XFiles Friday: Free will is inevitable.

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 8 )

When we left off last week, Geisler and Turek were saying,

[S]ince we know beyond reasonable doubt that God exists and that he has…characteristics that include design, purpose, justice and love…then we should expect him to reveal more of himself and his purpose for our lives. This would require that he communicate with us.

The fundamental and obvious problem is that God does not, in fact, show up in real life, as each of us can verify by direct observation. We hear rumors and hearsay and exaggerated claims—from other people—but we never observe God Himself putting in an appearance, holding a press conference, being interviewed on CNN, etc. The communication we need, that we ought to expect, and that by rights God ought to be eager to supply, does not happen. Quite a serious problem, and Geisler and Turek have no choice but to appeal to that fount of infallible wisdom…C. S. Lewis.

But how could God reveal himself so that we could get a more detailed understanding of what his ultimate purpose is for us? Why couldn’t he appear to each one of us? He could, but that might interfere with our free will. C. S. Lewis has some great insights on this topic. In his Screwtape Letters, Screwtape, the senior demon, writes the following to his disciple Wormwood:

You must have wondered why the Enemy [God] does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to over-ride a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo.

That certainly makes sense, doesn’t it? The reason God does not show up in real life is because to do so would result in our immediate rape. So instead He has to “woo” us by avoiding us completely. Hmmm.

Let’s get started on some of the vast array of problems that are inherent in this particular excuse for God’s absence. First of all, if the ability to perceive God’s existence necessarily results in the destruction of free will, how is it that Satan has any free will? Both Screwtape and Wormwood, in Lewis’s fantasy, have the knowledge of God that He denies to His beloved children. How is it, then, that they are able to freely choose not to love and obey Him? Or are their evil deeds perhaps driven by His free will, since they have none of their own?

Secondly, the Bible promises that believers (and everyone else) will see God clearly, at the Second Coming, at the Last Judgment, and throughout all eternity. If God showing up means the rape of individual free will and/or its destruction, then believers can look forward to an eternity either of volitional rape or of the absence of free will altogether. If this is to be the final state of free will, what makes it so valuable that a loving Heavenly Father would prefer to see most of His beloved children burn forever in Hell, rather than risk compromising it during the brief span of our mortal years?

Thirdly, Geisler and Turek follow Lewis’s lead in utterly forgetting the Gospel when they claim that God must necessarily be limited to showing up only in “the faintest and most mitigated degree.” In fact, for this particular argument to work, you need to reject huge swaths of Scripture, which speak of fire and brimstone, plagues of death and darkness, burning bushes and pillars of fire, to say nothing of Incarnations.

Geisler and Turek have inadvertently hit on one of the major inconsistencies of Christian apologetics: in order to explain why God does not show up in real life, you are forced to argue that some overriding circumstance makes it unwise and unloving for Him to appear. As soon as you do that, though, you are contradicting all the reasons the Bible gives us for why we should believe He exists. The Bible stories aren’t about people thinking they’ve felt some faint, mitigated sense of God’s presence, they’re about God doing all the sorts of things He should (and doesn’t) do today—if He really believes the Gospel, anyway.

And it gets better:

If God has not chosen the overpowering option of face-to-face interactions with every person on the planet, then perhaps he has chosen a more subtle method of communication…Written language is a precise medium of communication that can easily be duplicated and passed on to succeeding generations, yet it can also be easily ignored by those who freely decide that they don’t want to be bothered with God.

You guessed it: that is the only possible alternative to direct communication that Geisler and Turek even consider. You can practically read their minds. “Hmm, how can we make the Bible sound inspired when we don’t see God acting in real life the way He behaves in the Bible stories?” And their answer? God does not show up in real life, therefore there must be some reason why He can’t show up in real life, therefore He must have communicated to us by providing us with a book—a book full of stories about God showing up, which He obviously cannot have done, because if He could show up in real life, then He wouldn’t need the book. Duh.

The Bible doesn’t just give us stories about God showing up in real life, it tells stories about God showing up and engaging in direct, face-to-face interactions with men (and occasionally even with women). How shall we read the stories of Moses, and of the Virgin Birth, and of the Transfiguration, and of Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, if we must believe that God cannot directly manifest Himself to people without destroying their free will? Were the disciples all robots? Are they unsaved, having lacked the free will to choose to believe? And how could the Pharisees deliver Jesus over to be crucified, if their free will had been destroyed by the physical manifestation of the Incarnate Son?

There’s nothing the “free will” argument does quite so well as contradicting Scripture. It’s clever, in a low, crafty sort of way, for Geisler and Turek to figure out a way to argue that God’s absence is evidence for the inspiration of the Bible. But even if we buy the line that God must communicate through a book, there’s still a problem: God didn’t write the Bible. For all that believers habitually give God credit for the writing, the actual words were penned by men (and possibly by ignored and forgotten women). Even its status as “Scripture” was bestowed on it by a vote among men.

So if the only possible way God can communicate with us is through a book He didn’t even write, then at least we can say that Geisler and Turek have fulfilled the promise of finding “the faintest and most mitigated sense” in which divine communication could allegedly occur. Some might even go so far as to point out that it hasn’t occurred at all, because the writers of the Bible would have to have done it without any help from God, in order to avoid the direct contact which would have destroyed their free will.

The alternative to such silliness is to admit that free will is not, in fact, any significant impediment to God’s ability to show up in real life. After all, does not Genesis 3 tell us that Eve only exercised her free will after God appeared to her and told her face-to-face not to eat the forbidden fruit? Lewis is merely spinning excuses to satisfy the gullible, excuses so shoddy and self-contradictory that only the gullible would swallow them. But the alternative is to admit that God really should be showing up in real life—if the Gospel were true. And that means confronting the evidence that shows the Gospel is false. Small wonder, then, that believers prefer to preserve the myth of “fragile free will.”

 
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (3 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Loading...Loading...
Posted in IDHEFTBA, Unapologetics, XFiles. 6 Comments »

6 Responses to “XFiles Friday: Free will is inevitable.”

  1. Bacopa Says:

    I have NEVER understood this whole Lewis-based argument that if God revealed himself to us more openly we would be deprived of out free will. How could having better access to the information most relevant to my decisions make me less free?

    Suppose it’s 2000 and I’m deciding to invest in Enron or Amazon. Amazon’s looking like the real deal, a true winner in a web filled with shaky dotcoms. However, I can see the the new second Enron tower, and walked by the trading floor that is supposed to dwarf the Chicago commodities exchange. I know construction workers who built plants for Enron or laid cable for Enron. But one day at one of the newer semi-upscale bars in 4th Ward near the Enron complex I meet a drunk Enron employee who says the company has severly overreached and he fears his stock will be worth nothing. Then I meet another employee somewhere else who says the same thing. These two revealations prompt me to do some research, and while I cant get all the details I come to understand something is up. I put my money in Amazon.

    How did meeting these two drunk Enron employees make me less free? How in general does having more access to imformation that allows me to act to satisfy my desires make me less free? How could having a personal revealation from God make me less free? If God exists and He lets me know with at least some clarity what He wants, how does this make me less free? As things stand I have only the obscure and problematic revealation of The Bible, and the incessant and conflicting yammering of its interpreters. This is not the kind of quality information I need to choose to fulfill my desires wisely.

    In any case, the Bible is full of examples of people who had much more direct revealations of God’s will and power than I have had and they still rejected God. So the Bible itself establishes that even those who have firsthand experience of godly night can choose to reject Him.

  2. ssjessiechan Says:

    Actually, this is one of the things that my newfound atheism, as well as my discipleship to Stargate, has really shown me: That there is an oft-ignored gap between Knowing God Exists and Worshiping Him, and Not Believing and Not Worshiping. Stargate is full of people who claim they are gods and demand worship, usually with nothing but advanced technology to prove it (but sometimes with far more than that). The question the viewer is left to ponder is, what makes a being worthy of worship? Often the line given in the show is, “you’re not really a god, you’re just an alien and I have all I need to understand and even mimic your power.” But obviously there’s another reason–most of these beings are evil and merely want the power that being worshiped confers. Obviously the Gua’uld AND the Ori are both powerful, and real. But are they WORTHY of worship?

    Until I read The God Delusion, I never thought of applying that question to the Christian God. When dealing with concepts of good and evil, apologists will say things like “well, God made those little children, it’s not wrong for him to kill them, or torture them in hell if they don’t do what he says.” As if the mere assumed fact that God EXISTS (and created us) means that he is both good and worthy of worship. That seems to be the logic followed by the fragile free will crowd, that even knowing he’s about makes us incapable of not following him. But one of the things I came to term with when I stopped worshiping him, is that, unless the Bible and his followers are extremely off base about him, I don’t think he’d be worthy of my devotion even if he showed up in my living room.

    I suppose there’s an answer to that though, that somehow my being a “sinner” and how they think the only reason to leave God is because I want an excuse to sin, that him showing up would make me reject him harder because I can’t admit how awful I am, or something. But really, does that make any sense? Especially since THEY claim a great reason for following their God is the threat of eternal torture. If I were ambivalent on the matter, I think proof of their punishments would make me more likely to go their way. I’d only be willing to endure eternal torture if it were a matter of freedom and principle and love of humanity.

    Also. Complaining about free will on the one hand and threatening with hellfire on the other? Yeah.

  3. Challenger Grim Says:

    I have NEVER understood this whole Lewis-based argument that if God revealed himself to us more openly we would be deprived of out free will. How could having better access to the information most relevant to my decisions make me less free?

    Now that answer is obvious, because then you wouldn’t be atheist any more would you?

    Onward to address some other misconceptions first.

    Let’s get started on some of the vast array of problems that are inherent in this particular excuse for God’s absence. First of all, if the ability to perceive God’s existence necessarily results in the destruction of free will, how is it that Satan has any free will?

    Basic flaw here: That Satan and his brethren are like us. Which is (of course) completely false. You have to understand that Lewis is talking about abolition of free will in Humans, no other life-forms applicable in that statement.

    Secondly, the Bible promises that believers (and everyone else) will see God clearly, at the Second Coming, at the Last Judgment, and throughout all eternity. If God showing up means the rape of individual free will and/or its destruction, then believers can look forward to an eternity either of volitional rape or of the absence of free will altogether.

    Shouldn’t there be no “or” there since you’re using the metaphor of “rape” as losing free will? And it’s because of free will that Hell is necessary anyway. To quote Lewis again: “In the end, there will only be 2 kinds of people. Those that say to God: ‘Thy will be done.’ And those to whom God says: ‘Thy will be done.'” Some interpretations of the 2nd coming is that there is no 2nd chance after it. But then that’s going to get into some deep theological stuff that’s been discussed for centuries.

    If this is to be the final state of free will, what makes it so valuable that a loving Heavenly Father would prefer to see most of His beloved children burn forever in Hell, rather than risk compromising it during the brief span of our mortal years?

    In asking the question, you sort of answer it. Yes He apparently considers it of utmost importance (not to mention the talk about “without choice, there is no love”). He apparently prefers that you and I have absolute freedom rather than absolute security.

    Thirdly, Geisler and Turek follow Lewis’s lead in utterly forgetting the Gospel when they claim that God must necessarily be limited to showing up only in “the faintest and most mitigated degree.” In fact, for this particular argument to work, you need to reject huge swaths of Scripture, which speak of fire and brimstone, plagues of death and darkness, burning bushes and pillars of fire, to say nothing of Incarnations.

    Well first of all, what you mention, could still be the “faintest and most mitigated degree.” Think about it as… “capacity for rejection.” In ancient times, beliefs in gods were quite prevalent (maybe even justified, but that’s another discussion). Thus, even with God’s appearance, ancient people would still be able to reject Him for someone/something else (and the Bible is filled with the Israelites doing so). Imagine now that even a fraction of what happened then were to happen today. Would not the world become 100% religious overnight? You have to think in context. That in the past, more of God could be seen, than can be today.

    Geisler and Turek have inadvertently hit on one of the major inconsistencies of Christian apologetics: in order to explain why God does not show up in real life, you are forced to argue that some overriding circumstance makes it unwise and unloving for Him to appear. As soon as you do that, though, you are contradicting all the reasons the Bible gives us for why we should believe He exists. The Bible stories aren’t about people thinking they’ve felt some faint, mitigated sense of God’s presence, they’re about God doing all the sorts of things He should (and doesn’t) do today—if He really believes the Gospel, anyway.

    See above. Also you have to remember that the Bible itself states that everything was in preparation for Christ (Christian view/edition anyway). Thus, everything in the OT was a set up for the NT. Now that Christ has come and changed the game, there’s no need for God to play it the same.

  4. » Looking Grim Evangelical Realism Says:

    [...] Recent Comments Chigliakus on Pro-life materialistsGalloway on TIA Tuesday: god is not GreatNevyn on Pro-life materialistsjim on TIA Tuesday: god is not GreatChallenger Grim on XFiles Friday: Free will is inevitable. [...]

  5. » More Grim Evangelical Realism Says:

    [...] have a further look at our friend Grim’s comment on my post about free will. One caveat though: his subsequent comments suggest that what he seems [...]

  6. » Grim to the end Evangelical Realism Says:

    [...] have one last look at the comment from Challenger Grim in which he attempts to defend C. S. Lewis’s argument that free will [...]