According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Introduction to Free Will, Determinism, Compatibilism, Incompatibilism



Before we begin Tom's article let me pass along several charts and links which may be helpful references to the discussion on free will vs. determinism. This is a complex subject and has been framed by as many viewpoints, theologies, and philosophies as there has been human minds to concentrate on this subject.

It is important to note that regardless of where one lands on this topic I always like to ask the larger question of ethics v morals or pragmatics v results. As example, if a theology is without mercy, love or forgiveness does it by neglecting those virtues qualify it as a worthy belief/religion? Or similarly, if a philosophy cannot give to humanity a method of just and equatable community is it ultimately a worthy philosophy to follow?

For myself, the results of reasoning and belief are just as important as the contents of a theological belief or philosophical subscriptions. Its all well-and-good to discuss large ideas and complex semantics but if it cannot be lived out into virtuous lives than can it be an idea which can hold any value?

I suppose this gets back to the ancient Greek idea of living the virtuous life by asking the question what makes life worth living? Asked differently, can knowledge form humanity towards wisdom or does it detract from this high ideal? If it does then what internal or society power seems to motivate a person or a society towards living out virtuous constructs in human relations with one another or with one's self? Or more simply, we've entered upon the age old question of the meaning of life - what gives to life its value, morals, ethics, and internal engine which drives it forward?

To speak to the idea of free will or determinism must be to ask all these questions and more. It is not a simple topic to enter into and much effort has been given to discovering how we might live in light of our reflections. All too often the results of bad acts have been based on once worthy-and-acceptable insights bastardized to accommodate human greed and empowerment. High, superfluous religious (sic, Christian, Muslim, et al) or philosophical ideals have resulted in their respective degeneracies to the enslavement and death of whole generations, cultures, and societies.

So then, it is not enough to speak a correct theology or philosophy but a virtuous theology or philosophy which can inspire and motivate humanity to its best practices rather than its worst. This is the value of knowledge... that it shows mercy, love and forgiveness to one another. In a word, it is the story of Jesus retold innumerable times through the many accounts of lives seeking by their-turns-and-in-their-ways the grace, peace and divinity found in God and in the best of humanity. The Jesus-way seems to be the answer to the ancient Greek academicians question seeking for the meaning of life. Peace, my friends.

R.E. Slater
May 31, 2017



















* * * * * * * * *



9 Reasons to Believe Humans Have Genuine
but Limited Freedom

by Thomas Jay Oord
May 29th, 2017

A few neuroscientists are saying human free will is an illusion. They base their views on a few experiments. For many reasons, I believe they are wrong in thinking this. And the experiments don’t come close to disproving human freedom.

I was recently honored to participate in a conference on neuroscience and free will at Loma Linda University. (Thanks to Jim Walters and Philip Clayton for inviting me!) Conference participants varied in their academic expertise and interests, although I believe all self-identified as Christian.

The group is putting together a collection of essays on neuroscience and free will. I’ve been writing my own essay for the book. I explore briefly the neuroscience arguments against free will, pointing out their flaws. I’ll post some of that material in a later blog essay.

I offer below a portion of my essay for the book (and part of my plenary address at the conference). Here are nine reasons why we should believe humans have genuine but limited freedom:

We should affirm human freedom because…
  • Belief in freedom fits the data we know best: that we are freely choosing selves. We all presuppose in our actions that we make free choices and we know this from our first-person perspectives. We have better grounds to think human freedom is genuine than think it is not.
  • It helps us make sense of other creatures, especially humans. This argument fits nicely with what philosophers call “the analogy of other minds.” I think of it often when I consider how parents raise children. Nearly all parents believe their kids have some degree of freedom, at least sometimes, and they reward or discipline their children accordingly.
  • Belief in freedom seems necessary to affirm human moral responsibility. This is an obvious reason why we should believe humans are free. Without freedom, humans seem neither praiseworthy nor blameworthy. Moral responsibility requires free response-ability.
  • It’s a component of love. When it comes to humans, it’s difficult to think we can make sense of love if we think humans are not free in any sense. Robots may do good things, but unless we define love in an odd way, we don’t think robots can love. Love requires genuine but limited freedom.
  • Belief in freedom seems necessary to affirm that we sometimes intentionally learn new information. Insofar as students choose to be educated, this choice presupposes free will. Insofar as we all seek to learn, we act freely.
  • It accounts for intentional actions to reject the old and welcome the new or reject the new and return to the old. Conservatives appeal to freedom when calling us to return to past ideas, and progressives appeal to freedom when calling us to embrace new ones. Intentional change presupposes free will.
  • Belief in freedom is part of what motivates many people to choose good over evil. Those who believe their negative urges are beyond their control typically fail to resist those negative urges. And those who encounter evil are unlikely to resist it if they feel nothing can be done. After all, why try to combat antisocial behavior if we’re not free?
  • It is necessary for believing our lives matter. If all life is predetermined, it makes no sense to think our lives have meaning or that what we do ultimately matters. If all comes down to fate, we make no real contribution to what has already been decided.
  • Belief in freedom is most compatible with believing God loves us. This is not only true if one believes a loving God would give freedom to creatures. It’s also true for rejecting the view that God praises or punishes creatures who are not free. A fully predestining God has no grounds to judge predetermined creatures.


The final reason I list for why we should believe humans have genuine but limited freedom refers to God. In the second half of my essay, I explore what God’s freedom might be like. But I believe descriptions of divine freedom will be inadequate if we don’t also explore the relationship between God’s love and power, creaturely freedom, and evil in the world. So I explore those ideas as well.

Am I Missing Something?

There may be more good arguments to affirm that humans have genuine but limited freedom. I’d love to hear your suggestions. If you come up with a reason I ought to consider, please post it below…


Comments

Curtis Holtzen
May 29, 2017

This may be an expansion of #3 and 5 but it seems to me truth and rationality depend on free will. It seems the determinist wants us to believe determinism is true, but that would require we investigate the subject. Perhaps gathering enough information and assessing enough arguments to finally believe determinism is true (assuming here the trust of direct involuntary doxasticism). But the investigation presupposes freedom, otherwise why praise those who affirm the truth of determinism and chastise those who deny it? I guess all this rests on Kant’s “ought implies can” and if I ought to affirm determinism that implies I can affirm or deny its truth which seems to suggest I am free.

thomasjayoord
May 29, 2017

I like it, Curtis! Thanks!


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