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Do we have free will, or is everything already planned for us?

God violates free will

Postby Hazel » Mon Mar 12, 2018 4:17 pm

If God cannot stop an evil action without violating the perpetrator's free will, what are we to make of stories in the Bible where Jahweh appears to do just that?

I'm addressing the common theodicy (response to the Problem of Evil) that claims that Jahweh values free will so highly that he cannot prevent evil actions without violating the free will of the perpetrator. But this seems to contradict the multiple accounts in the Bible where Jahweh does just that (such as protecting the children of Israel from Pharaoh's armies, miraculously saving Paul from threats of violence, etc).

Don't these actions show that it is indeed theoretically possible for Jahweh to stop bad actions?
Hazel
 

Re: God violates free will

Postby jimwalton » Mon Mar 12, 2018 4:17 pm

Some examples would lead to a more productive conversation, but you have given two to get us started.

> protecting the children of Israel from Pharaoh's armies

Where is the violation of free will here? Pharaoh's armies are bearing down on the Israelites (Ex. 14). God creates a cloud (a deep, disorienting fog) between the two people groups (Ex. 14.19-20), which stayed there until nightfall. No military force of that day in their right mind would enter a deep fog for battle. The Israelites escape (Ex. 14.21-22). When the Egyptians pursue, enough of them are drowned to rout the attack.

Where is the violation of free will? The Egyptians chose to pursue (Ex. 14.5-9). They chose to hold back because of the fog. Then they chose to pursue again in the morning (14.23).

The Israelites chose to trust God; they didn't panic and run (14.13). They chose to cross the waters (14.22). I don't get it: Where's the violation of free will?

> miraculously saving Paul from threats of violence

Well, it depends what you're talking about here. There were many times Paul was the victim of violence and he wasn't protected at all, except that he didn't die. But where's the violation of free will? For instance, in Acts 9.29-30, some men were looking for Paul to kill him. The disciples helped Paul escape. Where's the violation of free will? God protected him. In Acts 14.19-20, Paul is stoned and dragged outside of the city for dead, but God healed him. No one's free will was violated.

Maybe I'm not hitting the texts you're thinking of. Let me know.
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Re: God violates free will

Postby Nuclear Cloud » Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:48 pm

>Where is the violation of free will here? Pharaoh's armies are bearing down on the Israelites

This is interesting because if your deity stopping murders isn't a violation of free will of the attempted killers than why would it sit back and watch countless murders occur on a global scale throughout human history?

Without the free will excuse that is often spoken in its defense which you aren't following here it makes the deity look like some sort of monster. Just think about how many children are raped and killed you'd have to believe that your deity is just sitting back and watching this terrible act. The physical pain, unimaginable fear, and eventual death all on the shoulders of a child.

I can tell you for certainty that I would act to save any child enduring such if I am in a position of being capable. I bet you would too, in-fact I would bank on almost every single person doing just that. Yet here you present a divine being that is capable but allows it?

We would view anyone who would openly say they would deny helping a child in that situation a monster. If they claimed they would just sit back and watch. Yet you are saying your deity the one you worship and idolize would do just that.

What a monster.
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Re: God violates free will

Postby jimwalton » Tue Mar 13, 2018 3:19 pm

Whoa, whoa, you've really changed the subject here. The question was how can God act without violating free will. You've thrown it to a different topic: Why does God not act against free willl? But we can discuss this if you wish.

> why would it sit back and watch countless murders occur on a global scale throughout human history?

God doesn't (I would say can't) interfere with free will. If someone decides to murder, rape, and pillage, God doesn't stop that. People make their own decisions, and we all live with the consequences.

We have two choices here: God controls all our actions, and we are robots, not human. All of our thoughts and actions are programmed, and there's no such thing as being human, as love, kindness, forgiveness, or even reason, because everything is set and we are playing out an unalterable script.

The other choice is that there is free will, and people can actually make choices about what to do in life, good or bad, to the benefit or detriment of humanity. Despite its pitfalls, this is the better choice.

You might think there's a 3rd choice: God gives us freedom to choose, but restricts that freedom so that we can only choose the good. Well, as anyone can see, that's not freedom. It's actually a subset of the first choice, and we're not human, we're not free, and it's all just a deceptive game.

So, as it turns out, God is not some sort of monster, as you casually accuse. If we went with the first choice, you wouldn't even be able to think that because all of your thoughts would be controlled. If we went with the 3rd choice, you wouldn't be able to think that because it would be forbidden to you, and your thoughts would be controlled.

So we go with the second choice: people actually have free will and God doesn't interfere with it. That allows some people to be murderous, and it allows people to draw false conclusions.

> Just think about how many children are raped and killed you'd have to believe that your deity is just sitting back and watching this terrible act.

Now here's another place where you misunderstand. God doesn't stop it, but he certainly doesn't just sit back and watch this terrible act. He is actively at work so that murderers are stopped, arrested, jailed. There are many forces actively and continually at work stopping perpetrators of all kinds.

> enduring such if I am in a position of being capable.

Here's another place you misunderstand. I have said that God cannot interfere with free will. If he did or could, we wouldn't be human and we wouldn't be free. So God's omnipotence doesn't include things like (1) God can contradict himself, (2) God can do contradictory things, like create a square circle, (3) God can contradict free will so that we're not free, etc. God's omnipotence (his "position of being capable") allows him to do whatever is possible. You are asking for a contradiction, and it's not possible.

God is no monster. But you are free to believe what you wish. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.
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Re: God violates free will

Postby jimwalton » Tue Mar 13, 2018 3:41 pm

You've missed a very important piece of the puzzle here, showing that God didn't intervene with Pharaoh's free will.

In Exodus 1, we see that Pharaoh's heart is already hard by his own choice. He enslaves the Israelites (1.11) and worked them ruthlessly (1.13-14). He ordered all the male children to be murdered (1.16). He commanded all the people of the land to be murderous (1.22).

In Exodus 5, we see that Pharaoh's heart is hard, again, by his own free will. Exodus 5.2: "Who is the Lord that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go." Then in 5.8-9 he increases their work load while maintaining the same quota. Pharaoh's heart was insensitive to the presence and acts of God, which is what "hardened" means.

So it's clear that Pharaoh is making his own choices, and that he has made his own heart hard. By the time we get to Exodus 7.3, it says God will harden Pharaoh's heart. There's something you need to realize about ancient Egyptian religious beliefs. The Egyptians believed that judgment took place in the afterlife. The Egyptian Book of the Dead speaks of a scene in which the heart of the deceased is weighed on a scale to determine if it is heavier than a feather, representing the Egyptians' conception of right and wrong. If not (meaning, if the heart is light), the deceased is granted great favor. If it is heavy, they will be judged negatively and consumed. These biblical expressions about a hard heart are actually about a heavy heart in Egyptian theology. Each time Pharaoh resists YHWH, that action has made his heart hard because of YHWH; it grows heavier, meaning he becomes more guilty. At this time, YHWH is said to make Pharaoh's heart hard, which means that YHWH is also judging the Pharaoh as guilty, even though ancient Egyptians believed their king could do no wrong.

So God is not interfering with Pharaoh's free will. Not at all.
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Re: God violates free will

Postby Hazel » Tue Mar 13, 2018 4:47 pm

> Where is the violation of free will here?

I agree that there's no violation of free will here. My point is to attack the common theodicy that Jahweh cannot prevent a bad action without violating the perpetrator's free will (e.g., by preventing the bad effects of Pharaoh's actions, Jahweh violated Pharaoh's free will.) My point is that if protecting the Israelites did not constitute a violation of Pharaoh's free will, then it seems reasonable to say that Jahweh could also protect other people from the evil actions of others.

You're right that I should have given clearer examples: I've listed three in my original comments to give a little more context to what I'm talking about.
Hazel
 

Re: God violates free will

Postby jimwalton » Tue Mar 13, 2018 4:47 pm

> My point is to attack the common theodicy that Jahweh cannot prevent a bad action without violating the perpetrator's free will.

But see, I disagree with this. There are many way God can prevent a bad action without violating the perpetrator's free will. Let me describe one, actually from the Bible. Herod is enraged to learn that a child has been born King of the Jews (Mt 2.16). He makes a free will decision to try to murder the child and sends his soldiers to do his bidding. The soldiers choose to obey (rather than desert or mutiny) and ride out to Bethlehem. Meanwhile, an angel appears in a dream to Joseph: Get your hiney out of here, there are soldiers coming to kill the child. Joe has a choice whether to stay or go. He chooses to believe the message, gather up his family, and get out of there (Mt. 2.13-14). God has not controlled Herod, He has not coerced Joseph, and he hasn't violated anyone's free will, but he has managed to prevent a bad action (Jesus's death as a baby).

> it seems reasonable to say that Jahweh could also protect other people from the evil actions of others.

Oh, and at times he does. In Acts 12.6-10 an angel busts Pete out of prison, but no one's free will was violated in the process. Later, of course, Pete was martyred, and God didn't stop that.
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Re: God violates free will

Postby Regnus Numis » Wed Mar 14, 2018 5:03 pm

> You might think there's a 3rd choice: God gives us freedom to choose, but restricts that freedom so that we can only choose the good. Well, as anyone can see, that's not freedom. It's actually a subset of the first choice, and we're not human, we're not free, and it's all just a deceptive game.

Since you've stated in previous posts that God has free will yet cannot perform evil actions due to His wholly good nature, wouldn't the third choice you've described above simply mean that mankind shares the same level of free will as God? To claim we're not free because we can only choose the good would mean God isn't free either. Besides, I don't consider free will to be an innate good; as a utilitarian, I care more about the results of free will rather than free will itself. To me, the third option would seem to yield more positive results for both God and mankind than the "unlimited free will" option, given the absence of moral evil. Whether such an existence would be "meaningless" isn't a primary concern of mine since "meaning" is highly abstract. If God restricted mankind's free will to only choosing the good, wouldn't humans live in perfect harmony and contentment? Wouldn't "meaning" be unnecessary to our lives?
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Re: God violates free will

Postby jimwalton » Wed Mar 14, 2018 5:17 pm

> wouldn't the third choice you've described above simply mean that mankind shares the same level of free will as God?

Great question, but no it wouldn't due to the differences in our natures. Since God's nature is only God, it's no restriction on his nature that he can only choose good. Since we are not God, and therefore our nature is not defined only by the good, for us to have only good as a choice is to pare away and abrogate our freedom. The two of us (God vs. humanity) are in different leagues, different definitions of nature. So it's false to claim that "we're not free because we can only choose the good would mean God isn't free either." God is free in his sphere of existence, which is a different definition and in terms that us being free in our sphere of existence. That to me would be like expecting gravity to be the same on earth as it is in the Tesla cruising through space. No, the Tesla has different rules that are part of it, even though both the Earth and the Tesla are material objects.

> ... given the absence of moral evil

The question of evil is a different discussion. Only God is eternally good and wholly righteous, so anything less than God (viz., humans or anything else that is created) is less than eternally good and wholly righteous, and therefore the absence of moral evil is impossible.

> If God restricted mankind's free will to only choosing the good, wouldn't humans live in perfect harmony and contentment?

No, this is impossible for several reasons.

1\. Since God is uncreated by definition and nature, anything that is created is less than God.

2\. Since only God is wholly good, anything less than God is susceptible to factors other than goodness, viz., evil.

3\. Since humans are created and susceptible to factors other than goodness, the perpetual absence of moral evil is a logical and existential impossibility.

4\. If God were to restrict mankind free will to only choosing the good, we would cease to be human. Our expressions of love would be false, for they would be constrained rather than offered freely. So also kindness, forgiveness, grace, mercy, etc. We would be more like Stepford wives than human beings. The harmony and contentment would not be genuine but illusory.
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Re: God violates free will

Postby Thinking Bee » Wed Mar 14, 2018 8:06 pm

> So God is not interfering with Pharaoh's free will. Not at all.

You are wrong.

"And the lord hardened Pharoah's heart". Ex 11:10. The lord is the subject, and pharoah is the object. Your god interfered with Pharoah's free will.
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