Archive

Archive for July, 2004

Predestination and Free Will

July 28th, 2004 No comments

There can be a lot of discussion in (and out) of the “religious” community about predestination and free will. I thought that I would share my thoughts on the subject and see if anyone else cared to share theirs.

The discussion (or arguments, depending on who you are talking with) seems to revolve around the fact that the Bible does not explicitly say “you have complete free will” or “your entire life is predestined.” Although, it does come pretty close to stating both.

Free Will (the ability to choose in any way desired without external circumstances getting in the way. This relates to the Christian faith in that God allows people to choose for themselves if they will accept salvation. Self-Determinism): These words never actually appear in the Bible but their concepts do. The Bible often suggests that we should conquer sin by choosing to repent from it and choose righteousness and follow Christ. The following verses definitely give rise to the thought that we do indeed have free will to choose things and that we do, indeed, need to choose Christ and repentance in order to be saved: Col 3.5 - John 3.16 - John 12.48 - Rom 10.9ff - 1 Peter 5.1ff

Predestination (all things are preordained, there is a sovereignty that has planned history and it is unfolding as time goes on, fate. More specifically, this relates to the Christian faith in that God has predestined, or already chosen, everyone that will or will not accept, and receive, salvation. “election”): The term “predestined” does appear in the Bible and does refer to the foreknowledge and sovereign power of God. The following verses lead directly to the conclusion that we are, in fact, predetermined to be (or not be) saved: Rom 8.28ff - Gal 1.15 - 1 Cor 2.7 - Eph 1.4f, 11 - 2 Thess 2.13

How does the Christian (or non-Christian, skeptic, atheist, agnostic, whomever) ratify the two seemingly paradoxical beliefs? The way I see it is that they are not paradoxical at all. Predestined means that God is sovereign and omniscient (has complete knowledge). Free will means that He has brought us into relationship with Him and has allowed us to choose Him or not. The two distinct beliefs only become paradoxical if we think 4 dimensionally. We would be confining God to our space-time. We are very used to things going forward in a linear fashion and, I think, have put God in the box of our timeline. What we fail to realize is that God is above that and does not have to be confined to the 4 extended dimensions that we are familiar with. String theory (which I who to write about at another time) suggests that there are actually 11 dimensions (10 space – the 4 that we know and 6 additional, very small, curled up ones – and 1 time). I will loosely apply a metaphor to this discussion that Brian Greene talked about in “The Elegant Universe” in describing other dimensions:

God is above time and can therefore see all choices (that we are free to make) at any point in time. Look at it like this (I discussed that a bit in another post): We walk along a string in one direction and from our vantage we can only see down the string. We can only walk in that one direction (like time). God, as he is above all dimensions, can see the entire string and therefore our entire life displayed before him. His foreknowledge is such that He can see the entire string and all of our choices. God knows who will choose Him and has known since before we were born. The fact that He knows does not me that we are REQUIRED to choose Him. Predestination, many people seem to think, means that we are forced into things and that therefore we have no freedom and then there would be no point. I believe that free will and predestination on their own lack completeness. If they are put together there is less chance we will but God in a box.

I think I have left some stuff out that I wanted to discuss and may remember it later. And yes I know I have rambled a bit, but deal with it. ? Please feel free to comment or add anything.

The discussion on multiple dimensions is pretty interesting and hopefully I will discuss that later along with string theory.

Shalom

Addendum:
A side comment about “predestination” and “foreknowledge.” The words are very closely related but are subtly different. Foreknowledge seems to merely refer to a knowledge about something before it happens. God does have foreknowledge but, more importantly, he has indeed predestined things to happen. The subtle difference is that knowledge is just an understanding that something will happen where as predestination is that God has indeed layed things out in a particular way. Predestination does mean that history will unfold in a particular way that God has described. This, to me, in no way takes away from our free will to choose.

Predestination has once been described in this manner (which I beleive incorporates free will): God is like a chessmaster. When a chessmaster is on top of his game (which God always is) he can see every move that his opponent will make and see the outcome of the game. Each move can still be made by choice but ultimately the chessmaster knows what will happen. I like this analogy because it implies at least one important thing: God helps guide us, if we listen. A chess master can make certain moves that will lead his opponent where he wants him to go, in a similar way, God allows us to choose but will also make certain moves (this can manifest in different ways in our life) that lead us a certain way. We can completely ignore those things and make other moves, but if we listen to God he will lead us where we enter into a deeper relationship with him. The analogy does break down here because a chessmaster makes his moves so that his opponent will lose the game, real life is not a game and God makes His moves so that we will draw closer to Him.

[UPDATE: Original post and comments are no longer available. :( sorry!]

Categories: Theology Tags:

Who writes the headlines?

July 19th, 2004 No comments

Another funny post by Steven Den Beste. Basically he posted a snapshot from a Canadian news paper that states “World’s two most wanted war crimes fugitives still evading justice”

Now lets evaluate this jewl of a headline. To be a fugitive, don’t you have to be on the run? Seems like they are being a little redundant. Lets say, far argument’s sake, they aren’t being redundant and we have these two criminals evading justice. Now lets say they are caught, therefore the first and second most wanted criminals are out of commission, what happens to the third and fourth most wanted? Well it seems to me that they are now first and second (lucky them!). There is always going to be “two most wanted.” This headline could be said any any time of year and will ALWAYS be correct. ALWAYS. I thought this was very clever. :)

Shalom

Original Post [UPDATE: Original post and comments are no longer available. :( sorry!]

Categories: Social Commentary Tags:

“Can we go to war?” or “May we go to war?’

July 16th, 2004 No comments

Steven Den Beste wrote a great article today (7/15) about the differences between “can” and “may” - capibility and permission. More importantly, appearance and reality or form and substance. He relates the discussion to the war in Iraq and how the opposition often relies of the fallacies of form and will often ignore substance. Check it out, good stuff!

Shalom

Edit:
Also, check out this article called “Terror in the Skies, Again?“. Very interesting, indeed. Found from Lileks - you should read his commentary on the article as well - and Instapundit

Original Post [UPDATE: Original post and comments are no longer available. :( sorry!]

Categories: Politics, Social Commentary Tags:

Picturing God

July 14th, 2004 No comments

How do you visualize God? Are there things that help you begin to contemplate his infinite scale?

I am a science guy so it helps me to think in those terms when trying to fathom God’s grandeur.

God is omniscient (complete knowledge), omnipresent (present everywhere simultaneously), and omnipotent (complete and unlimited power). These are some pretty amazing characteristics to have and no one on Earth can come close to.

I try to imagine God, with all his amazing characteristics, in terms of dimensionality. God is essentialy above all dimensions and can therefore insert himself into any one of them at any time or place. Since God is above all spatial dimensions he can influence and be part of anyone’s life anywhere. Since God is above time he can also intervene at any point in time, both past and future. God can take a step back and look at all of time layed out before him and know exactly what is going to happen, where, and when. I picture it like this: our linear timeline is layed out as a string, we are only allowed to move in one direction along that string (at least with current technologies ;) ), God can see the entire string and touch any point along that string, He see the beginning when we were born and He sees the end when we die. All points along that line are completly accessible to him hence his complete knowledge of everything we will ever do. Now just because He can see everything along our timeline that does not me that we do not have any choices, it means that He can SEE what all the choices are and what choices we make. It is still up to us to choose them, but He can see them none the less.

I don’t know if that was very clear or not, feel free to ask questions or for me to clarify. How do you picture God? (I know I didn’t really answer that question completly, but it was a partial answer)

Shalom

[UPDATE: the original post and comments are no longer available at ModBlog :( sorry!]

Categories: Theology Tags:

Dennis Miller, End Times, and Michael Moore

July 9th, 2004 No comments

It has been a while since I have posted and I have a lot on my mind so I will try to get some of those things out now and possibly eloborate later.

I like Dennis Miller, I think he is funny, clever, tries to be honest with the people he is talking to, and isn’t afraid of being blunt. I saw his new show in CNBC the other day. It wasn’t as intense as his show on HBO, but that is to be expected. Miller is pretty conservative and I genearlly agree with a lot he says and often appreciate how he says it. His guest on that particular night was Jerry Jenkins who is co-author of the “Left Behind” series of fictional books dealing with the end times / second coming of Christ. I have read the first few books in series and did enjoy them. They aren’t the most well written books I have ever read, but entertaining none the less. I am genearlly not a big fan of “Christian fiction” but these books put an interesting spin on the book of Revelation. I don’t necessarily agree with the theology behind the books (meaning I don’t believe that the end times will have to look like it is portrayed in the series, but that is ok, it is a work of fiction.)

I had mixed feelings about the Miller / Jenkins interview. Both parties seemed very heartfelt in their questions and answers. Jenkins did to one thing that I was not very happy with: he stated that ALL Christians believe that this is how the end (Parousia) will look. That we all all be rapured up into Heaven etc etc… This is a preeminent belief of dispensational premillennialism - not necessarily ALL Christians. I have two qualms with this view. Firstly, I take issue with how the word rapture is used. “Left Behind” has the rapture taking all true belivers up to Heaven all to meet Christ before the 7 years of tribulation. I see the rapture as a gathering of the people of Christ as He returns (See 2 Thess 2.1-2, 1 Thess 4.14-18 also descirbe this gathering with Christ in the clouds.) The word “rapture” is basically from a Latin word translated from the Greek “episunago” meaing to gather together. Yes, it is true that the word “rapture” is never actually used in the Bible, but the concept IS there. My point is that the rapture of God’s people to meet with Christ is not necessarily going to happen right before the rapture, the concept of “episunago” is not actually found in Revelation. Secondly, I take issue with that idea that all Christians are going to leave earth and mett UP in Heaven and ramain there for ever. It is pretty clear throughout the Bible that at the Parousia it will be Heaven ON earth not some ethereal fluffy-cloud-land. Yes, 1 Thess 4.14-18 makes note of gathering up with Christ in the air. BUT, if you actually read 1 Thess you will see that Christ has already descended from Heaven at the time of this meeting. It seems that the fact that the concept of rapture will occur in air is more of a meeting point, a rally-point if you will, NOT the location of Heaven or where all true believers are going to hang out for eternity. If you only used this passage to figure out where Heaven was going to be and the end, you would not be able to make any assertions because Christ descended from heaven to meet us, the eventual location of Heaven would have to be ascertained in another manner - like other places in the Bible.

Other than that point I think the interview went well. Mill asked some very difficult questions of Jenkins. The eternal “Why should person A who is well educated, intelligent, and a really great person be damned to Hell just because he doesn’t believe Jesus is the Christ while person B who is not that bright chooses to accept Christ will make it into Heaven?” This is a hard question and the answer is even harder. Jenkins did a good job of not denying the Truth of God while also explaining it in a way that was not too harsh. I liked the fact that Miller was blunt with Jenkins about his own beliefs and did not seem to mock Jenkins for his. Miller honestly saw a passion and heartfult belief in what he was saying and seemed to respect that. At the end Miller jockularly stated that (loosely quoted) “we will see what happens in the end and if, as you are ascending into heaven and seem me down in the basement, put in a good word for me because I had you on my show.”

I hope the Miller continues to seek and ask honest questions and will come to realize that God is not about damning those to Hell that don’t follow Jesus, but is about saving those that do. If we are honest with ourselves we will see that we are sinful and really do deserve Hell. Even the “really nice” people mess up and sin, we all do. That is the nature of man after the Fall. It is only by God’s grace and mercy that we have another future available to us. God is the glass half full not half empty. God mourns for those that don’t follow the path to him and miss out on the eternity with him.

I have many more thoughts on that issue that will probably be saved for another time.

I would also like to say something here, because I really haven’t yet, about Michael Moore. I have not seen Fahrenheit 9/11 yet, not sure if I will. I wish people could see his films as they really are - opinion. People, not everything you seen in a documentary is fact, please remember that! Moore has an agenda and that is what he is pushing, nothing more. Please, please, please check out this blog (thanks Sal) for a wonderful discussion of Moore and one of his more recent opinion articles in the LA Times. This is WELL worth the read.

I always have more to say but it is almost 1 and I have to be up at 6, so I should go to bed. I look forward to any comments you all have! It is very strange, I never saw myself getting into the world of blogging, but here I am getting out all these different resources to give me fodder for my post. If nothing else, at least I am educating myself!

Shalom

[UPDATE: the original post and comments are no longer available at ModBlog :( sorry!]

Categories: Social Commentary Tags:

Sudan Part 3

July 2nd, 2004 No comments

I have been talking with a friend at work who is from Cameroon (2 countries away from Sudan on the west coast of Africa). She has filled me in an the way people see things in Africa. Now this is from her standpoint and she will have her own biases, but still much more imformative than CNN or even the BBC I think.

In my previous post I stated that 70% of the population consider themselves Sunni Muslim. I also made the comment that I don’t really trust those numbers because they (they is the CIA world Factbook) also say 80% of the US population consider themselves Christian. My friend from work puts it this way: the Blacks live in the southern part of Sudan and are Christian, the Arabs live in the north and are Muslim. The Muslim Arabs are in the minority but are in control of the government / militia because the French put the Arabs in power in 1956 when Sudam become independant. The Christian blacks do not have any power. Hence the turmoil.

The problems I had thought to be largley racial both because of how the news has reported and also from trying to figure some of it out on my own. Apparently it is more than that. It really is a religious issue, which is directly related to race as the blacks are largley Christian. My friend did make the point that if there were black Muslim there, they would not be killed.

Eventhough the blacks have no power there, they are still the majority of the population and are needed because the souther part of Sudan is more rich in resources. The mojority of the conflict is taking place in the western region of Darfur where there is the “ethnic cleansing” of the Christian blacks.

I will have to keep looking into this, but I have to get back to work.
Shalom

Categories: Around the World Tags: