Philosophy Fridays: Did Jesus Fear?


Every now and then, on a Friday, I’ll step into the deep waters of Philosophy, ramble away on some idea and maybe even interact with something I might be reading. Most of the time, a real philosopher could probably read my drivel and speak into it offering a corrective—but for now I’ll speak from ignorance. After all, it is Friday; what better way to have fun than with philosophy. In this post I’ll answer the question “Did Jesus Fear?”  in under 700 words. Heh.

Based on a Biblical text (1 John 4:18) someone might suggest that since perfect love casts out fear then therefore Jesus had no fear.

Technically, this is a philosophical question because the Bible never says if Jesus feared or didn’t fear so making a dogmatic statement either way could be dangerous. So what we have to do is examine the ethics of fear and then examine the possibility of Christ fearing.

Question one: Is there anything wrong with fear?

Well, we need to define our terms. If a car is flying down the street at a toddler running out to get a ball you might rightly feel fear.  Or a child who has previously been burnt rightly feels fear when they see something hot. That being the case, a person might rightly feel fear while thinking about some impending event (fire burning or a car ready to hit a child). It winds up being a mechanism that warns people of harm before the harm actually occurs—it’s actually helpful for self-preservation and survival.

But if that’s built-in, as it were, then we might rightly expand that to include things like fearing the amount of dairy you will be eating tomorrow since you know you are lactose intolerant. Otherwise, humans would just keep doing the same things without any concern for how it affects them.

Now, the Bible also speaks about wisdom beginning with the fear of the Lord (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; 15:33) and that seems to be actual afraid-ness when the Lord shows up. Maybe that’s just a reverential concern when you realize your own finitude before the infinite—but doesn’t that sound like fear in general? Indeed, the Bible also mentions a right fear of the coming judgment (Hebrews 10:27) but it is a fear that is mingled with love, respect and trust (Psalms 130:3-4) so somehow there is an afraid-ful/awed expectation of what’s coming even if you’re confident in the end.

Question two: What is John talking about?

John is no dullard and would know his Bible so whatever he’s talking about stands in direct opposition to perfect love. None of the fears I’ve listed in this post stand apart from love. After all, you might fear for the child because you do love her. And you might fear the fire because you love your hand. But in 1 John 4:16 John makes a statement about knowledge (we have come to know) about trust (and believed the love) on an object (which God has for us) and even the way love is perfected (so that we may have confidence in the Day of Judgment). It’s in this light that he says fear stands in opposition to love.

Did Christ not trust God? Did he deny the future Day of Judgment? Well, in both cases the answer would be no so he didn’t “fear” in that sense but he sure seemed to be a man who was concerned about his impending death (Luke 22:39-46) and I don’t know how to describe that event other than fear even if it was coupled with confidence (Psalm 22).

So did Jesus fear?

Depends on what you mean by fear. Did he have times he was afraid? Sure seems like it. Otherwise he’d be careless. Did he have times where he didn’t trust in God and which is what 1 John might be talking about? Nope.

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Philosophy Fridays: What’s The Point?

Every now and then, on a Friday, I’ll step into the deep waters of Philosophy, ramble on some idea and maybe even interact with something I might be reading. Most of the time, a real philosopher could probably read my drivel and speak into it offering a corrective—but for now I’ll speak from ignorance. After all, it is Friday; what better way to have fun than with philosophy. In this post I’ll muse upon the road of good intentions—no, not hell.

I’ve seen this in plenty of discussions in an area where there’s vast disagreement: “yes, that’s important but it’s not the main point”. What the person is wanting to do is point out that although the details of whatever is the subject are present, they are not as important—or perhaps even subsumed—underneath the main purpose of whatever X subject is. Or, more succinctly, they want people to stop getting lost in the details but focus on the overall picture.

So if we were examining what this hammer is for, we might wind up with two sides (though you can easily envision more): generally speaking, one side explaining the parts of the hammer and the other side explaining the essence of the hammer.

“Yes,” says the Essence “those details are important but they aren’t what a hammer is for!” Basically, they’re looking at the purpose of hammer to define its hammerness.  Though, it might just be that the idea of “hammer” that we have isn’t because there is some essential thing about hammers (like for banging nails into beams)—it may just be that the things that cause a hammer to be a hammer are just as important to the intentions of needing a hammer.

On the other hand, an individual saying what necessitates a hammer is such and such parts also falls short. After all, can’t you use a hammer to dig up weds? Doesn’t that mean that the pieces of a hammer are just as important as its purpose and actual usage? Hammers exists not only because of the parts (handle, head) but because of what it is to do (bang into things) and because it is used as such (someone, somewhere hammers things).

But what if a person rejected the details in favor of the purpose: what makes a hammer a hammer is purely the intentionality. In that case you lose any distinction from hammers and bats. They are surely different objects but they can both be used for the same things, even if poorly. And then we shouldn’t really add an idea of maximal intentionality because you can always conceive of a better, less-flawed, better striking hammer.

What this all winds up meaning is that the details to what makes a hammer a hammer are just as important as the purpose of the hammer behind the hammer. Maybe it’s all obvious when studying insects like ladybugs or clownfish, but you have to wonder if it changes when you look at other things—like text.

The modern mind might say yes, it does change (though the postmodern mind will expand on that). It doesn’t matter so much what the text says as long as we understand the purpose of the text (or the intent of the author). So if we know that the purpose of this letter is to attract that girl, then the way the writer describes things are important but are defrayed by the intentionality.

But is that right? You arrive at the purpose by means of the details of the text and in conjunction with the intentionality of the author. Postmodernism would point out that the text is void of author intentionality (they’re not often labeled Love Letter) and now is coupled with reader-intentionality but even with the different lenses, the details of the text are connected to intent.

In the end, what one should conclude—after some philosophical wrestling—is that purpose, or intentionality, doesn’t preclude the points used to arrive there; if anything the points combine as a means and the very fabric of intent but can’t really exist apart from it. This is much more than symbiotic: it is necessary.

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Philosophy Fridays: Libertarian Free Will

Every now and then, on a Friday, I’ll step into the deep waters of Philosophy, ramble on about some idea and maybe even interact with something I might be reading. Most of the time, a real philosopher could probably read my drivel and speak into it offering a corrective—but for now I’ll speak from ignorance. After all, it is Friday; what better way to have fun than with philosophy. In this post I want to talk about Libertarian Free Will in 700 words.

To explain Libertarianism, I have to talk about the other types of Free Will. I think it’s helpful to note that modern Calvinists (I call them Edwardsians since they really follow his philosophical views on Free Will) completely pigeon hole Libertarian Free Will so that they can tackle it. They say things like “Libertarians believe that Free Will is the power of contrary choice” then easily dismantle that position by showing that sometimes we can’t make another choice.

That’s wrong though. The whole debate actually circles around three major spheres of thought.

Sphere (B-Blue) says that some Human actions are free. This doesn’t necessitate that all human actions are free (imagine being told what to do by gunpoint for instance) but it does support that at least some of their actions are free.

Sphere (R-Red) is that all human actions are causally determined by stuff humans have no causal control over. For instance, you may be reading in English because you were born in an English speaking family in a time that is predominantly English. You have no causal control over reading in English but you do read in English. That might be a bad example since being in an English speaking family doesn’t causally determine that you’ll read in English. Heck, you might be born blind so it really didn’t causally determine your reading English. Probably something closer to it would be that any event has some previous event that makes the current event necessary. So the fact you can’t fly isn’t because you chose not to fly, but because nature has causally determined that you aren’t equipped to fly.

Sphere (Y-Yellow) is that it is impossible that humans are free if their actions are causally determined. This sphere just says that whatever is happening in Sphere (B) it is incompatible with Sphere (R).

Now where any two of these Spheres are affirmed the remaining third is denied. So you’ll have Sphere-R and Sphere-B being affirmed but that is a denial of Sphere-Y. This overlap (Purple) is called compatibalism: they think some human actions are free but all human actions are causally determined. Compatibalism is affirmed by a wide group of views: hard compatibalists, soft compatibalits, and fatalists are just a few of them. These views aren’t all the same, but they’re part of the same family.

Overlapping Sphere-R and Sphere-Y would give you a family called determinism that has widely held views such as hard-determinism, soft-determinism, biological , etc. They don’t see any human actions as free.

Then you have the last pair, a joining of Sphere-Y and Sphere-B over against Sphere-R and this is called libertarianism. In this family of views you would have hard-libertarians, soft-libertarians, randomness and so on.

If you note the chart, “power of contrary choice” might go under the Libertarian family—but it doesn’t necessarily account for the entire family. Someone can believe that everything is random and not give a fig about contrary choice and still fall under the Libertarian family. Furthermore, someone can affirm that “Some human actions are not-free”. Like jumping off a bridge then changing your mind (ie: you no longer have the free will to change the fact that you’re falling) and remain a Libertarian.

You can’t, therefore, tackle the Green area by saying it affirms contrary-choice. What you need to establish is that Free will is actually compatible with causal determination and denying and actual fundamental sphere of Libertarianism.

Unfortunately, since a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ve gone over my limit to explain this.

I owe the simplicity of thought here to Thomas Flint and Kenneth Keathley.

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Philosophy Fridays: No May21st = No God?

Every now and then, on a Friday, I’ll step into the deep waters of Philosophy, ramble on about some idea and maybe even interact with something I might be reading. Most of the time, a real philosopher could probably read my drivel and speak into it offering a corrective—but for now I’ll speak from ignorance. After all, it is Friday; what better way to have fun than with philosophy. In this post I’ll deal with some philosophical issues surrounding the rapture (or lack thereof come May 21st) in under 700 words.

Let’s say that the rapture doesn’t happen on May 21st, 2011 (which, according to the last posts, seems extremely likely) does that mean that God doesn’t exist? After all, there is a group of Christians saying that it is an irrefutable fact that the Bible teaches this date for the rapture. And if the Bible teaches it, and it doesn’t happen, then surely God doesn’t exist.

This sounds silly, but I’ve seen folk raising this point as if now we’ll have the proof either way. But there’s several responses to this.

The Bible could be wrong, is one response. That shouldn’t be as catastrophic as some Christians might think. The existence of God isn’t predicated on a Bible that doesn’t make mistakes; it’s predicated on the fact that God exists. If the Bible contained errors, that wouldn’t negate the truth claim of God existing, it would just put into question what we can know about God’s existence.

Even then, that shouldn’t put us into an agnostic tailspin. We might wind up looking at the Bible like any other collection of ancient documents: containing historical data while simultaneously containing mistakes. So the way we would look at a modern textbook in School and say “this didn’t happen exactly this way” while still trusting what the book says, we can likewise do this with a Bible that contains mistakes of the proportion of predicting Christ’s return on May 21st, 2011.

But we don’t even have to go as far as saying the Bible is wrong. We might offer an easier response: the date-setters are wrong—and that could be at two levels. One level (which I think the date-setters might employ) is that (a) the calculations were wrong or (b) the event was right but the extent of the event was mistaken. Jehovah Witnesses, for example, long predicted that Christ came but made a correction saying that Christ entered into Earth with some sort of presence of judgment awaiting Armageddon. They weren’t saying that before the prediction failed. Anyway, this would only prove the fallibility of men.

The second level (which the date-setters will avoid if the event doesn’t occur) is that the date-setters were wrong on almost everything. They started trying to do something that there is no warrant to do, they based their math on presuppositions, and they preached a message which God never authorized. If anything, this wouldn’t disprove the existence of God either; it’d just prove that men can make intentional mistakes when they try to do what they aren’t authorized to do.

Even if the rapture does happen, it wouldn’t prove these date-setters were right. It could be that the rapture happens, but these people got the right day by luck and not by mathematics or revelation. This would leave these people wrong on everything except for the date which they hit by accident.

Of course, I personally doubt the event will occur tomorrow, but either way it doesn’t disprove the existence of God nor prove that the exegesis of the date-setters was spot-on.

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God and Philosophy

Etienne Gilson in God and Philosophy (1941) makes the argument that God’s existence can not be demonstrated, especially since the Church keeps embracing the God of Plato over against the Christian God of the Bible. Now, I know that I’ve heard this argument before. Usually it looks more like a pejorative point raised to defame ones opponents. So you’ll see the Open Theist pointing out that all of Christendom has inherited Plato’s Immutable Good as God instead of the relational God of Scripture. But that doesn’t seem to be the argument the author is making.

Etienne wants to show that the existence of the Christian God can’t be demonstrated philosophically because Human Reason bottoms out (or tops out).  He starts off examining early philosophy and arriving at Plato’s conclusion: the furthest human reason can go is The Immutable Good. Philosophically speaking there’s not much reason to go further than what Plato came up with.

Christianity, though, stands against this having a God who is not only the Ultimate Good, or the First Cause, but he is intimately concerned with people, he creates, he pre-exists creation, he is personally involved, he incarnates—etc. Stuff that really can’t be established metaphysically.

Then the author looks at how Christians wound up doubling back on the God of Philosophy and calling him the God of the Bible. So you’ll have Augustine inheriting the world of Plato by falling “heir to Plato’s man” where man is not the “substantial unity of body and soul; he was essentially a soul.” Aquinas would be the crowning achievement of Natural Theology but then hits a glass ceiling where humans double back to human reason.

Descartes, using reason to establish that he exists and then using God to justify and trust his own reason: by doing this Descartes doubles back on the Philosopher’s God. He can assign a mess of categories to this God (that he incarnated, that he is personal, etc) but there’s no real reason to add all that. Etienne says that Descartes’ “philosophy was neither directly nor indirectly regulated by theology, he had no reason whatsoever to suppose that their conclusions would ultimately coincide. When you get to someone like Spinoza, labeled “an atheist by his adversaries”, we see a Non-Christian Cartesian who is a firm believer of his own Philosophical God while having nothing to do with the Christian God.

“God is the absolute essence whose intrinsic necessity makes necessary the being of all that is, so that he is absolutely all that is, just as, in as much as it is, all that is ‘necessarily involves the eternal and infinite essence of God.’”

I still haven’t finished the book (even if I enjoy watching a Tomistic Catholic anticipating Van Til), but it was interesting to think how these two categories can be seen in our own experience. You’ll have Christians defending a position because an idea comes forward as representing the entire Godhead though that idea is not established by Reason but Rationalism’s near sister: Romanticism.

Like the Philosopher’s God, Jesus winds up being this romanticized idea of Immutable Love who would never do such-and-such. This was really evident last week with the announcement on the death of Osama Bin Laden: Christians shouldn’t do X because Christ wouldn’t do that all based on a lot of wishful thinking and some proof-text. But if Plantinga (with his warranted Christian belief of Reformed Epistemology) and Calvin (with his sensus divinitatis)are right, it’s not really another God that folk are positing; it’s really just denying an aspect of The Real God which people don’t find appealing.

For instance, if the Gospel accounts didn’t include Christ clearing out the temple in anger, or getting ticked off at the wailing at Lazarus’ tomb, I have a feeling that people would say things like “Christ would never do that” because the romantic ideal is holding sway. They’d still be referring to the Real Christ but they’d be denying something he would do because it doesn’t coincide with their feeling of what Christ would do. It’s not a Cartesian God arriving at Plato, but something else. A God who is also not philosophically established as existent but persists because of a specific sub-cultural ideal.

Here’s some Carson from Love in Hard Places:

… to avoid distortion we should reflect on the love of God only in conjunction with reflection on all of God’s other perfections. Otherwise there will be a tendency to pit one attribute of God against other attributes of God, to domesticate one or more of God’s characteristics by appealing to the supremacy of another. If we rejoice in God’s love, we shall rejoice no less in God’s holiness, in God’s sovereignty, in God’s omniscience, and so forth, and we shall be certain that all of God’s perfections work together.

I think in both cases, it’s facing something CS Lewis warns about: you take Aslan on his own terms. He is no tame lion. Nor is he safe.


What About Hell I Don’t Know

Textually, as I covered in a couple of posts before this, I must affirm a literal hell which consists of judgment, separation from God, punishment, eternality and should be rightfully shunned. I think it is dangerous to say the place doesn’t exist when the volume of Scripture teeters with the weight of the matter. I also gave some responses to the nay-hellsayers and some broad theological reasons why we should affirm a hell. This was all consistent with the broad philosophical reasons I gave earlier which allow the doctrine of hell.

But in this last post, I wanted to touch on the fact that although we know certain things from the text, there are certain things we don’t know and can’t even really be sure. We might be able to posit careful answers but even then, those answers might need a lot of nuancing or niggling when we’re not forced to appeal to mystery. So if you wish, these are questions that may or may not have answers but I may not be as confident on them as the textual basis already listed.

Is Hell the same as Sheol? I know that Sheol has a semantic range that goes all the way from the place of righteous rest down to the place of the wicked. I know that Christ uses the metaphor of Gehenna and the New Testament uses Hades or Tartarus or even the Lake of Fire. So surely, Hell lies on the semantic range of Sheol but that doesn’t help me understand the mechanics of the Grave. Indeed, Hades seems to have more of the semantic range of Sheol than Hell. This gets into questions of geography and so forth but even then we still wind up with Hades being thrown into the Lake of Fire. So maybe Hell is specifically the Lake of Fire but Hades is something else? It seems to contain some similar elements but can we be sure?

Is the intermediate state all the same place? I doubt Dante was right but we have Jesus’ parable where the Rich Man looks across a chasm. I understand the point (there’s no crossing over from one side to another) but is this merely hyperbolic language or is it a detail? Is it possible that the Wicked Part gets thrown into the Lake of Fire but the Other Part isn’t?

Do I think that every presentation of the Gospel needs an explanation of hell? No. But I do think that every Christian should be concerned with the people that are heading there. If there is some random child on a train track while the 6:35 Shuttle barrels down in his direction, all of us would be horrified and quick to act—but what about this Thing that is currently reaching up and out?

Why don’t we have more details? Sheol occurs some 65 times in the Old Testament. Gehenna is found in 12 verses. Hades is found eleven times in the New Testament. Tartarus is used once. Lake of Fire occurs 4 times. Just counting that, we have to admit that it’s not that much. But then again, we have more verses here than we do about a literal Adam, about Adam’s Sin causing death, and several other things we believe. But the fact is that we do have quite a bit here but even so, it’s never as much as we would like. But maybe God is using these details as a means to motivate us to warn others?

Should we be happy about hell? I think that it may be okay to hope that there is no hell. I think it is okay to hope that God saves everyone pulling them from the very edge of the fire. I think it is even okay to hope that one day, all sinners will repent and that God has allowed a way for them to be saved. But I think we need to be careful about not trying to be more moral than God. We don’t know everything that’s going on. On the other hand, I think it’s proper to not be gleeful with this doctrine. I remember getting into a conversation with a Christian who planned to be standing by the lake of fire cheering as the unregenerate, the Devil, his cohorts, and me were being tossed in screaming—horrifying thought. I think that sometimes we Christians can get a bit too hell-happy. Christ took the place seriously and painted some graphic images of people sawing off their arms to ensure that they don’t head there but then we get the book of Revelation showing that same Christ squishing bodies and the blood reaching up to the side of a horse and filling the valley. As my last post noted, hell is predicated on several attributes and actions of God and yet we see there is an equal amount of saying the place should be shunned.

Can we go to Hell? I know people die and go Somewhere but, it looks like people don’t necessarily have to die to go to that Somewhere (ala Enoch). We get location information from Scripture (it is down) but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s below our feet. What if that means sub-dimension? What if that means something else altogether like a black hole? A blackhole would end in a singularity whereby the closer you approach the singularity the closer you approach that single point into infinite. Or not. But if hell is like that, we’d have an eternal testimony while the people in it are eternally going but not reaching. But that’s complete speculation. In fact, some theologians have argued that hell is a state…a position absent God…and I think that sounds partly right while it ignores that there is a spatial element but, what do I know.

Is hell barred from the inside? A Catholic theologian (cited here) has a hope for universalism while allowing for hell because people are basically free to reject God. CS Lewis, knowing that God judges, looks at free individuals who reject God as rebels. We also know that people stand condemned because they haven’t believed Christ. I find it hard to imagine a place where the rebels can push out God (especially when Scripture has God even in Sheol, in some sense) but I also find it hard to imagine that these people are there against their choice. And here I don’t mean the Calvinistic pseudo-choice. I mean that these people have really made a mad decision by rebelling against God. So yes and no?

Does the grave finally win by sheer numbers? If the scenario was based on quality vs. quantity (if one finds a piece of gold that is better than all the fools gold others have) I guess it could change things. But I personally think that more people will be in a state of eternal life. I think God saves children (babies, miscarriages, kids who don’t know wrong or right) and the mentally handicapped but I don’t have much to base that on. A few scant passages and lots of hope. But in this way, I think that it will wind up that the quantity (and the quality) is all the greater. I don’t think that means we should go out killing children. To me it means God made provision.

Is all hell equally horrid? There are passages in Scripture speaking about more culpability to those who know more. So you’ll have Christ wailing for Jerusalem and saying it would go better at the judgment for some other cities than for Jerusalem during the time of her visitation. To my mind that sounds like hell is in general bad but not equally torturous for everyone. I don’t think that means that people should be fine going there. It might be that it’s bearable for reasons we don’t even know.

Is the torture of hell eternal? Scripture says that the place seems to be eternal, the punishment seems to be eternal, the flames seem to be eternal—but I don’t know if that means that the people being in the situation of torture is eternal. What if the eternality of the tears is the fact that they are there, want to be there, and knowingly hate it? I don’t know.

Like I said, a lot of these I don’t know. I believe some of the things without knowing but I think I’ve explained why. Some of it is predicated on God’s dealings with people throughout history. Some of it is sheer imagination. I don’t think believing these things makes a person an heretic though it may make them an uncareful teacher. What’s important here is that we don’t take our questions and make them overrule the information we do have.  Be honest having the questions but be equally honest with what God has said.

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Philosophy Fridays: Hell? Oh!

Folk who know me might remember that the reason I became a believer was, in the first case, a fear of hell. Well, a roundabout fear anyway: I had just seen the Exorcist and hell became a reality to my young brain. Some atheists like to say hell is an abusive scare tactic and that my initial belief is unsubstantiated but this is predicated on four arguments which I will respond to in under 700 words (perfect for a Philosophy Friday): (1) that there is, in fact, no hell; (2) that hell is merely a boogeyman to scare people into believing Christianity (3) that the teaching of hell is incompatible with the teaching of an all-loving God;(4) and that the way we come to believe something matters to its veracity.

Christians have embraced the same sort of rhetoric. Hell, like Heaven, is not somewhere out there: it’s right here; now (1). Hell is presented as something scary with red-tailed devils with pitchforks which are completely antithetical to the reality of the Gospel (2). Hell is not compatible with the revealed God by Christ (3). Since what we’ve learned in Sunday School is wrong, and that’s where we learned about hell, then what we know about Hel is wrong (4).  Fellow PB’er Keith Keyser makes a point that this is just old teaching being brought up today and though I agree, I want to respond first on purely philosophical grounds.

These main arguments can be addressed in a few quick points:

Contra (4) the way we come to a belief doesn’t matter to its truth value. If I was colorblind and discovered that the grass was green by watching a cartoon, it doesn’t mean that the grass is in fact purple. Likewise, if I learned about hell in Sunday School or watching the Exorcist doesn’t make what I learned untrue—it might be true just because it’s true.

Contra (3) there are more options than the false dilemma of God is either loving or hell exists. It might be that God refuses to save people from hell because he loves them too much to force them to do otherwise. It might be that it would be worse for them not to be in hell. It might be that we don’t have all the information on how hell works. The point is that there are enough possibilities available that to settle on a false dichotomy is wrongheaded.

Contra (2) just because something is fear-inducing, doesn’t mean that it is in fact wrong. It might just mean that it needs to be dealt with. The sign saying the bridge is out up ahead might be scary but knowing the warning allows you to avoid catastrophe. That biohazard symbol warns about scary things but it also reminds one to be careful.

Contra (1) we have testimony that is being rejected. If hell is a place that was created by God we would expect that he would be the only one to really know about it and talk about it but other than that we’re left with quite a blank roster of witnesses. That’s not an argument for silence. It just means that if we learn about a hell it would have to be by someone who knows about it. Those who believe in Hell think God spoke about it so denying its existence is merely assuming that God didn’t speak it.

Even so, you have to wonder if believing the negative (There is No Hell) is the wise thing to do. I mean, the worst that can happen from affirming that there is a hell is to discover that there isn’t one and nothing—no harm beyond misrepresenting God. Now that’s pretty serious but at least there’s no hell. The worst that can happen from affirming there is no hell is that people die and get there by surprise.

Yeah (Calvinists) I know there’s a whole mess of theology being assumed there but let that lie for the sake of the argument. The point is that this would be a dangerous doctrine to deny if it turns out true.

Well, that’s just some introductory salvos before the deeper work coming next week.

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Philosophy Fridays: Free Will?

Every now and then, on a Friday, I’ll step into the deep waters of Philosophy, ramble on about some idea and maybe even interact with something I might be reading. Most of the time, a real philosopher could probably read my drivel and speak into it offering a corrective—but for now I’ll speak from ignorance. After all, it is Friday; what better way to have fun than with philosophy. In this post I’ll answer the question “Free will?”

There’s a pie on my table, but before I get to it I need to hit preliminaries.

The question folk might want to ask is “do we have free will?” but before we would even approach that we need to ask what it is, how it works, and so on. It’s a question that has been asked by theologians and philosophers as far as we know and rightly continues to be asked. Psychologists fraught in neuroscience might be quick to say no, especially in light of recent (debated) research we choose to act before we will to act making our will not-free; scientists dipping into the field of quantum physics point out that the quantum sea is completely indeterministic—unless that is you are one of the quantum physicists working in one of the other competing theories that say that that isn’t the case at all.

Back to this pie: is my will free to eat it? Well, if free will is defined by who (being Me) is responsible to act on the desire then yeah, maybe I do have free will. But what if I’ve been hypnotized to want to eat the first pie that I see? I might have the desire and act on it but that in no way means my will is free.

So maybe me eating this pie has little to do with having this desire but more with the fact that I act on what I desire most. So if I act on this desire to eat the pie, I am free in that I am acting on my desire. If I don’t eat it, my desire was to not eat the pie. But that doesn’t get us anywhere either. After all, I can still be brainwashed to want to eat this pie, act on the desire and no one would say I was free.

Additionally, it would leave me no different from the dog sitting by my foot, salivating for some pie crumbs. Her desire is to eat, preferably this pie that is in front of me. But if I put this pie and another equidistant all around her, does she stay stuck in the middle? If I had the same thing all around me, do I stay stuck in the middle of a circle of pie, unable to act?

Okay, maybe free will must include some sort of rational faculty—to differentiate (at the very least) from animals and to really own this desire of eating the pie. So with this rational ability, I should be able to remember how pie tastes like and also think about the future ramifications of eating too much of it especially at this time of the day. My greatest desire might be to eat that pie, but I should be able to employ rational processes that overwhelm that desire.

But really, isn’t that just pushing my desire back a step? Maybe health is my greatest desire? It doesn’t mean I’ll act on it. Maybe there’s a higher order desire and a sub desire—one that is right in front of me (this pie) and one that hovers in the background that is based on values of some sort—with or without morals.

In any case,  what would we say about God? Is he free to act against his desire or is he stuck? If anyone is free it would be him.

Maybe Free Will is just about having the ability to have done otherwise, even if you don’t. Or not.

Can’t type. Fingers sticky now. Very good pie.

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Philosophy Fridays: Universal Family Tree

On Fridays, I enjoy wading into the deep end of the pool to try treading the deep waters of philosophy. I’m a woefully amateur swimmer and I have no doubt that an occasional philosophical lifeguard will dive into my then muddied waters to pull me back into the tepid kiddie section, but for now I wade on. In this post, I’m not much considering a question as much as sharing a chart.

There’s the age old question about abstract objects (like the color red, or the number seven, or the property of Good) whereby philosophers wonder if they are real existing Somewhere or if they are merely convenient names for these ideas we’ve come  up with. When studying these  things, I’ve seen some connections in them, and in theories of how-we-know-what-we-know and I created this chart. It helped me think some of the things out, though any true philosopher would likely laugh at it pointing out the multitude of displayed stupidity. Fear of displaying my stupidity has never stopped me from displaying my stupidity in the past, and I doubt it will in the future. Here’s the chart but please, make sure to click on it to see it biggie sized.

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