Thursday, October 12, 2017

To Live in the Light, to Act Truly Human


Of late, there have been so many negative actions by religionists and politicians, that it's hard not to focus on that chasm, and spend time 'cursing the darkness,'
BUT as the title of this blog emphasizes, instead, become a "lightwave seeker."



So, today,
here is a short summary of Transcendent Humanism and Moral Realism.



To Act Truly Human

Part #1: To Live in the Light, Focus on the New Ought, Not on the Past---of What Is or Has Been

"I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him."
--Martin Luther King Jr.

Part #2: To Act Truly Human, Be Generous—Freely Give to Those in Need

Part #3: To Live in the Light, Treat All Others as Equal—View All Humans as Inherently of Worth and Value

Part #4: To Act Truly Human, Focus on the Transcendent—Live for the Good, Beyond the Temporal and Transient and Any Action that Is Wrong

Part #5: To Live in the Light, Do LovingKind Acts—Live with Empathy, Compassion, and Caring for All Others; Cherish and Help


Part #6: To Act Truly Human, Seek Justice—Work for Human Rights, Fairness, Impartiality


Part #7: To Live in the Light, Live in Fidelity--Commit to One Other Person in a Covenanted Relationship Meant to Be for Life;

Reject and Resist the Wiles of Adultery, Promiscuity, Polyamory, Polygamy, Pornography

Part #8: To Act Truly Human, Speak the Truth in Love to Everyone--Be Honest; Oppose Lies, Deceptions, Manipulations,
Obscene Cursings, and All Forms of Propaganda

Part #9: To Live in the Light, Cultivate and Cherish Community. Commune with Ultimate Reality (whatever you want to term it--God, the Divine, the Good, etc.) and Commune with Other Humans. Share Deeply

Part #10: To Act Truly Human, Live in Wonder; Rejoice in Beauty and the Mysteries of the Universe

(For instance, Albert Einstein
explained that he wasn't an Atheist
because, unlike them, he was enthralled
with the beautiful structure of the cosmos and said, if he wasn't Jewish, he would become a Quaker.)

Part #11: To Live in the Light, Care for Nature and Its Creatures
(This ethical goal is a good alternative against
the wrong extremes--
that of Paganism and Hinduism which claim that
natural evils such as malaria are somehow "holy"
and okay!
versus
that of Secularism which too often sees
the natural world as only a thing to use,
even exploit.)

Part #12: To Act Truly Human, Create New Concepts and Things of Wonder

Part #13: To Live in the Light, Focus on the New Ought, Not on the Past of What Is or Has Been

"I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him."
--Martin Luther King Jr.


I'm working on the central concept of what it means to be truly human, not in the basic evolutionary sense, but in the ethical one, in the transcendent sense.

(Most of us know that we are homo sapiens, one branch of primates resulting from over 3 billion years of evolutionary history.
For a biological explanation of our species, check out any fine book on evolutionary biology.)

What ethical truths should I add to the beginning list of 10 for 2018?

Become a committed theist, humanist, Enlightenment ethicist, moral realist, free-seeker.

Do avidly seek the Good, the True, the Beautiful, equality, peace, justice, mercy, compassion, fidelity, monogamy, generosity, meticulous honesty, and so forth.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox
Posted by Daniel Wilcox at 9:48 AM 2 comments: Links to this post
Labels: adultery, compassion, covenant, empathy, equality, fidelity, honesty, human rights, justice, lovingkindness, obscenity, polyamory, polygamy, pornography, promiscuity

14 comments:

Daniel Fisher said...

Daniel,

I wanted to post one additional thought (and a quick clarification) from our earlier conversation - and thought this may be a better venue - and again, I'd be happy to continue our conversation here (or any other venue you suggest), but obviously only if you would so desire. I would be interested in reading at some point the larger position you've come to, you described it as a general theism? (recognizing of course you said you are still in process). I'll work through some of this blog as I have time.

One observation I've made, and I'd be curious your take if you are so willing, is that the questions wherein I understand you take issue with Calvinism are just as problematic for the staunch Arminian: Any theistic system wherein God is omnipotent and omniscient will struggle with the question of why God allows bad things to happen. He knows it is coming, and has all manner of means by which he could intervene and change the course of events, and yet doesn't.

For instance, you mentioned Sproul's take that God controls the movement of every molecule in the universe. Yes, this would mean that God directly causes each molecule to move in a certain way to begin a cancer to form and ravage a person's body.

But in any other system, the problem is largely the same... Maybe the staunch Arminian doesn't think God directly is controlling every molecule, but rather those molecules are "on their own" in some fashion. But an omniscient God knows that, at such and such a time, those molecules - unless otherwise redirected - will come together to start a cancerous growth. And God knows just which molecules he could ever so slightly move to prevent this from happening; and he certainly has the power to stop them from so forming that cancerous growth in a manner completely undetectable by us. Yet he chooses to allow said growth to begin and develop. In what practical manner is this different than the Calvinist position?

The same issue is faced with the idea of God creating people destined for hell - The Arminian who believes God's omnipotence and omniscience must believe that God knew, unerringly, the end result and final destination of every person who would be born. He knew, unerringly, that if he set the universe in motion in a certain manner, and chose not to intervene in various ways, such and such person would end up in hell. And yet he proceeded to set the universe in that motion, knowing in advance that he was not going to so intervene in any manner as to change that unfolding of history. God chose to create a person that he knew, unerringly, was destined for hell.

So I've for many years noticed that it is not Calvinism alone that struggles with these issues - the same issues would exist in the most staunch Arminian position. Granted they are not the same, but the end result in both cases is that God "chooses" one state of affairs to be the one that is determined to unfold, even though he could have chosen in various ways all manner of different outcomes.

(Granted, the way that many Calvinists run with all this and describe it at times, as you described to me, is really atrocious.)

Additionally, one clarification just to make sure I didn't misspeak or be unclear - when I spoke of our human nature being corrupted which is visible even in children, I simply meant the idea that there are certainly negative behaviors that we never had to teach them, but which came right out of their own "instinct," shall I say. Deceit, for instance; some of my children at points started clearly telling lies... and I never had to teach them or be selfish with one another, or fight with each other, I never had to teach one of my young children to push the other one when he was angry, and I guarantee it is something he never witnessed in our home. Most parents to my knowledge never have to teach siblings to fight, they figure that out by "instinct," shall I say. I wasn't trying to state anything much beyond that.

Daniel Wilcox said...

Thanks for the etymological lesson:-)

Not one Calvinist that I know of has ever brought up this different meaning of "pleasure."

Much appreciated.

As for your views of paradox, rather intriguing!

I agree with your paradox, and that at this point you don't sound calvinistic.

#1 You wrote, "Scripture that tell me God has given me a real choice, and through genuine love offers and invites me to respond to him, to deny something so plain. Yes, I also believe these things are predestined too, because there's too much I find in scripture to deny that, either."

That's almost exactly what I stated when I stood up in class at a secular university, during a philosophical and literature discussion and explained why I believed that I was predestined before the beginning of the universe.

Your words are the sort of belief that I had most of my 55 years as a Christian.
BUT
they were in total contradiction to the TULIP of every Calvinist that opposed my faith! They claimed that no
one has a choice, that Christians such as myself are heretics, aren't really saved at all.

Daniel Wilcox said...

Daniel Fisher,

However, in another comment to someone else over at BC, you wrote: "For what it is worth, all of us Calvinist types believe God wills "whatsoever comes to pass," and that includes, well, everything. This is the language of the Westminster confession..."!!!

So this appears to strongly contradict, not paradox, what you wrote that "God has given us real choice."

Also, from my perspective, your Westminster belief is exactly the sort of beliefs I was opposing when I during university days said that I strongly believed in predestination.

So I await your further explanation.

And of what I also asked you back at Ben Corey's site.

Daniel Fisher said...

"what I also asked you back at Ben Corey's site."

You'll have to remind me, I just can't remember the specific question you addressed back there, I'll be happy to answer if you remind me what it is...

As for your question here, I recognize that many people think "God has willed/planned whatsoever comes to pass" and "I have a free choice" are in fact contradictory. I simply don't. I have wrestled with this very much. I was one of those people who fought tooth and nail against Calvinism when first exposed to it. But I wrestled, thought, wrestled, and eventually have concluded they are simply not contradictory - for a few reasons:

1) The Bible teaches both, and I am a backwoods, uncivilized, unsophisticated troglodyte that believes in Scripture as God's word and its consequent inerrancy.

2) I have wrestled with this with some great minds opposing me, and I have asked people to form them into two statements that show the bona fide contradiction, the actual, no kidding "A and ~A". Never has been shown to me yet.

3) I have worked out a few philosophical thought experiments which to my satisfaction entail no contradiction. These thought experiments include:

A. "possible worlds" scenario. There are all varieties of near infinite numbers of hypothetical possible worlds. Imagine one possible world where I invite you over to dinner, and you freely choose to have cherry pie for dessert. Another possible world where you freely choose apple pie instead. God, somehow, behind the scenes, chooses to enact the former option. So there you have God choosing the particular possible world wherein you make a particular free choice.... he chooses that event to take place, and it is freely made by you.

B. "time travel" scenario. I grab a history book, go back in time, and watch (without in any way interfering) from my spaceship the assassination of President Lincoln. And sure enough, it happens just as I knew it would. My perfect knowledge of that event did not *cause* Booth to act as he did.

Now, keep going with me... if I had enough deep knowledge or time travelling power, I could go further back in time, make some little, seemingly random change in Booth's early life, go back to the same date as Lincoln's assassination, and watch if he does something different, and sure enough, he does not kill the President. But I didn't *cause* him to make that choice, either.

At that point, now I have a choice - I can go back and prevent my former self from making the change to Booth's early life, or I can allow myself to make that seemingly insignificant change (are you following this at all?)

So, the "choice" of whether or not Booth kills Lincoln, given this very hypothetical time-travel scenario, is *mine.* And his. My choice to make the timeline proceed one way rather than another in no way means that I took away Booth's free will in any way whatsoever.

And given that God can influence every single thing in a similar way beyond anything we can imagine, then yes, he could in some such fashion control *ALL THINGS*, while never interfering with the free will of any of us.

(This is what I get for watching too much Star Trek.)

Now, I imagine the writers of the Westminster Confession really were operating only based on point #1 above (those unsophisticated troglodytes), I doubt they were thinking about my #2 or #3. But that said, they still came to the same conclusion - that God's control over all things does contradict our free will. Granted, they said it in older English, but the idea is certainly there:

"God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

Daniel Fisher said...

(edit - the writers of the Westminster confession came to the conclusion that God's control over all things does NOT contradict our free will.)

Daniel Wilcox said...

But notice "Nor is the contingency of SECOND causes taken away."

They are defining "free will" differently than Non-Reformed, because, of course, the FIRST CAUSE is God's foreordination of all things and all species.

Also, you need to keep in mind that I, as a lay historian, who just recently finished another tome on the English Civil War, know how evil-acting these leaders of the Westminster Confession were:-( Indeed, on a separate note, that is another reason I am opposed to Reformed and Augustinian Christianity, because of all the horrific unjust, unethical actions they did based on their wrong theology.)

Back at the other sites, you also wrote that God has a secret will. This sounds like John Piper's (and others including Martin Luther's) two contrary wills of God.

When I was a committed Christian, elder, Bible teacher, blah, blah:-), one of the central concepts I believed and taught is that God is totally open, totally good, totally loving.
There is NO secret will.

Then you brought up another place where we disagree for you wrote, "God's word and its consequent inerrancy."

This is a HUGE disagreement, mostly from my perspective as a retired literature teacher. This is my specialty and career, the analysis of literature. Plus, I spent quite a few years reading books on biblical textural criticism.

Daniel Wilcox said...

No way is the Bible inerrant.
A. It's not in translation, which is the only Bible most all of us have, except for Greek scholars. At our Baptist church was one of the 20 best Greek scholars in the United States.

I still remember how intellectually upset I became at the new NIV translation when I discovered that it showed theological bias in its translation when compared to the NSAB and the old ASB (two very accurate translations of the Greek).

B. There are thousands of errors in the manuscripts of the New Testament. Heck, in the Hebrew Bible there are many words that scholars don't know what they even mean. And the Greek version of Hebrew Bible disagrees with the other one.

C. And there are other textural, historical, scientific problems of errancy. HUGE ones.

D. Plus, of what use is "inerrancy" when the central text scholars and theologians of the Christian church disagree about the very nature of God, and almost everything else!?
--

Then you wrote, "...the bona fide contradiction, the actual, no kidding "A and ~A". Never has been shown to me yet."

I haven't studied formal logic in a long time so I will explain this in plain English:-)

God foreordained everything that will happen a few billion years at least before it does.

Then it is impossible for me to choose differently now from what God foreordained.

Besides, the "free will" issue isn't the main thing, though it is essential. The worse concept is that God would foreordain the Holocaust, the Black Plague, the cancer of 3 women out here, in their early 30's, one leaving behind 3 preschoolers (one in our church here, and two friends of my sibling:-(
is downright evil.

God, of course, also pre-planned out the "Middle Passage" and the horrific evils of U.S. and Caribbean slavery, too, as most Christian theologians, and most Christians believed in the 17th, 18th, 19th century.

Then you wrote, "...assassination of President Lincoln. And sure enough, it happens just as I knew it would. My perfect knowledge of that event did not *cause* Booth to act as he did."
BUT!! You DIDN'T pre-plan every detail of Booth's action down to every single molecule.

I agree that knowledge of the future doesn't deny free will; but God's alleged pre-planning down to the molecule level does.

I do appreciate our discussion, HOWEVER, it does appear that you live in an entirely different cosmos than
I did all the years I was a Christian.

For all of the above, and many, many other reasons, I am convinced that Calvinism, especially horrific confessions such as the Westminster
are completely untrue, unethical, etc.

It saddens me to see that you changed to Calvinism. So did C.C. Greg Laurie, so did the Billy Graham Association, so did so many other Christian leaders.

I remember when I, too, felt overwhelmed by the certainty of brilliant Calvinists, and I almost succumbed to it, but
I just couldn't accept such a non-good view of God, no matter what.

Daniel Fisher said...

Well, certainly it is "second cause" and "first cause" - that is even true in my thought experiments. But no, it does not mean free will is differently defined:

Have you ever seen the original Star Trek episode "The City on the Edge of Forever"? If not, the basic idea is that Captain Kirk and company get tossed back in time to one critical moment in history that is the dividing point - and in short, Captain Kirk gets to choose whether or not Germany will win or lose WWII, by affecting one event - the domino effect from which would lead to one of those two outcomes. In such an interesting hypothetical case, his is, in fact, the "first cause". He's the one that determined which way history would unfold.

Even in this sci-fi hypothetical scenario, in no possible way could this mean that he "took away," violated, or in any way changed the genuine and real nature of Hitler's, Roosevelt's, Churchill's or anyone else's free will, no? Their "second cause" free will would have been just as free, just as genuine, just as real, just as determining of events, as it was - just that Kirk's first level "choice" was one step previous, logically, in determining the larger course of history, their choices were in a logical sense subsequent to Kirk's choice of that particular timeline.

As for God having two wills, this is logically axiomatic in any world wherein both an omnipotent deity and sin or suffering exists, and again not limited to Calvinistic theology; the Arminian, Anabaptist, or even Open Theist will have to concur. Did God want to see Christ suffer? Was it his will? Well, practically ANY Christian would say, "Well, it depends.... in one sense, yes, in one sense, no."

Was it God's "will" that Booth shoot Lincoln? In one very clear sense, no, of course it was against God's "will" ("You shall not murder"). In another equally obvious sense, however, it was God's will - and even the open Theist, Arminian, or anyone else that remotely fits the definition of "Theist" (who believes that God had the power to prevent such from happening) must acknowledge that in some sense this was God's "will" - at least insofar as God preferred this outcome to any of the alternatives available to him (interfering with Booth's Free will, working a miracle at that particular point, etc.)

EVERY theist thinks this. If I may be so bold, back when "one of the central concepts you believed and taught is that God is totally open, totally good, totally loving. There is NO secret will," Did you believe that God had the power, and COULD have intervened and prevented any particular murder from happening? If so, then respectfully, you did believe God had two "different" wills - one that said, "you shall not murder," one that said, "Although this murder is against my revealed, declared will, I will not exercise my power to interfere or intervene and prevent this particular murder."


(Plus, I have no issue condemning many of the other things that the Westminster leaders or anyone else in history for that matter did, but that doesn't change my estimation of the truth of their propositions, these must, logically, remain two separate issues - For that matter I could do the same for Moses, David, Paul..... )

**Very late where it is getting here, I'll have to touch on the next post later... But real quick, of course I assumed you would disagree on the inerrancy topic.... why else do you think I described my view as that of a backwoods, uncivilized, unsophisticated troglodyte?

:)

Daniel Fisher said...

OK, I can quickly touch on the bible questions, the rest I must save for later....

A. It's not in translation... and no one, to my knowledge, ever claims it is.

I discovered that it showed theological bias in its translation.

Sometimes this is just the reality of translation process, and simply can't be helped. For instance, the Centurion at the cross said, literally, "Truly, this man was son of God." (Greek often uses no article) but that just doesn't work in English. Translators MUST choose whether to say, "this man was 'a' son of God," or "this man was 'the' son of God." Either way has theological implications, unless one wants a translation full of bizarre and improper English.

Though I grant, sometimes it may well be an agenda on the part of the translators. But again, please recognize that this has nothing to do with whether what Paul originally wrote 2000 years ago was or wasn't guided by the Holy Spirit, and thus was or wasn't inerrant.

B. There are thousands of errors in the manuscripts of the New Testament. No doubt, but of course, none of which effects the question of whether what God originally inspired was from him, and thus inerrant. I like what C.S. Lewis said, "The moment [a miracle] enters [nature's] realm it obeys all her laws. Miraculous wine will intoxicate, miraculous conception will lead to pregnancy, inspired books will suffer all the ordinary processes of textual corruption."

Heck, in the Hebrew Bible there are many words that scholars don't know what they even mean.
I can look at a math book today and not know what half the symbols mean, and that has 0 significance on whether the math book, itself, is or isn't in fact inerrant.

the Greek version of Hebrew Bible disagrees with the other one.
I would defer to point A above. No one claims any translation to be inerrant, Septuagint included.

C. And there are other textural, historical, scientific problems of errancy. HUGE ones. I'd have to address these specific ones if you raise them.

D. the central text scholars and theologians of the Christian church disagree about the very nature of God, and almost everything else!? Whether or not we are good at interpreting doesn't ultimately change whether or not God did in fact speak. As we were discussing elsewhere, Dr. Corey disbelieves in the idea that we should fear God in any manner... ultimately I take that not as an indication that Jesus' words were in some way lacking, or unclear, but rather as an indication of what I consider his faulty interpretative methods. I suspect the same is true for all of us (myself included) that go to Scripture to understand it - we are all coming with motives, and thus it is not strange to find our different interpretations, but this doesn't make the Scripture lacking in truth, or suggest I should abandon attempts to become a better interpreter.

Daniel Fisher said...

I'm always happy to discuss further, but would prefer not to dig so much into the question of inerrancy so much. I only mentioned it earlier because my belief that Scripture is God's revelation is the ultimate reason I believe what I do about predestination and free will. I believe it ultimately because I believe God said that he both predestines and that I have real, free choice in the matter. If Scripture was just the various random thoughts of long dead people, not guided in some manner by God as to guarantee the truth of what they said, then the fact that Paul or Moses or whoever did or didn't believe or teach predestination or free will would be utterly irrelevant to the question of the truth of these ideas, any more ore less than what Caesar Augustus or Socrates or Thomas Aquinas wrote about the topic. Maybe insightful, but hardly authoritative.

And I answered the above about inerrancy not so much to try to convince you of my position (I doubt I could do that!) - but simply to communicate that I haven't accepted this position blindly, I have thought through, studied, and wrestled with the difficulties and questions, all of these challenges you raise I've heard before, seriously considered, examined, and found not to have any significant impact on the question of whether our Bible is God's inspired communication. So while I trust you maintain your disagreement, I hope you can appreciate that this is not a position I embraced lightly or blindly.

The much more core question, I suggest, is really whether or not, in some fashion, God has in fact spoken to us about the question of whether or not he predestines. If he has so spoken, and affirmed that all things happen according to his plan in some sense, then predestination is simply true, whatever you or I think about it.

If he has not so communicated, then I maintain that the best you or I or anyone can do is to remain entirely agnostic about the question - "he may, he may not. I don't know, some logic would suggest he does predestine, some questions of morality suggest he doesn't, who can know?"

If God hasn't spoken to this topic, then we simply can't know it for sure, no?

Daniel Wilcox said...

You wrote, "In another equally obvious sense, however, it was God's will...EVERY theist thinks this."

I (and the several Baptist ministers of my past, and for sure the Quaker leaders, and some of human leaders who are my heroes, who are "theists"
very strong
disagree. Evil is never God's will. God is light, and in him is no darkness.

Well Daniel Fisher, I had doubts about doing this discussion, thought probably it would go no where, BUT your opening comment was so civil and measured:-) that I thought, why not answer.

And I do think God has created me to counter wrong philosophical views.
And I was curious because in your first comment you didn't seem like a Calvinist...

But my wife has told me for 40 years to stop trying to dialog with Calvinists.
Maybe wife knows best:-)

Last night when we went for a walk, I told her briefly that I was discussing with a Calvinist again.

Daniel Fisher, We do live in completely different universes
because I never did, don't, and never will think that evil is God's will.

Heck, when I was a kid and before accepting Jesus as my savior stole candy from a store...but then asked Jesus into my heart in our family car on that gravel road after prayer meeting...and my dad prayed with me...ALL because I realized my sins, and that God is totally good and totally holy
and my sins even though I am only one small boy have hurt God---Do you really think that that God who helped me realize stealing a piece of candy is very wrong,
would
actually himself will the slaughter, rape, abuse of billions of humans?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Daniel Fisher said...

Sir,

I am delighted by the cordial conversation - and I actually find it an honor that I don't come across like a typical Calvinist! I will not feel insulted in the least, given what you have shared with me of your past experiences, if or when you ever want to discontinue our conversation.

But I value such conversations because I really do value cordial, deep, yet challenging conversations with those with whom I disagree - I like to have my ideas challenged. For two reasons at least: At least part of the reason I expect I may not come across like a typical Calvinist is because I have tried to spend much time engaging, listening, and trying to understand the positions, disagreements, and even hurts of those with whom I disagree. It has taught me (I hope) how to temper my language, communicate in ways to ensure others understand, and make sure I understand the real personal pains of ways people have been hurt by people "like me", at least in terms of similar theological commitments. I like to know how my ideas and thoughts will affect people - I cannot necessarily change what I believe to be in fact true on that basis, but I like to understand.

Secondly, my biggest commitment is to truth, absolutely, and end of story. And to that end, I very seriously want to have my beliefs challenged so that, if there is something I believe which is in fact irrational, baseless, unsupported, or downright untrue, I want to be challenged. Only if I can confidently engage with the absolute best criticisms against my beliefs do I think them worth believing. I try to explain my position, and ask challenging questions in return, in a back-and-forth manner that helps me truly understand all aspects and sides an issue.

Thus, I would most certainly value ongoing dialogue if you are so inclined. I certainly don't expect to change your mind, given your experience and history, but I have enjoyed this dialogue with you, you have been fair, cordial, honest, and challenging.

I would like to ask some questions about your perspective, mainly because I would like to truly understand your position - I'll put them in the next comment box. But as I said, please believe, I will genuinely not feel insulted if at some point you prefer not to continue.

Daniel Fisher said...

I very much appreciate what you explained "Evil is never God's will. God is light, and in him is no darkness." And let me make sure I am clear myself. I absolutely agree - Rape, murder, abuse, they are all against God's will. It could not be more clear that God is against such things, hates them, proclaims that any person who does them is acting in violation against his will, finds them completely antithetical to his very being. All of that I most absolutely affirm.

The difficulty, I think we all would acknowledge, is that for some reason, God doesn't seem to prevent things that we recognize are against his will.

Please allow me to explain using Lincoln's murder at the hands of Mr. Booth. Yes, this was against God's will, a violation of his law, something God hates, a violation agianst God's goodness and holiness.Yes, absolutely, 100% agree, of course, no question, no evasion, no qualification.

However....

Most Christians, including I imagine the Baptist ministers of your past (I'm not familiar enough with Quakers to know), adhere to the following beliefs about God:

A. He is omniscient.
B. He is omnipotent.

So, given A & B, we try to make sense of God's action, or should I say, inaction, in regards to President Lincoln's murder:

Did God know it was going to happen? Yes.
Did God have the power to intervene? Yes.
Did God know numerous ways it could have been prevented? Yes.
Did God have at his disposal all manner of means by which to prevent this murder? Yes.
Was there anything, apart from God's own exercise of his own free choice, that prevented God from intervening so as to stop this murder? No.
So did God choose to prevent this murder, that he did in fact have the power to prevent?.... No.

If I missed or mischaracterized something above, please do let me know, but I simply see no way around it - Lincoln's murder occurred because, although God had all the requisite knowledge and ability to prevent said murder, God chose to refrain from intervening. If there is something I miss there, I am certainly open to being challenged. I simply see no alternative (short of denying his omnipotence)

Sure, people have posited reasons why God may have so chosen not to intervene: He did not want to do violence to Booth's Free will, he knew other alternatives would be worse, he had chosen to let the universe unfold naturally, whatever. The point still remains that, for whatever reason, God chose not to intervene.

So perhaps it may be an unfortunate ambiguity in language regarding the word "will" but this is what people are trying to say when they say that some tragedy happened according to "God's will," it is really shorthand for "God's choice to permit this to happen when he could have prevented it."

So, I am genuinely interested in your take on this - I recognize that some people, faced with this difficulty, posit God as either lacking the knowledge or power (or both) to so intervene (this was, I recall, Rabbi Kushner's approach in his book "When Bad things happen to Good people). I'm not sure if that is the position you have come to, but I would be interested to hear the specifics of your understanding of God in the face of this particular difficulty.

And in that context, I would also be interested to hear more in general about the journey you've mentioned you have been on, and your current understanding of God in general.

Daniel Fisher said...

Additionally, one other (hopefully shorter) observation/question - this gets at the core issues at hand perhaps a bit simpler. May I request your take and perspective (both your current perspective and that of when you were teaching in church, if those are different) on this question:

Was the crucifixion of Christ something that happened "according to the will of God"?


(I have a busy week but hope to browse through your blog here a bit more as I have opportunity. I have, by the way, appreciated the few posts I've had opportunity to read; I find them similarly challenging and thought provoking. I appreciate your take on Rosamaria, as well as that question of submitting a "Declaration of Independence", in light of recent events in Spain. I've been wondering that one myself recently.)