More Grim

Let’s 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 to be saying (or at least, what I think he seems to be saying) may not be what he actually means. But let’s drive on anyway; there’s some good stuff here, and if I misunderstand him, I’m sure he’ll be happy to provide a correction.

One of my critiques of the free will argument is that the knowledge of God can hardly be an impediment to free will if Satan is still evil despite knowing that God is real. Grim’s reply?

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.

Notice that this idea of multiple free wills is what I call an Expedient Fiction. The Bible does not tell us that Satan has a different kind of free will than humans do, nor can we find any justification in real-world observations for the conclusion that different types of free will exist. Grim (or someone Grim is referring to) simply invented this notion of multiple free wills because it seemed like an idea suitable to the rhetorical need of the moment. Except, of course, it doesn’t really address the problem.

The problem is that both Satan and Man are supposed to be creatures of God’s own creation. That is, God is supposedly the One Who decided exactly what sort of free will each one should have. If Satan possesses a free will hardy enough to survive the shock of knowing God, then God is capable of creating, in Man, the same sort of volitional hardiness. Given that, as Hebrews 11:6 tells us, we must be convinced that God is real in order to have the kind of faith that will save us, does it make any sense at all that God would give us the sort of free will that would perish upon discovering the truth—and then turn around and place a higher value on that free will than on our ability to believe in Him? God must be even more pro-choice than I thought!

My next objection to the free will argument is that the Gospel tells us that God will show up some day. If it violates human free will for God to show up (or “ravishes” it, as C. S. Lewis put it), then this volitional rape is inevitable in any case. Why would God cause most of His beloved children to lose their salvation just to protect a deliberately weakened “free will” that was going to end up violated anyway? Grim’s reply:

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.

Hell is necessary because of free will—specifically, the kind of will that is only free when it has no objective reason for believing that God exists. Why, however, is that sort of free will necessary in the first place, when God could have given us the same sort of robust free will He allegedly gave to Satan? Particularly when, by giving us the weaker of the two free wills, He essentially doomed the majority of His beloved children to eternal damnation through preventable ignorance!

And don’t you just love the passive-aggressive smugness of Lewis’s little dig? “Ok,” says God, “Because you did not blindly swallow whatever C. S. Lewis told you about me, in the absence of any non-gullible evidence of my existence, and in the presence of significant inconsistencies between what Lewis was saying and what you could actually verify in the real world, and even though I was deliberately keeping you in the dark in order to protect your ‘free will,’ therefore you are saying that you want to be thrown into hell and made to suffer unimaginable agonies for all eternity.” O-o-o-o-o-o-o-k.

But wait, Grim is going to have another stab at it. The question is, “If free will is going to be violated anyway, 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?” Grim’s answer:

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.

So God puts pro-choice above pro-eternal-life. Ok, that could be. Only that answer doesn’t work, does it. That’s an argument for why God can never show up at all, not even to judge His children. Throwing them into hell against their will is hardly granting them “absolute freedom.” Measured against the scale of all eternity, the few brief days of “freedom” are virtually nothing. Why, then, would God doom His own beloved children to an eternity of tortured, unwanted bondage, for the sake of a fleeting “freedom” that is really just a regrettable and avoidable ignorance of what God deliberately concealed from them? Especially since, as Satan shows, God could have given us an even more “absolute” freedom by giving us a stronger free will that would survive His eventual and inevitable appearance.

So thanks to Grim for trying, but I really don’t think his answers have done Geisler, Turek, and Lewis a lot of good. That’s not Grim’s fault; he’s doing the best he can with the material he’s got. The free will argument is just a bad argument, and trying to defend it is an exercise in futility.

I think we’ll save the rest of Grim’s comment for one last installment, and then we’ll see what he comes up with in his future remarks.

 
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Posted in Unapologetics. 20 Comments »

20 Responses to “More Grim”

  1. Challenger Grim Says:

    Notice that this idea of multiple free wills is what I call an Expedient Fiction. The Bible does not tell us that Satan has a different kind of free will than humans do, nor can we find any justification in real-world observations for the conclusion that different types of free will exist.

    Really double D? I mean… people differ in intelligence don’t they? Each person experiences and understands emotion differently. Heck people even have a variety of rhythmic abilities do they not? Why would every other aspect of consciousness vary from person to person, but you suddenly believe that one of those aspects (free-will) does not?

    As for real-world observation… I mean really? Didn’t you say you’re a parent? And all the years you have been one, you’ve never noticed a difference of self-will in your children between say… 1 year old and 5? You honestly believe that a 17 year old son doesn’t have more free will than the family dog? Or a person with down syndrome?

    So this fundamental point, I disagree, there’s an ABUNDANCE of real-world evidence for varieties of “self” and thus, capacity for rejection.

  2. Deacon Duncan Says:

    Ok, so now you’re talking about strong will vs. weak will, i.e. how hard a person will struggle for what they want in the face of opposition. Strength of will, however, is only an issue when there is opposition–if the person is getting what they want (i.e. nobody is opposing their will) then it’s irrelevant whether their will is strong or weak.

    This is what I alluded to earlier when I pointed out that many atheists are more than willing to discover the real truth about God. You said at the time that I had the wrong idea about what free will was. Have you changed your mind since then?

  3. Deacon Duncan Says:

    By the way, you also said that Satan’s free will was different from ours. If everybody’s free will is different from everyone else’s, why would it matter if Satan’s is different too?

  4. Challenger Grim Says:

    By the way, you also said that Satan’s free will was different from ours. If everybody’s free will is different from everyone else’s, why would it matter if Satan’s is different too?

    Because your point:
    “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?”
    Rested upon the idea that all free will was identical. Thus, I assume that you are at least admitting this point now?

    Ok, so now you’re talking about strong will vs. weak will, i.e. how hard a person will struggle for what they want in the face of opposition. Strength of will, however, is only an issue when there is opposition–if the person is getting what they want (i.e. nobody is opposing their will) then it’s irrelevant whether their will is strong or weak.

    Only an issue when there is opposition? What about… brainwashing? I’m not sure if you have harped on this issue, but I know other atheists have talked about how so many children are “forced” into believing God. But… what if that’s what they want? They’re not exactly in opposition to their parents are they? So you’re stating now that things like brainwashing, conditioning and programming are ok things?

    Have you changed your mind since then?

    I believe your answer above, will answer this question.

  5. Deacon Duncan Says:

    Because your point…Rested upon the idea that all free will was identical.

    Not at all. It is entirely possible for strength (quantity) of will to vary between different people. Variations in strength of will are irrelevant, however, in the case of people whose will is not being opposed. You yourself argue, do you not, that these differences in will are irrelevant to the question of whether or not it would violate free will for God to show up in real life? If these differences do not matter with respect to humans, why should they matter with respect to Satan?

    Only an issue when there is opposition? What about… brainwashing? I’m not sure if you have harped on this issue, but I know other atheists have talked about how so many children are “forced” into believing God. But… what if that’s what they want? They’re not exactly in opposition to their parents are they? So you’re stating now that things like brainwashing, conditioning and programming are ok things?

    I’m sorry, but you’ve completely lost me here. We’re talking about whether or not it is a violation of free will when a person who wants to know the truth is able to find it. It is certainly reprehensible to exploit a child’s natural trust in order to deceive them, but what does that have to do with whether it violates a person’s free will to provide them with the factual evidence they’ve been looking for?

  6. Challenger Grim Says:

    Not at all. It is entirely possible for strength (quantity) of will to vary between different people.

    Then you and I are in agreement then that your statements:
    “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?”
    “Notice that this idea of multiple free wills is what I call an Expedient Fiction. The Bible does not tell us that Satan has a different kind of free will than humans do, nor can we find any justification in real-world observations for the conclusion that different types of free will exist.”
    Are erroneous and should be retracted then?

    If these differences do not matter with respect to humans, why should they matter with respect to Satan?

    Oh wait, nvm. Maybe because Satan is in a different situation than humans? Or, comparing Satan to man in the question of free will is a little like comparing apples to oranges. I will admit that differences do matter, but Humans also have a common element to our existence (what is often called “The Human Condition”[tm]), which Satan does not share.

    I’m sorry, but you’ve completely lost me here. We’re talking about whether or not it is a violation of free will when a person who wants to know the truth is able to find it. It is certainly reprehensible to exploit a child’s natural trust in order to deceive them, but what does that have to do with whether it violates a person’s free will to provide them with the factual evidence they’ve been looking for?

    Because your entire premise seems to be based on the idea that free will and desire are the same thing. Or at least, one cannot violate free will without violating desire or visa versa. Now philosophers (such as Freud) have for years said that the will and desire are two different things. Let’s use a metaphor.
    You decide you’re going to go buy some chocolate ice cream.
    When you are at the counter and about to order, suddenly a madman runs in. This loon puts a gun to your head and order you to buy some chocolate ice cream.
    Now the man has violated your free will, but not your desire. After all, he is ordering you to get what you were going to anyway, except now, you can’t exactly change your mind can you?

    Let’s change it. Say you’re going into the ice cream shop and you wish it wasn’t so hard to choose a flavor. And you wished that someone would just make the choice for you. Repeat (gunman, chocolate, etc).
    Now the gunman is giving you what you wanted right? But he’s taken away your ability to choose as well. Thus, you can get what you want, but still be robbed of your will as well. Follow?

  7. Deacon Duncan Says:

    Then you and I are in agreement then that your statements…
    Are erroneous and should be retracted then?

    Not at all. Quality and quantity are different things. The gravity on the moon is the same kind of gravity as the gravity on the earth, but the strength of lunar gravity is less than the strength of gravitational attraction here on earth. By pointing out that different people can have stronger or weaker will, you are not demonstrating that Satan would have a different kind of will than we would. You are not even giving us any grounds for concluding that Satan’s will is any stronger than ours. Plus you have not demonstrated that any amount of “strength of will” would be necessary or sufficient to resist “violation” (whatever that would be) in the event that God’s existence became known. And of course you still have not produced a coherent explanation of why free will would be “violated” if it found out God really existed (i.e. if it ceased to be ignorant of the truth about God’s existence).

  8. Deacon Duncan Says:

    comparing Satan to man in the question of free will is a little like comparing apples to oranges. I will admit that differences do matter, but Humans also have a common element to our existence (what is often called “The Human Condition”[tm]), which Satan does not share.

    This still fails to address a fundamental inconsistency. According to the Gospel, if human nature does not contain the same kind of free will as Satan has, it’s because God deliberately chose to give us the kind of free will that could not survive finding out about His existence. But why would He make that choice if it’s also true that He wants us both to know Him, and to have free will?

    Remember, too, that this whole “free will” argument is being invented by men, in God’s absence, as an excuse for why God is absent. If men tell a story about God that is so full of inconsistencies, why should any of us feel any obligation to put our faith in the confused and self-contradictory stories of men?

  9. Deacon Duncan Says:

    The problem with your gunman analogy is that the gunman is saying, “Do such and such, or I will kill you.” If all God does is to show up in real life, so that we can know we’re not just gullibly following the cleverly-devised tales of men, that’s not the same thing as God putting a gun to our head and saying “Do such and such or I will kill you.” Without the command to do such and such, no coercion is taking place, and thus no violation of free will. All that’s happening is that I’m requesting information, and receiving it, and then basing my future choices on the accurate information I have received.

    By the way, are you really sure your analogy demonstrates a violation of free will? Nero told Christians, “Deny Christ, or I will have you thrown to the lions.” What happened to their free will under those circumstances?

  10. Challenger Grim Says:

    You are not even giving us any grounds for concluding that Satan’s will is any stronger than ours.

    Forgive me, I assumed we already agreed on this considering all the Bible says. Such as… Satan offered Jesus the nations of the world. He’s even described as the “prince of this world”. Now I, and I’m pretty sure you too, can’t offer a nation to anybody, much less be described as a prince of the entire globe. Do we need to back up even further within the basics?

    Remember, too, that this whole “free will” argument is being invented by men…

    If you want to debate whether “free will” is real or not, fine but that’s a whole different tangent. I was taking issue with your inaccurate strawman of the general Christian view of free will.

    Without the command to do such and such, no coercion is taking place, and thus no violation of free will.

    Isn’t said that the greatest command is “Love the Lord your God.” So… Again how is anyone NOT going to follow this command if He just showed up?

    By the way, are you really sure your analogy demonstrates a violation of free will?

    Well I was assuming you weren’t going to get shot over ice cream. Ok, learned my lesson. This is a place where I cannot use analogies. Let me see if I can find some other way to help you understand. (though it is apparently a fool’s errand)

  11. Deacon Duncan Says:

    How does Satan offering Jesus the kingdoms of the world tell us anything about whether or not Satan’s will is stronger (i.e. better able to resist being violated when discovering that God exists)? Those seem to me to be two entirely unrelated topics.

    I was taking issue with your inaccurate strawman of the general Christian view of free will.

    I’m not trying to create any straw men, but I confess I’m having a difficult time trying to understand what you mean by “free will.” The point of my reference to men inventing the doctrine is just to remind you that it’s not necessarily infallible, even by Christian standards. You ought to be free to admit that C. S. Lewis wasn’t necessarily infallible on this one.

    As for the commands of God, sure, we’ve already heard that men say He’s made some. We can’t know whether those commands are really from God, though, unless He shows up to confirm them. If He doesn’t show up, then in His absence, we’re not disobeying God, we are merely declining to take man’s word for it when men claim to have the authority to tell us what God’s commands are. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is a greater violation of our free will to deny us access to the information we need in order to confirm the accuracy and validity of these allegedly divine commands. We cannot choose to do God’s will if we have no reliable means of determining what that will is, and if all we have to go on are the contradictory and inconsistent stories men tell in God’s absence, there’s really no reliable way to know what we ought to choose, and thus we really have no choice. We can make random guesses, but a guess is not the same as a choice, since it does not truly reflect my attitude towards God’s will but merely reflects my lack of access to reliable information about God.

  12. Deacon Duncan Says:

    By the way, feel free to keep using analogies if that’s the approach that best explains what you mean. I don’t think the problem is with the analogies, the problem is that the things you’re saying about free will just don’t seem to add up. Sometimes you deny that ignorance is a prerequisite for free will, other times you say that free will can’t exist if we know the truth about God. And then you say that God has shown up, and the people who saw Him didn’t get their free will violated after all. So I hope you’ll forgive me if I say that the relationship between free will and God showing up remains a bit muddled, at best.

  13. Hoovooloo Says:

    “Do we need to back up even further within the basics?”

    Apparently, since I, too, fail to see how control of nations is related to a non-human will.

    “Isn’t said that the greatest command is “Love the Lord your God.” So… Again how is anyone NOT going to follow this command if He just showed up?”

    So, you argue that given clear evidence in favor of an option. everyone will select that option? But the Christian insistence on faith implies that they believe there is something beyond evidence, that evidence is either unnecessary or insufficient to convince people of a religion. The fact that they consider faith so important indicates that, even if their God did appear, the evidence would still allow faith-based free will. Unless, of course, you can show that faith can only be pro-Christian God.

  14. Challenger Grim Says:

    Apparently, since I, too, fail to see how control of nations is related to a non-human will.

    It’s an answer to DD’s point:
    “You are not even giving us any grounds for concluding that Satan’s will is any stronger than ours.”
    Duh, evidence of him being stronger is all over the Bible. I thought this was obvious.

  15. Hoovooloo Says:

    Don’t worry, I fully understood the point of your quote, but your quote does not provide any evidence for your position. “Stronger” can refer to many different measures, such as military, physical, or economic strength, and your quote does not specify that Satan gained control of all these nations by having a strong will. In addition, even if Satan had acquired these countries through a strong will, that does not prove that his will is somehow “different” from human will (lacking some “human condition”).

  16. Deacon Duncan Says:

    The Bible also gives us many examples of people whose political strength was unrelated to the strength of their will power. David, for instance, took control away from King Saul and became King in Saul’s stead, yet he lacked the willpower to resist the temptation to commit adultery with Uriah’s wife Bathsheeba. And even if Satan’s will were at the strong end of the strength spectrum, that wouldn’t necessarily mean it was outside the normal range of variation for strength of will. God would still have the power to coerce Satan by threatening to bind him and cast him into Hell.

  17. Deacon Duncan Says:

    Speaking of coercion, there’s another problem with your gunman analogy. The two elements of coercion are that the gunman gives you a specific command to obey, and that he threatens you with harm if you do not obey. Without the threat to do harm, the coercion is not present. If you want to buy a car, and you pick out the exact make and model you want, and decide to buy it, and then someone tells you “Buy that car!” without any threat of retaliation if you don’t, then no coercion has taken place.

    According to the gospel, God threatens to send us to Hell if we disobey, whether we know He exists or not. In fact, the only way out of being sent to Hell for disobedience is if we believe in Him. Thus, the threat of retaliation is there whether we see God or not, violating our free will whether or not we know God exists. By denying us access to information that would allow us to believe He really does exist, God is making it impossible for us to have the faith that would eliminate the threat of Hell, free us from the coercion of impending damnation, and grant us the freedom of will that is supposed to be the point of all this.

    Under the circumstances, I’d have to say the free will argument creates a lot more inconsistency and self-contradiction than it solves. But that’s because it’s trying to defend the Gospel, and the Gospel itself is fundamentally inconsistent with what we find in the real world.

  18. Challenger Grim Says:

    A clarification question DD.
    If you believe there is no such thing as “free will”, then why are you talking to me? Neither you nor I can change our positions any more than we can change our DNA (maybe even less so since we could go get some radiation I guess). So from your perspective… why?

  19. Deacon Duncan Says:

    On the contrary, lots of things change without needing free will to do so: weather, coral reefs, the angle between the earth, moon and sun, etc. You are no more forbidden to change your mind if there is no free will than you are required to change your mind if there is free will.

    As for why I respond to you–well, it’s my blog, and I reserve the right to respond to comments. :)

  20. Challenger Grim Says:

    “As for why I respond to you–well, it’s my blog, and I reserve the right to respond to comments.”

    Touche sir. Touche ;);)