Libertarian free will and the eternal being of God

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by AresMan, Apr 9, 2012.

  1. AresMan

    AresMan
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    This is a reply to Skandelon's post in another thread:

    Here you must "beg the question" by assuming that man as a free moral agent must be such similarly to how God is such. This is yet another case of trying to interpret God from human observation (which, of course, is limited). We both appeal to mystery, of course, but I believe it is illogical to associate the "mystery" with the created being rather than the Creator Himself. In your view, you have the "mystery" being part of the warp and woof of the creature himself and independent from the purpose of the Creator, yet the creature can never logically understand his own intrinsic "mystery;" otherwise, the creature could control the "mystery" and attain perfection contrary to the dictates of Scripture.

    Your appeal to "mystery" intrinsic of the creature rather than the purpose of the Creator begs the question and is circular, because you assume the necessity of the "mystery" of libertarian free will for moral accountability, yet you cannot explain why moral accountability results, other than to appeal to this assumed "mystery."

    I would say that you are doing the question begging because you argue that any form of "determinism" must be necessarily rejected for choices to be morally accountable, thereby rejecting any explanation that logically requires what you reject. You assume that moral accountability requires libertarian free will (which you cannot define the reason this is so except by an appeal to "mystery"), then you use libertarian free will to argue the accountability of free creatures.

    It seems that we have to define what free actually means. You simply assume a definition of free by virtue of your "mysterious" libertarian free will, and then argue freedom based upon it.
    Your assertion of "logical and moral quandrums" assumes that this "mysterious" libertarian free will is necessary for moral accountability, still begging the question. As I said before, we both necessarily assert a "mystery" to our finite human minds. However, the "mystery" properly belongs with the Creator rather than the creation.

    The imago dei does not require that we have the ability to create information (or non-material reality) ex nihilo. The "image of God" is that we have an immaterial "part" of our being, that we are God-conscious, and that we have a volition that is aware of the concept of moral right and wrong. It does not require that we are lesser "gods" who can create part of reality ex nihilo.
    I am a software developer by profession and I understand the workings of computers, including how artificial intelligence is generated by pseudo-random values that appear random to any observer, but are really generated from complex mathematical formulas that use the time value of the system clock to regenerate and shuffle the sequence of the random value array. I understand that the objective nature of computers can never attain the incredible and "mysterious" subjective nature of the human will, and that is something to marvel at God's creation. Nevertheless, I have argued with atheists by using the architecture of a computer and the fact that all the activity of computers (including programs writing other programs) ultimately comes from the engineering of the computer whose origin cannot be explained by the computer itself. The computer must have been engineered by an intelligent mind autonomous from the computer.

    Similarly, information can only come from prior information, and to argue otherwise allows the atheist to try to argue that the universe (and the information contained therein) can come from non-information just like they can think that matter can pop into existence from "nothing" through quantum physics. We are not programmed machines, that is for sure, but that doesn't mean that we create ex nihilo either.

    Of course, and I have argued the Trinity exhaustively with some who try to rationalize God according to human terms for that very reason. God as "one Being, three Persons" is not something we can explain in human terms because the "mystery" lies with God. I argue the same thing with moral accountability and free will: the "mystery" lies with God and not with the creature as a necessity that God had to create little "gods" who are autonomous from Him for Him to be a morally good God.

    Of course! I just believe your assertion of libertarian free will is question begging because it tries to assume something to prove itself and tries to put the "mystery" intrinsically on the creature rather than the Creator.

    I hope my explanation of the "imago dei" and the differences with computers above answer this. We are very different from animals in that we have an immortal, immaterial being; a God-consciousness; and a moral awareness. This does not require that we have god-like ability to creation something ex nihilo.

    If what free creatures do is autonomous from God and is ex nihilo, upon what basis is this known by God and truly free from God? The reason that open theism is growing by leaps and bounds now is because of the deficiencies of the Arminian view of "simple foreknowledge" that is full of question begging. The argument against the Arminian view is not "trying to rationalize God," but rather hoping to avoid violating the law of non-contradiction. As we see in the "Molinist" text of Matthew 11:21:

    Mat 12:21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

    As I explained before, this text cannot possibly prove libertarian free will, because the statement by Jesus does not express a contra-causal condition. It is an if-then statement. If a certain set of conditions were true, a certain result would have occurred.
    Q. Who performs the "mighty works"?
    A. God

    Q. Who determined the condition that the "mighty works" would be performed in some cities but not in others?
    A. God (otherwise, Chorazin and Bethsaida would be victims of circumstance)

    Q. Who is morally accountable?
    A. Chorazin, Bethsaida, Tyre, and Sidon.

    Q. How are the choices demonstrated in this verse?
    A. Determined by secondary causation (i.e. compatibilism)

    Otherwise, you have a logical interdependency between God and man for both their beings. God the Creator is not dependent upon His own creation for the definition of His eternal being (His perfect knowledge). You have "backwards" determinism or "two-way" determinism. This is the circular result of the Arminian "simple foreknowledge" view.

    I do not believe that God is bound by a linear timeline. As someone who accepts Einstein's theories as accurate descriptions of the warp and woof of spacetime, I most certainly believe that God's being is not subject to it because He created it. I agree with the "eternal now" perspective. I believe my argument above still stands against a "simple foreknowledge" view of the "eternal now." The "eternal now" (of which I agree) does not negate the problem of logical interdependency between God and man for the definition of their being.
     
  2. AresMan

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    OP continued...


    If you believe that God has exhaustive knowledge of all events (past, present, future from our perspective), it is you who must believe that God's knowledge in the "eternal now" is like our "past knowledge," for you must make God bound to "know" without being the ultimate one who decreed. We did not decree all that we know in the past, and you are attributing this type of logic to God. The problem is with your logical reduction to an interdependency between God and man for the definition of their being.

    You logically relegate part of God's knowledge to cause (the autonomous libertarian choices of the creature) and effect (God's eternal knowledge as part of His being). No amount of "eternal now" argument (of which I agree) can eliminate the logical dependency necessary in your assertion of libertarian free will between the being of God and the being of the creature. The problem is logical, not chronological.
     
  3. Mark_13

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    I am a computer scientist as well, and I have always held that the concept of a computer program would encompass what we call a human being. A program is the most rigorous conception of a description we have. If something cannot even in principle be accurately described then it is truly random. This applies to human beings as well. So therefore the computational paradigm must encompass us as well. And to me this has never been a problem, because it dovetails quite neatly with what the Bible clearly teaches about the absolute sovereignty of God. We are a creation - how different from that is saying that we are a machine. What are animals if not machines. And Ecclesiastes asked rhetorically whose to say we are not animals. And what about DNA - is that a program. And if there is some aspect of us that is not describable or directly emanating from something not describable then that aspect of us is literally random. You sell machines short by assuming one machine couldn't create another. Ultimately only God is not a machine, but instead the Infinite.

    -------------------

    God is about order. What is a machine if not order. I think the history of the universe is order interacting with true randomness to produce increasingly complex order via energy and continually approaching the infinite order of God.
     
    #3 Mark_13, Apr 9, 2012
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  4. Skandelon

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    Before I engage further in this speculative venture, can you explain to me how God ever makes a choice or originates a thought? Having always known the outcome of his choices, how does he ever come to make the choice? And having always known every thought how does he ever come to originate anything new?

    I suspect such things are too great for our minds to grasp and that anyone objectively addressing such things would necessarily appeal to some level of mystery. Right?

    Does doing so negate divine omniscience? Does it negate divine choice or creativity? If not, why not? If so, why?
     
  5. Skandelon

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    BTW, AresMan, that was one of the best, well worded, and reasoned arguments I have read here in quite sometime. Kudos my brother!

    And you didn't resort to ad hominem even once! My respect for you deepens and I do plan to address your masterful post, but please address my question above first as I think it may provide a foundation for my rebuttal.

    Thanks! :thumbs:
     
  6. Mark_13

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    To Skandelon - I don't think God really makes choices either. Everything is predetermined. I'm not demanding we get rid of the word choice from the language though.

    As far as "creativity", for us that involves trial and error until hitting upon something that is pleasing to us aesthetically for some reason, then preserving that and passing it on to future generations who incrementally modify it until hitting upon variations that are pleasing to them for some reason. (Although creativity need not involve aesthetics, but also pre-specified criteria that are satisfied). Why is something aesthetically pleasing. Why is some sequence of sounds considered melodious and another sequence not. Is some sequence tapping into some eternally perfect harmony. But God didn't choose his attributes. He has infinite attributes and there are infinite things that are not his attributes. But he didn't choose his attributes.

    When a bower-bird creates some spectacular piece of architecture, incorporating all sorts of myriad colored items he has found, is it because of his free will.

    Just some pointless musings of mine.
     
  7. AresMan

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    How do we "originate" a new thought (to us)? Even though we do not yet understand the full mechanics of our brains, I believe it is safe to say that all our "new" thoughts are based on previous information. For example, a three-year-old child does not ("Eureeka!") postulate something akin to Einstein's theories of relativity. Einstein came up with his theories based on the contribution of existing information and processed it all through the rationale of a finite human mind.

    If you believe that a human creates thoughts ex nihilo, are they "willed" into existence? If so, upon what basis does a person "will" a new thought ex nihilo without thought to do so? Also, how can something suddenly "come to" him (seemingly at random), if thoughts are "willed"?

    As to God "originating" a "new" thought, this is the same type of question open theists such as Bob Enyart ask of what he calls "Settled View" proponents. The idea is that God has to create His own thoughts ex nihilo in time (contrary to the "eternal now" view). If God "originates" a "new thought" at a point chronologically or even logically subsequent to another would seem to indicate that God is not perfect, but rather is growing. Such questions (1) misunderstand the mechanics of how human beings are "creative" and (2) extrapolate such limitation to the perfect Creator God. These questions are a throwback to the reasoning of Process Theology, and fit perfectly in their conception of an eternally evolving, interdependent God and universe.

    Amen! :thumbs:. That is why I suggest that philosophical libertarian free will does not have to be necessary for the "imago dei" and moral accountability. In fact, all I see is circular reasoning and question begging, in my humble opinion.

    In whatever way we believe that God is creative and that we are creative we have to agree that they are not exactly the same. We also have to avoid the trap of ascribing imperfection and evolution to the being of God.
     
  8. AresMan

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    Thanks for the kudos and compliments, Skan. I prefer discussions to be civil and with open minds to learn and understand opposing positions. Sometimes it is hard to avoid emotional outbursts if things get to our sentiments, but I, like you, detest personal attacks and believe them to be a sign of weakness. I will argue strongly and firmly for anything I believe has merit, but I pray by the grace of God that I will never resort to character bashing.
     
  9. Mark_13

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    I assume you meant, "I will never resort to character bashing, again", unless you're perfect.

    All it takes is some pig-headed, sarcastic, condescending, or other uncalled-for remark in response to your thoughtful reasoned remarks for one to respond in kind.

    ------------
    Although if you have the power to delete posts, it makes you a lot more civil I think. (No offense, skandelon, really, just occurred to me. I would always be polite and accommodating too, if I could hit one button and make someone disappear. :)
     
    #9 Mark_13, Apr 9, 2012
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  10. AresMan

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    It appears to me that you would be even more direct a "determinist" than would I. I do believe a machine can create another, but the only way a machine can create another is if it is programmed to do so, for sure.
    The difference, in my mind, between a program and a person regarding cause and effect is that a program is a direct set of instructions to a processor, whereas the "instructions" whereby a person acts can be direct, but are largely indirect with a magnitude of "secondary causes."
     
  11. AresMan

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    Okay, Mr. nitpicker. :type:

    I desire at this point in time never to resort to character bashing, and I hope that God will prevent me from doing so in the future.

    Better? ;)
     
  12. Mark_13

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    When you program a robot, you don't foresee all the circumstances it will interact with, except in a general sense. The whole objective is to turn it loose at some point, so that it can encounter novel situations which you did not even directly anticipate, and interact meaningfully in those scenarios. And to interact meaningfully means crafting a solution to problems - that is, what the robot would do is craft some solution in a scenario that it is presented with. And the more complex the robot is, the more complex the solutions it can contrive. What it is doing is autonomously programming. If it is able to learn, i.e. take in information over time on its own by observing its environment, it is growing in complexity without your direct input. I know this is all hypothetical and perhaps overly optimisitc wrt current capabilities, but it is what computers are supposed to be able to do in principle.
     
  13. AresMan

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    So, in trying to understand your position as you have laid it out, are you an open theist who also believes that humans are like programmed computers? Perhaps I misunderstand your analogy and that the "you don't foresee" is not intended to parallel God.

    I compared computers to people in the sense that people do not create new information ex nihilo just as a computer does not, as all "new" stuff is built upon previously existing information. However, the way a CPU works is significantly different from the way a human brain works. CPU's are 100% objective and can process mathematical problems exponentially better than any human could. However, CPU's could never begin to approach the highly subjective-leaning nature of the human brain with its ability to think rationally, morally, humorously, and emotionally; and its mysterious propensity to forget and recall information that is rather dissimilar to a simple database query.

    Also, the difference between running a program on a computer and the way a human interacts with a given set of conditions that were brought about by "secondary causation" is more indirect vs. direct.
     
  14. Mark_13

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    I am not in any sense an open theist. Don't know what I said to convey that. My overriding point here is that the computer analogy be fully embraced wrt to human beings because it is ultimately the only rational alternative, for reasons I won't repeat. I am much closer to you in viewpoint than you realize, aside from your apparent need in the case of humans to back away from calling them machines and hold own to some nominal degree of mysticism there. We can only discuss things that at least in principle can be described, and since a program is the most rigorous conception of a description we have, we have to assume that humans can be described that way in principle.

    No, that aspect of it I wasn't referencing God. It was a remark you made that whatever a computer [i.e. robot, program] does is because someone explicitly programmed a specific behavior into it, and my point is that the behavior a machine can be just as complex and unpredictable as as any biological machine. What about animals, they're machines right - and extremely complicated.

    As far as God though, I don't believe that he oversaw every minute aspect of creation. I think it proceeds on its own, by tapping into God, in the sense that whatever emergent variation most closely converges with divine perfection it is preserved, or dies out to the extent it does not. God doesn't need to give micro-level attention to something for it to happen, anymore than an expert-level person needs to obsess about actions in which he is so skilled he can do them subconciously almost.

    It could be that a device made out of metal will never approach the sophistication of a biological entity. But even so, it is speculation for anyone to assert what even metal computers are or are not capable of. I'm not particularly concerned with implementation details or limits of a specific physical configuration - only that humans are deterministic devices just like a computer or program, or at least that is the only way that can be considered meaningfully.
     
  15. Skandelon

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    If creatures cannot create thoughts then you are left with God creating the first sinful thought of Satan to rebel and attempt to become like God...and we know God is not the author of evil. So, either way you run into difficulty. I'd just prefer to run into the difficulty of not understanding the logic of how God created contra-causually free moral creatures, than the difficulty of impugning the holiness of God...as the scripture does clearly reveal God's nature of holiness, while remaining silent as to the full nature of a creature's freedom. Still, there are many verses which certainly seem to suggest a since of contra-causal freedom, but I admit it is truly mysterious and beyond full comprehension.

    Yet scripture has no qualms with presenting God in that very light....(i.e. Moses prays and God relents...Jesus learned obedience...Jesus wept...God chose this or that...etc etc etc). I understand the anthropomorphic argument regarding such texts, but even if that argument is accepted it doesn't change the fact that God has chosen those terms to reveal himself and thus it cannot be wrong to understand and explain him using only those terms. Understand what I'm saying?

    I know an intellectual, as yourself, has a difficult time accepting such revelation on face value, but maybe this is why God warned that we should become as a child, humble ourselves, and that he uses the weak, not the strong.

    And I could make the point that your questions and arguments relate to hyperism and fatalism; but that would be a debate fallacy; and you seem like the type would rather allow a point of debate stand or fall on its own merit rather than lazily label it and dismiss it without due consideration. Am I right? If I'm not, this is going to be a real short discussion ;)

    You: You're a process theologian, which we all know are heretics, so I'm not going to deal with that point.
    Me: You're a fatalistic hyperist, which we all know are heretics, so I'm not going to deal with that point.

    End of discussion. :tear:

    It may be wise for us to define what we mean by Libertarian freedom before moving on. I personally prefer the term contra-causal freedom, which defined is, "A choice to act is free if it is an expression of an agent's categorical ability of the will to refrain or not refrain from the action (i.e., contra-causal freedom)."

    So, suppose you lied yesterday at noon, were you able to willingly refrain from that action? Suppose you were going to be tempted to lie tomorrow at noon. Will you be able to willingly refrain or not refrain from that act?

    Scripture certain speaks as if that is within the agents ability, and thus I see no reason to believe otherwise simply because my finite logic can't fully explain how that is accomplished.


    Yes, I'd agree that they are not the same, but to appeal to mystery in regard to one leaves the door open to appeal to mystery in regard to the other, does it not? If we can accept the mystery of God's free creative abilities then certainly we can accept the mystery regarding those he uniquely created in his image and who He even said 'have become like us, knowing both good and evil.'

    I think I'm doing just the opposite as my view would rather appeal to mystery than impugn his Holiness by somehow even suggesting he originates sinful intents of the heart, or predetermines sinful acts.
     
    #15 Skandelon, Apr 9, 2012
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  16. Skandelon

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    But my argument is not that man's free agency MUST be similar to God's (though because we are created in his image and said to be like him in our knowledge of good and evil certainly suggest this), my argument is that an appeal to mystery in regard to THE CREATOR makes the appeal to mystery in regard ONE CREATED BY AN ALL POWERFUL CREATOR equally tenable....unless of course you deny divine omniscience by suggesting that God is just not capable of creating such a creature.


    As if there is another option for a human? :confused:

    Why do you think my view has the mystery being 'independent from the purpose of the Creator?' I never said that. What do you believe about my view that would cause you to think that?

    I believe reason and common sense tells us that for an agent to be held to account for his choices that they should be determined by the agent and not someone else.

    If I drug my kid as a punishment for disobedience and the drug makes him not desire to obey me ever again; then, I choose to punish him severely for his continued rebellion, there is not a court in the land who would condone such behavior. This is vitally what God does in the compatibilistic system. He chooses to punish all mankind for the representatives sin (Adam's Fall) with a totally depraved nature (the drug), then he invites them to reconciliation (which the drug prevents them from willingly accepting), so then He severely punishes them for their unbelief.

    What do you assert is necessary for moral accountability, if not the 'ability to account' for ones acts? What do you think makes someone response-able if not the 'ability to respond.'

    I agree. I'm not sure how this relates to my view? That probably needs to be unpacked before we can go much further with this...
     
    #16 Skandelon, Apr 9, 2012
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  17. Yeshua1

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    Wouldn'r God have created everything "in the beginning" with all the future already 'coded" into it?

    that God would have had decisions already made per Him, and would allow for both His determinitive Will and our 'freewill" decisions?
     

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