Saturday, May 29, 2010

Who's in Control? Part 1


This post was originally published in Jan 2009: 

Free Will vs Divine Predestination.

This is a debate that has been going on in the Church for centuries. Who's really in control, God or me? Let's start by looking at the two options:

Positions-

Free Will- Man makes his own choices without the persuasion of an outside entity. Man is in complete control of his own destiny.

Divine Predestination- God is in complete control. Man's decisions are not really his own- they just appear to be.


Biblical Support (not comprehensive)-

Free Will- The Bible is full of stories of man making decisions to follow and reject God. God rewards those who follow Him, and judges those who don't. The Bible states that God will continue this pattern into the future.

"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."- Rom 1:20

If man was not free to make his own decisions, how could God morally justify judging or rewarding man for his "decisions" when they were really God's decisions? It seems that based on God's clear reward / judgment pattern based on man's freely decided actions, man must posses a free will.

Divine Predestination- Rev. 13:1,8- "And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his heads the names of blasphemy. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world"

This scripture clearly states that God has determine ahead of time who will and who will not bow down to the beast (is not saved by Jesus Christ).

Combined with all the scriptures that clearly teach God knows all things (omniscience), Divine Predestination seems quite solid of a belief.

Implications (not comprehensive)-
Free Will-
Since man is in complete control of his own destiny (culmination of his free decisions), God cannot possibly be omniscient.

Divine Predestination-
Since God knows all things and has determined who will spend eternity with Him and who will not, man cannot possibly have a truly "free will". Man is reduced to mere puppets. Man cannot be justifiably rewarded (Heaven) or punished (Hell)  based on the decisions they make at the will of the Divine puppet master.

Conclusion-

Both options seem fairly logical. Unfortunately, both options have implications that undermine the message of Christianity and undermine certain scriptures in the Bible (namely the ones that support the opposite position). The acceptance of one or the other automatically denies the truth of some Scripture, which calls into question its Divine inspiration.

The Christian is then force to accept that the Bible is; therefore, not inerrant (regardless of position), and all beliefs (including Christianity's main tenants) are now up for grabs.

What now?

I want you to think about this one. If this challenge was posed to you, how would you answer? Have you posed this challenge to yourself?

What next?

I was made aware of this challenge when I was about 8 years old. I ignored it until recently, because I didn't really have a reason to mess with it. At the age of 23 the challenge was issued directly to me in a college philosophy course. I provided a possible answer, with evidence to support the answer. But the evidence I gave was not pertinent to the question. I basically provided a case showing that my answer reflects reality, but I did not provide why or how it reflects reality. (Check out my previous post Politics 101 to see why this "answer" is problematic.)

In other words, they asked how my car works. I provided them evidence that it worked (I drove it successfully from point A to point B) and thought that I was answering the question. I did not provide any explanation about how my car functioned to get me from point A to point B- thus I didn't really answer the question.

It has been nearly five years since my initial "answer" was given. In that time, I have been able to answer why and how. In Part 2, I will provide the answer I now give when I am confronted with this challenge.

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