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Author Topic:   Does the Christian God Play with Free Will?
Rrhain
Member (Idle past 283 days)
Posts: 6349
From: San Diego, CA, USA
Joined: 05-03-2003


Message 1 of 83 (41539)
05-27-2003 10:48 PM


I apologize if this has been covered before, but I just saw Bruce Almighty the other day and one of the bits in it brought up a question. I couldn't find any posts that deal with this specific question, so I'm starting a new thread.

Does the Christian god ever futz with an individual's free will? In Bruce Almighty, Bruce asks the age old question, "Why, god?" and god basically challenges him: If you think you can do it better, then here you go. You've got my powers. Two rules: 1) You can't tell anybody. 2) You can't interfere with free will.

I've read quite a few apologia about Christian theology that talk about free will, that god insists upon free will, that god would never force anybody to believe in him as that would violate free will, etc.

But then I thought about Pharaoh. God tells Moses that he's going to "harden Pharaoh's heart" against Moses:

Exodus 7:1: And the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.

7:2: Thou shalt speak all that I command thee: and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land.

7:3: And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt.

7:4: But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt, and bring forth mine armies, and my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments.

So I think my confusion is evident: Why would god play with Pharaoh's free will this way? I thought free will was important. I thought god would never do that.

I have often been told that "You have to open your heart to god" and that "He won't force you to believe." But why? God seems to be content to force people to disbelieve. If god wants people to believe, why not make them? Especially when god apparently makes some people deliberately not believe?

Note, I'm not talking about any moral questions concerning god's apparent desire to start a war with the hardening of Pharaoh's heart. I'm simply saying since it is apparent that god does make some people disbelieve, why not make people believe?

------------------
Rrhain
WWJD? JWRTFM!


Replies to this message:
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6days
Inactive Junior Member


Message 2 of 83 (41549)
05-28-2003 12:57 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Rrhain
05-27-2003 10:48 PM


Perhaps this verse will help. It's often used in the context of your question, i.e. God's sovereignty.

Ephesians 2:4-10

"¶ But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are savedand hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."

Notice that faith is "the gift of God," so, when one consider's other references, like John 6:60-71,

"¶ Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve."

John 17:6-10, 20-23,

"¶ I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them."

"¶ Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me."

and Acts 4:23-31

"¶ And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness."

one may recognize the sovereign nature of God.

It has always been interesting to me that the same 5,000 people in Acts 4:4

"Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand."

were some of the same people that were mentioned before in Acts 3:12-15

"¶ And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses."

God's sovereignty, therefore, seems to be multifaceted and not just a question of who is ordained to life and who is not, which would seem to be the more important question to we mortals.

Cheers


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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6days
Inactive Junior Member


Message 3 of 83 (41550)
05-28-2003 1:05 AM
Reply to: Message 2 by 6days
05-28-2003 12:57 AM


A Smiley Face?
I've never noticed a smiley face in that verse before but there it is. [It should be a ";" then a ")"]

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Peter
Member (Idle past 2334 days)
Posts: 2160
From: Cambridgeshire, UK.
Joined: 02-05-2002


Message 4 of 83 (41583)
05-28-2003 7:09 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by 6days
05-28-2003 1:05 AM


Re: A Smiley Face?
; followed by ) comes out
and : followed by ) comes out
I think you can do : followed by ( to get
too.

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NeoPagan
Inactive Member


Message 5 of 83 (41726)
05-29-2003 3:45 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Rrhain
05-27-2003 10:48 PM


God and Free Will
I believe that God never interferes in anybody's free will. Your references come from the Old Testament, which in my opinion, was witten by a bunch of terrorists. I'm not saying that there couldn't have been some accuracy to the actual historical events, but the "interpretation" leaves a great deal to be desired. Most of the Old Testament was obviously written by people who believed themselves to be "favored" by God, and every account of every event, battle, etc. is tempered with this belief. "And God commanded..." God seemed to do whatever was in the best interest of the Israelites (or so they wrote) and whatever would give them ultimate victory in wars, accumulation of other people's land & possessions. (Have you ever noticed that the entire Old Testament is written by one particular sect of people with an "agenda?") There were many times when the Israelites did not win wars, ended up in slavery, etc., and to justify God's abandonment, they had to explain that they were being punished for sins committed. (Did God also "harden their hearts to sin so that he could throw them into a few hundred years of slavery?) If you take a good look at God's "chosen people" there was little difference in them & other "heathen" tribes before & after God's so-called "favor." How would the person writing this account actually "know" what God did or didn't do in Pharoah's heart? All he had was the actual event. The writer provided the "interpretation" & what he "believed" God did to Pharoah (based on his own agenda & his own interests & belief system).
Funny thing about the Old Testament--they never interviewed Pharoah or
gave us a chance to hear his side of the story.

This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Asgara
Member (Idle past 713 days)
Posts: 1783
From: Wisconsin, USA
Joined: 05-10-2003


Message 6 of 83 (41762)
05-30-2003 1:56 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Rrhain
05-27-2003 10:48 PM


Free Will?
I think that if the Christian God exists, he obviously and arbitrarily futzes with free will. The entire story line of both the OT and NT is God manuevering around our supposed "free will". His book is full of confusing personality changes (fear God, love God, there is no fear in love), unfair testing of people and "laws" that he himself breaks (or commands his chosen to break). Then comes the clincher, the ultimate debunking of a truely free will...the threat that if you don't make the "right" choice you will suffer eternity in hell. I don't know about you but a coersed choice based on confusing, unfair and arbitrary commands doesn't sound all that free to me.
_________________________________________________________

My son and I had a discussion just tonight on free will. (coincidentally after seeing Bruce Almighty ) He is a strick determinist and does not believe that free will exists. I am agnostic concerning the existance of either god or free will, but I do believe that for free will to exist it could only come about in a deistic universe.
_________________________________________________________

------------------
Asgara

"An unexamined life is not worth living" Socrates via Plato


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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John
Inactive Member


Message 7 of 83 (41785)
05-30-2003 12:00 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Asgara
05-30-2003 1:56 AM


Re: Free Will?
quote:
I do believe that for free will to exist it could only come about in a deistic universe.

Why?

------------------
www.hells-handmaiden.com


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Asgara
Member (Idle past 713 days)
Posts: 1783
From: Wisconsin, USA
Joined: 05-10-2003


Message 8 of 83 (41799)
05-30-2003 3:05 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by John
05-30-2003 12:00 PM


Re: Free Will?
Hi John,

You would ask that . This is only my musings, formulated in the wee hours, so please take it as just that. However, I will attempt to put down in this post my reasoning.

In a purely naturalistic universe there is a cause to every effect. People are products of their heredity and environment and every choice we make is dependent on the events that lead up to the moment of choice. I suppose that you could argue that the ability to make a choice constitutes free will and in fact this is one definition of free will:

The ability or discretion to choose; free choice: chose to remain behind of my own free will. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

However, the second definition of free will is:

The power of making free choices that are unconstrained by external circumstances or by an agency such as fate or divine will. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

All choices are constrained by external circumstances.

In a theistic universe, one designed and controlled by a supreme being, all choices are constrained by this being. God being the one that defines the choices we are given.

AHHHH. I guess I have to make a change to my original musings concerning a deistic universe. A being that started the initial creation and set in motion the physical laws of the universe, but has no further input in this creation, has still left no unconstrained choice.

Maybe there IS no such thing as a true free will, unconstrained by external circumstances. What we have is a "choice" bounded by a set of options determined by our heredity and environment and the decision we make is likewise determined by these same factors.
_______________________________________________________________

(editorial disclaimer)
This has been an exercise showing the differences in my thought processes on NO sleep and on eight hours of sleep. LOL (all thoughts subject to change at my whim )
_______________________________________________________________

------------------
Asgara

"An unexamined life is not worth living" Socrates via Plato


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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John
Inactive Member


Message 9 of 83 (41801)
05-30-2003 4:07 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by Asgara
05-30-2003 3:05 PM


Re: Free Will?
quote:
You would ask that.

Yeah, I'm like that.

If you don't mind my musings....

quote:
In a purely naturalistic universe there is a cause to every effect.

Actually, what you have described is a purely mechanistic universe. This is the 'clockwork' universe favored by western scientists until about a century ago. It is not the same as 'naturalism' which is the simply the idea that everything in the universe can be described in terms of what we observe.

As it happens, it looks like we CANNOT ascribe a cause to every effect. The universe, at very tiny scales, appears to behave randomly.

quote:
AHHHH. I guess I have to make a change to my original musings concerning a deistic universe. A being that started the initial creation and set in motion the physical laws of the universe, but has no further input in this creation, has still left no unconstrained choice.

Yes, indeed. You've discovered the classic problem of free will. This has been an issue with theologians for at least 2 thousand years.

------------------
www.hells-handmaiden.com


This message is a reply to:
 Message 8 by Asgara, posted 05-30-2003 3:05 PM Asgara has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 10 by Asgara, posted 05-30-2003 5:01 PM John has responded

  
Asgara
Member (Idle past 713 days)
Posts: 1783
From: Wisconsin, USA
Joined: 05-10-2003


Message 10 of 83 (41810)
05-30-2003 5:01 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by John
05-30-2003 4:07 PM


Re: Free Will?
John,

Thanks for your reply.

Actually, what you have described is a purely mechanistic universe. This is the 'clockwork' universe favored by western scientists until about a century ago. It is not the same as 'naturalism' which is the simply the idea that everything in the universe can be described in terms of what we observe.

Thanks for the clarification. To be honest though, I was using the term "naturalistic universe" solely as an opposing definition to a "supernatural" creation.
____________________________________________________________

I have only a rudimentary understanding of quantum mechanics, but would it be fair to say that it is only an "appearance" of randomness? That we just have not been able, as of yet, to ascribe a cause/effect relationship to what we have observed, but one may yet be discovered?

Is the "appearance" of cause/effect and of randomness any differant than the "appearance" of free will? In that all are merely a product of our current perspective and knowledge? (no need for reply, just more musings that may or may not make any sense what so ever) ^^
____________________________________________________________

Curiosity will yet kill this cat, it being the sole reason that I don't get much sleep lately.

------------------
Asgara

"An unexamined life is not worth living" Socrates via Plato


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Rrhain
Member (Idle past 283 days)
Posts: 6349
From: San Diego, CA, USA
Joined: 05-03-2003


Message 11 of 83 (41812)
05-30-2003 8:00 PM
Reply to: Message 2 by 6days
05-28-2003 12:57 AM


6days,

Thanks for the quotes, but they don't answer my question:

Does the Christian god play with free will? That is, can god make you think something? And if he can, does he? Many Christians are insistent about the point of free will, often using it as an example of why Adam and Eve sinned...sure god could have made them so that they would never eat from the Tree of Knowledge, but "god doesn't make you believe."

But according to Exodus, god can and does make people not believe. To me, that seems to be an example of playing with somebody's free will.

So I want to know how somebody reconciles the two. NeoPagan, for example, does it by essentially discarding the Old Testament. OK...but what about those Christians who don't?

Your quote from Ephesians seems to indicate that god can and does make people believe. Faith is a "gift of god," and not something that a person chooses of his own free will: If you believe, it's because god makes you believe.

Your quote of John 6 doesn't specifically address my point since there is a difference between playing with a person's free will and claiming that something is destined. That is, there is a difference between living in a world that does have free will but with occasional forcings of behaviour and living in a world where everything is constrained. Or, was Judas the betrayer because he was destined to be or did he choose to be so or did he not want to be but god made him be?

Your quote of John 17 and Acts are more about providing evidence geared to persuade. That isn't "playing with free will," as I am defining it. That is, there is a difference between showing you something and letting you decide whether or not you will accept it and actually playing with your fundamental thought processes such that you are physically incapable of having any other reaction.

So I still want to know: Does the Christian god play with free will?

------------------
Rrhain
WWJD? JWRTFM!


This message is a reply to:
 Message 2 by 6days, posted 05-28-2003 12:57 AM 6days has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
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Gzus
Inactive Member


Message 12 of 83 (41843)
05-31-2003 11:05 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Rrhain
05-27-2003 10:48 PM


Let us pray.

Oh Almighty Bruce! tell us Pleeez why do you meddle in our affairs so much as to disturb the very Freedom that makes us Human?

KRrrrrzzzZZZZ....zZxxxssaAAAARRGh!!!!!!!

IT IS I, THE ALMIGHTY BRUCE, henceforth YOU, my son, the great GZUS will rule over these peasants YOU will punish these pious, frigid, religious leaders for their crimes and spread the divine corruption of immorality and SEXUAL LIBERTY!!! To all...

yeah, ok


This message is a reply to:
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John
Inactive Member


Message 13 of 83 (41861)
05-31-2003 6:34 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by Asgara
05-30-2003 5:01 PM


Re: Free Will?
quote:
I have only a rudimentary understanding of quantum mechanics, but would it be fair to say that it is only an "appearance" of randomness?

Only along the same lines as it might be fair to say that my desk 'only has an appearance of being solid.'

The initial response of physicists to quantum mechanics was very much the reaction you describe. "It must be that we just haven't figured out the pattern, yet!!!" This is the root of Einstein's famous quip "God does not play dice." Einstein, though helping to found quantum mechanics, could never accept the consequences of the theories. As it turns out, ( to paraphrase Stephen Hawking ) "God not only plays dice, but is an inveterate gambler." In other words, the research strongly suggests that this randomness is not just apparent.

------------------
www.hells-handmaiden.com


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NosyNed
Member
Posts: 8894
From: Canada
Joined: 04-04-2003
Member Rating: 4.3


Message 14 of 83 (41870)
05-31-2003 9:16 PM
Reply to: Message 13 by John
05-31-2003 6:34 PM


QM
A great deal of the predictions of QM were considered to be impossible. Take "spooky action at a distance". But as we learn more it gets worse and worse.

The universe is not only, as someone said, queerer than we imagine, it is queerer than we can imagine.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 13 by John, posted 05-31-2003 6:34 PM John has responded

Replies to this message:
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John
Inactive Member


Message 15 of 83 (41889)
06-01-2003 1:08 AM
Reply to: Message 14 by NosyNed
05-31-2003 9:16 PM


Re: QM
quote:
Take "spooky action at a distance". But as we learn more it gets worse and worse.

Right-o. Gotta love that old black magic.

quote:
The universe is not only, as someone said, queerer than we imagine, it is queerer than we can imagine.

Oh... its not queerer than I can imagine!

------------------
www.hells-handmaiden.com


This message is a reply to:
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