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why free will doesn't spare God's omnibenevolence


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Some god isn't omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent then?

 

An omnipresent god would still exist in hell.

 

An omniscient god would have knowledge of Satan's repentance.

 

An omnipotent god would be able to be there, hear and act.

You did not listen to what I said, the reason why hell is without God is because it is without existence, And actually you can make up a new place which is not part of all because it is a technicality.

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Free will occurs because humans have two centers of consciousness. We have an instinctive center of consciousness, which is also common to animals, called the inner self. This is what makes animals co

Free will must be framed probabilistically. If the probability of a choice equals zero or one, that's determinism and does nothing to absolve God of blame, and furthermore I would not call it "free w

@ dissary, it is not "depiction of a God with similar qualities" the 3 literally come from the one. Just as all romantic languages (Portuguese, Spanish, French, etc) come from Latin. They do not merel

  • 2 months later...

Some questions I had in the time spent away from this discussion:

 

a) Does God have free will? By your logic MonDie, if omnimalevolent Satan eventually loses free will, shouldn't omnibenevolent God lose free will too?

b) If God loses free will, would he be in the position to save Satan from eternal torture, provided that the latter keeps his free will?

c) What would happen if both of them eventually lose free will?

d) Given the probabilistic nature of free will as discussed in post #8 and given a time frame of eternity, is it possible that Satan will have changed his mind infinitely many times and then ~50% of the time he would be in Heavens with angels and the other 50% in Hell. 50% of eternity is still an eternity, so mathematically speaking it is very much possible for Satan to be tortured eternally even if he keeps free will and God is still omnibenevolent.

 

- b) and c) and d) could all result in Satan being eternally tortured regardless of him keeping or losing free will and while the God is still omnibenevolent.

e) Coming from the Problem of Evil side - if God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent why can't he stop evils that Satan does? Is it at all possible that Satan, too, is omnipotent?
Edited by pavelcherepan
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  • 4 months later...

Hi, I am new to this site (although I have been following it as a guest over the past week) so I am still finding my feet. Allow me to throw in a question from the sideline. Is free will something that one would specifically associate with the supernatural? That question in itself sounds strange as i.m.o. the supernatural implies superstition, but for the benefit of the hypothetical topic under discussion let me follow through with it anyway. As far as I know there is sufficient support within both psychology and neuroscience to discard free will among mortals (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sapient-nature/201205/free-will-is-illusion-so-what), so would this be a divine/supernatural trait?

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  • 4 weeks later...

Yes, science more and more is painting free will into a smaller and smaller corner with the brush of instinct, subconscious defense mechanisms, pre-conscious decison making, etc.

 

Given that the platform of this forum is "science," I am presuming that the discussion of Satan, God, etc., is done so from an anthropological standpoint, e.g., in the same way that we might explicate Greek mythology. Otherwise, posters are truly just throwing out faith-based ideas...much as Jewish scholars are wont do do ad infinitum. However, if this is the case, I don't see how people outside of a given posters "faith" can reasonably discuss the issue at hand, given that the fundamental beliefs are not shared, nor, for that matter, shareable.

 

So, presuming this is a philosophy of religion question, I would first ask which God are you talking about?

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@ dissarray, the OP referrences Satan whom is only is a character in Abrahamic religions whom all share the same God. It is their teachings and beliefs about that God which are different and not God itself. So your question regarding which God being is being dicussed was addressed in the OP.

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Abrahamic religions whom all share the same God. It is their teachings and beliefs about that God which are different and not God itself.

Try and sell that to a Christian- or Muslim fundamentalist, or orthodox Jew...

Edited by Memammal
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Try and sell that to a Christian- or Muslim fundamentalist, or orthodox Jew...

Jesus was literally born into Judaism so it shouldn't be a tough sell there. Abraham, Noah, Moses, etc are all central figures for Christians, Jews, and Muslims. All three beleive the Old Testament. The Quran and New Testament are additions to the Old Testament for their perspective religions. They do not replace God of the Old Testament they simply adlust the manner by which that god is worshiped and followed.

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You don't have to convince me, but...

 

Jesus was literally born into Judaism so it shouldn't be a tough sell there.

AFAIK Jesus was found guilty of crimes against Jewish law, and in particular of blasphemy for falsely claiming to be the Messiah (reserved for Yahweh). I don't think it will be that easy to reconcile the very sacred belief that Christians hold that Jesus was the Son of God, or God in flesh, with the staunch Judaist belief in one supreme, non-human God (Yahweh),

 

 

All three beleive the Old Testament. The Quran and New Testament are additions to the Old Testament for their perspective religions. They do not replace God of the Old Testament they simply adlust the manner by which that god is worshiped and followed.

No, this is not entirely true. The Quran retells the OT in many ways, but from another perspective and with some critical tweaks. Their God is not Yahweh and Jesus was but a prophet. Again, for us "outsiders" it is easy to form an opinion that there are not that many fundamental differences between the three major monotheistic religions, but for the respective hardliners it is a matter of close to-, if not life and death.

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You don't have to convince me, but...

 

AFAIK Jesus was found guilty of crimes against Jewish law, and in particular of blasphemy for falsely claiming to be the Messiah (reserved for Yahweh). I don't think it will be that easy to reconcile the very sacred belief that Christians hold that Jesus was the Son of God, or God in flesh, with the staunch Judaist belief in one supreme, non-human God (Yahweh),

 

 

No, this is not entirely true. The Quran retells the OT in many ways, but from another perspective and with some critical tweaks. Their God is not Yahweh and Jesus was but a prophet. Again, for us "outsiders" it is easy to form an opinion that there are not that many fundamental differences between the three major monotheistic religions, but for the respective hardliners it is a matter of close to-, if not life and death.

I am not saying they don't have differences. I said the way they worship and follow the God of Abrahamic Realigions is what's different. Within every denomination Christianity there are differences. In my life I have heard countless Evangelical Christians say that Catholics aren't Christian because of this that and the other. Within the egocentric nature of any self identifier there is always superficial differences use to redefine that which is being identified. A Football fan may object to a Golfer being called an athlete or a Tea Party activist may object to a Centerist Republican being called Conservative.

 

Ones personal feelings about the beliefs and actions of others is often used to subtly distort definitions and history. As each new denomination, culture, or language translates the Old Testament it is changed. Words that carry key meanings to one culture or in one language may be frivolous words that are cut out, understood differently, or altered by another. It doesn't mean a new or different God has been created or is otherwise suddenly being worshiped. Catholics are Christians regardless of how strongly many Evangelicals object to that reality.

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Ten OZ

I have to side with Memammal on this one....the origins may be different, but the interpretation of Jesus and God, as well as the worship/rituals are so different as to make it absurd to say that they worship the same God.

 

Just for starters, many if not most Muslims see Christianity as a form of heathen polytheism given its Triune interpretation of God.

 

Or I could refer you to Bloom's book Yahweh, in which he concludes that even the God of the Old Testament is so different than the God found in the New that one cannot logically claim that they are the same God. For starters, apart from the personality differences, Yahweh is, again, not just a part of a triune. And personally, I detect a bit of difference between the God of the OT who doesn't blink a jaundiced, jealous eye when encouraging Moses and Joshua to slaughter masses of people for worshipping the wrong God in the wrong way, and the Jesus of the NT who suggests one turn the other cheek towards ones enemies (Yes, I know he chased moneylenders out of the temple, but apples and oranges).

 

I think that there is always a bit of 'objectification' of God in such a discussion, as if "he" were actually there in the sky and people just interpret him differently...much like the story of the wise men who were blind and thus interpreted the same elephant in different ways. A more logical approach, I would suggest, is to note that if two or more people's picture of their God is different from someone elses, then let's call a duck a duck, and admit that the different societies/people do indeed have a different God.

 

This was really my question...when people use terms such as Satan and God, are they taking a phenomenological approach, or are they taking the more religious approach of assuming that these "characters" really exist.

 

Even a dispute within sects, imo, suggests that people are not really worshipping the same God. One sect may stipulate that a certain type of baptism is required for entry into heaven. Why, even members of these disparate sects will claim that those from other sects will not get into heaven because they have incorrect beliefs....Do you think Catholics think Muslims will get into heaven and vice versa?

 

The God of some literal fundamentalists who created stars and humans in seven 24hr days is not the same as the God of progressive protestants or Catholics who works via the slow process of evolution. I have heard that Native Americans have really always worshipped Jesus because Jesus appeared to them, but only in a different way...so that Native Americans centuries ago could be saved because they had the chance to decide whether or not to believe in Jesus. Similarly, I have heard people say that Christians and Buddhists and Hindus and everyone else today really, when you get right down to it, worship the same God, because there is, after all, only the one true God....it's just that people interpret him differently according to their cultures................Seriously? Next I will hear that there is no difference between Zeus and Jesus....people just worship him differently.

 

The bottom line is that one begins by looking at the attributes of the various God(s) from different cultures. One does not begin with the assumption that there is only one true God and then assume that "he" just appears differently to different people from different cultures.

 

Does God appear as Jesus to a little boy's dream in a Christian culture and as Shiva in the dream of an Indian boy because Jesus changes his appearance to suit the culture as one Christian explained to me, or....does the little boy from each culture just project the cultural image of the God that they have been raised to believe in? Big difference in approaches here.

Edited by disarray
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Ten OZ

I have to side with Memammal on this one....the origins may be different, but the interpretation of Jesus and God, as well as the worship/rituals are so different as to make it absurd to say that they worship the same God.

 

Just for starters, many if not most Muslims see Christianity as a form of heathen polytheism given its Triune interpretation of God.

 

Or I could refer you to Bloom's book Yahweh, in which he concludes that even the God of the Old Testament is so different than the God found in the New that one cannot logically claim that they are the same God. For starters, apart from the personality differences, Yahweh is, again, not just a part of a triune.

 

I think that there is always a bit of 'objectification' of God in such a discussion, as if "he" were actually there in the sky and people just interpret him differently...much like the story of the wise men who were blind and thus interpreted the same elephant in different ways. A more logical approach, I would suggest, is to note that if two or more people's picture of their God is different from someone elses, then let's call a duck a duck, and admit that the different societies/people do indeed have a different God.

 

This was really my question...when people use terms such as Satan and God, are they taking a phenomenological approach, or are they taking the more religious approach of assuming that these "characters" really exist.

 

Even a dispute within sects, imo, suggests that people are not really worshipping the same God. The God of some literal fundamentalists who created stars and humans in seven 24hr days is not the same as the God of progressive protestants or Catholics who works via the slow process of evolution. I have heard people say that Christians and Buddhists and everyone else really worship the same God, because there is, after all, only the one true God....it's just that people interpret him differently according to their cultures....seriously?

"Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are sometimes called Abrahamic religions because they all accept the tradition that God revealed himself to the prophet Abraham. The theological traditions of all Abrahamic religions are thus to some extent influenced by the depiction of the God of Israel in the Hebrew Bible, and the historical development of monotheism in the history of Judaism."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_in_Abrahamic_religions

 

You are using the way people feel about religions to redefine terms. My point is that what is believed about god is the same; just that all Abrahamic religions have the same basic god. What each different religion claims about God is obviously different.

Edited by Ten oz
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Ten Oz

Christianity, Judaism, and Islam may have been cut from the same culture so that they are to "some extent influenced" by the depiction of a God with similar qualities, e.g., "revealed himself to Abraham. So far so good. But, from an anthropological standpoint, I suggest that one starts with the assumption that God only exists in the mind of each of these different groups of people (e.g., Christians, Jews, and Muslims). On that basis, as I pointed out, it is just not true that a God who created the universe along with human beings in a few hours can be said to be the same God as who created the universes along with human beings in several billion years. Certainly to say that they are exactly the same God except that the people worship him differently is quite a stretch. So yes, I am defining (not redefining) God in terms of how people conceive or feel about him.

 

I suspect that most theologians would not be as quick as you are to assume that the God is the same in all three religions, just because they have been "to some extent influenced" by the same Abrahamic tradition. Says Columbia International University, for example:

 

"Allah and Yahweh cannot refer to the same person [i.e., personhood of God] for the following reasons. First of all, their attributes are different. In Allah’s monadic oneness his attributes stem from his powerful Will which, because it provides no basis for relationship, often promotes capriciousness. Also, since his power is more important than his other attributes, there is an unequal emphasis on power over his other attributes. In the end, a follower cannot know God or even be sure of the consistency of his attributes. On the other hand, because Yahweh is by nature a triune unity his attributes stem from his nature. The eternal relationship within the Trinity promotes love within the Godhead and extends to his creation. Also, since his attributes are based on his unchanging nature rather than his powerful will, all his attributes are equal and promote trustworthiness rather than capriciousness. This means that believers can know God and be sure of his attributes. Second, Christians understand the nature of God to be triune (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), which is the only way that Jesus Christ, as the second person of the Trinity, could die on the cross to pay for our sins. If Jesus were not God himself, then his death on the cross would be meaningless. However, Muslims deny that Jesus died on the cross and they reject the belief in his resurrection from the dead. Only a triune God, defined as one essence and three persons, could become incarnate and still remain God of the universe, and yet this is the God that Muslims reject. For them, Jesus cannot be God nor can God be a Father, for he cannot have a son. Therefore, if Muslims reject God as the Father of Jesus, then Allah cannot be the same as the God of the Bible."

http://www.ciu.edu/content/allah-islam-same-yahweh-christianity

 

So no, being cut from the same cultural/historical cloth does not make Allah and Yahweh identical, anymore than siblings somehow must be the same person because they came from the same womb and talked to the same mother at some stage. By the way, your Wiki quote (whoever made it in the first place) does not actually say that Allah and Yahweh were the same, it merely states that the corresponding religions can be described as Abrahamic religions since they both accept that a God [of some sort] revealed himself to Abraham. Indeed, the same wiki article that you cite states that "early Islam was long considered one of many Christological heresies in medieval Christianity," which means, that Christians rejected the Islamic interpretation of what God was like and/or who he was.

 

Perhaps you can see my point if I exaggerate just a little: Suppose we agree that the God of Muslims and the God of Christians both talked to Abraham (though we are not sure if this God said the same things to each group or even said them at the same time)...but Muslims grew to picture this God as a giant young clean-shaven soldier who uses his sword to cut off the heads of Christians, while Christians grew to picture this God as a bearded old man who threw Muslims into everlasting fire....Now, despite any tangential points that the young soldier and the old man have in common (e.g., they both spoke to Abraham), it is hardly reasonable to suggest that they are actually the same God....that is, unless you assume that said God actually exists and that both Christians and Muslims were just mistaken when it came to how they described him.

Edited by disarray
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@ dissary, it is not "depiction of a God with similar qualities" the 3 literally come from the one. Just as all romantic languages (Portuguese, Spanish, French, etc) come from Latin. They do not merely share words they are built up the same root base. Judiasm, Christianity, and Islam did not all create independently of each other. For example Christianity started as a Jewish Sect. When Mohammad went to Medina he is said to have referred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims as "people of the book" and initially viewed the 3 as natural allies. No amount of add ons change the history of where these religions come from and what immortal entity started off as their God. Had there never been Judiasm there never would have been Christianity or Islam. The old Testament is to all Abrahamic realigions what Latin is to all Romantic languages. That is a fact.

 

The link you provided is from a Christian Bible College. At best it serves as an informed Christian opinion. Of course every religion thinks they are singular. Saying their God can't be the same because "their attributes are different" holds ZERO weight. If I vs my nephews were to assign attributes to my parents, their grand parents, we would assign wildly different ones despite the fact the we would all be describing the same 2 people.

 

This is distracting from the threads topic which is suppose to be about free will. My initial point with regards to Abrahamic realigions was to say that they are based on the Old Testament (fact) and that Satan as mentioned in the OP of this thread is only a figure in Abrahamic religions. As such Satan from the Old Testament is the Satan referenced. Outside of us working towards addressing the threads topic there is no reason for us to continue this debate. You are coming from a Christian Theological prespective and I purely from a historical/archaeological one. I am an Athiest that doesn't believe in God. As such the Theological views on whom god is understood to be aren't ones that register with me. Without Judiasm there would never have been Christianity or Islam. That simple straight forward lineage is reality and requires zero faith based translation. The 3 are siblings.

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@ Ten oz, you may have a point if perceived from a Muslim perspective:

The Quran speaks well of the relationship it has with former books (the Torah [or Tanakh] and the Gospels) and attributes their similarities to their unique origin and saying all of them have been revealed by the one God. ​(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quran#The_Bible)

 

The above sentiment is not one that is shared by Christians and Judaists though. Also, from a doctrine point of view there are obviously significant differences between Islam, Christianity & Judaism. This site summarises some of the important differences between Christianity and Islam: https://carm.org/comparison-grid-between-christianity-and-islamic-doctrine

 

I agree that it is somewhat pointless to debate which god is which seeing that the scenario that was originally posed was merely hypothetical, or at best philosophical, while the actual existence of any of these gods and demons are obviously speculative. As a side-note and while talking of demons, in Judaism Satan is not regarded as sentient being, but a metaphor for the evil inclination. Read this: http://judaism.about.com/od/judaismbasics/a/jewishbeliefsatan.htm.

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@ Ten Oz: Well, I wouldn't say that French is the same as Spanish, just because they are both considered Romance languages, so again, I am not sure how relevant this analogy is. Of course, I take your semantic point that certain major religions are in some respects founded on the same God who revealed himself to Abraham. But for all practical theological purposes, I still maintain that it is very misleading to even indirectly suggest that therefore these major religions in any way have the same conception of God, which is really all that matters when all is said and done. And I can't see that it is valid to suggest that they have the same God if theologians from these religions repeatedly and adamantly reject this claim themselves. I am not speaking just from a Christian perspective in this regard. Jews, for example, also tend to be quite adamant about the matter in that they reject the Christian conception of the deity. Let's look at what a Jewish site dedicated to the implications of the Abrahamic tradition, for example, says with regard to the claim that Allah and Yahweh are the same

 

"Before Mohammed, Allah was a well-known Arabian moon deity who had three daughters that are even mentioned in the Koran; Lat, Uzza and Manat.
Arabic is a related language to Hebrew and Aramaic and nowhere in the language is Allah or anything close to it used for the name of God, Yahweh. Actually, Allah is equivalent to the Babylonian god Baal. Even the symbol for Islam the Crescent moon and Star still declares this origin. Just because Islam is a monotheistic faith that claims to believe in the God of Abraham (Ibrahim) does not mean they have the right [same] god.

  1. ...Clearly Allah and Yahweh are not the same."

http://www.abrahamsdescendants.com/is-allah-the-same-as-yahweh.html

 

I concede that this controversy may be getting off topic and am willing to move on, but I think that it is clearly glossing over the complexity of the issue in a misleading way to say that the three major religions have the same God. Despite the fact that Allah and Yahweh revealed themselves to Abraham, these deities were thought to have existed before Abraham, and their cultural roots branch off into all sorts of "pagan" and non-Abrahamic directions before and after the revelations to Abraham. Similarly, it is even more of a stretch to assume that the Satanic or evil forces mentioned within one religion is the same as that in another on the basis of this Abrahamic connection. But, as you say, this is a side issue....I guess, for the most part, though, I too, just wanted to clarify that we are talking hypothetically and descriptively when we discuss the religious aspect of these cultures.

 

So back to the main issue: I think that these sort of discussions tend to become hopelessly complicated, owing to the fact that scriptures were cobbled together from a variety of sources by a variety of people in a variety of time periods, and interpreted by a variety of interpreters in a variety of settings with a variety of, often conflicting, assumptions. For example, when I look at the original post by MonDie, I see that he postulates that "Satan has free will eternally (E), he must inevitably be saved." I am not sure just where the assumption that Satan will be saved simply because he has free will comes from. Christians do not believe that people are in hell because of Satan's rebellious choices, but rather because of Adam and Eve's, though Satan may have done some tempting. But even here there are numerous interpretations. I think one interesting observation made by various writers is that there would have been no need for Jesus to become incarnate had not Adam and Eve "rebelled" since there would have been no Fall from Grace. In any case, the idea of Original Sin and the idea that it was passed along to the descendants of Adam and Eve (aka, humankind) was a concept that wasn't really interpolated into the religion until the likes of St Augustine centuries after the resurrection. The bottom line is that there is not a single coherent and consistent statement of belief regarding the issue of free will, much less the conditions for acquiring salvation, the role of evil and/or Satan, the benevolence of God, the personality of God, the nature of hell, etc.

 

I think a more relevant area of investigation is that of predetermination....How is it that humans can have free will, if an omniscient God knows how we will decide beforehand? The idea of predestination looks even more glum, since it suggests that no matter what we say or do, God has already decided who will be saved or not. Again, there are variations between sects and branches of Christianity, and even various interpretations of the Calvinistic implications of predestination. Indeed, both Calvin and Luther, when pinned down on the issue of predestination and free will, remarked that they didn't understand how people could have free will in a world where God already knows what they will decide and who will be saved. Neither attempted to answer this conundrum with logic, but rather brushed it off on the basis that God's ways could not be understood using reason..., so that one just had to have Faith that it all somehow makes sense even though God works in mysterious ways.

 

I guess it is relevant to ask what might happen if Satan said he was sorry. Humans still have the option of avoiding being sent to hell by not rebelling against God, by accepting God's forgiveness, and/or by following the Golden Rule, and/or by just believing in Jesus (sola fide), or whatever (as the exact formula varies from sect to sect). It seems that the God of Christianity has zero tolerance, and, once in hell, whether one is Satan or a descendant of Adam, there is no exit and no second chance. Hence Dante's famous line in this regard, "All hope abandon, ye who enter here.”

 

I am not sure ultimately what the point of this forum is, though it ostensibly is about free will within a scriptural context..it seems that the focus of this discussion thread has more to do with the scriptural God's benevolence and perhaps unfairness: One can never draw a get out of jail (hell) free card.

 

In this regard, it seems that major eastern religions are a little bit more benevolent and forever forgiving in this regard....you can make (karmic) mistakes, but you can always get up and dust yourself off and try again until you get it right....much like Bill Murray manages to do by the end of the movie, Ground Hog Day.

Edited by disarray
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Good post above. I particularly enjoyed this part:

 

 

Indeed, both Calvin and Luther, when pinned down on the issue of predestination and free will, remarked that they didn't understand how people could have free will in a world where God already knows what they will decide and who will be saved. Neither attempted to answer this conundrum with logic, but rather brushed it off on the basis that God's ways could not be understood using reason..., so that one just had to have Faith that it all somehow makes sense even though God works in mysterious ways.

Typical theological gymnastics ;)

 

Just a comment on this part thereof (seeing that I am editing my own post, I am seemingly unable to insert another quote so I am copying it):

I think one interesting observation made by various writers is that there would have been no need for Jesus to become incarnate had not Adam and Eve "rebelled" since there would have been no Fall from Grace. In any case, the idea of Original Sin and the idea that it was passed along to the descendants of Adam and Eve (aka, humankind) was a concept that wasn't really interpolated into the religion until the likes of St Augustine centuries after the resurrection.

 

I have previously also commented on this matter as being one of the single biggest flaws of Christianity, especially considering our current knowledge of evolution, the origin of our species and the fact that by the time that Adam & Eve allegedly walked this earth, "behaviourally modern humans" would have been spread across the entire globe already. St. Augustine might have been instrumental in formally incorporating the doctrine of Original Sin into Christianity, but it was of course the apostle Paul who first conceptualised and preached it:

 

St Paul's idea of redemption hinged on the contrast between the sin of Adam and the death and resurrection of Jesus. "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned". "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive." Up till then the transgression in the Garden of Eden had not been given great significance. As the Jesus scholar, Geza Vermes has said:

Paul believed that Adam's transgression in a mysterious way affected the nature of the human race. The primeval sin, a Pauline creation with no biblical or post-biblical Jewish precedent, was irreparable by ordinary human effort.

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_sin)

 

Jesus becomes rather obsolete if you take away this "divine purpose", don't you agree? What other reason could there be for the self-proclaimed son of God (or son of Man) to become flesh and for him to be crucified? By the way, you referred to "centuries after the resurrection" as if the resurrection actually happened? One of many alternative theories is that Jesus was simply a dedicated Essene preacher (or teacher as alluded to in the Dead Sea Scrolls) convinced of being the chosen messiah. If you consider his pre-crucifixion sermons as recorded in the Gospels, it is clear that he had little global or universal ambitions and furthermore, that they were riddled with Essene beliefs almost as if he wanted to convert his fellow Jewish followers.

 

I may be straying slightly off topic again. I think your conclusions as to the purpose of this discussion thread and its relevance to free will in a religious (presumably Christian) context, were pretty much on the money.

 

The "inconvenient" reality is that humans have as much- or as little free will and/or the ability to "sin" as any other mammal, or for that matter any other animal.

Edited by Memammal
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Memammal:

It appears that Paul’s emphasis was upon communal rather than personal guilt (and punishment) and thus redemption is more of a communal affair involving church-based ritual)m since Paul stressed the conflict between Satan and God:

St. Paul is not thinking as a philosophical moralist looking for the cause of the fall of humanity and creation in the breaking of objective rules of good behavior, which demands punishment from a God whose justice is in the image of the justice of this world. Paul is clearly thinking of the fall in terms of a personalistic warfare between God and Satan, in which Satan is not obliged to follow any sort of moral rules if he can help it.”

http://www.romanity.org/htm/rom.10.en.original_sin_according_to_st._paul.01.htm

 

It seems that Augustine was more focused on individual morality, particularly with regards to sexuality, and indeed interpreted the Fall in a more sexual way (e.g., concupiscence) than was previously the case.

 

“A person can choose to either turn towards the eternal city of God, a turn which Augustine calls conversion, or turn towards the temporal carnal pleasures of Babylon, a turn which Augustine calls perversion.”

http://www.studentpulse.com/articles/562/free-will-in-the-christian-cosmology-comparing-paul-and-augustine

 

By the way, Augustine said we can still have free will when we choose, it’s just that God can tell the future and knows how we will choose. Again…sleight of hand reasoning.

It is not always clear just how literally one is supposed to take Satan-fallen angel or force of evil-but I don’t think that it matters all that much…a conflict is a conflict.

........................................

Yes, I did not mean to imply that the Christ’s resurrection literally happened.

..........................................

I agree that it seems that likely that one or more people who claimed to be the prophesied savior at the time, was thinking in terms of being a savior of just the Jews. Paul widened the compass of salvation to include Gentiles, and ultimately to include foreigners such as Greeks, thereby giving Christianity its universal flavor.

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Yes, I agree. It seems that historically people have haughtily always wanted to have that qualitative division between humans and animals. Science continues to blur the division, chipping away at assumptions such as that humans are the center of the universe/solar system, humans are not indirectly related to apes, humans don't have instincts, humans don't make decisions subconsciously, etc.

 

So I agree, there is no particular reason to assume that humans have more free will than any other animal, and indeed, there is no real definition of it or evidence that it exists. A recent claim is that it is like the randomness found in quantum mechanics, but as Pinker points out, randomness is not the same as personal choice, even if one agrees that quantum effects, as Penrose claims, take place in the brain.

 

And, if one agrees with Nietzsche that morals are created by groups of people, and with Weber that religion is created by people in order to validate communal laws, then punishment for human sin is no different than a mother ape pushing around and biting a misbehaving baby.

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Religions, as Weber says, do tend to have rules and punishments (of one sort or another) for breaking those rules....and, in short, can be seen as an institutionalized way of applying behavior modification, whether one suggests that one behave by follow scriptural laws to the letter, OR, on the other hand, believe that it doesn't matter if one behaves (is good or not) when it comes to salvation, because faith is all that matters....but, if you truly have true faith, then you would model Christ-like behavior by behaving (being good). Doublespeak?

 

I don't mean to be irreligious, but it seems to me that, on the one hand, suggesting that faith/belief is sufficient for redemption and then on the other suggesting that one must use ones free will to either follow rules or model oneself after a deity in order to achieve salvation is a murky theology, and indeed, even Lutherans are not in agreement as to whether Luther's "sola fide" (faith alone) precept means that one has to be good or not. In this regard, there was a colonial sect, the ranters, many of whom thought that it was more important to accept the Christ spirit individually than to focus on some historical act of redemption, and, believing the end was probably near anyway, mocked Puritans by swearing, having affairs, drinking, walking around naked, gambling, dancing, etc., as if a belief in Christ and the acceptance of his spirit at a personal level was all that one need to be saved.

 

In any case, the issue of whether faith alone is sufficient is directly related to the main idea of this thread....which is whether God is entirely fair and benevolent with regards to ones exercise of free will. Certainly a main criticism leveled at Christianity is that it apparently allows a person who has robbed, killed, etc. all his life to be saved if he repents on his deathbed, while, on the other hand, a person who lives a very good life in terms of helping others is not saved because (s)he did not accept Christ as his personal savior from the sin and guilt passed down from Adam/Eve's personal transgression against God to all of us (Augustinian emphasis) OR because (s)he did not participate in the fellowship of the church by communally showing gratitude that God victoriously overcame Satan's evil hold over us through Christ's sacrifice (Pauline emphasis).

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Nicely constructed and informative post, thank you again disarray.

 

It is not always clear just how literally one is supposed to take Satan-fallen angel or force of evil-but I don’t think that it matters all that much…a conflict is a conflict.

I would assume that it is as much of a superstition than any other supernatural entity with very much the same ancient origin than religious deities. Somehow there must be an antagonist to blame for everything that seems inexplicably evil, destructive or not going according to (divine grand) plan. Many examples of that to be found in ancient folklore. Personally I prefer the idea of something akin to "yin and yang" within the natural world.

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Personally I prefer the idea of something akin to "yin and yang" within the natural world.

 

So my understanding of Christianity is that evil was something absent from the world until Lucifer rebelled (and then the fall introduced that evil to the world). But in the absence of evil, there was nothing but good. With the yin yang concept if we have no evil, there can be no good, for you need the one to define the other. I prefer the latter idea too, it does not encourage us to chase a perfection that does not really exist (and only exists in Heaven in Christian mythology).

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So my understanding of Christianity is that evil was something absent from the world until Lucifer rebelled (and then the fall introduced that evil to the world). But in the absence of evil, there was nothing but good. With the yin yang concept if we have no evil, there can be no good, for you need the one to define the other. I prefer the latter idea too, it does not encourage us to chase a perfection that does not really exist (and only exists in Heaven in Christian mythology).

Good post.

 

God created all and knows all. So God must have created Satan with knowledge of what would follow? Perhaps providing free will requires choice which made creating Satan necessary or inevitable. It provides a yin and yang but only a superficial one; God will defeat Satan and paradise (for eternity) will be without evil. Which begs to question if free will is taken from man in paradise or if free will doesn't require the option of sin.

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Personal biography affects social culture:

As per the Pauline tradition, the Fall represents Satan's victory and power over an entire group of people (humankind), and God does not really defeat Satan until the coming of Christ. So Paul, wanting to extend the influence of the Church, does not think in terms of personal immorality and salvation, but rather in terms of being part of an entire congregation that accepts that we, by the Grace of God, have collectively been given a second chance and can be saved forever by rejecting this world (material things, idols, empires, etc.) in favor of the next.

 

In contrast, it seems logical that Augustine, having struggled with his own lustful ways as a youth, interprets the Fall in terms of personal lust and rebellion, and therefore sees redemption as simply a matter of personally modelling the clean-living life of ones personal savior, so that even within the Catholic church, there will be some individuals who are saved and some who are not.

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In any case, I don't see that God takes away free will from Satan or people at any point.

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Unlike major Eastern religions, evil is not seen as an inherent aspect of reality in the Christian worldview. Rather it is an anomaly to be overcome....and either you win or lose. An exception to this way of thinking was provided by a peanut gallery of Manichean clowns in black and white outfits who thought that it was only natural that everything had its opposite, e.g., light and dark, good and evil. In any case, it was Augustine who threw these hooligans out of the Church and out onto dank Roman streets to drift off into obscurity.

 

Augustine insists that you can prevent Satan from bullying you around and eventually conquer him for good. You just need to gain the confidence to do this by having faith that your coach (Jesus) has already softened him up in the alley before the fight a while back. All you need to do now, says Aquinas, is to obediently follow your coach's advice about how best to finish Satan off. Apparently your coach has taken a lot of the blame for mistakes that you (and your ancestors) have already made in the ring, but if, says Luther, you show that you believe in your coach and appreciate all the time and effort he has taken to help you, the referee (the coach's Father) will be so happy that you weren't one of those punks who tries to win on his own, that he will make you the winner even if you take more punches than you give.

 

In Biblical times (not to mention Classical, Medieval, and early modern) people were virtually unaware of any way to modify people's behavior other than with extreme expectations of obedience and extreme punishments for disobedience. But even in modern times, conservative fundamentalists in particular tend to focus on the issues of personal free will, personal responsibility, inherent sin, guilt, and the possibility of extreme punishment in hell or reward in heaven. (Indeed, it is only recently that the Western world has done away with chopping off a starving boy's hand for stealing a loaf of bread, and extreme whippings of prisoners for minor infractions such as swearing at a ship's captain. Even Skinner said he was being innovative because he wanted to modify behavior by focusing more on rewards and less on punishments).

 

But again, such thinking was all there was for Christians and non Christians alike. Terry Eagleton says that, when it came to such extreme thinking about good and evil, one could barely slip a cigarette paper between the ancient Christian and Muslim cultures. Even today, it seems that the majority of people literally believe in such things as Satan (wearing the black trunks) and Michael (wearing the white trunks) battling it out in a final Apocalyptic heavyweight fight in Madison Square Garden. Apparently, the referee somehow already knows who will win: Satan, along with those who supported him, will once and for all be thrown into some dark alley in Brooklyn where he belongs, while the winner and those who backed him will celebrate forever with electronic harps and alcohol-free champagne.

 

 

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Lol, some good analogies.

 

 

 

Terry Eagleton says that, when it came to such extreme thinking about good and evil, one could barely slip a cigarette paper between the ancient Christian and Muslim cultures. Even today, it seems that the majority of people literally believe in such things as Satan

 

This is where Judaism may have the slight upper hand in their approach to the existence of Satan and evil:

In Judaism "satan" is not a sentient being but a metaphor for the evil inclination – the yetzer hara – that exists in every person and tempts us to do wrong.

In Jewish thought, one of the things Jews struggle against every day is the "evil inclination," also known as the yetzer hara (יֵצֶר הַרַע, from Genesis 6:5). The yetzer hara is not a force or a being, but rather refers to mankind's innate capacity for doing evil in the world... On the other hand, the "good inclination" is called the yetzer ha'tov (יצר הטוב). (Source: http://judaism.about.com/od/judaismbasics/a/jewishbeliefsatan.htm).

 

I say slight because it still implies the existence of sin and free will and these are both debatable concepts i.t.o. humanity's justifiable equal standing with the rest of the fauna.

 

PS. Sorry to hark back to Judaism's interpretation of evil that I already referred to in a previous post, but it remains to be an interesting differentiation among the Abrahamic religions and it seemed relevant to what was being discussed.

 

@ Prometheus: Precisely.

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Given his omniscience, it seems unfair and un-benevolent that God would let things keep going if he knew all along that:

 

  • One or more angels would be bad apples (rotten to the core) and so tossed out of heaven
  • The first humans would eat a bad apple, and, succumbing to evil, tossed out of Eden.
  • Descendants of the first humans would also have “evil ways” and thus almost every one of them wiped out in a flood, thus confirming God’s assessment of humans that “man's heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21).
  • People would continue to behave badly, as God expected, so, giving up on the idea of another flood, he would then have to send down his son (or himself, in which case he was just being a martyr who was ‘hard on himself’) to sacrificially take the punishment for everyone’s sin (arguably, much like those medieval whipping boy scapegoats) as well as to show that he was strong enough to overcome Satan’s power to tempt him into evil.
  • Finally, he would have to arrange a final showdown between the good and bad angels, in which Jesus and the good angels, as well as those who tried to follow them, would be victors, and somehow never ever make bad, evil choices again.

 

Are we supposed to take this comedy of errors literally or metaphorically? Perhaps the Bible is meant to teach us that the purpose of having free will is to learn to develop self control and will power. If so, then I guess using punishments is the way to go? But it does seem a bit unfair and un-benevolent….kind of like leaving a child in the kitchen and telling him not to eat the cookies in the jar, when all along, you know for sure that he will, so that he will then need to be punished, supposedly for his own good, unless he follows the role model of his older brother who has learned to be obedient and not to eat the cookies. Perhaps the point of the Bible is just that if one accepts a role model like Jesus, who is pretty darn good at resisting temptation, everything will be fine. (It wasn’t until Paul that the emphasis was on Jesus’ suffering on the cross, and not just on a belief in the resurrection and the need to follow Jesus).

 

Again, such punishment and reward systems of behavior modification tend to involve black/white judgments of guilt (one is either saved or one is not)...and guilt implies that someone has not exercised his or her free will to make responsible choices, and therefore deserves vindictive, edifying, or deadly punishment. (Since men are stronger, punishment seems to be their domain, so that religions tend to be patriarchal).

 

Of course, not everyone would agree with the (behavioral ) manner in which I have portrayed the Christian religion, but whether or not one believes in free will and/or predestination, it seems apparent that such a punitive worldview tends to ignore the subtler and more insidious reasons that people ‘misbehave’, as well as the less intrusive ways that their behavior might be modified.

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I'm reluctant to use my SFN account to post religious threads, but this counterapologetics argument is actually clever and fun. I'm not a philosophy student, so feel free to refine the way in which it is stated. Honestly I think it's a lot simpler than this format makes it out to be.

1) Satan had free will, for he rebelled.

2) Satan exists eternally, for he tortures us eternally.

3) If 2 but not 1, Satan was made to torture us by outside influences (i.e. God).

4) If 1&2 and Satan has free will eternally (E), he must inevitably be saved.

5) If 1&2 but Satan remains evil eternally, then Satan at some point irrevocably loses free will (not E).

6) If Satan loses free will eternally (5), then either God took it away from him or is at least failing to return it to him.

7) Either Satan never had free will (not 1), he has or had it but loses it (5), or he retains it eternally but is eventually saved (4). Under all possibilities, it's up to God whether we're tortured eternally.

8) From 7, God is not loving if we're tortured eternally.

It can be Satan's free will, my free will in hell, whatever. There's this regress of who took my free will away and who is withholding their free will, which inevitably leads back to God. It makes it impossible for evil to persist eternally.

 

Well, since your first two statements are scientifically spurious at best and downright mythos only at worst, an immediate monkey wrench of empiricism is tossed into the gears of your working argument here. What sources are you using to substantiate those first two points about Satan? The Bible? I'm not sure it's even in there. And even then, the collection of Bronze Age Hebrew Mythology we call the Bible is the last place to look for viable facts that can be used in a debate on our place in the cosmos and why we are here.

 

Besides, if any of that God v Satan woo were to be true, a person claiming that Satan was calling the shots in today's world and has been all along and God is a whiny and wimpy and capricious disgruntled underling, well, he would have a more logical argument and one that he coukd find many examples for by combing our history books.

 

In the same way the Church of Satan's Nine Rules are far more applicable and useful than the Ten Commandments from that other religion.

 

I stray off topic with that last two sentences, I know. But my point is that your premises are so groundless that it's anybody's ballgame if we want to wax theological.

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