Looking Grim

My response to Geisler and Turek’s free will argument has attracted a visitor who goes by the handle of “Challenger Grim.” At least, he was here long enough to leave one comment, though I suspect that, having had his say, he has since departed the vicinity. In any case, he has left us a rich vein of blog fodder, and I am only too happy to take advantage of it.

He begins by addressing the remarks of another commenter who said,

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?

Grim’s response is short and sweet, but full of potential.

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

Notice, not only is Grim confusing “will” with “knowledge,” he’s also assuming that the atheist does not want to know the truth about God. Individually, they’re obvious mistakes; taken together, they may be telling us more about Grim’s mindset than he wants us to know.

Let’s start with the superficial question of whether discovery is a violation of free will. It should be evident that this is not the case. It does not violate anybody’s free will to learn that their earthly father actually exists, so why should it be a problem to make a similar discovery about one’s heavenly Father (if we had one)? As the father of two teenagers myself, I can assure you that my kids’ will has not been the slightest bit impaired by the knowledge that I exist! They usually do what I want, but only because they are willing (and because I show up in real life to interact with them and work with them on why they should be willing).

Next, let’s look at the conclusion “because then you wouldn’t be atheist any more.” That’s certainly true: if God showed up in real life, nobody would have any reason to be an atheist. According to the Gospel, that ought to be an improvement over the current situation, so why wouldn’t God be willing to implement it? This is a good example of backwards thinking versus forwards thinking. To the Christian apologist, the present-day existence of atheism is a given, so the apologist has to think backwards to come up with a reason why atheism ought to be necessary. “Free will” then becomes a viable apologetic because everybody knows there have to be atheists (because, well, um, they just do). Therefore God can’t violate your free will because then there wouldn’t be any atheists.

If, on the other hand, we start at the beginning and work forwards, we come up with a scenario that is strikingly different from what we find in real life. Let’s imagine that we’re back at the beginning of time, watching God plan out what kind of Creation He wants to create. Since no atheists exist at this point, it’s not a given that atheists must exist, so God is free to design the world however He likes. The Gospel tells us He’s a loving Father, so logically He will want to be with His children. If He wants them to have free will, all He has to do is offer them alternatives to choose from. Being a good Father, He is under no obligation to expose them to bad, dangerous, or eternally fatal alternatives. A toddler choosing between cake and ice cream is just as free as the one choosing between a squirt gun and a handgun, but only an idiot or a scumbag would offer a toddler the latter choice.

So, by forward thinking, we see that there is no reason why free will would force God to turn people into atheists by His consistent failure to show up in real life. If free will were really a priority, we ought to see a world in which God shows up to spend with His children and to give them free choices between a variety of fun, edifying, positive alternatives. The only reason for arguing differently is the unpleasant fact that the real world is not consistent with what we would expect if the Gospel were true, and therefore we have to think backwards in order to build a pseudo-realistic apologetic. In other words, we have to rationalize.

But now let’s look at that assumption that atheists don’t want to know the truth about God. I am one disproof of that assumption: I was a Christian who became an atheist through my insistence on not resting until I learned the truth about God. I have since come to the conclusion that Reality itself, personified as “Alethea,” is the true god behind all theistic beliefs (however misguided and inaccurate those beliefs might be). So technically, I’m not an atheist any more (though I am a non-supernaturalist). This sort of thing can only come about if atheists like me are willing to know the truth about God.

Remember, there are any number of believers today who boast quite proudly that they were once atheists, and that God, the great Hound of Heaven, kept at them until they gave in and stopped being atheists. If we are to accept Grim’s argument, every one of those former atheists must have had their free will violated by God, which raises some serious questions about the claim that God is not allowed to do that. Indeed, the only way any Christian could avoid accusing God of violating his or her free will is if God played no role at all in their conversion. Grim’s “obvious” answer actually creates more problems for the Gospel than it solves.

Grim’s two errors—that free will would be violated by knowing the truth about God and that atheists don’t want to know the truth about God—seem rather silly if you stop to think about them. They make perfect sense, however, if you are defining “truth” in terms of what you want to believe instead of what is consistent with reality. If the only possible reason for believing in God is because they want to believe in God, then yeah, it makes sense to conclude that someone who doesn’t believe must not want to believe. And if you base your belief on what you want to believe, and someone confronts you with the hard facts of a reality inconsistent with your beliefs, then that might indeed interfere with your ability to believe whatever you want. So both of these errors make sense IF we are defining truth as being whatever we want to believe, regardless of the facts. But is that really truth?

Obviously, I can’t speak for Grim himself. This might be a description of how he thinks, or he might merely be imitating arguments that he has heard from others who think this way. When all is said and done, however, the truth is consistent with itself, and therefore our best bet, in knowing truth, is to seek those things that are most consistent with the real world. Whenever you try to push a story that is not consistent with the truth, there are going to be flaws in your argument, and when you try and reconcile those flaws with the truth, you’re going to end up creating even more problems for yourself, as Grim did with his claim that atheist conversions violate free will. But if you start with the real world truth to begin with, and stick with it, you won’t have those problems. Truth takes care of its own self-consistency.

 
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Posted in Unapologetics. 33 Comments »

33 Responses to “Looking Grim”

  1. skylick Says:

    In light of omniscience what difference does free will have on anything? If I as a god make a pot knowing the defects it will aqquire in the future then why get angry at the pot and torment it forever? If I gave the pot the ability to choose defects I still know the choices it will make ahead of time. Thus I am responsible not the pot…since I can prevent the mistakes (evil). In the over all scheme of things I think free-will is just a smoke screen to cover the bullshit all this myth-based dogma entails. In short an omniscient god has no excuse for creating evil angels. One only tests things and people IF one does not know the outcome.
    As for me I once was briefly corporate secretary of Atheist United in the 1990’s.

  2. Roger, FCD Says:

    This seems to be a subset of the Problem of Evil, which also deals with free-will.

    Unfortunately for christians, the attributes of their god will forever prevent them from solving the issue:

    If god is omnipotent, then he could have created a universe with no suffering and free-will. That he did not points to either A) evil intent on his part or B) that he is not omnipotent after all.

    Note that it does not matter that we as mere humans cannot imagine how such a world would operate, the fact that god is described as ‘omnipotent’ means that it can be done by him.

  3. Chigliakus Says:

    Free will is a problematic concept, especially as Christians define it since most of the Christian definitions I’ve seen would break causality. A good question to start someone thinking along those lines is “does God have free will?”

  4. jorgaba Says:

    The variety of free will that Christians harp on is incoherent, and indistinguishable from acting in a purely random fashion. If I ever act in some way for any reason, then I didn’t “will” that action freely…the reason itself was the cause of my action, and my “will” followed it. My will to commit the action was determined by that reason.

    You might say my will was free when it chose which reason to follow. Maybe freedom enters into the decision of whether or not, and how much, to evaluate the reasons for and against an action, and then to select actions based on the evaluation. But any evaluation process, assuming it in turn is not random, has rules that are being followed. To follow rules is to fundamentally give up control of one’s behavior to those rules. And one might as well ask for what reason is a person is following the rules of an evaluation process in the first place.

    At the bottom, there are either reasons and rules that determine a person’s will to action, or there are not. And if there is no reason for willing an action, then the action is no different from one committed randomly.

  5. Challenger Grim Says:

    Yay! I got attention! =D

    lol anyway, Mind if I post some clarifications?

    Grim’s two errors—that free will would be violated by knowing the truth about God and that atheists don’t want to know the truth about God

    Wait… where exactly did I state the 2nd thing?
    I reread through my comment and couldn’t find any claim that I stated that. Which, I will tell you right now, I disagree with.

  6. Challenger Grim Says:

    I had a much larger response almost prepared until I noticed…

    as Grim did with his claim that atheist conversions violate free will

    Which… is not my claim at all. May we start again without the straw man? (in fact, the section of my comment where I talked about “capacity for rejection” would seem to reply to a lot of this)

  7. Challenger Grim Says:

    Another thing we should clarify before any dialog is remotely possible.

    If god is omnipotent, then he could have created a universe with no suffering and free-will. That he did not points to either A) evil intent on his part or B) that he is not omnipotent after all.

    Now this basically delves into 2 questions about omnipotence. The answers to which, must generally be agreed upon by both parties before any discussion of God can proceed.

    1) Can omnipotence defeat itself? (example: “Can God make a rock so big He couldn’t lift it?)

    2) Can omnipotence do anything intrinsically impossible? (example question: “Can God make a square circle?”)

  8. John Morales Says:

    Challenger Grim, re omnipotence, the existence of such is purely a theist claim. Not our fault if it leads you to paradoxes.

    Since you’re making the claim, you get to define it. Go ahead.

  9. Deacon Duncan Says:

    Yay! I got attention! =D

    You’re quite welcome. Conversations are always more interesting when the two parties disagree. :)

    Grim’s two errors—that free will would be violated by knowing the truth about God and that atheists don’t want to know the truth about God

    Wait… where exactly did I state the 2nd thing?

    It is an inference on my part. One of my main principles here is that truth is consistent with itself, so I do at times take the liberty of pursuing the consistent implications of what people say as well as the things they explicitly express. If an atheist wanted to know the truth about God, and God revealed Himself to the atheist (convincing him that theism was correct), then the atheist would be receiving what he truly wanted. This could hardly be a violation of the atheist’s free will, since he freely wanted to know the truth. If, therefore, you are going to claim that some violation of free will would occur if an atheist became a theist, it stands to reason that you are referring to a situation in which it is not the atheist’s will to know the truth about God.

    I reread through my comment and couldn’t find any claim that I stated that. Which, I will tell you right now, I disagree with.

    Then perhaps you would like to clarify exactly why you think that giving an atheist accurate information about God would make him less free?

    As far as omnipotence goes, feel free to define it however you like, and I will be glad to discuss it with you on those terms.

  10. » More Grim Evangelical Realism Says:

    [...] 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 to be saying (or at least, what I think he seems to be saying) may not [...]

  11. Roger, FCD Says:

    Grim said:
    # Challenger Grim Says:
    July 9, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    Another thing we should clarify before any dialog is remotely possible.

    If god is omnipotent, then he could have created a universe with no suffering and free-will. That he did not points to either A) evil intent on his part or B) that he is not omnipotent after all.

    Now this basically delves into 2 questions about omnipotence. The answers to which, must generally be agreed upon by both parties before any discussion of God can proceed.

    1) Can omnipotence defeat itself? (example: “Can God make a rock so big He couldn’t lift it?)

    2) Can omnipotence do anything intrinsically impossible? (example question: “Can God make a square circle?”)”

    I’d be quite happy to grant you whatever answer to the first question you like. The specific qualities of omniscience are mostly irrelevant, IMO.

    The second question is easily answered though.

    God, being omnipotent and creator of the universe, the First Cause and all that, could have created a universe where a square circle is possible. I’ll repeat myself: That we cannot imagine such a scenario is a failure of /our sense of scale/, nothing else.

    If God is truly omnipotent, and is truly the creator of the universe, then the fact that He hasn’t engineered a universe of free-will without suffering (feel free to substitute ‘knowledge of His existence’ in place of suffering, it’s the same question), means that He either isn’t omnibenevolent or He isn’t omnipotent.

  12. Deacon Duncan Says:

    Sure, square circles are easy. Try this one for a real test of omnipotence: Does God have the power, in this creation, to be three distinct persons, each of whom is God, without being three Gods?

  13. Andrew Says:

    The “we can’t give you good evidence because that would violate your free will” answer is mind-boggling to me.

    For example: In the 1950s, there was very little public information disseminated about the health hazards of smoking.

    Today, there is a great deal of such information. And yes, a lot fewer people smoke today because of it. But plenty of people still smoke DESPITE the evidence that it’s harmful. That’s what free will is all *about*.

    And, as usual, this defense contradicts core Christian doctrines; they’re the folks who say us atheists “suppress the truth in unrighteousness,” after all. If that’s the case, then you would expect the EXACT SAME NUMBER OF ATHEISTS even if the evidence for God were overwhelming.

  14. Challenger Grim Says:

    Then perhaps you would like to clarify exactly why you think that giving an atheist accurate information about God would make him less free?

    Ok, let’s back up a sec. My “I didn’t say that” was in specific response to:
    “with his claim that atheist conversions violate free will”
    Which with your phrasing implies that any atheist conversion violates free will.

    Now we can back up with the next paradigm disagreement.

    This could hardly be a violation of the atheist’s free will, since he freely wanted to know the truth.

    You seem to be confusing desires with options. Free will is generally seen as not what I want to do, but what I can do. Think of a car sitting at an intersection. Now the driver may be perfectly willing and ready to turn right, but he/she has the option of turning left. What I was attempting to convey, is that God appearance would the equivalent of dropping a big “detour” roadblock on the left, so then the driver can only turn right.

    If He showed up, we’re all in agreement then that you and all other atheists would have no option but to worship Him right?

    We have to pretty much agree on this before any further discussion is possible. Now we can argue over whether it’s a Good thing for God to leave us that option or not. Whether He should leave us that option or not, but first we have to have an understanding that “Free Will” is “the option to say No.” Thus, my statement (meant to add a wink onto it ;-), that obviously, if He was to show up, you’d have no option of saying No would you? Now shall we go on to omnipotence?

  15. Challenger Grim Says:

    Sure, square circles are easy. Try this one for a real test of omnipotence: Does God have the power, in this creation, to be three distinct persons, each of whom is God, without being three Gods?

    I would say that’s easier than the square circle.
    How so?
    Well… what are atoms made up of?
    What separates bacteria from other single celled organisms?
    What separates man, from those single cells?
    What separates a family from a man?

    This is a concept we see throughout reality. Different organelles, make up a cell. Different cells, make up an organ. Many different organs, make up a man. Many different men, make an organization. The higher up we go through the hierarchy, the greater differences and distinctions we find. (I’m sure we can agree that there’s more difference between a heart and brain than between a proton and neutron no?) Thus, why wouldn’t we find this all the way to the top? That God’s “parts” are even more distinct, but still make up a whole? That’s at least the start of the answer.

  16. Wedge Says:

    “If He showed up, we’re all in agreement then that you and all other atheists would have no option but to worship Him right?”

    No. Acknowledging that something exists and worshiping it are two entirely separate concepts. The Bible is full of examples of people who spoke with/witnessed a manifestation of God (presumably knowing that he existed) and yet still disobeyed and/or chose to worship other gods.

    “Free will is generally seen as not what I want to do, but what I can do. ”

    If you hand me a pack of cigarettes without a warning, I can choose to smoke them or not. If you hand me a pack of cigarettes and the knowledge of what they can do to me, I can choose to smoke them or not. Knowledge does not limit free will; it informs it.

    Do you really think that knowing the truth about something makes people less free?

  17. jim Says:

    “This is a concept we see throughout reality. Different organelles, make up a cell. Different cells, make up an organ. Many different organs, make up a man. Many different men, make an organization. The higher up we go through the hierarchy, the greater differences and distinctions we find. (I’m sure we can agree that there’s more difference between a heart and brain than between a proton and neutron no?) Thus, why wouldn’t we find this all the way to the top? That God’s “parts” are even more distinct, but still make up a whole? That’s at least the start of the answer.”

    Which would make your god the sum total of the universe…that’s pantheism, and happens to be one of the heresies Christians have fallen into whenever they actually try to define the Trinity beyond a vague notion. And throwing in the word ‘distinct’ as a disclaimer doesn’t help your case…all the distinctions you cite still exist in the natural world. In other words, everything is ultimately made of the same ‘stuff'; in a sense, everything is just atoms (or as far down as you choose to go) moving around in different patterns. Not so with God.

    Now, you might try to argue that God is ‘supernatural stuff’ divided into three parts. But that brings up another host of problems, such as how Jesus could have been ‘fully God, and fully Man’, or how The Father or the Holy Spirit interact with Man…again, these have been addressed over the centuries, and any conclusions taken too far have been branded as heresies again. Of course, the Trinity was originally posited as an answer to certain contradictory ideas about the nature of God. It’s sort of like reconciling three different accounts of what the color of the sky is…let’s say blue, purple, and yellow…by labeling it the blue/purple/yellow sky. However, we can all look at the sky for ourselves, but God seems to have no reality beyond the stories that ancient mankind told about Him, so we’re left with this mishmash of nonsense.

    Square circles? Simply a semantics problem. The word ‘circle’ means something, as does the word ‘square’. God could make a circle into a square merely by re-labeling it, or by physically changing the circle into the shape that we now call ‘square’. You could do the same thing. Presto Change-o! You’re God!

  18. jim Says:

    Playing off what Andrew said, this idea of free will vs. knowledge is another poorly worked out feature of Christian doctrine. If all of us really understand the Christian ramifications, and if our ultimate salvation is really just a pure function of obedience vs. disobedience, then there would be absolutely NO call for anybody to proselytize…what would be the point? The hardcore Calvinists are probably the least contradictory in their approach here, believing that all of it’s predetermined from the beginning. Although, since the call to proselytize is unquestionably a part of the Christian doctrine, we’re stuck with the idea that all the efforts at ‘spreading the word’ is simply a sham…busy work for otherwise idle hands, I guess.

    On the other hand, if there’s really a possibility of somebody going to hell because the ‘good news’ somehow passes him by during this life, then God turns out to be rather a lame messenger boy, limited by what amounts to being a Heavenly pony express to get His message out, thus bringing into question His omnipotence. Or conversely, He’s chosen this method for whatever reasons, realizing its limitations, which then brings into question His supposed values of justice, mercy, etc.

    Ugh! This straining at convoluted facets of what’s supposedly a clear-cut message shows just what a mess Christian doctrine has become…er, always was, I mean. The main point of the essay heading up this thread is to demonstrate that, if the Christian God REALLY existed, He could wipe away all this confusion with ONE appearance, and maybe some further explanation that actually made SENSE. Why would the Creator of the Universe veil His ostensibly VERY important message behind the scribblings of an ancient, superstitious people, and never, ever offer an UPDATE??? Is God THAT opposed to common sense? He’s got us building a computer using instructions etched into a rock by FRED FLINTSTONE, for god’s(sic) sake!

  19. Hoovooloo Says:

    @ Grim
    2 comments:
    1. A person may be made of single cells, but I would hardly consider each of the cells as the specific individual. Even if you were to somehow try to argue that point, consider identical twins. Many, if not most, of their cells will be identical. So, then, “who” is each cell? If a twin gives its sibling a blood transfusion, do the cells change “who” they are? So, while man may be made of single cells, no single cell would be called “man.” Likewise, if you are describing Jesus as a part of God, you cannot then call him God.

    2. God has already denied us free will. I cannot fly without mechanical assistance. I cannot breathe underwater. I cannot have god-like powers to manipulate the universe directly with my mind. Clearly, if we are assuming God is omnipotent and designed the universe, he designed it to deny us some possibilities, and thus some choices.

  20. Challenger Grim Says:

    Which would make your god the sum total of the universe…that’s pantheism, and happens to be one of the heresies Christians have fallen into whenever they actually try to define the Trinity beyond a vague notion.

    Funny, I don’t recall saying anything of the sort. It would seem that if we are to have a discussion, you could do me the courtesy of actually talking to me, instead of a figment of your imagination.

    A person may be made of single cells, but I would hardly consider each of the cells as the specific individual.

    Well I certainly wouldn’t either. That’s why I didn’t stop my metaphor there. It would seem that you need to continue it as well. Or at least, reread what I wrote.

    God has already denied us free will. …Clearly, if we are assuming God is omnipotent and designed the universe, he designed it to deny us some possibilities, and thus some choices.

    Yes, but there is a lot He has granted us as well (such as… the ability to kill each other). But you are distorting our talk from a discussion of free will in the sense that God gives us to accept or reject Him, vs the free will to do whatever we damn well please. I think even you can see that those are 2 different discussions.

  21. jim Says:

    Here are your words again:

    “This is a concept we see throughout reality. Different organelles, make up a cell. Different cells, make up an organ. Many different organs, make up a man. Many different men, make an organization. The higher up we go through the hierarchy, the greater differences and distinctions we find. (I’m sure we can agree that there’s more difference between a heart and brain than between a proton and neutron no?) Thus, why wouldn’t we find this all the way to the top? That God’s “parts” are even more distinct, but still make up a whole? That’s at least the start of the answer.”

    This isn’t a metaphor. Neither is it an analogy. It’s a straightforward example…cell to organ, organ to man, man to organization…and you suggest that this scenario extends upwards, through a hierarchy, ‘all the way to the top’…i.e. God. That’s pantheism, notwithstanding your snarky denial. Of course, I guess you can still fall back on your disclaimer ‘That’s at least part of the answer’…right?

  22. Challenger Grim Says:

    This isn’t a metaphor. Neither is it an analogy. It’s a straightforward example…cell to organ, organ to man, man to organization…and you suggest that this scenario extends upwards, through a hierarchy, ‘all the way to the top’…i.e. God. That’s pantheism, notwithstanding your snarky denial. Of course, I guess you can still fall back on your disclaimer ‘That’s at least part of the answer’…right?

    Right, because I missed the part where I said organizations make up a planet. Let me highlight the relevant portion.
    “The higher up we go through the hierarchy, the greater differences and distinctions we find.”
    First, true or false? Are organs more different from each other than protons and electrons? Are planets more different from each other than a man’s organs to other organs?
    Again, what did I say?
    “That God’s “parts” are even more distinct, but still make up a whole?”
    Funny, I don’t find any reference in there what His parts are, or any implication into what they are. Just that as a man’s, cell’s, atoms, etc parts, are distinct from each others yet make up a whole, so is God’s parts distinct yet make a whole.
    Yeah… I’m still not seeing where I said: “Hey, notice how as we go ‘up’, the parts from the prior level make up the next?”
    Oh wait, I DIDN’T say that.
    I said: “The further up we go, the greater distinctions become.”

    Apparently I had too high of an expectation for reason on here.

    Square circles? Simply a semantics problem. The word ‘circle’ means something, as does the word ’square’. God could make a circle into a square merely by re-labeling it, or by physically changing the circle into the shape that we now call ’square’. You could do the same thing. Presto Change-o! You’re God!

    Funny, I could swear that if God changed a circle’s shape, it would no longer be a circle, thus not a “square circle” – or that changing a label somehow changes what it is – I hope you didn’t try and get through math with that.
    Oh well. My mistake.

  23. Deacon Duncan Says:

    You seem to be confusing desires with options. Free will is generally seen as not what I want to do, but what I can do. Think of a car sitting at an intersection. Now the driver may be perfectly willing and ready to turn right, but he/she has the option of turning left. What I was attempting to convey, is that God appearance would the equivalent of dropping a big “detour” roadblock on the left, so then the driver can only turn right.

    If He showed up, we’re all in agreement then that you and all other atheists would have no option but to worship Him right?

    Is the Bible correct when it claims that God has appeared numerous times in OT and NT history, and been treated with disrespect and disobedience by those who saw Him?

  24. Deacon Duncan Says:

    The problem with defining free will in a way that makes ignorance of the truth a prerequisite is that God, being omniscient, can never have free will, since He can never be ignorant. And if God has no free will, then it is meaningless to call God good (or evil) since there is no vice or virtue if you have no choice over what you do. What’s more, we cannot claim to be made in God’s image, since we possess a valuable quality—free will—which God is unable to possess. If we have the power to make free choices, and God does not, who is really the superior being?

  25. Challenger Grim Says:

    Is the Bible correct when it claims that God has appeared numerous times in OT and NT history, and been treated with disrespect and disobedience by those who saw Him?

    As I recall, God has usually shown up to those who already believe in Him. Can you cite an example where He does not?

  26. Deacon Duncan Says:

    Depends on whether or not Jesus counts as God. As I recall, the Pharisees were fairly reluctant to worship and obey him.

  27. jim Says:

    The problem with your argument is that you said…

    “Thus, why wouldn’t we find this all the way TO the top?”

    within the context of an ascending hierarchy of naturally based substances, i.e. atoms, cells…whatever. Perhaps you meant to say something like ‘why shouldn’t some similar process be going on in the supernatural realm?’…something like that. But even seen as an analogy, your example doesn’t work. A cell isn’t an organ, an organ isn’t a man, etc. Thus, your tri-god winds up being a god of three parts, none of which are in and of themselves God. Now, if you’re saying that Jesus is a piece of God, that the Holy Spirit is a piece of God, and that Jehovah is a piece of God, you might have something. Of course, your description would be deemed heretical, but hey! Whatever floats your boat.

    As for the supposed ‘square/circle’ dilemma…it’s an empty one, I’m afraid. In this case, ‘square’ and ‘circle’ are simply contradictory definitions of a geometric shape. It’s like saying ‘my fist is opened/my fist is closed’. This is no philosophical conundrum, it’s just a definitional absurdity. God can’t make square circles, because the concept is meaningless.

    Perhaps your expectations for finding reason here were too high, in your own estimation. Such is life. I have found that, when dealing with theistic ‘explanations’ for the inexplicable, my expectations are usually right on the money. Lucky me!

  28. Deacon Duncan Says:

    By the way, with regard to your statement below…

    As I recall, God has usually shown up to those who already believe in Him. Can you cite an example where He does not?

    I would be very curious to hear your account of what happened to the free will of Saul of Tarsus as he journeyed along the road to Damascus.

  29. Challenger Grim Says:

    God can’t make square circles, because the concept is meaningless.

    Actually, that was exactly my point. (I think, if I understand you correctly) Omnipotence can’t do anything intrinsically impossible because such things are meaningless. So you are in agreement with me then that this is at least one thing omnipotence can’t do?

    The problem with defining free will in a way that makes ignorance of the truth a prerequisite…

    Which is exactly why I didn’t define free will that way. You apparently do and I disagree, which is why I’m trying to back up and go over basics to dissolve you of these errors.

    Depends on whether or not Jesus counts as God. As I recall, the Pharisees were fairly reluctant to worship and obey him.

    Well Jesus gets into a whole new case about “God in disguise” doesn’t it? Seems we should first settle the question of “God’s unquestionable appearance” before we move on to God in disguise or not.

    I would be very curious to hear your account of what happened to the free will of Saul of Tarsus as he journeyed along the road to Damascus.

    As I recall, Saul was already a believer in God, in fact, he thought he was doing God’s work. So considering he was already devout, what’s the problem with his misconceptions being corrected? I thought we were talking about God appearing to atheists, not the choir. ;-)

  30. Deacon Duncan Says:

    1) If ignorance of the truth is not a prerequisite for free will, why can’t God show up so that we can know the truth about whether or not He even exists?

    2) If God can become Incarnate as a prophetic teacher and miracle worker without violating our free will, why doesn’t He?

    3) Saying that Saul was already a believer tells us nothing about what happened to his free will when he allegedly saw God. Do believers not have free will? If they do have free will, why is that free will not violated when God shows up? If it is not violated when God shows up in real life, why is it that God does not show up in real life even for believers?

  31. Challenger Grim Says:

    1) If ignorance of the truth is not a prerequisite for free will, why can’t God show up so that we can know the truth about whether or not He even exists?

    Because you can’t exactly reject Him then can you? If God shows up, Pascal’s wager becomes very real doesn’t it? Surely you’ve read the stories about a rich and powerful man who goes out in disguise so that he might find someone who loves and enjoys his company for who he is, not for his wealth and power. Why is it so hard for you to comprehend that God wants the same, and so has disguised Himself.
    You also seem to forget that the Bible says, “nobody can see the face of God and live” so He probably doesn’t show up to keep from killing us.

    2) If God can become Incarnate as a prophetic teacher and miracle worker without violating our free will, why doesn’t He?

    Well I believe He already has. So what… your complaint is that He hasn’t shown up today?

    3) Saying that Saul was already a believer tells us nothing about what happened to his free will when he allegedly saw God. Do believers not have free will? If they do have free will, why is that free will not violated when God shows up? If it is not violated when God shows up in real life, why is it that God does not show up in real life even for believers?

    Why didn’t the men on the road (presumably believers) see God? Why did Moses see Him but not Aaron? The general rule of the Bible seems to be that God’s appearances are rare and to few people. Not to mention, generally to people that have Destinies[tm]. Thus it would seem quite logical that God refrains from direct interaction, except in exceptional circumstances (ones that apparently have only the solution of His appearance).
    Also keep in mind that these exceptions are almost always to people that have already chosen Him. It no more violates a believer’s free will than a wedding violates the lovers’ desires.

  32. Deacon Duncan Says:

    1a) If we can’t reject Him once we know He exists, how can we deny that ignorance of the truth is a prerequisite for free will?

    1b) If nobody can see the face of God and live, why didn’t people die when they saw Jesus’ face? Is it possible for God to shield His face in such a way as to not kill us when He shows up? If so, why doesn’t He just do that?

    2) Isn’t it self-contradictory to claim both that God cannot show up without violating our free will, and that He already has shown up without violating our free will?

    3) I notice that you seem to be having a hard time approaching the subject of what happened to Saul’s free will on the road to Damascus. You reply to my questions, but your answers veer away from providing us with any information about the effect on human free will in cases where God allegedly does show up. Let me ask you directly: would you be willing to consider the possibility that C. S. Lewis, in making up the free will argument, was actually proposing an idea that is not really consistent with Acts 9?

  33. jim Says:

    Grim, your argument seems to boil down to ‘the more you know, the less free will you have’. In other words, the more ignorant you are, the more freedom you have. ‘Ignorance is bliss’…I never thought I’d see someone seriously argue for that position.

    Also, it seems to me the conversation has shifted from God showing Himself by providing incontrovertible evidence of His existence, to Him making some sort of literal, physically perceptible appearance. With very little effort, almost anyone could sit down and make out a list of a couple dozen ways God could manifest Himself through action, in such a way that almost everybody would acknowledge His existence.

    Of course, I guess that would bring us back to the ‘free will diminishes proportionately with the amount of knowledge you have’ argument. There really doesn’t seem to be anywhere else to go here.