In recent posts I have pointed to the existence of different and in some ways incompatible conceptions of truth. As a brief reminder, I suggested that, roughly speaking, (S)cience sees truth as an accurate picture of the world as it objectively is while (R)eligion sees truth as a path which leads to some destination, i.e. God. In this post I wish to further carve out this distinction and the implications that it has on our conception of divine foreknowledge. (more…)
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.]
Our regular readers know that I have recently been teeing off on Calvinism around these parts in posts and comment threads. Of course in those discussions various Calvinists have tried to defend Calvinism in spite of the narcissistic and cruelly sadistic God it paints. After not having much logical ground to stand on in their attempts some of these Calvinism defenders have plaintively protested: “Well how do you reconcile real free will with God’s foreknowledge then?” My answer is simple: I don’t. I reject the idea of exhaustive foreknowledge because exhaustive foreknowledge requires a fixed future and a fixed future is fundamentally incompatible with real free will.
I face sort of an odd situation in my life. You see, I don’t believe the future exists yet, nor do I believe it can be clearly or completely determined, and yet some of what I would consider my highest level spiritual experiences had to do with God giving me what seemed like foreknowledge of the future.
To illustrate, I will provide two examples.
1st, perhaps one of the most life changing dreams I’ve ever had was about my teenage daughter, 6 years before she was born. She’s four now. (or one depending on which girl it was I dreamed of. They look almost alike in many ways, and the dream was a long time ago.) The dream changed my life in that I fell in love with my daughter in that dream, and so decided to have children. (Which I had previously been against.)
2nd, When I was deciding whether or not to be baptised, I felt an impression of the way my life would go if I followed the path of the gospel, especially regarding who I would marry. Just before I got baptised, this woman made it very clear that she would NEVER marry me. This led me to have a momentary crisis in my fledgling faith where I was uncertain of the communication I had received or that I had even received communication. Then through a spiritual experience I have elsewhere described, and through a decison I had to believe in the communications from God those experiences represent, I went ahead and was baptised. Now that woman and I have been married for almost six years. This crisis of faith, I believe, was critical to my conversion process, as it taught me to walk by faith and how to “put things on the shelf”. Further it confirmed to me I was joining the church for myself and not just another pretty face.
So there you have it. I still don’t believe the future exists, but I do believe God does, in a way beyond my comprehension, have an understanding of my life that enables him to effectively interact with me and help me to see my future, even though it does not exist.
Awhile back I posted on God’s decision making process and examined some reasons that foreknowledge does not render decision making trivial. On that thread, Mark made the following comment and I mentioned my intention to dedicate an entire post to the same point:
Knowledge of possible futures does not seem to be much of an advantage. As each one is conditioned on the free will of multiple parties, choosing an actual direction to take is still reduced to an exercise in risk management and statistics. (Mark D)
Sorry for the rambling nature of this. It’s been going through my head all day, and I post it now, incomplete as it is.
The Doctrine and Covenants contains an interesting parable that I noticed for the first time this morning. It’s short, and basically, Christ asks his children (all of us) to “esteem his brother [or sister, of course]” as themselves. He then says:
For what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respecter of them, and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou thereâ€”and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just?
I figured freedom would be a good subject for Independence Day here in the U.S.
Here is the question of the day: Does the Plan of Salvation and restored gospel even make sense if humans do not have free will in the libertarian sense?
Here is the answer for the day: No.
Recently, a series of comments on different threads and from different people has convinced me that far more people believe that God lives outside of time than I would have suspected. I think the idea of a timeless God is a-scriptural and unworkable in the context of Mormon theology. The problems I see with divine timelessness fall into two categories. The first category involves conflicts that arise because change cannot happen in a timeless existence. The second category has to do with the lack of an intersection between time and timelessness. Let’s consider each one. (more…)
[Edit: In this post I should have written that we generally live “as if” we were causally determined beings. Later discussions showed this mistake of mine confused a lot of people.]
There was an interesting article in the New York Times this week called “Free Will: Now You Have It, Now You Donâ€™t” (Hat tip to the BCC sideblog). The author gives a quick review of the scientific arguments against the concept of Free Will (and in favor of causal determinism). I recommend you check it out.
There was one section and specifically one conclusion the author drew that I want to focus one in this post. The author recounted a now-famous experiment that has been brought up around these parts before (by some of our local science guys like Jeff G., Christian C., and Clark if I remember correctly). Here is the passage from the article:
It is no secret that Open Theists read scriptures with different operative principles of interpretation than those who maintain classical theology. Open theists generally argue that scriptural passages demonstrate that God changes his mind, relents, repents or feels sorrow for things that have occurred. If they are correct, then at least to the extent such scripture is regarded as disclosing what is true of God, then God cannot be, as classical theists maintain: (1) immutable in the strong sense that none of Godâ€™s intrinsic properties is subject to change; (2) impassible in the sense that nothing outside of God influences him or otherwise has no feelings comparable to human feelings; (3) timeless in the sense that God is outside of any type of temporal succession; (4) prescient in the sense that God has infallible foreknowledge.
I distinctly remember trying to come up with the biggest number as a child. I would say something like one-hundred-trillion-billion-quazillion, and then my older brother would torment me by saying one-hundred-trillion-billion-quazillion-and-one. I canâ€™t wait to torment my kids with that when they get to the right age. (more…)
It never ceases to amaze me how many Mormons will, when push comes to shove, choose to believe in a fixed future and a fated existence instead of an open future and a robust version of free will. What gives? (more…)
My recent post asserting that exhaustive foreknowledge is a faith crippling and pernicious doctrine spurred a teensy, tiny debate… The exchange has been a very interesting one. I’d summarize that debate, but that wouldn’t do it justice so you’ll have to check it out yourself. One of the challenges posed to me and those of like mind was: “Ok, if God doesn’t see the exact future just how does he pull off prophecy, let alone have assurance things will go his way?” If I wasn’t such a sucker for a challenge I would just say “God is just that smart. It may seem difficult, but at least it is not a paradox like trying to reconcile free agency and a fixed future”. But of course I am a sucker for a challenge so here is a model of how he might pull this off. This is a continuation of my earlier post called “How God could figure out the future without foreknowledge.” (more…)
I have already discussed the idea of how absolute foreknowledge would actually be quite useless to God here, here, and here. Steve Hancock brought up the subject again recently over at Splendid Sun. Some people believe absolute foreknowledge and free agency are compatible but I don’t. In fact, I have become increasingly convinced that believing in a fixed future (which is required if God has absolute foreknowledge) is a pernicious and faith-crippling doctrine. (more…)