D. did point out that Augustine also wrote about free will. I pulled out a couple of books and looked this up. Sure enough Augustine popularized the Greek concept of Free Will and thereby formally integrated this Greek idea within Christian theology. We have the term ‘Free Will’ invented around 200 AD and formally integrated into Christine doctrine around 425. I think it interesting that Augustine turned to the Greek philosophy to counteract non-Christian (Manichean) determinism just as Alexander turned to it to combat Stoic determinism.

    Why the history lesson? Partly is to show the non-indigenous nature of free will. It was created to address non-Christian needs. But it had ramifications. The Apostasy is characterized by the loss of many precious doctrines. Because of Greek philosophy the true nature of God was lost. Because of Greek philosophy the true nature of accountability was lost and in its place was put Free Will.

    On the other hand, the concept of yetzer or influence and its relation to accountability and choice is an outgrowth of the study of God’s word as recorded in the Old Testament. As such, it is also reflected in LDS doctrine.

    Oh yes, about the primacy of behavior, we now know that the brain, functionally speaking, attempts to project the result of each choice (i.e. behavior) into the future in order to assess the implications of each choice. I believe Blake also mentioned something along these lines. So you see, it really is about behavior.

    Rich

    Comment by Rich K — August 24, 2009 @ 10:28 pm

  204. Rich K, Is that why Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and John Taylor preferred Methodism over Presbyterianism? Because like all Arminian denominations, Methodism specializes in the denial of free will?

    Seriously, Wilford Woodruff ordained three individuals (by proxy) to be high priests – Christopher Columbus, George Washington, and John Wesley. John Wesley was the most prominent Arminian (read: free will theist) who ever lived, with the possible exceptions of Arminius and perhaps Joseph Smith.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 24, 2009 @ 11:15 pm

  205. Correction: Benjamin Franklin, not George Washington, who was ordained to be a priest, along with many others.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 24, 2009 @ 11:17 pm

  206. One last thing, the problem with this yetzer thing is that it doesn’t appear to take a position on the subject at all. Are personal choices determined by these influences and other antecedents or not?

    If not, and we bear real moral responsibility for these choices, then this yetzer doctrine is just another name for morally significant libertarian free will.

    So Rich K, where do you get off criticizing LFW on the grounds of moral responsibility, when moral responsibility is reason number one why anyone believes in LFW at all? It seems like you have an axe to grind against the term, but not the reality of free will. And if not, you have yet to describe what exactly, you find wrong with the idea of morally significant choices in a world with alternative possibilities.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 24, 2009 @ 11:47 pm

  207. Rich K: Why the history lesson? Partly is to show the non-indigenous nature of free will.

    This is where your argument is failing. You might show where the term “free will” first showed up but that is completely moot because LFW simply claims to describe a metaphysical reality. So maybe ancient people had different words to describe this metaphysical reality — big deal. We are interested in the metaphysics here, not the history of the terminology. You seem to be so hung up on the latter.

    So…

    1. In your own words (so we don’t get sidetracked by this moot history of terminology thing) please explain how morally accountable behavior can be divorced from free choices. As Jacob pointed out, the when a car breaks down it is behaving in a certain way. Do you claim that car is morally responsible for that behavior? If you don’t why not?

    2. I again ask: Do you believe God also is a causally determined being or do you think that God has real free will?

    Comment by Geoff J — August 25, 2009 @ 9:22 am

  208. I just realized when I mentioned the primacy of behavior I failed to state the significance of this statement. You walk down an alley and get mugged. This experience stays with you. The next time you face the decision of walking down that alley that past behavior and what it led to will influence your choice. Behavior is always past behavior and that comes with all kinds of influences.

    So Rich K, where do you get off criticizing LFW on the grounds of moral responsibility, when moral responsibility is reason number one why anyone believes in LFW at all?

    Where do I get off criticizing LFW on the grounds of moral responsibility? What kind of question is that? Is LFW and moral responsibility some kind of sacred shibboleth that must not be questioned? You guys challenged everyone to see if others could come up with alternative to libertarian free will. This would include challenging it on the grounds of moral responsibility. Now you are upset that I am actually taking you up on that challenge? Take a deep breath and relax. It’s nothing personal.

    If not, and we bear real moral responsibility for these choices, then this yetzer doctrine is just another name for morally significant libertarian free will.

    Libertarian free will acknowledges only two entities: freedom and determinism. By exclusion it rejects yetzer or the influences of good and evil. By extension, libertarian free will excludes God’s influence in our choices and replaces Him with reason. Now this is quite understandable for Alexander. He never grew up with the Jewish principle of yetzer. I’m not sure that Augustine can use that excuse.

    Don’t get all hung up with the term yetzer. The principle of yetzer was restored along with the promise these influences would not become determinates. It is now known as LDS principle of free agency. In free agency, our responsibility is to listen to the influences of the spirit, be guided by them and perform the appropriate behavior. Free agency is not libertarian free will.

    Rich

    Comment by Rich K — August 25, 2009 @ 4:47 pm

  209. 1. As Jacob pointed out, the when a car breaks down it is behaving in a certain way. Do you claim that car is morally responsible for that behavior? If you don’t, why not?

    Answer me this: is a car an agent?

    2. I again ask: Do you believe God also is a causally determined being or do you think that God has real free will?

    I don’t believe the terms are appropriate for God. Hell, I don’t think the terms are appropriate for humans.

    Rich

    Comment by Rich K — August 25, 2009 @ 4:59 pm

  210. Rich (#208),

    I can’t make any sense out of your first paragraph so I won’t respond to it.

    Is LFW and moral responsibility some kind of sacred shibboleth that must not be questioned?

    Yeah, kinda. The argument is that there is no moral responsibility without LFW. You have yet to provide arguments contrary to that. Rather you are introducing rather unrelated comments about influences and whatnot.

    Libertarian free will acknowledges only two entities: freedom and determinism.

    Not so. For instance Calvinists are not causal determinists yet they reject LFW in favor of predestination and an all-controlling God.

    By exclusion it rejects yetzer or the influences of good and evil.

    Not so. Rather LFW simply holds that in the face of any and all influences the agent still makes free choices between legitimate alternatives. Therefore this yetzer idea of yours is mostly a red herring.

    Mostly what I am gathering from this exchange is that you don’t really understand what LFW is yet. You seem to be attacking ideas that are not entailed by LFW.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 25, 2009 @ 5:00 pm

  211. Rich (#209): Answer me this: is a car an agent?

    Nope. And the car cannot make free choices using libertarian free will so it is not morally responsible. But your yetzer argument (which seems more and more loopy to me as we continue) was that choices don’t matter — only behavior matters. And cars certainly do behave in certain ways.

    I don’t believe the terms are appropriate for God. Hell, I don’t think the terms are appropriate for humans.

    And again I suspect based on your comments here that is because you simply don’t understand what the term “libertarian free will” means still.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 25, 2009 @ 5:04 pm

  212. Since the car is not an agent the question is irrelevant.

    Rich

    Comment by Rich K — August 26, 2009 @ 12:45 pm

  213. And again I suspect based on your comments here that is because you simply don’t understand what the term “libertarian free will” means still.

    I don’t understand “libertarian free will”? Before commenting on your blog I searched all over the net for a concise definition for ‘”libertarian free will.” There is no agreed definition. I then looked on your blog for such a definition. The only reference I could find referred to an explanation that stated “libertarian free will” coexists with determinism (compatibilism). Then you write that “libertarian free will” is not compatible with determinism. Now I’m beginning to wonder if even you guys know what “libertarian free will” is. So I start running some ideas by you for correction. Finally, I come up with a working definition; something you guys never did.

    “The idea behind LFW is that nothing should diminish the agent’s control of choice at the moment of choice. And, agent’s control is exercised through a rational process.”

    This was clearly my working definition. None of you corrected that definition. Either you agreed with it or you thought that I was some kind of bumkin that didn’t need to be taken seriously. However, by not responding you gave tacit approval to that definition. It then became the working definition for further discussions. Now you say I don’t know what ‘libertarian free will” is. Whoa brethren, the time to have made that observation was when I presented the proposed working definition. What, you couldn’t be bothered at that time?

    I have a sense of superciliousness running through your responses. I didn’t know what I am talking about. After all I was challenging LFW and everyone knows that can’t be challenged. So my arguments didn’t have to be taken seriously. Take the issue of yetzer. I saw your attitude as very dismissal. What is this yetzer thing? You didn’t even bother to understand what the yetzer principle is. May I paraphrase an Article of Faith: We believe the Old Testament to be the word of God in so far as it is translated correctly. Yetzer is an Old Testament principle take from the word of God. But you guys couldn’t even investigate what it meant. You asked if anyone could come up with an alternative to LFW. I did. It was one based on the word of God. You superciliously dismiss it.

    Do you think I’m pissed? You bet I am. I’ve worked hard to understand “libertarian free will.” I got no help from you except to offer: “here is the background.” Even the website referred to had a notice that the information contained on that site was challenged. Nowhere is there a position statement on what you believe to be ‘libertarian free will.” Nor did you give me one when I asked.

    Again, you asked for an alternative to LFW. I did from the word of God from the Old Testament. You now have two alternatives: one based on the word of God and one based on the word of Alexander of Aphrodisias. I know which alternative I’m going to use.

    Rich

    Comment by Rich K — August 26, 2009 @ 12:50 pm

  214. Rich,

    Sorry if we were not helpful enough with the definitions early on.

    I think you are looking beyond the mark with this LFW thing. Libertarian free will is basically what we in the church call “agency” or “free agency”. It is what people intuitively think of when they think of free will. The reason we use the “libertarian” qualifier here is because determinists have somewhat successfully horned in on term free will and now use it to describe the illusion of free choices between genuine alternatives one would have in a deterministic world (aka compatibilism).

    In other words, if I were looking for a pithy description of LFW to give to a Mormon I would say: LFW = agency (or moral agency or free agency).

    So if you are opposed to the common Mormon conception of agency then you are against LFW. If you believe in “free agency” (as it was commonly called among the brethren in the past) then you are for LFW.

    See the free will wiki for more basics on the subject. Until we sort this definition thing out we will be talking past each other in this thread.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 26, 2009 @ 1:21 pm

  215. OK Lets take this up again. Let me begin by saying I feel nothing but good will towards you guys. You look to be very intelligent and nice. Nothing I say is meant to imply any personal attacks on any of you. I attack ideas not people.

    The initial challenge was to come up with something that could explain accountability besides LFW. I did. I presented Old Testament teachings of ancient Israel that provides an understanding of accountability without reference to LFW. These teaching were established hundreds and hundreds of year before Alexander came up with LFW (I say that because authors have stated that Alexander’s idea of free will were what would become known as LFW).

    You guys objected that both LFW and the OT are describing the same metaphysical reality. If that’s true, why do we need LFW? The OT has already accounted for accountability. After all, more people have read the OT than have read anything about LFW.

    Nevertheless, your assertion is important. Do LFW and OT describe the same phenomena? The idea of LFW was developed in response to deterministic teachings of the Stoics. Augustine brought the teaching into Christian theology in response to Manichaeistic determinism. There is an intimate connection between LFW and determinism. Your earlier question shows this intimate relation: “I again ask: Do you believe God also is a causally determined being or do you think that God has real free will?” There is nothing in between. LFW and determinism are the opposite sides of the same coin. Take away determinism and you lose LFW.

    Rather LFW simply holds that in the face of any and all influences the agent still makes free choices between legitimate alternatives.

    Here you have replaced ‘determinism’ with ‘influences’ but it doesn’t work. The meaning of LFW is that we have FW “without” determinants. If you try this with ‘influences’ it comes out “we have FW without influences.” You wind up describing an amoral person making moral choices. LFW was never designed to work with ‘influences’. It was solely designed to combat ‘determinants’. Take determinants out of the picture and you have taken LFW out of the picture. This is exactly what the Lord has done. He has assured us that influences shall never rise to the level of determinants. Therefore determinism is off the table. Without the concept of determinism where is LFW? [Determinants can return to the table under certain rare conditions that I will discuss later.]

    We used to speak of free agency. Is free agency the same as free will? No. I think one of the reason we now speak of agency instead of free agency is it is redundant at best and implies something that doesn’t exist: determinacy at worst. I even made that mistake earlier. What we have is ‘agency’ no free agency. An insurance agent has the right to make choices that will bind his company to a contract. Agency means you have the right to make choices. In addition, you are responsible for the choices made. Agency takes the replaces LFW. Agency implies that you have the right to make choices. However, they are not ‘free’ as in free from influences. Influences always mean your choices are not free. This does not mean they are determined because determination has been taken off the table. It means choices are influenced by good or evil. Thus influences are melded into the choice process where they are excluded in LFW. Influences don’t mean we are not responsible for our choices. What is means is that we are responsible for the influences we listen to when making choice.

    The principle of agency provides something LFW cannot: variability. With LFW we are either ‘free’ or not. Agency says that influences, because they are influences, can be stronger or weaker given the particular choice and given how hard we listen to a particular influence. The implication is that listening to the wrong influence can eventually bind us. We can loose our agency. In LFW it’s all or nothing. We’re back to Greek absolutes; you’re either free or bound. With LFW we have lost very important divine principles: our responsibility to make the right choices and the danger we face in making the wrong choices.

    Unlike LFW, agency is not an absolute. There are a number of ways in which we can lose our agency. One has already mentioned. We can loose our agency by following evil. We can also loose our agency if we are incapacitated in some way that was out of our control. Mental retardation is one example. Fear conditioning is another. Researchers say fear conditioning is almost impossible to eradicate. It therefore can rise to the level of a determinant. In some situation you are simply unable to make choices for which you are responsible. However, the Lord has made provisions for situations like these. It is the principle of intent. The Lord judges you on the basis of what you would have done had those determinants not been there. Intent makes no sense within the paradigm of free will.

    So yetzer (agency) is a far better paradigm for understanding choice and responsibility in a moral setting than is LFW.

    Rich

    Comment by Rich K — August 30, 2009 @ 8:14 pm

  216. Rich,

    So as far as I can tell your only beef is that you don’t like the term libertarian free will. You have no beef with the metaphysical reality it describes (which tracks to the Mormon concept of “agency”).

    If so it seems like you are tilting at windmills here.

    Thus influences are melded into the choice process where they are excluded in LFW.

    Not so. LFW simply says the choices of agents are not caused by anything but the agent. Again LFW = Agency. You are simply wrong in claiming otherwise. Of course agents can be influenced but that is not the same as being caused to act in certain ways.

    Unlike LFW, agency is not an absolute.

    Seriously, you are just making stuff up now. This kind of claim is just fabricated.

    I’ll say it again: LFW = Agency.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 30, 2009 @ 9:04 pm

  217. It does appear to me that the main disagreement is in the definition of terms at this point. It looks like if we meant the same things by the words we were using we’d all be in agreement. In fairness to Rich, he did start by saying he needed a definition of LFW on the site to know what we were talking about. In fairness to us, we don’t run an encyclopedia here.

    Comment by Jacob J — August 31, 2009 @ 10:07 am

  218. Not so. LFW simply says the choices of agents are not caused by anything but the agent.

    The define for me ‘free’ in free will. What does it mean?

    Rich

    Comment by Rich K — September 1, 2009 @ 9:48 pm

  219. The “free” means that choices are not caused by forces outside of the agent.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 1, 2009 @ 10:38 pm

  220. However, influences, in many cases are internal to the agent. How does Free apply here?

    Rich

    Comment by Rich K — September 2, 2009 @ 8:14 am

  221. However, influences, in many cases are internal to the agent.

    I’m not sure what you mean by this. Can you elaborate?

    Comment by Geoff J — September 2, 2009 @ 9:02 am

  222. These would be primarily sensations and emotions.

    Rich

    Comment by Rich K — September 2, 2009 @ 11:00 am

  223. Ok, so is your question “How does Free apply to sensations and emotions”? If so I am not sure I understand the question still.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 2, 2009 @ 11:06 am

  224. Yes, feelings, sensations, emotions often affect our choices how does that fit with our being Free?

    Rich

    Comment by Rich K — September 2, 2009 @ 12:48 pm

  225. I don’t have a good answer to that question Rich. It gets into that murky area where bodies and spirits/minds interact. I think it is safe for Mormons to say that we are more than our bodies so to the extent that “feelings, sensations, emotions” are created by our physical bodies I think we must assume that our spirits/minds must have some level of independence from and control over “the flesh”. Do you have some theories on how “feelings, sensations, emotions fit with our being Free”?

    Comment by Geoff J — September 2, 2009 @ 1:15 pm

  226. I think it’s a bit simpler than that. You walk down a street and get mugged. Later you have a choice whether to go down that street or another. Chances are you will take the street where you didn’t get mugged. The emotion of fear is a contributing cause for the decision. If the fear is great it can be THE cause. It is in the area of contributing causes that I think ‘free will’ has a problem. I could be wrong. That’s why I asked about internal influences.

    There is a lot of research going on to discover how affects (feelings and emotions) contribute to reasoning and decision-making. Here are a few of the researchers on affect and reasoning and decision-making: Antonio Demasio, Daniel Greenberg, Antoine Bechara, Richard J. Davidson, Stanley I. Greenspan, Shan Zhoa, Joseph LeDoux. All of them have published books or articles on this subject.

    Rich

    Comment by Rich K — September 2, 2009 @ 10:22 pm

  227. Ok, I can probably buy most of that. None of it is at odds with agency/LFW unless you are saying that a person is fated to choose another street and could not choose it in spite of their fear.

    Anyway the main issue in this post was this: As long as we have legitimate choices then we are not predestined/fated and we have agency/LFW. If we are not fated then our future is open and therefore exhaustive foreknowledge is a myth.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 2, 2009 @ 10:43 pm

  228. I don’t think fate has any relevance. What I’m saying is that fear can indeed determine our actions. A simplistic example. You decide to touch a red hot burner (for whatever reason). I can guarantee you won’t touch it. The nearer your hand gets to the burner the more your fear will be stopping you. Functionally speaking, the brain is projecting your action into the near future and projecting the pain that will result. You have no control over this. The threat of the projected pain will become too hard to overcome.

    There are somethings we can do, somethings very hard to do and somethings we can not do all based on the projections of the brain. I don’t see how LFW fits into that.

    This brings back the issue of the definition of Free. With regards to determinism, ‘free’ means “free from”. If we are free to make choice then we are free from determinism. But how is this applied to influences? Are we saying the same thing? Are we free from influences and if not why not?

    Once we realize that that our agency is not based on LFW/Determinism we can look at the issue of exhaustive foreknowledge in a new way.

    Rich

    Comment by Rich K — September 3, 2009 @ 10:10 am

  229. You decide to touch a red hot burner (for whatever reason). I can guarantee you won’t touch it.

    Not so. It just depends on the stakes. If I knew touching the burner would prevent some pyscho from murdering one of my children I would do it. So while the fear of being burned is an influencing factor, it does not override my agency/LFW.

    So what I am free from is a fate that takes away my actual choices. I can choose to be burned, I just would not normally want to do so.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 3, 2009 @ 10:18 am

  230. Yes, feelings, sensations, emotions often affect our choices how does that fit with our being Free?

    No great mystery there. All those things may give you strong inclinations to do one thing or another, but the ability to freely veto and resist those inclinations or choose to follow them to various degrees according to one’s own personal judgment is what makes us morally independent creatures, agents unto ourselves as it were.

    Just because the wind is blowing in one direction doesn’t mean one has to go that way too. One can choose to follow the wind, go sideways, or against it. Feelings, emotions, fears – to first order, are all influences like the wind. To second order, we can affect them – the reason why it takes time is that we don’t have direct (immediate) control over our emotions, only indirect (delayed) control.

    We do, in most cases, have direct and immediate control over how we react to those emotions – whether to follow through or resist them, for example. If you are angry, you can decide that your anger is excessive and unjustified and it will gradually subside. Your anger is not your will – your will is what you intend to do about your anger. Will and intent are synonyms. An autonomous or instinctive reaction does not generally or necessarily reflect intent at all.

    Comment by Mark D. — September 3, 2009 @ 10:46 am

  231. Nicely said Mark.

    Rich, see my post on “Veto free will” here. This ability to veto our natural inclinations (as I noted in 229) is the key to agency/LFW.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 3, 2009 @ 10:54 am

  232. Geoff J may I point out that what you have done is allow one fear to override another fear. I’m not sure how this is a demonstration of free will.

    Gentlemen, you haven’t defined free. Free from what? Originally it was free from determinism. Now with influences what does free mean. Does it now have a different meaning and if so why?

    Rich

    Comment by Rich K — September 3, 2009 @ 1:11 pm

  233. Rich: I’m not sure how this is a demonstration of free will.

    It is pretty obvious. You guaranteed an action based on a stimulus, I showed that you were dead wrong in your guarantee. You were wrong because we have free will (agency). That is, no matter how strong our inclination to react one way to stimulus, we as agents with sufficiently functioning mental capacities have power to veto that inclination.

    Are you a Mormon? If so what do you think Lehi meant when he said:

    26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.
    27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and call things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

    Lehi says we are free to act and not only be acted upon — presumably acted upon by all forces including our genetic inclinations, social programming, fears, temptations, feelings, appetites, desires, etc. So we are at least free from being predetermined by any of those factors as a result of our agency/LFW.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 3, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

  234. Gentlemen, you haven’t defined free.

    Oy. You are wearing me out with this Rich. We have amply described what we mean. If you still aren’t getting it that is now reflecting on you, not on us.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 3, 2009 @ 1:57 pm

  235. It is pretty obvious. You guaranteed an action based on a stimulus, I showed that you were dead wrong in your guarantee. You were wrong because we have free will (agency). That is, no matter how strong our inclination to react one way to stimulus, we as agents with sufficiently functioning mental capacities have power to veto that inclination.

    This isn’t free will. In Lehi’s words you were “acted upon” by you fear of your daughter’s life. For practical purposes, you had no other choice.

    Are you a Mormon?

    I believed I told you my current Priesthood assignment. I have been a longtime Gospel Doctrine teacher, I’ve been the Elder’s Quorum instructor and am currently the High Priest Quorum instructor. So I know a bit about reading scriptures.

    Lehi says we are free to act and not only be acted upon — presumably acted upon by all forces

    This is where you have misread Lehi. He states we are free from being acted upon by either God or Satan. This is not a general statement on the validity of free will. This leaves the question can we be “acted upon” by other things. Lehi does not address this issue.

    LFW is an all or nothing statement. Either you are free or you are not. If you are free then you are free all the time. In the above example you gave you were not free. You were determined by your fear for the life of your child. In fact, the scriptures say we can loose our freedom by choosing evil. This is hardly a tenet of LFW. It is a tenet of agency.

    A soldier comes back from the war. He has a deathly fear of crowds. However, going to Sacrament Meeting is a commandment. As he gets closer to the building his body begins to tremble as a reaction to fear. He starts to feel sick, another reaction. When he sees the crowd of members he feels the world starting to crash on him and if he stays he will die. It does not matter that this won’t happen. It is what his brain is telling him. These are valid symptoms of deep-seated irrational fear. Therefore, for him it is real. He simply cannot continue and returns home. According to LFW, this man is free from being acted upon by his emotions and by his choice stands condemned for not attending his meeting. This is absurd.

    With the principle of agency this condemnation would not happen. The Lord recognizes that situations can happen in which our choice can be determined by influences beyond our control (something LFW cannot accept). When our actions are determined the Lord uses the principle of intent to judge. That is to say, if the soldier’s actions had not been determined, the Lord can see what would have been his choice. Agency acknowledges the existence of determinacy but agency is not lost because of intent.

    “So we are at least free from being predetermined”

    As I understand it the issue is over determinacy and free will. Not over “predeterminancy. “

    Oy. You are wearing me out with this Rich. We have amply described what we mean. If you still aren’t getting it that is now reflecting on you, not on us.

    First off, I don’t waist my time trying to find how things reflect on people. Second, when I ask “what is the relationship between free and emotions” and I get “I don’t know” it is logical to ask for a definition.

    Rich

    Comment by Rich K — September 4, 2009 @ 12:15 pm

  236. Rich: This isn’t free will. In Lehi’s words you were “acted upon” by you fear of your daughter’s life. For practical purposes, you had no other choice.

    False.

    In the scenario there are real choices for the agent to make therefore it is real free will. The the reasoning for whatever choice the agent makes is largely moots as long as the agent is free to reason independent of causal forces (ie free of mind control)

    This is where you have misread Lehi. He states we are free from being acted upon by either God or Satan.

    False.

    In the above example you gave you were not free. You were determined by your fear for the life of your child.

    False.

    In the example I am free to choose to be burned or free to allow the child to die. Neither of those choices is fixed before I make it. Therefore it is a fine example of free will.

    In fact, the scriptures say we can loose our freedom by choosing evil. This is hardly a tenet of LFW. It is a tenet of agency.

    False.

    With the veto free will I described people of sound mind can always choose their intentions. A quadriplegic in solitary confinement has as much LFW/agency as any other person. LFW = Agency.

    According to LFW, this man is free from being acted upon by his emotions and by his choice stands condemned for not attending his meeting.

    False.

    I have all along included the caveat of a properly functioning brain. Just like there being exceptions for mentally challenged people who need not be baptized, so are there exceptions for people with other varying mental or psychological problems.

    Regarding free will and determinism: If only one person in the entire universe had the ability to make free choices the future could not be fixed. As is turns out many of us have the ability to make free choices therefore many of us can be morally accountable. God has the most ability to make free and morally accountable choices of all in my estimation. The rest of us do the best we can despite “the flesh”.

    Therefore you are assuming too much here. Further, the things you attribute to agency apply perfectly to LFW.

    LFW = Agency.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 4, 2009 @ 1:50 pm

  237. Hey,

    I stumbled across this blog and really found it interesting. I am not yet totally sure of what I believe (about foreknowledge, free will, etc.) so reading about these different views has been great for me. What I think I believe (from the Scriptures that thus far the Holy Spirit has allowed me to understand) is that God is sovereign, that is, all-powerful. An all-powerful God knows what events will happen in the future based on His power to make said events happen. Thus the future can be “fixed” because God can do that. Can humans have free will? From God’s perspective, no. From our perspective? It looks like it. It’s about 10:30 now and I can choose to stop writing and go to bed or continue writing. Does God know what I’ll do? Of course. To God, I have no choice because it’s in his power to cause me to do what I do. To me, it looks like I’m choosing. Ta-da! God knows the future and I have free will; the two are compatible because the choices I make based on free will make up (part of) the future God has planned.

    In essence what I think I’m trying to say is this – the belief that humans can make choices not yet known to God is a serious question to God’s sovereignty. Mankind is created in God’s image, but is not equal with God. Thus our choices are not outside His control, and He can make the future as “fixed” as He wants.

    Note:

    These thoughts I have just expressed are merely the beginning of trying to determine what I believe, and my writing this is to find out if and how others agree with or disagree with what I think so far. Any responses or input would be appreciated.

    Comment by Josh — April 4, 2010 @ 7:43 pm

  238. Josh,

    God predicting a future event is not the same as that event being fixed and unavoidable. That is the key. If God knows you will do X tomorrow then it must happen. That is what it means for God to know it after all. In such a universe you are not a free agents.

    However if God is really good at predicting and influencing what you will freely choose the free will could exist.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 4, 2010 @ 7:49 pm

  239. Geoff,

    Thanks for your response! This is a different way of looking at free will for me and it’s good for me to learn what other people think. Yes, it definitely seems like human free will and God’s foreknowledge are mutually exclusive, I think what I meant in my first entry was that instead of free will, we have the illusion of it. It still looks like free will to us, but we don’t really have it.

    I assume from your response that you believe humans have free will and that there are events that take place that God did not totally know in advance. (Let me know if my assumption is wrong!) I’m not sure I’m convinced of this.

    Here’s my problem. This morning I read through Psalm 139. I take the Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God, and from this psalm says, it looks like God knows mankind’s every move and word before it is acted/spoken. How can God not know the future?

    Maybe there really is no free will?

    These are just my thoughts, and truth be told I’m probably confused on some point or another. As before, your comments on this are greatly appreciated.

    Comment by Josh — April 5, 2010 @ 5:49 am

  240. Well that is the standard compatibilist position on the subject Josh. The problem I have with it is that Mormonism pretty much requires the existence of non-illusion free will. (All though some will put up some resistance to that claim.) Are you Mormon? If not then there is little standing in the way of you accepting the idea that human free will is just an illusion.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 5, 2010 @ 9:32 am

  241. To answer your question, no I’m not a Mormon, but I have really been intrigued by this whole topic and this blog in general. It really was an accident that I stumbled upon this page, but I’m glad I did. To be honest, Mormonism is something I know very little about (and would like to know more).

    What I’d like to know is how Mormonism requires non-illusion free will. That is a requirement I would not have guessed (like I said I know very little about Mormonism) and would love to have that explained.

    Also, how does Mormonism rectify non-illusion free will with the Scriptures?

    I’m sorry if this seems like too many questions; I really am just curious.

    Comment by Josh — April 5, 2010 @ 3:59 pm

  242. Well Josh, a very short answer to your question is that Mormonism maintains that the very purpose of earth life is for children of God to come here and be tested and tried to help us become more like God. If we don’t have real free will there is no real tests of character here at all — no free choices to judge us on.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 5, 2010 @ 5:23 pm

  243. Wow. I read that and honestly there doesn’t seem to be any problem with your logic (not that I’m that great with logic anyway).

    However, I realized something later. Sure, the purpose of our trials and testings are for us to build character and perseverance (James 1:2-3 and Romans 5:3-4). However, I’m not sure that is the purpose of life on earth. I think our purpose on earth is so that God is glorified (Philippians 2:9-11 ends with “to the glory of God the Father” and 1 Corinthians 10:31 says all we do should be for God’s Glory). To me, it seems that the purpose of our life on earth is more to glorify God as a whole rather than to become better people. The reason for this is that when our character is made more like God’s, we end up glorifying God anyway. It seems to me that God is more glorified by making his people to become more like Him, and we would be more glorified by claiming we have endured these tests and trials by our own choice. In other words, God could know what we will choose, we would have the illusion of choosing it, our character would be strengthened by the choice we make, and God would be ultimately glorified. I guess it all depends on what you take to be the purpose of man’s life on earth.

    Comment by Josh — April 6, 2010 @ 2:22 pm

  244. To me, it seems that the purpose of our life on earth is more to glorify God

    Yeah I have heard that from lots of people over the years. I remain frankly baffled at how our just being here with only the illusion of free will could accomplish the goal of glorifying God. I mean if we aren’t making any real free choices to begin with and God wants us to be more like him why didn’t he just make us that way to begin with? It sounds like some pointless exercise to me.

    But a lot of people seem to think it makes sense so I don’t begrudge anyone believing it if they want.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 6, 2010 @ 3:34 pm

  245. Well, yes you have a good point. My only reasoning (so far) on this point is this:

    God made all of creation, and all of creation praises His name and gives Him glory (Psalm 19:1-6). Plants and animals don’t have “free will”, not even a soul, but they bring glory to God. It seems to me that God is glorified in us when, through the work of salvation, He turns us to Him so that we may praise Him.

    At this point, this is what I think about man’s purpose on earth and glorifying God.

    Comment by Josh — April 9, 2010 @ 5:57 am

  246. Josh,

    The obvious problem with your world with no free will (only the illusion of free will) is that God is glorified no matter what anybody does. In other words, if we can’t really choose any of our actions then nothing we do glorifies God any more than anything else. Further, in the world you describe where rocks and plants glorify God, Hitler also gloried God with his life as much as anything or anyone else on the planet. (None could have done anything other than their predestined fate after all.) On a practical level that is a problematic theology.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 9, 2010 @ 4:05 pm

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