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Hi Joseph,


From your post #97 addressed to me:


“I was not able to have compassion because of my understanding that they could and should have choose otherwise. When i later saw and understood that, for the most part, we are slaves to our conditioning (genetics, environment and our own unique experiences)”


I guess I can kind of understand this, though the word “slave” seems a bit strong. My experiences have been a bit different. When I was eighteen I was exposed to a bunch of artist-philosopher types, but up until then I was perty much a product of my conditioning. I thought of myself what my parents thought of me, and I dealt with things in the way they dealt with things. There was enough dysfunction there to make me a bit uncomfortable with what I had been given to face the world and life with. These artist-philosophers let me know that I didn’t have to buy into this, or deal with things, or relate to the world with the same dysfunctions that I had learned while growing up. They tended to come from the “hey buddy get your act together” camp or the “you don’t have a right not to care” angle of looking at things. Maybe I have had too much of this attitude, and not as you say, enough understanding or compassion regarding a person’s or people’s “conditioning”. I guess I’ve figured that more people have had an opportunity or experience like this, where they felt they could change everything about themselves that wasn’t working for them or that they didn’t want to carry around anymore. I’m a little surprised that I haven’t encountered more people that haven’t had the same type of experiences and opportunity. The only place I have really seen it is in the 12 steps, which requires that a person make a “fearless personal moral inventory”. And of course there are things in the bible like this also. I guess I’ve been going about life like just about everyone has had this kind of opportunity when they haven’t, and as you say should be more compassionate and understanding in this regard.


Sorry it can take me a day or two or sometimes more to get back to a person when they address a post to me. I have certain time limitations and also I sometimes like to think things out before writing, and this takes real time.


Peace and Freedom



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E said....

" I guess I’ve been going about life like just about everyone has had this kind of opportunity when they haven’t, and as you say should be more compassionate and understanding in this regard."


Just to clarify, i never said anyone should be more compassionate or understanding. I was just speaking of my own personal experience and what worked for me in life. I may give advice at times based on my perception but i try to refrain from telling people what they should or shouldn't be.



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I'm saying that I think I should be more compassionate and understanding that a good number of people have not had an opportunity to address and if they so chose, change the ideas that are part of their "conditioning". I see from your post that you have found this kind of understanding, and I'm thinking that I could use more of it.




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A couple of general questions ... Why on Earth would I want to make choices that are somehow without cause (reason)? ... as opposed to purpose


Is there any part of me or my actions (or anyone else fort that matter) that are not without cause? Soma might argue for some quantum phenomena causing me and my actions, but is this really what we mean by free will when we speak of such a thing?


Joseph has expressed my point of view quite nicely ...


And I am not sure how I can turn compassion on at will ... I either have it or don't for a given situation. I might be able to go through the motions of compassion which is OK as far I can tell. I find understanding is a better tool, but then I cannot understand situations at will either, but I can understand there are a myriad of causes behind every thought and action. No one single cause other than the universe unfolding.


The expression, there but for the grace of god go I, sums it pretty nicely. It is an understanding that if my particular bit of the universe had unfolded in a similar way I could also be responsible for an act I disapprove of. It allows me to cut some slack for others and for myself.

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Not to derail Paul's burka thread ... do the women who wear such clothes have a free choice? Here the word free could have a sociopolitical meaning or a more philosophical meaning. You can find people who can argue quite eloquently for and against. On a slightly more philosophical level how do people find themselves with a particular world view? Some people simply grow into that world view, some perhaps after many years research and study find one that resonates with their experience and after the fact they say yes I choose this world view. Others continually search. I suppose there are other models.


The point being yes we can argue the women have been brainwashed by a patriarchal world view and that they should be liberated. But if we have an understanding that we too have been brainwashed by circumstance (the universe unfolding) our approach to liberating women who have succumbed to burka wearing changes.

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  • 2 months later...
  • 8 months later...

A recent post caught my eye.



It mentions quite a few times that we have free will.


From a scientific point of view it is really hard to justify the concept of free will. Essentially all of science depends on the concept of cause and effect. As does medicine and psychology. But leaving that aside for the moment.


What does the Bible say about free will? Surprisingly little actually. Certainly we don't have a phrase like God given free will or something similar. But there are Christian apologists that say the Bible does speak to free will. The link below gives a sampling of verses that supposedly speak to the concept of free will:



Now when I go through this list, I don't find that they speak to free will per se. They do speak to the ability make choices. Of course no one is claiming that we do not make choices, it is the nature of how the choice is made that is in question. Are the choices in any way free of cause. So what does the Bible say about determinism?



Now I don't necessarily believe in things being predetermined or ordained, and one or two of these examples I found weak, but the language here is much clearer.


Anyway so what? Well I can't help thinking (I have no free choice) that a belief in free will leads to some of the less desirable traits in society regardless whether Christian, atheistic or some other world view. With an absence of free will, it is difficult to take the following seriously.

  • Pride
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Retribution and vengeance
  • Blame (forgiveness becomes unnecessary as there is nothing to forgive)

Also we don't have to give ourselves god like properties of initiating a first cause.

Some might argue this absolves of responsibility. Yes in a sense it does - we can let go of moral responsibility and take on a more accurate causal responsibility.


And before people start to object:


Genesis 3:22-23King James Version (KJV)

22 And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

23 Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

Edited by romansh
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The ability to choose is what the writers of the Bible and Jesus are concerned with. Whether that is free will or not is a matter of semantics to me.


Here's what one dictionary says about it



Free Will - the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one's own discretion.


Sounds like what those Bible guys were talking about to me.


But it leaves many questions for me. I'm not the scientist you are, but I listen to NPR. And genetics shows up regularly. I have a lot of traits, perhaps all of them, that were genetically predetermined.


But the twist is that I have an identical twin brother. Brought up by the same parents, same house, same college, same degree, both married to Jennifers. However, we are very different. Different tastes, different health problems, different theology, different interests.


So how did that happen? At some point we chose to diverge. I stopped playing baseball to focus on music. He went varsity. We chose different friends. On and on.


So did the freedom of the will to choose different lives override our identical genes? Maybe.


I'm powerless over drink. I was born that way, and yet I have chosen sobriety. Same with bipolar. I take the meds.


Now, I'm going to go ahead and assume that what I am describing is not what you mean by free will, but that's what I mean.


Where I differ with many Christians is that I don't believe we choose salvation. If God wants to save us, he will. I don't believe in any magic words that buy you a ticket to eternal paradise, otherwise eternal damnation. It is not our will that saves us no more than it is a child's will to be saved from oncoming traffic. That's why we pray Thy Will be Done. We are admitting that when we live our lives by our own will, we suffer time and time again.


It doesn't matter to me if this is factual at all. That's not what faith is. All that really matters to me is that it is working for me. Whatever works for the next guy is what they should stick to.

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Here is an interesting science study that suggests that identical twins are not identical in Genes when delivered as previously supposed. Here is another. And there are many more.


Also having the same parents, house, etc doesn't mean both received the same exact treatment. Perhaps one was fed first or slightly different than the other or by the other parent, perhaps one was held more than the other, perhaps one got sick more than the other because his hand happened to touch a certain germ before entering his mouth, etc........... In my view, there are a multitude of possible daily scenarios genetically, environmentally, emotionally, and otherwise that contribute to differences in conditioning which makes it doubtful both would be exactly the same with or without the concept of free choice.



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I've discussed my view before. I don't think we have a thing called 'free will'. We like to think we do and it is somewhat reassuring to think that we or others make decisions based on their own free will, but I believe our decisions are in a sense made for us, based on how we have wired ourselves as we have developed physically, emotionally and the life experiences we have been subjected to.

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I, too, don't think our will is "free". I think it is shaped by many different things and influences. I'd agree that we have the ability to make choices. I'd also agree that, using reason, beliefs are more of a response to stimuli than things we choose.


What I'm not comfortable with (and this may just be my own ego talking) is the notion of divine determinism, that we are mere puppets on God's stage and that he is pulling all of our strings and moving around the sets for his own amusement. It may well be the case that he is (and the Bible does support this to some extent), but it is not a very comforting notion. What I've come to believe is that *most* Christians live thinking they have "free will" until some big event comes along (marriage, death, pregnancy, parking place at WalMart), and then they invoke the plan of God. ;)


Nevertheless, I try to make the best choices I can based upon the data available to me. I screw up a lot of the time. :)

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This is a very old thread, and I'm not going to reread it. I may have even posted on it, so stop me if I'm repeating myself or anybody else!


This discussion of Free Will at TCPC recently has been very thought provoking for me. I'm thinking a little more about it than usual. If it were a no brainer, we wouldn't be talking about it so much. I did a little mental digging and I was reminded of a concept that I had not thought about for a long time. I kind of fell away from Wayne Dyer a few years ago, but he had an intriguing idea which is not new. I think it relates to what Jesus and other wisdom juggernauts and mystics have taught. It is a mystic or these days New Age idea, but it's gaining some traction in science. Again, I am not a scientist, I just listen to NPR!


The idea is that we live life on a frequency. Our state of mind has a frequency of sorts. Let's say that Jesus is a 10 and Hitler was a 1. Jesus was living in a state of pure Love, and Hitler was living in a state of pure hate (and all the things that make that up). We know that what we do affects what we feel, and that what we feel affects what we do. We also know that both of those things affect our brain. The more kind acts I commit, the more my brain becomes wired for kindness. The more I feel unworthy, the more my brain supports that belief.


Now, enter Free Will. There is an increasing body of evidence to support the idea that there is no true Free Will. All I have is anecdotal for what I'm about to say. Let's take alcoholism. They say an alcoholic is born an alcoholic. He is wired for it out of the womb. Perhaps not in all cases, but let's say an alcoholic could not have chosen not to be an alcoholic no more than he could have chosen the color of his eyes. However, some get sober and so do not. To answer that would take more knowledge than I have.


What I'm going to suggest is that some drunks respond to their tragedies by eventually dying from the disease, and some respond by going to AA. There are many different reasons, but ultimately it's the realization that they are 100% powerless and they care enough to do something. They care about their families, for example. They want to be good fathers, good wives, good employees, good people. By this desire, they have raised their frequency just high enough to make a start. The program is essentially designed to raise a person's frequency to a higher level, a level of forgiveness and service and selflessness.


They overrode genes, resentments, hurts, and narcissism and surrendered to a God of their understanding...and became sober Still an alcoholic, but a sober one. Before AA, doctors believed that a drunk was incurable and hopeless. No amount of free will should be able to make a drunk sober.


So, what I'm proposing is that there is really only one freedom of will. Choosing between your will and the will of a higher power. Choose your will, and you are doomed to your circumstances. Choose God's will and there is hope.


Tear it apart!

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So, what I'm proposing is that there is really only one freedom of will. Choosing between your will and the will of a higher power. Choose your will, and you are doomed to your circumstances. Choose God's will and there is hope.


Tear it apart!


As threads go this is a baby. As a concept for debate ... at least two millennia.


A while back you asked, have I taken Jesus into my life, or something similar. My answer would be the configuration of my brain does not allow for such an action. Similarly choosing a traditional Christian God is not in my brain configuration.


That a potential alcoholic avoids alcoholism is desirable from an individual's or a societal point of view; that potential alcoholic did not lift himself off the ground by the bootstraps.

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So, what I'm proposing is that there is really only one freedom of will. Choosing between your will and the will of a higher power. Choose your will, and you are doomed to your circumstances. Choose God's will and there is hope.


Tear it apart!


I would humbly ask, how are we to know what God's will is? The Bible? The Church? The Koran? How are we to separate what might simply be the inner voices in our heads from those of God? Is there a difference? I have known of couple who refused medical help for their children because they believed God told them to trust him to heal...and the child died. I have also known people who have done extraordinary acts of grace and charity because they believed God told them to do so...and people were blessed. How are we to know God's will? Is there a fairly reliable way to make such a determination?


(A small confession: I claimed and told people for years that Jesus lived in my heart. But I finally had to admit that not only could I not do the things the gospels testify of him, but I could certainly not do the "greater works" that he said his followers could do. Therefore, because there is no evidence to my former claim, I no longer make it. So, as I've mentioned in another thread, I have no idea how to recognize God's will from human will or even if there is such a distinction.)



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I would say that the alcoholic's problem has more to do with the ego than the will. And, recovery from alcoholism has more to do with dissolving the ego/self than anything else. Reading the Twelve Steps will point this out very nicely.


While we possess something we like to call "will", it is not free in the sense that we can do anything we want (or imagine). We are all limited by genetics, cultural conditioning, parenting, and so on, not to mention just existing in the human realm. I would argue that the potential (genetic predisposition) alcoholic, who then manifests their alcoholism, might also recover due to other genetic predispositions not yet accounted for.


While it is fairly common to hear a recovering alcoholic say "I was always an alcoholic", they are only "potential" alcoholics until they drink.


I once asked a physician in AA why he thought some people recover and some people don't. He told me the only thing he could come up with was "grace". I think he meant karma. Without all the necessary knowledge to say exactly why this is, I suppose that's as good an explanation as any!



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I hope my questions are not the reason for your leave or lack of peace? If so, you can continue in this debate section without any challenge from me. I will gracefully and gladly bow out if you would stay.


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I think I may understand how Fatherman feels. Speaking only for myself, it's very difficult to come on this site and be constantly judged for being a theist -- someone who starts with the assumption that there's a loving God who's with us at all times and in all places. This site, which claims to be a Progressive Christianity site, with an approach grounded in the 8 Points, almost never promotes the 8 Points. Take a look at the main page of the Forum and see for yourself how few people ever post about the 8 Points. Why is that? Is it maybe because the 8 Points, however you slice them, still emphasize the ever-so-inconvenient theistic teachings from Jesus?


I live in Canada, where just about everybody I know (including some militant atheists) say they uphold humanist values. Sure, some of them only say they do, and don't actually practice such values, but our newspapers and commentaries and current election debates are filled with humanist values. It's normative here. In some other countries, it's the same. It's not really that hard in this day and age to find widespread support for humanism. Humanist values are great -- I support them too -- but saying you support humanist values or New-Age-type-enlightenment is not the same thing as saying you're a Christian.


If you support humanist values, but don't believe in God, then please have the courage to step away from the label of "Christianity" and find some other way to describe the individual and group choices you adhere to.


There are so few places where Progressive Christians who believe in God and believe in the example set by Jesus can get together to share their insights and help each other heal.


Isn't that what's it's all about? The desire to heal our hearts and spirits and bodies? If it's not about healing -- because you think you've already got it all figured out and don't need anybody else's help or insight or words or actions -- then what are you doing here? Just showing how clever you are because you've noticed there are problems and inconsistencies in the Bible? It's not hard to see the problems and inconsistencies in the Bible. The real question is . . . what are going to do about them?


If you're just going to sweep them all under the carpet and pretend they're irrelevant to our lives today, you're missing the point of what Jesus taught and why.


Sweeping inconvenient theologies under the carpet isn't new. It's been done for millennia by assorted religious teachers.


But Jesus didn't do that. He challenged people to examine existing theologies and use both the good stuff and the bad to help springboard people into more loving relationships with themselves, each other, and God.


This is much harder to do than simply washing your hands of the complications and pretending you're above all that sort of thing.


As Point 8 says, being a follower of Jesus is costly.



Edited by Realspiritik
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You may have some valid points but i think fatherman can speak for himself. He PMed me and i can say being judged as a theist was not a reason given for leaving. Since it is a PM i cannot say anymore than that.


Also the 8 points have over 600 replies. In my view, there is not a whole lot that can be added from my perspective and apparently the perspective of the 100's of thousands of recorded visitors that have read them. While we only have about 40 active members visiting or posting each month, we have thousands of views by interested individuals looking through the 8 points and the replies each month. Point 1 alone has been viewed over 79,000 times.


I think you will find the 8 points are promoted more in deed and treatment here than word . ie: Like welcoming those of all persuasions, behavior towards one another, finding more grace in search than dogma ...... etc


I guess i don't really understand the main point of your above post. Is it a criticism of the forum?, the leadership? its operation? etc. Perhaps you see something i don't but this thread is free will and would not be the appropriate place for it. If a complaint post in the complaint section or if just a friendly discussion over coffee perhaps in the cafe area or if a debate you wish to pursue then in a new thread here.


JosephM (as Administrator).

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