Dialogue on the freedom of the will

Ok, this dialogue is all full of nerdy theological, historichal and philosophical humor – probably no one will get it but me 🙁 But, I laugh every time I read it! 😉

We were suppose to expand on a dialogue of free will in my philosophy class…

Augustine: Now that dinner is done; I would like to finish our meal with a prayer, if that is ok with you, Pelagius, John and Jacobus?

All: Fine by us.

Augustine: God, command us that which you desire, and grant that which you command. Amen.

Pelagius: I particularly liked the duck! But I have to admit that I’m not overly fond of your prayer there Augustine. You seem to be suggesting that God commands us to do what he desires for us to do. Correct?

Augustine: Yes, indeed, that is correct.

Pelagius: I have no problem with that, mind you; but I would like you to explain the other portion of your prayer. For it seems that you are suggesting that we can’t do what God has commanded us to do, unless he comes and gives us the power to do it? I do not like that one bit!

Augustine: Ah, so here we get to the heart of this whole discussion. Predestination versus Free will! I know, Pelagius how you feel regarding this conversation, and before we get started, I feel it important to point out that your position stands in opposition to all that has been considered orthodox in the Christian Churches from the beginning of Christianity. While God does command us to obey him, unless he gives us the power to obey him, we are unable to comply, and yet, God still holds us accountable.

Pelagius: Does that not make God unjust, Augustine? Can a just God tell us to fly, and not give us any wings? I believe that…

Augustine: Well, based on our letters that we have written back and forth, I can clearly see that you believe that deep down inside our hearts we have this protected portion of existence untouched by the curse of sin. Is that correct?

Pelagius: That is correct!

Augustine: And within this viewpoint, you also hold that mankind has the power within himself to choose to obey God; that within this self-contained power, there is no real necessity for the saving grace of God, and yet, you hold that grace is definitely helpful, but not necessary for one to be saved.

Pelagius: You have understood me correctly.

Augustine: Then I must pronounce on you anathema as you have denied the necessity of Jesus’ sacrifice for salvation. Let me draw to your attention a few scriptures that shall affirm your mistake in this matter.

Arminius: Augustine, I don’t mean to interrupt, but I too am interested in this conversation, because I also believe that we have the freedom to choose to obey God or not obey God, although I am in somewhat in a different place than Pelagius. While Pelagius believes that we don’t need grace, because we have this unbroken ability deep down inside of us, I believe in this concept of common grace. To me, God gives all men common grace, so that all men can come to Him, if they freely choose.

Calvin: Arminius, if I am to understand you correctly, you believe that mankind is indeed born radically corrupt (or as I would put it totally depraved), and that we are all tainted with the effects of original sin, is that correct?

Arminius: That is indeed correct, the bible affirms this.

Augustine: So we three are at least in agreement with that.

Pelagius: I don’t!

Augustine: We’ll get back to you in a moment, Pelagius.

Calvin: Arminius, you however, believe that while all mankind is born with original sin, after birth, God gives all humans what you call “common grace”, that is, a respite from Adam’s sin, until such time that a man (or woman) freely chooses to sin on their own, and then their potential sin becomes their actual sin?

Arminius: That is correct!

Calvin: Is it possible for someone to choose not to sin, Arminius?

Pelagius: I believe so! That’s why we don’t really need Christ!

Arminius: Hrm… I’m not quite sure, because if it was possible for a man or woman to not sin, then it would also mean that grace is not a necessary requirement for salvation, as humans could logically persist in a sinless state apart from Jesus’ sacrifice.

Pelagius: That’s what I’m saying!

Arminius: And yet, I know this is clearly spoken against in the bible.

Augustine: I was about to get to that point.

Arminius: However, if it’s not possible to not sin, then all men must sin, and then do we really have free will?

Calvin: Exactly!

Arminius: So my theory of common grace, which is intended to protect the freedom of men, is really a non sequitur?

Calvin: Precisely!

Augustine: Just a minute Calvin, because I haven’t said what I intended to say yet.

Calvin: Ok, please continue.

Augustine: You see gentlemen; the bible clearly affirms that the sinful man cannot submit to the law of God, as the mind of the sinful man is at war with God (Rom 8:6-10). In fact, a spiritually dead man can do nothing on his own accord, and we are spiritually dead apart from being made alive in Christ (Eph 2:1 & Eph 2:5). And, the bible clearly affirms that all men are sinful as a result of Adam’s sin (Rom 5:12-14)(Rom 3:23). Additionally, the bible affirms that no one even seeks after God on their own accord (Rom 3:11), and again it affirms that no one can understand and accept the teachings of God, unless God gives it to him to understand them (John 6:44, John 6:65).

Pelagius: I cut those parts out of my bible!

Calvin: We shall turn you over to the Geneva council!

Augustine: Gentlemen, let me finish! In final, we also see that God chooses whom He will save, for His own good purpose in election (and remember there is no shadow of turning in our creator) (Rom 9:11). So the bible says that it does not depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy (Rom 9:16). For it is only through His grace that we’re saved (Eph 2:8). And yet, in the end, if we do not choose God, God still blames us, for who are we to talk back to God (Rom 9:19-20).

Arminius: But, I don’t quite understand, how can God be in absolute control, but still blame us?

Augustine: Here is how I like to explain it. First and foremost, you must understand that Adam was the representative of all mankind (including man and woman) when he was put on this earth. He was the headship of the covenant between God and mankind. So, as our representative, what he chose to do had a lasting impact on all of humanity. This is not an uncommon scenario; Adam was, if you will, our ambassador.

Arminius: Ok, I follow you so far.

Augustine: So, Adam was created with the possibility to sin, and the possibility to not sin. I have some really nifty Latin words I use to describe this, but I’ll refrain from using them.

Arminius: Thanks, I’m having a hard enough time speaking English as it is.

Augustine: So, when Adam, as the representative of mankind, chose to disobey God, he lost the ability to not sin; and was left only with the ability to sin. This was the effect of the fall; and what we refer to as “original sin”. God, permitted this to happen (we call this his permissive will in my circle), so therefore it still happened within the sovereignty of God.

Arminius: But what do you mean Adam was left with only the ability to sin, do you mean he no longer had free will?

Augustine: By no means, what I mean is that because of the noetic effect of sin; we still have the freedom to do what we choose to do, but what we desire the most to do (apart from God’s grace) is to sin.

Arminius: So we are free to do what we desire the most to do?

Augustine: But what we desire the most to do is to act in a self-seeking way; you see, we have the freedom to choose, but we don’t have liberty to choose.

Calvin: And yet, if we can only do what we desire the most to do, we are therefore determined to do what we must do (based on our desires), and we don’t really have free will!

Arminius: I still have a problem with this idea though, because some of our contemporaries believe that if God chooses some to be saved (as you state that the bible shows He does), then the rest He chooses to condemn.

Calvin: Yes, that is sometimes referred to as double-predestination.

Arminius: Also, some of our contemporaries think that if God has already chosen us for salvation or reprobation, then there is no point in trying to do anything good or just, rather we should just do whatever we please to do.

Calvin: Yes, that is sometimes referred to as hyper-Calvinism, but I would also caution that to argue against predestination in light of this concern is a very slippery slope!

Arminius: You know, I wish someone could have explained this to me while I was still alive [sic] we could have perhaps saved a whole split in the reformed camp!

Luther: I couldn’t help over hear your conversation gentlemen, and I wanted to let you know, that I think this idea that you have been talking about represents the heart of the church, I think I’m going to go write a book on it, perhaps I will call it “The Bondage of the Will”!

Erasmus: I couldn’t help but overhear either; I also agree, the duck here in purgatory is really, really good!

Doublethik – Freedom proves determinism

I think philosophically and theologically determinism is a necessary truth. All created agents, causes and events are a result of a preceding agents, causes or events. No agent, cause or event can create itself; and it is logically impossible to have an actual infinite regress of agents, causes, or events, and therefore, there must be a first agent, cause or event. Apart from that first agent, cause, or event, no agent cause or event is free.

While I could argue against all of the reasons for believing in libertarian freedom, I’m not going to spend the time, however, I would like to take a moment to comment on the argument that is, while the most plausible argument for “free will”, also the most implausible. This argument is the argument from deliberation.

While reading the argument from deliberation which in its basic principle states: “I feel myself free, therefore, I am free” (Pojman, 2006, p. 226); I find that not only is this argument an assault on the intellect if one were to think it through, but it also is an excellent example of the reason of fallacy sometimes referred to as “begging the question”. I found my own thoughts being echoed by Spinoza when he said, if a stone that was hurled through the air was to become conscious, it would probably deem itself free (Pojman, 2006, p. 229).

Now, saying all that, while I am a determinist (in fact, you might think me to be a fatalist based on my previous script), I would also have to say that I am a compatibalist. I believe that determinism is a necessary truth, but also believe, that I am free to do what I most desire to do (and therefore must be held morally responsible for my actions).

In fact the truth that I am free to do what I most desire to do, is indeed proof that I am determined to do what I most desire to do, as my freedom to act is limited by only two things, my own desires (which keep me from being free to do all but what I desire the most to do), and my own limits (which keep me from being free to do all except those things which I am incapable of doing).

Therefore, freedom proves determinism.

Works Cited
Pojman, L. (2006). Philosophy : The pursuit of wisdom. Belmont: Holly J. Allen.

I lost it yesterday

Sometimes it’s good that God allows me to lose it (and when I lose it, I really lose it, just as my wife…. on second thought, don’t!) 🙂

It helps remind me that I’m just a click away from destruction (in any and all forms), reminds me that there really is nothing special about “me” (however that’s defined), except for the fact that I am made in the image of God.

It’s also funny how I can handle the really tough and hard things in life, but it’s the simple and foolish things that make me lose it.

For example, yesterday, my snow thrower broke (in two ways making it impossible to use), I broke my drill bit trying to drill a sheer pin out, and I spent over 3 hours playing in cold mud & slush on the garage floor; I think woke up feeling miserable (just found out that I have some type of sickness that my doctor has not seen in over 30 years of practice, so I’m on my way to a specialist for a potential biopsy).

The trailer to haul the snow thrower was embedded in ice, I broke it free after about an hour, using the ATV and the VAN; and then the VAN got stuck; it took almost another hour to get the van unstuck – and I was never able to get the trailer out.

Well, finally, I rented a trailer, returned the snow thrower, bought a new one (which incidentally cost me 2x as much), and when I got home and went to take it out of the trailer, I found that the new one was broke (by wind resistance it seems) in such a way as to make it unusable.

I ran out of cut wood to heat my house, and my full oil tank won’t last a month (700+ dollars gone in a month) if I leave the outdoor boiler connected while I use the inside oil boiler – and I have no choice. I can’t get more wood without a snow thrower (there is no way the ATV can plow this most recent ice; so come Monday, I’m not going to be able to heat my house (well – again, I will, it’ll just be VERY expensive)…

I’m glad these things come my way though, as I said, it reminds me, that I’m really just walking dirt, and everything I have could be taken away from me in a split second; so I should appreciate it while I have it….

Another post on the fact that I am not me… LoL

When discussing the concept of “me” I posit the idea of “becoming” rather than “being” (future tense as compared to present tense). I mean, is it really possible to live in the “now”, for time flows like a river; there is never really a “now” because “now” is “then”, and if it is not possible to live in the “now”, and “me-ness” is defined as who I am right now, then is there any real concept of me?..

Anyway I try to define “me”, it seems that the me of now (which is now 1 second ago) is different than the “me” of 1 second from now, which is now now, which is actually now 1 second ago. I don’t really know how that ties it my “me-ness”, it would seem that someone might say that I am never me; and I like to joke with everyone I meet, by shaking their hand and saying “Hi, I’m becoming Jedi”, it drives a few batty (especially my wife who has to look around embarrassed and pretend she doesn’t know “me” [and of course she doesn’t because there really is no concept of me]) – and with a few others it starts up some really interesting conversations! 🙂

I am planning on surviving my own death – on Immortality

I don’t plan on sojourning on this earth forever, and yet, I plan on surviving my own death.

I am inclined to argue for immortality, not because I have any direct rational or empirical evidences to support this exact claim from my own personal life (or the lives of anyone I know); however, I have plenty of rational and empirical evidences to support my Christian world view, and that world view supports the notion of life after death.

Because I am such a rationalist, this is probably one of the only things that I can think of that sometimes bothers me at night when I’m lying in bed, thinking all alone in the silence (due to my wife and children and dogs and cat all being asleep) – this is one of those things that I have to take utterly and entirely on faith.

Now faith is the evidence for things not seen; I think there are evidences; because I think the evidences for Christ and his teachings are clear; and so, I have secondary evidences that what he has taught and what was recorded in the pages of the bible must also be true.

I think this body is mortal, that is, it will cease, at some point in the future to be the corporeal housing place of my existence; and I shall be given a new body (which interestingly this view creates problems with some of the observable truths of the materialistic identity theories).

I find this quote by C.S. Lewis from his book Mere Christianity very intriguing:

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”

Fideistic? Yep! Do I like it, well – that’s what faith is for!

I am becoming who I am becoming, but will never be who I am!

I can’t really tell you who I am, but I can tell you who I’m not. I’m not you, and I’m not me; the difference however, is that I am not becoming you; I am, however, becoming me! Will I ever truly be me? I don’t think so, as long as I continue to change. Even if I exist throughout eternity as an immortal being, I believe I will still, by necessity of my being, be (in the state of becoming).

Confusing? Yep! I find the whole conversation about identity and personal identity very intriguing. It wasn’t really until I started listening to the Theology Program (TTP) from bible.org a year or so ago, that I ever really cared to think about “what is my substance”. It wasn’t until getting the books for this philosophy class that I truly understood the immense importance of answering such a question.

It’s interesting that with the question of personal identity, you can describe what you are not, easier than you can describe what you are. I am not all fire (sorry Heraclitus), I am not all water (sorry Thales), I am not all air (sorry Anaximenes), I am not a tree, I am not a bird, I am not you, I am not the professor (sorry pantheism); it seems that what I can say in substance, is that I am both earth and spirit.

I am not going to take the time to explain why I believe I am both earth and spirit, except to say that I believe the rational and empirical evidences to the existence of God are undeniable, and I believe that the rational and empirical evidences to Judeo-Christianity are also rationally and empirically undeniable. Isn’t that a huge claim? Yep! Will everyone reading this post agree with it? Nope!

However, I’m basing my belief in this on the foundation of the biblical understanding of the creation of man and woman from the bible, and throughout the whole of scriptures. I believe that Mankind (meaning both men and women) were formed out of dust, and had the breath of God breathed into them. However, I also find that an Orthodox Judeo-Christian worldview must by necessity accept that there is something much more to us than just a Spirit, and that our body (or a body) seems to be a functional requirement for existence.

Now, I still think the philosophical discussion brings great weight to the question; because the answer seems to also define how we approach other sciences like medicine and psychology (to name a few).

I would have to say that I am, most closely in my own mind, related to Descartes and Plato in believing in Dualistic Interactionism (however I equate the mind/soul as one entity and the body as the other in the dualism). I believe the conceivability argument based on Leibniz’s law is pretty solid when looking for a rational explanation of the differences, and being a rationalist, this seems to heavily influence me.

However, I also have to say, that I think there are a few problems for Dualistic Interactionism that can’t readily be explained. For example, the question of the problem of Interaction, where it is questioned how immaterial substances can interact with material substances (for example, most people can’t move objects with their thoughts, it requires same substance interaction (physical to physical to move objects)). There is also the law of the conservation of mass that presents another problem against Dualistic Interactionism. This law states that the mass of a closed system will remain constant, regardless of the processes acting inside of the system; ergo, how does a decision to act create the necessary energy to act?

Additionally, theories surrounding forms of materialism like behaviorism or the identity theory have some benefits in that we can see with modern science and psychology that physical alterations (either to the structure or the chemicals) of an individual’s brain can greatly influence who they are (at least by way of how they act, think and react to stimuli). However, even with those theories we find input stimuli doesn’t always necessitate a certain output (as behaviorists believe), and studies in science have begun to show that areas of the brain have the ability to take on different and new mental functions (Society for Neuroscience).

So all these forms of Identity theory are very interesting and have certainly made me think, but in the end, I would say that I am becoming, who I am becoming, and yet, I will never be who I am.

Works Cited

Society for Neuroscience. (n.d.). Brain Reorganization. Retrieved 02 13, 2008, from Society for Neuroscience: http://www.sfn.org/index.cfm?pagename=brainBriefings_brainReorganization

A letter to someone I care deeply about…

I have removed names, but I felt that the topic might be of some interest to other people that might stumble on my blog (for whatever reason).


Thanks for your response, I received it today. I’m glad you are feeling a bit more open to having a discussion with me in regards to the questions of Church practices, however, I don’t want to get bogged down into discussing so many different issues at once, as nothing productive will come out from it.

I desired to write to you, and [name omitted], not with the intent of providing a biblical basis for every differing church practice, I only wanted to present an overview of what we do, in a non-threatening manner, if you choose to proceed in looking up the website. More than anything, I wanted to let you and [name omitted] know that the door is always open for discussions.

My note to you and [name omitted] was from the heart, and did not offer reprimanding biblical facts, as you can understand that if I just flooded you with scriptural evidences as to why I believe you are wrong, and your practices are wrong, you would have in turn (if not shutting me off completely), just fired scriptures right back at me, and we would never have gotten any further in the matter.

I am encouraged to see that we both agree that the love for truth is the driving force behind our commitment to our God, as you pointed out; it is the truth that will set us free! (John 8:32).

When looking over this scripture, because of our differences, I ask myself, if we both agree on what truth this is, that Jesus is talking about. A couple more verses down in John 8, Jesus says that He will set us free, and if He sets us free, then we are free indeed! Indeed, Jesus does say that He is “the way, the truth and the life” the only way to the Father (John 14:6). Do you believe that Jesus is this truth that He is referring to, or is there something more to it? And if there is something more to it, what is it? What truths must we believe in order to be saved?

The book of John is a very interesting book, it’s a book whose purpose was to prove that Jesus was the Son of God, that He loves us, that He died for us, and that through believing in Him, we might have eternal life (John 20:31). The beloved friend of our Lord wrote us a letter designed to guide us to eternal life, and yet, there is so much that he left out, questions like: “How do we organize our Church”, “How do we take up a collection”, “What days of the week are we supposed to meet on”, “How are we supposed to praise God in Worship”. Did John, the beloved of our Lord fail his mission in laying out what was necessary for salvation, or perhaps, have we misunderstood the instructive nature of the writing of the apostles on these questions and made them a test of salvation? And if we have, are we justified in doing so?

What freedom do we have in Christ? John definitely shows us that it is freedom from sin, but Paul (and James) shows us later in their letters, that it is also freedom from the old law and regulations. Is the freedom we gain the freedom by ushering out the old laws and regulations and works of righteousness; the “do not taste, do not handle, do not touch” (Col 2:20-23), and replacing them with new laws and regulations of different works of righteousness; the “do not taste, do not handle, do not touch” of the New Testament?

Paul answers this question by exhorting us to understand that “no one will be justified in the sight of God by works of the law”(Gal 2:16)(Gal 2:21)(Gal 3:11). Galatians is another interesting book in the new testament, it wasn’t until recently that I understand the context of Galatians Chapter 1 with Paul bringing down a curse on all those who taught a different Gospel. After he lays out this curse, he goes on in chapter 2 to describe how he is truly an apostle of Jesus, and how he stuck solid to salvation by grace, even though false brothers, had infiltrated the ranks to spy on the freedoms of Christ and then try to bring them into bondage to the old law (Gal 2:4). In the second part of Chapter 2 he shows how he wasn’t ashamed to oppose Peter to his face, again showing that he had the power of the Spirit. What was Paul opposing Peter about? Peter was falling into the trap of this “other gospel”, basing righteousness on works of the law (circumcision in this case), with Peter being a hypocrite so as to look good to the friends of James who came into town.

Paul continues then in chapter 3, telling the Galatians that they are foolish and bewitched in thinking that what they first received by grace through the Spirit, they could then keep by human efforts (observing the law). Many other scriptures go on to warn us and exhort us to understand that our salvation is not a salvation of works, but a salvation of grace and righteousness.

Now please don’t misunderstand me, indeed, our Faith, a true faith, brings about appropriate works of righteousness, however, the works aren’t the cause of our salvation, they are the result of our salvation (Eph 2:8-10).

However, we are clearly shown that if we are under obligation to observe the strict nature of the law, that if we break any law, then we are guilty of breaking the whole law (Rom 2:17-29), (Jas 2:10-11). What kind of freedom is that, is that the truth that Jesus wanted his disciples to know? So if we perform the Lord’s Supper exactly how it is supposed to be done, but then, we are unfaithful servants and store up treasures in our banks on earth, or we abuse our neighbors, or we swear, or we lie, or we steal, or we do one little thing wrong (in our personal lives, or in our collective Church practices) then we guilty of all laws, and we’re condemned to hell! (Jas 2:11)

I think this is why James tells us that we should be speaking and acting as if we ourselves are going to be judged by the law that gives us freedom (the law of grace) because if we are unmerciful and judge by the old law (of “do not taste, do not handle, do not touch”), then we ourselves will be judged by the old law (and no one can find life through the old law) (Gal 2:16)(Gal 2:21)(Gal 3:11).

This brings me back to the first question, what is the doctrinal truth that is necessary for salvation? While we should try to strive to the best of our understanding on how we are to worship God in a pleasing manner (because we should want to please him), is it a specific set of rules to govern the Church that saves us, is it a specific set of traditions to practice in the Church, a specific set of ways to sing, to praise, to worship, is it a detailed checklist of all the ways that we are to be worshiping God, is it keeping the law perfectly, or is it Christ and the message of the cross?

I think the bible speaks very clearly that it is Christ who saves us, it is His grace, it is Him. In Christ Alone! C.S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity blessed me, in this way, showing me that, like the word Gentlemen, which used to just refer to a man who owned a track of land, but now is used in a refined sense to mean “Someone who agrees with my standards of living”, the word Christian has also come to be used in the same way, it used to mean someone who believed in Christ and his saving power, but now really means to most people “Someone who agrees with my standards of living”…. I really hoped that book would bless you too…

[name omitted], this is my concern for you, [name omitted], and those who are members of the Church [name omitted]. Apart from arguing any specific detail of the differences in Church practice, you require perfection in Church practices, and yet, you yourselves do not have perfection; by condemning others, you are condemning yourselves, it’s like the man who has a plank in his eye, trying to remove the dust speck from another, what a sad illustration of someone who has misunderstood the message of the cross, the way, the truth and the life.

Please be willing to test what you believe, change when you are wrong, stand firm when you are right, but remember that God will judge us in the manner that we judge others, and it’s only through his grace that we’re saved…

We continue to pray for you, and [name omitted] that you will break free from the bondage of the weight of the law, that you will find your freedom in Christ. I want you to be free! If Christ sets you free, you will be free indeed!

[with love & affection it was signed]

Final decision – Theism versus Atheis

This is the final paper on the topic in the philosophy class (I think) – so next week, onto something new. 🙂

Last week in our philosophy course we were asked to partner up and argue the point of Atheism versus Theism. The discussion was to focus around the problematic or logical view of the existence of evil in light of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God. The number one argument for the non-existence of God surrounds the problem of evil, which is basically stated as such:

God is all omnipotent (by definition of God)

God is omnibenevolent (by definition of God)

Evil Exists

Therefore: God does not exist

This argument basis it’s assumptions on the idea that if evil exists it is both problematic and logically inconsistent with the existence of God (by definition, and in reality). In discussing this problem, there were so many ways to go about addressing the questions of concerns around the problem of evil, however, the primary focus that I had during this assignment (as the one arguing the Theistic perspective) was to neutralize the argument of evil.

Before making a final statement as to why I believe the Theistic position is most plausible, I would like to look at a couple different approaches for this discussion, some of them I used in my argument for Theism, and some were left out of the discussion for the sake of brevity.

I have recently been listening to a discussion on Atheism versus Theism as presented by a Boston College and Kings College Professor of Philosophy by the name of Pete Kreeft. Kreeft states in this particular lecture, that the number one argument against the existence of God is the problem of evil.

I think Kreeft makes a very intuitive statement when answering “Why does God allow evil”, by saying, “The answer must be someone, not just something. For the problem (suffering) is about someone (God—why does he… why doesn’t he …?) rather than just something. (Kreeft, 2003).” Kreeft in the end states that Jesus is the answer to the problem of evil.

However, because we were not in an apologetics course, and more specifically, because there has already been expressed in our courseroom varying beliefs on the exclusivity of Jesus Christ, I choose not to take this position in my argument.

Kreeft also has some very interesting lectures out on his site, one in particular where he uses the Lord of the Rings trilogy to discuss the problems and answers of evil, however, I haven’t listened to his presentation yet, and was in no way ready to take such a stance.

Another argument that is often employed is the greater good argument. This morning during our Church service we watched a video with Joni Erikson Tada. For those not familiar with Joni, she was injured in a diving accident when she was young, and has spent the last few decades as a paraplegic in a wheel chair; she is, as a result, acquainted with both mental and physical suffering. Joni made a statement that I tried to capture as closely as I could, and she said that God has rigged this world for disappointment, so that it would bring us to Him.

While this statement is amazingly powerful and personally uplifting to someone who has faith in the existence of God and a belief that He is the greater good, again, if someone is stuck in a myriad of doubt, in light of, or because of specific forms of pain and suffering, this argument may not be the best.

A third and very popular form of the argument for God and suffering is the “Free Will” argument. While this argument seems very intuitive, it has a number of philosophical problems our class wasn’t ready to deal with, and thus, I stayed away from this argument altogether (yet, I made a comment to one individual in light of the possible traps within this argument as we closed last week’s discussions).

When it came to discussing my beliefs on the problem of evil from a personal perspective, in my argument, I appealed to an amazing book by C.S. Lewis called Till We Have faces. In this book, Lewis outlines a magnificent rendition of the story of Psyche and Cupid, and puts a twist on it that left me amazed at the end of the book. The gist of his argument is that we cannot begin to fathom the reasons that God has for doing what He does, until we see him face to face. I used a similar example out of the Jewish book of Job.

However, in the end, I realized that for those who were coming at this from a point of personal suffering, no amount of answers were going to assuage them during their time of crises. Additionally, for those who were in the midst of intellectual rebellion against the arguments of the existence of God, still no argument would likely find solidarity.

As such, I decided to neutralize the argument of evil for the questioner. I took a position that is discussed by C.S. Lewis in his book Mere Christianity, and one that I found out soon afterwards is championed by William Lane Craig. This argument is roughly as follows:

If God does not exist, there is no ultimate standard of goodness

Evil exists (which is defined as a privation of the ultimate standard of goodness)

Therefore: God exists

Now, truly someone could argue (and many do) that there is no ultimate standard of goodness, the problem is that there are then no grounds to argue that something is evil (if all evil is relative). C.S. Lewis states that it is simple proof when two argue over what is ‘right and wrong’ that they are intrinsically appealing to a standard which is found outside of themselves, and because all people engage in arguing ‘right and wrong’, then there is indeed a standard to be found outside of ourselves.

As a foundational piece of my argument I also discussed the ideas of a paradox. Many times, in our lives, there are paradoxical concepts that, without the fullest understanding, we might believe to be incoherent, inconsistent, or outright contradictory.

Through the final argument, my position was that while the historical argument put forth by John M. Frame in his book Apologetics to the Glory of God, seems to me, to be the most cogent form of the understanding of the problem of evil (at least to date), I must admit, that I will likely never be able to argue someone into this understanding, and therefore, by neutralizing the problem of evil, I have opened the door for the various forms of argumentation on the existence of God (like the Teleological, Ontological or Cosmological arguments in all their various forms).

While I am admittedly a Theist prior to, during and after this conversation commenced, I have a more rationalistic rather than fideistic view of religion, and thus, I maintain that the rational arguments still tip strongly in favor of the existence of God.

Works Cited

Kreeft, P. (2003, January 23). What is God’s answer to human suffering? Retrieved Feburary 10, 2008, from PeterKreeft.com: http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/suffering.htm

A headache and a question – if it’s true that it’s false, then it’s false that it’s true too

If Rene Descartes starts with the assumption that it is true that everything is false, then does it not also mean that it is false that it is true that everything is false, and by which, if it is false that it is true that everything is false, then something’s at least are true [it’s true that it’s false that it’s true that it’s false].

Does this mean that he bases his foundation of the Cartesian method of doubt on a something that is not true (the thought that it is true that everything is false, or the thought that it is not true because it is false because everything is false) – then by his own logic because his foundation is built on something false, then his whole method of doubt is also then untrue! But that in itself is a truth.

So if it’s true that it’s false then it’s false that it’s true, which means it’s false that it’s false, which makes it true?

Do you see why people say I give them a headache all the time?

But seriously, isn’t there something self-referentially incoherent about the Cartesian Method of Doubt.

I know in the end Rene believes there is but one thing that is true “Cogito Ergo Sum” – however, how can he know that it’s true, if he starts with the idea that everything is false (which is itself an incoherent statement as it is self-contradictory), and therefore then disqualifies his own argument against his own argument.

The truth of fiveness

Someone in my philosophy class made the statement that they believe the emperical (sense dataum) view of truth is the ultimate view; they made the statement that they agreed with the idea of locke and hume that our minds from birth are a tabula raza (blank slate) – I’m a rationalist (although not purely) and I would agree with Plato & Socrates that there is knowledge that is a priori – even if not seen prima fascie.

The thought is that you can teach your child that 2+2=5; and because they learn through experience, until experience shows them otherwise, they will believe that it is true (does false belief equate to knowledge?). Here is my counter argument. 🙂

I don’t agree with either Locke or Hume that our mind is a blank slate at birth, just like with Socrates, Plato and many other rationalists, I believe there are many things that we know a priori; although I would admit prima fascie it may seem like we are a blank slate.

If your son was told, and thus believed that 2+2=5, would it be true? So if you give him one item, then another item, then another item and another item and present them to him, and ask him how many items he has, would he be able to present you back with 5 items (even though he only had 4?).

Your son may not understand the idea of fiveness, but could he thus produce 5 items out of 4? So while he can’t justifiably know that 2+2=5 without having an experience of fiveness, is there not a standard of fiveness beyond him that can be known a priori (that is 4 != 5)?

But, I also am not a pure rationalist, I agree with you that there are many things that we learn through experience, and not pure rationalization – however, how much can we trust experience without rational thought?

For example, to many people, including myself, 60 is really warm in the winter, but really cold in the summer, so which is true to me, is 60 warm or 60 cold? Experience, in this case would say “It depends”, but rational thought would say “My body is roughly 98 degrees, so 60 degrees is about 38 degrees colder than my body, so 60 is to be perceived as cold”.

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