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Does God Have Free Will?”

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posted on Feb, 17 2006 @ 05:46 PM
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All of mankind’s meandering philosophical musings usually hinge upon one key question: What is the nature of God? And this makes sense—if God is truly the master of all creations, then the nature of God dictates the nature of His creations—and vice versa. Perhaps God reveals Himself in a flower… and perhaps a flower reveals just an inkling of God’s disposition. All of the truly vexing questions of our time center upon the nature of the Almighty, including such cerebral nuggets as:

“Why do bad things happen to good people?”
“Why are we here?”
“Are we alone in this universe?”
“How could a moral God allow immoral acts?”
“Would a loving God actually damn His people to Hell?”
“Is God incapable of preventing evil, or indifferent to those suffering?”
“What is the meaning of life?”

These questions—and so many more—are all predicated upon deciphering the base nature of the Almighty. While some might argue that it’s folly for a mortal being to analyze the behavioral predispositions of an Eternal Deity, such introspection and analysis is crucial to a society that cares about morality. If God, by definition, is moral… then the understanding of morality rests with an understanding of God. So what do we really know about the Creator of the Universe?

Well, we know quite a few things, if we believe the Holy Scriptures to be an accurate historical record of God’s decision-making process. First of all, God is all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-powerful. He’s omnipotent, aware of absolutely all aspects of existence—from the very large to the very small. He’s also perfect, without flaw or error, completely incapable of making mistakes. God has no beginning or end, no birth or death. God is… God. Nothing else is even remotely comparable to the immense grandeur of our Creator.

Mankind, of course, is finite—capable of sin and virtue. We’re a creation brimming with ethical diversity. We can be both heathens and Saints, vultures or nurturers almost interchangeably. Such is the way of free will. While machines can only follow their design or program, mankind possesses the ability to act any which way it wants. Some of us create beauty in our wake, others leave in their footsteps much poison and anguish. We can either take the path of diabolical hedonism… or we can lower our head in penitence before the edicts of God’s Judeo-Christian morality. This is our choice—the beauty and the horror of free will.
But… does God have free will?

God, by definition, is perfect and moral. He is incapable of error, incapable of committing something contrary to the single most perfectly moral act, every moment of every day, for all the infinite days of His life. God could not commit an act of immorality or behave in a way even slightly imperfect—even if He so desired. The moment He did so, He would cease being a moral God. According to some religious teachings, the Almighty records in the Book of Life all who will survive… and omits those who will shuffle off this mortal coil. By the very definition of God’s nature, He could never make a mistake by writing down the wrong name. He could not create an earthquake or a worldwide flood if morality dictated otherwise.

In other words, God is bound by morality and perfection to only behave a certain proscribed way. Whenever a decision is to be made, God can only take the most morally perfect route. And if God can only make one singular choice… how can He possibly have free will? By its very meaning, inclusive to free will is choice, the ability to decide among a diverse number of variables. If God can only walk the path of moral perfection, is it possible that our Heavenly Father—for all His powers and abilities—lacks free will? In this way, is man more powerful than God? And I’m not defining power by the capability of destroying planets or creating the universe… but by possessing the innate ability to make moral choices. In many ways, the sun is much more powerful than man—but for all the sun’s powers, it cannot deviate from its finite path. But man, free and unencumbered, chooses a path that’s completely his own making.

Perhaps God wasn’t motivated by love when he breathed life into mud or created woman from the rib of Adam. Perhaps He had no other choice. Perhaps God was a slave to morality, solemnly obligated to perform all perfection demanded. Perhaps God—just like the sun—follows his celestial orbit with mindless nihilism.

By this token… what’s the purpose of prayer? Why bother praying to a God that lacks free will? It would be akin to praying to the toaster oven for your bread to warm; in both cases, God and the toaster oven had no choice other then following an edict dictated to it by circumstance. If your aunt falls into a deep comma, God will only allow her to survive if doing so coincides with moral perfection. And if her death is the most morally perfect occurrence, all the prayers and all the sacrifices won’t possibly induce God from deviating from perfection. Your aunt’s path is decided by factors beyond your control. And no matter how much you pray, God is incapable of compromising His divinely perfect plan. Perhaps praying for loved ones is just as ineffective as praying for Jack in the movie Titanic; in both cases, their fates are following a script that’s wholly indifferent to our pleas.

Perhaps the nature of God is that He acts out of duty and obligation—and not love or benevolence.

Furthermore, how can a Being that lacks free will ever legitimately claim to be all-powerful? By definition, His power is limited, just like us.



[edit on 17-2-2006 by Dr Isaac Yankem DDS]




posted on Feb, 17 2006 @ 06:50 PM
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Some interesting thoughts, Doc...and very well written too. But I find your assumptions a tad blinkered...I'll try to show why;


Originally posted by Dr Isaac Yankem DDS
... if we believe the Holy Scriptures to be an accurate historical record of God’s decision-making process.


At this point, you've already lost me and a hefty 67% of the human population on earth. Perhaps the question should remain, though, since many of the worlds' religions believe in a Deity. If you leave out the Bible, the Koran and the rest of the writings associated with theology, your purpose in questioning the free will of the Deity remains viable.

It should also be noted that Earth is not the only place created by the Deity, and that a rich vein of life likely runs throughout the universe. I doubt very much that the Ebens of Zeta Reticuli have a Gideons Bible tucked into the drawers of their intergalactic motel room dressers. And yet, they may very well have the same beliefs that we do when it comes to a Creator.



Mankind, of course, is finite


As a firm believer in the soul, I have to disagree...we may be mortal in the flesh, but immortal in the soul. Reincarnation is not something the Christian Fathers always had dismissed either. Off the top of my head, it was expunged during the Fifth Ecumenical Council by Justinian.

So, if the early Christian Church believed in reincarnation for 500 years after the life of Jesus, then it could be speculated that, not only does the soul have immortality, it also could be reborn into another mortal.

Mankind itself is a tricky subject...if you mean Homo Sapiens Sapiens, they have been around for about 190,000 years...but are Neanderthals really nonhuman? And what of all the rest of the hominids? And we are just talking Earth here...what about the EBE's?




We can be both heathens and Saints, vultures or nurturers almost interchangeably. Such is the way of free will. While machines can only follow their design or program, mankind possesses the ability to act any which way it wants. Some of us create beauty in our wake, others leave in their footsteps much poison and anguish. We can either take the path of diabolical hedonism… or we can lower our head in penitence before the edicts of God’s Judeo-Christian morality. This is our choice—the beauty and the horror of free will.



Very well written indeed...but most of your assertations are based solely on Christian morals. You may say that leaving your grandmother to die on the tundra in the middle of winter is an awful act...a horrid sin...and in the society we comfortably live in, you would be correct. But what of a family living in the wilds during a particularly harsh season where food was scarce? Would it be preferable that the children die at the same time as the eldest or would it be sensible to sacrifice the oldest for the youngest?

The world is not the tidy little box we may think it is. What is one mans sin may be anothers grace.



Perhaps the nature of God is that He acts out of duty and obligation—and not love or benevolence.


Where do you get the idea that Deity is a He? In this vast universe, do you really expect the Creator to look human...like G.W.Bush with a beard? You say the Deity acts out of duty...to whom? His creation? The Creator has no obligation to the creation...it isn't a mother-child relationship. I just don't follow that line of thought at all.

This could generate some healthy debate, but only if it is a question directed at all of humanity. To be focussed primarily on the NT would, IMO, be too narrow in scope.
.



posted on Feb, 17 2006 @ 08:43 PM
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Originally posted by masqua

As a firm believer in the soul, I have to disagree...we may be mortal in the flesh, but immortal in the soul. Reincarnation is not something the Christian Fathers always had dismissed either. Off the top of my head, it was expunged during the Fifth Ecumenical Council by Justinian.


Uh, no. I know where you're getting that from though, the idea that Origen taught reincarnation/transmigration which is false, although heavily promoted on the internet. He did speculate about the pre-existence of souls, but not in sense that they had lived previous incarnate lives before.

"Souls neither see God nor transmigrate into other bodies. For, if they did, they would know why they would know why they were punished, and they would be afraid to commit even the most trivial sin aftewards." Justin Martyr (c. 160), Ante-Nicene Fathers 1.197.

"How much more worth of acceptance is our belief that maintains that souls will return to the same bodies. And how much more ridiculous is your inherited [pagan] teaching that the human spirit is to reappear in a dog, mule, or a peacock!" Tertullian (c. 197), Ibid. 3.127.

"It is sufficient that the no less important philosophy of Pythagoras, Empedocles, and the Platonists, take the contrary view--and declare that th soul is immortal. Moreover they say this in a way that most nearly approaches [our own teaching,] that the soul actually returns into bodies. However, [according to the philosophers] it is not the same bodies, and it is not necessarily those of human beings." Tertullian (c. 210), Ibid. 3.545.


"Pythagoras first, and Plato chiefly, have delivered the doctrine of resurrection with a corrupt and divided faith.... They add also this, by way of misrepresenting the truth: that the souls of men return into cattle, birds, and beasts." Mark Minucius Felx (c. 200), Ibid. 4.194.

"He will accomplish a resurrection of all--not by transferring souls into other bodies--but by raising the bodies themselves." Hippolytus (c. 205), Ibid. 5.222.


"In this place, it does not seem to me that by the name 'Elijah,' the soul is being spoken of. Otherwise, I would fall into the doctrine of transmigration, which is foreign to the church of God. It is not handed down by the apostles, nor is it set forth in the Scriptures anywhere." Origen (c. 245), Ibid. 9.474.

"What crimes could we have committed when we did not even exist? Unless we will happen to believe that foolish old man [i.e. Pythagoras], who falsely said that he had lived before and that in his former life he had been named Euphorbus.... O wonderful and remarkable memory of Pythagoras! What miserable forgetfulness on the part of the rest of us! For we do not remember who we were in our former lives!" Lactantius (c. 304-313), Ibid. 7.89.

"Pythagoras contends that souls migrate rom bodies that are worn out with old age and death. He says they gain admission into bodies that are new and recently born. He also says the same souls are reproduced at one time in a man, another time in a sheep, another in a wild beast, and another in a bird. He says that they are acordingly immortal, for they often change their habitations--which consist of various and dissimilar bodies. This opinion of a senseless man is ridiculous. It is more worthy of a stage-player than a school of philosophy" Lactantius (c. 304-313), Ibid. 7.210; see also 6.440.


[edit on 17-2-2006 by Paul of Nisbis]



posted on Feb, 17 2006 @ 09:30 PM
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Originally posted by masqua
Where do you get the idea that Deity is a He? In this vast universe, do you really expect the Creator to look human...like G.W.Bush with a beard? You say the Deity acts out of duty...to whom? His creation? The Creator has no obligation to the creation...it isn't a mother-child relationship. I just don't follow that line of thought at all.

This could generate some healthy debate, but only if it is a question directed at all of humanity. To be focussed primarily on the NT would, IMO, be too narrow in scope.


I am merely catering to the Christian belief that is accustomed to referring to God as He. Please don't assume anything about me like that, because although I have been to private school from K-12 I have managed to become a firm opposer of organized religion.



posted on Feb, 17 2006 @ 10:55 PM
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Doc, That was probably the deepest, most thought out question / Post I have ever read.

I am going to have to soak it all in before I could even hope to comment on this.

Great Job



posted on Feb, 17 2006 @ 11:16 PM
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Originally posted by Dr Isaac Yankem DDSGod, by definition, is perfect and moral. He is incapable of error, incapable of committing something contrary to the single most perfectly moral act, every moment of every day, for all the infinite days of His life. God could not commit an act of immorality or behave in a way even slightly imperfect—even if He so desired.


Morality is not always limited to one set choice, there is usually a range of acceptable moral choices. Remember, the best translation of Exodus 3:14 is not, "I am that I am," which is static, but rather, "I will be what I will be," as in the eternal begetting/generation of the Logos/Word/Son from the Father, just as the earth constantly generates gravity, and the earth could not exist with emitting gravity, and the earth and its gravity are both one and distinct. There were any number of places within Israel that YHWH could have chosen to place His name (Deut. 16:16, etc.) other than Jerusalem, that choice was an expression of YHWH's free will, and choosing implies a certain degree of change in the person making a choice. You, like many theologians (Augustine, Luther, Calvin, ad nauseum) before you, assume too much regarding YHWH's attributes, that He must possess unlimited omnipotence (control of every atom at every second) as opposed to a qualified omnipotence, etc.

[edit on 17-2-2006 by Paul of Nisbis]



posted on Feb, 18 2006 @ 08:21 AM
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Hi, I have posted this in a different post, but I think its partivcularly relevant here:

Epicurus was a greek philospher, who predated christianity by nearly 300 years:




1.1 Theorem

God does not exist.

Proof

Consider the notion of an omnipotent and benign God and his willingness to eliminate “evil”.

Either:

(i) He is willing, but unable – therefore He is not omnipotent;

(ii) He is able, but unwilling – therefore He is malevolent;

(iii) He is able and willing – whence comes Evil?

(iv) He is neither able nor willing – then why call Him God?

Q.E.D.

(After Epicurus 341 B.C. – 271 B.C.)


So you see this is not a new idea, it has troubled people for a long time. I personally think religion is control, dont forget religion and politics have been inextricably linked since the dawn of time. I do not believe in any god, but this does not stop me from being a spiritual person, though quite rational.
Just thought i would throw this into the mix!

Thanks
Dan



posted on Feb, 19 2006 @ 10:45 PM
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Originally posted by Dr Isaac Yankem DDS
God, by definition, is perfect and moral.


If god is bound by definitions, then by definition, he is not god.



posted on Feb, 20 2006 @ 09:33 AM
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Please don't regurgitate postings from other web-forums here.
Oz Fortress
The Last Free City
etc etc.



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