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God's Sovereignty And Free Will


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Burl, becoming increasingly better at morality is a totally different thing to having full morality revealed. At least the learner piano player knows what the end goal is, what examples of fully developed playing sound like. According to you we are yet know what proper morality looks like.

 

Our discussion was around morality being fixed. For it to be fixed for us it must be fully revealed, but you said it can't be fully revealed. Therefore our not-yet-fully-revealed morality must be incomplete, and not fixed.

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Hi all. I have a question about notions of God's sovereignty and free will (obviously). Last Christmas Eve, my granddaughter, Moriah, was killed in a car accident on the way to my house. We were all g

Bill, there is never any replacement for a person you love. Just want to make that clear from the start of this post. What I'm about to say isn't meant to be a consolation prize. I'm sharing from t

Bill,   I can't imagine what you are going through. I'm so sorry.   You are in a faith crisis that causes many people to lose faith entirely. It's the question of if there is a God and God loves u

>> ... free will makes the experience spiritual ? This is a new one on me.<<

 

Ref: Viktor Frankl. We always retain control of our attitude and intention even in extremis. The crucifixion is a most excellent example of the transformation of suffering into praise through intention and free will as Jesus recited Psalm 22 in death.

 

Psalm 22

English Standard Version (ESV)

 

Why Have You Forsaken Me?

To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David.

 

22 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,

and by night, but I find no rest.

3 Yet you are holy,

enthroned on the praises of Israel.

4 In you our fathers trusted;

they trusted, and you delivered them.

5 To you they cried and were rescued;

in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

6 But I am a worm and not a man,

scorned by mankind and despised by the people.

7 All who see me mock me;

they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;

8 “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;

let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

9 Yet you are he who took me from the womb;

you made me trust you at my mother's breasts.

10 On you was I cast from my birth,

and from my mother's womb you have been my God.

11 Be not far from me,

for trouble is near,

and there is none to help.

12 Many bulls encompass me;

strong bulls of Bashan surround me;

13 they open wide their mouths at me,

like a ravening and roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water,

and all my bones are out of joint;

my heart is like wax;

it is melted within my breast;

15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,

and my tongue sticks to my jaws;

you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs encompass me;

a company of evildoers encircles me;

they have pierced my hands and feet —

17 I can count all my bones—

they stare and gloat over me;

18 they divide my garments among them,

and for my clothing they cast lots.

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far off!

O you my help, come quickly to my aid!

20 Deliver my soul from the sword,

my precious life from the power of the dog!

21 Save me from the mouth of the lion!

You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

22 I will tell of your name to my brothers;

in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:

23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!

All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,

and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!

24 For he has not despised or abhorred

the affliction of the afflicted,

and he has not hidden his face from him,

but has heard, when he cried to him.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;

my vows I will perform before those who fear him.

26 The afflicted[d] shall eat and be satisfied;

those who seek him shall praise the Lord!

May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember

and turn to the Lord,

and all the families of the nations

shall worship before you.

28 For kingship belongs to the Lord,

and he rules over the nations.

29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;

before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,

even the one who could not keep himself alive.

30 Posterity shall serve him;

it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;

31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,

that he has done it.

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Burl, becoming increasingly better at morality is a totally different thing to having full morality revealed. At least the learner piano player knows what the end goal is, what examples of fully developed playing sound like. According to you we are yet know what proper morality looks like.

Our discussion was around morality being fixed. For it to be fixed for us it must be fully revealed, but you said it can't be fully revealed. Therefore our not-yet-fully-revealed morality must be incomplete, and not fixed.

A spiritual exercise: go to the beach and ogle some bikinis. What you see is fixed but not fully revealed.

 

I will pray you experience an unexpected revelation. :)

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A spiritual exercise: go to the beach and ogle some bikinis. What you see is fixed but not fully revealed.

I will pray you experience an unexpected revelation. :)

Perhaps I shall hope you see the same Burl. :)

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We should go together and invite JosephM so he can reflect on dualism. :)

 

Personally, if I were invited to ogle I would go for a monistic or better still nihilistic bikini.

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Personally, if I were invited to ogle I would go for a monistic or better still nihilistic bikini.

You are definitely invited but no moaning, please. :)

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But to get back to the original purpose of this thread ... for those of us who believe in a God that has a direct and active involvement in our lives as exemplified by those who claim that God had a reason for wanting Bill's grand daughter at his side, to me seems simply a soporific designed to distract our grief.

 

I can't help thinking evolution has given us a capacity for this emotion, so I would no more advise someone to drink their way out of grief than imbibe in literal faerie stories to fool ourselves.

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People often say stupid or meaningless things to the grieving. There is nothing one can say that helps.

 

 

While it my be stupid or meaningless, do these people believe these stupid and meaningless things they are saying?

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Who knows? It's a hypothetical situation. I've seen enough grief to give anybody a pass on however they react to death. I'm certainly not going to make judgments on their theological authenticity.

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Who knows? It's a hypothetical situation. I've seen enough grief to give anybody a pass on however they react to death. I'm certainly not going to make judgments on their theological authenticity.

 

It is a bit more than hypothetical ... we had a example of that it in Bill's initial post.

While I agree we might not know, but I was wondering as to your opinion.

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Romansh, I don't know these people and I wasn't there. I can only assume they felt the need to make contact. Often that just what people say when they are speechless but have to say something anyway.

 

Different communities grieve differently. That would not be an awkward statement in an African-American homecoming celebration. Elucidate the question and why it is important to you and I'll write more.

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The relevant exchange:

Burl: People often say stupid or meaningless things to the grieving. There is nothing one can say that helps.

rom: ...do these people believe these stupid and meaningless things they are saying?

Burl: Who knows? It's a hypothetical situation. I've seen enough grief to give anybody a pass on however they react to death

rom: While I agree we might not know, but I was wondering as to your opinion.

Burl: I don't know these people and I wasn't there.

 

So who are these people who say meaningless or stupid things? Are you claiming you have never heard someone you know say something like this? This conversation I am finding a little surreal.

 

I am not talking about different communities. I am talking about the people who you are not judging, but you do think they say stupid and meaningless things.

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  • 1 month later...

These days I'm more sure of what I don't believe than of what I do. :) But my daughter (the one who lost her daughter in the accident) called me last night and asked me, point blank, if I was mad at God. I don't generally get into these kinds of conversations because I tend to be so unorthodox, but because she asked, I shared with her what I thought. It seems to me, when faced with suffering, that we have roughly 3 choices where God is concerned.

 

1. The first choice is theism, the notion that God is a person-like being who is involved and, perhaps, controls our lives. In this view, everything that happens is ultimately attributable to God and his will. He is directly or indirectly responsible for suffering, and he seldom tells us what its purpose is. I didn't find this view convincing, although orthodox Christianity generally holds to it. Some people may find this view comforting, but I didn't.

 

2. The second choice is atheism, the notion that there is no God. Suffering is just part of the life cycle of nature. It is how things go. There is no one to blame. But neither is there any purpose or meaning to life or suffering. It all comes down to simple survival.

 

3. The third choice, which I tend to hold to, is that whoever or whatever God is, God is not in control. Like atheism, suffering is part of the life cycle of nature. It is how things go. God, if there is one, calls us to bring whatever measure of comfort, compassion, and understanding we can to suffering. God doesn't intervene in preventing suffering, but, perhaps, God works through us to minimize or, in some cases, to eliminate it.

 

Seeing as I raised my daughter within theistic Christianity, she does tend to believe that her daughter's death was somehow part of God's plan. If she believes that, and if it brings her comfort, I'm not one to try to dissuade her from that view. But, for me, I lean more towards a non-theistic view that sees God, not as a supernatural power to control or intervene, but as the love that can be at the center of our lives to help us to reach out to those who suffer and to help them as we are able.

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Bill,

 

Personally i think there are more than 3 choices. Of many, another could be perhaps God is in control in the sense that God is the only One and the substrate of all existence and experience in and beyond what we know as form. Perhaps we, as many separate entities are a temporal illusion. Perhaps suffering is not what it appears to that to which we identify with? Perhaps nothing is really gained or lost in what we consider this temporal episode of life?

 

In addition to your 3 choices and another i mentioned, there are many other possibilities or concepts or explanations people can choose as a belief system. Yet this to me is now obvious.... Life as JosephM is temporal, as is all of form. Life itself which gives this appearance of JosephM is beyond form and yet includes form. The only separation from God and for that matter anyone else is and has been in a mind that identifies itself as JosephM rather than identification with the very source of that life.

 

Good to see you back,

Peace,

Joseph

 

PS . I think a quote SteveS55 posted of Thomas Merton (an American Catholic author) HERE might also be considered.

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There are many more than three choices. I think the simplest is that God has a plan for humanity, but that individual free will makes small changes which have no effect on the final outcome.

 

The casino is a good analogy. The house controls and correctly predicts the profit every year to a mathematical certainty but to the individual player everything is random.

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Good thoughts, Joseph. To me, what you describe is a form of mysticism (in a good sense) in which god or the divine is experienced, perhaps as Process Theology teaches, as the Ground of Being. I know from reading his books that Whitehead, Hartshorne, Cobb, and Robinson have been a big influence on Jack Spong's work in this area. Much of this appeals to me, especially the notion that we are neither separate from the divine (What Is) nor from one another. I also think Alan Watts is helpful in this area. If this is truly the case, then, as you say, nothing is truly gained or lost. But as you well know, we are very "I" centered creatures and tend to experience God, the world, and others as "other", as not part of who we are. I've yet to overcome this hurdle in my own life, having what Dawkin's calls the "selfish gene." :) I'm not sure I believe in fate or that we are somehow controlled by Reality. Neither do I believe that our will is free, knowing that it is influenced by many factors. But what I sought to do in the conversation with my daughter was to reassure her that God (as portrayed in the Bible) was not punishing her for her sins. Given this popular view of God, these is not an easy paradigm to escape.

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Hi Burl. I'm sure that there are more than three choices where god is concerned. Nevertheless, within the popular Judeo-Christian culture of the US, most tend to lean toward a controlling deity (lord, sovereign, almighty, most high, king) or towards the anti-thesis that this controlling deity does not exists, with few other options given much press or visibility. The God of the Bible is, IMO, certainly the controlling deity. It is a difficult image to overcome, at least for me.

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But, for me, I lean more towards a non-theistic view that sees God, not as a supernatural power to control or intervene, but as the love that can be at the center of our lives to help us to reach out to those who suffer and to help them as we are able.

I couldn't agree more, Bill, and in my opinion, even if we're wrong, we're not.

 

Hope you hang around.

 

Paul

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In relation to my OP, it's been almost two years since my granddaughter, Moriah, died. Frustratingly (is that an adverb?), the case has still not gone to trial. The distracted driver who caused Moriah's death is still free. If the accident were truly God's sovereign will, it would be wrong to want to prosecute this guy, for he was only doing what God willed i.e he was God's agent. But that is not what I really want to discuss.

 

I went to see my sister in Boston about 3 weeks ago. We had a nice visit. But she said that she has been having problems sleeping due to my mother's death 3 years ago and went to see a psychic for some help. The psychic eventually mentioned that she sensed that a very young girl had died recently and that my sister should know that this girl was now safe with my departed mother.

 

Hmm. My sister believes this stuff. I remain...skeptical. I mean, Moriah never even met my mother. They didn't know each other and my mother had Alzheimer's the last ten years of her life and was barely lucid of her surroundings. I guess if this info "from the other side" helps my sister sleep, maybe it is okay. But as I lean more toward rationality and science, I don't trust psychics. On the other hand, I certainly don't know everything. This universe is a strange place. So I just listened and told my sister that I'm glad that she is sleeping better, which I am.

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Hi Bill

Basically I agree with your summary ... your three points. Sure we can divvy each these further, but as broad classes they work for me.

 

An option mentioned by Joseph was essentially pantheism, which I tend to have a soft spot for ... or as Dawkins has it sexed up atheism. In this sense is where theism and atheism meet on our circle of the other theisms.

 

Regarding your frustration of the driver having not come to trial:

 

In my opinion the purpose of the justice/penal system is or at least should be in a perfect world:

  • Deterrence (the weakest of the reasons).
  • Rehabilitation (the strongest in my opinion)
  • Protection (of society, ie if somebody is going to carry on habitually with their undesired behaviour)

 

Quite often people cite they want justice, meaning either want something back that was taken away. Obviously this is not always possible. But I do think this often turns into retribution and revenge masquerading s justice. This I don't think ultimately is helpful.

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Yes, Romansh, there are certainly more than just 3 options. Pantheism, panentheism, polytheism, and deism being a few more. I was just speaking within general North American god-concepts.

 

I also appreciate your thoughts on the justice/penal system. No "punishment" can bring my granddaughter back. But one idea that may be gaining ground in all of this, because it is such a high profile case, is the possibility of "Moriah's Law" which would make it, at least on paper, illegal to text while driving on Texas highways. Currently, there is no such law. Some cities outlaw it. Almost all school zones outlaw it. But there is nothing to stop people from distracted driving in speeds in excess of 65MPH on our highways. Would such a law stop all texters? Certainly not. But it may raise public awareness of the dangers, and it may, perhaps, save some lives.

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Ok, I finally was able to read the entire thread!

 

First, Bill, I am very, very sorry to hear of the loss of your granddaughter in such a tragic, and unexpected way. No granparent - or, even parent, for that matter - should outlive their grandchildren. No mere words of sympathy will ever repair the scars of their passing.

 

Secondly, let me preface my comments by letting you know where I'm coming from, for those who don't remember me from a couple of years ago on this forum. I do not think that the Bible is anything other than a collection of writings by men beginning in about the 7th or 8th centuries, BCE. I do not think it is divinely inpired, or a direct communication from any deity or other supernatural being. It can be at times frustratingly fractured and incomprehensible, and at other times profoundly prescient in its understanding of the human condition.

 

I've read the Bible through in its entirety probably 15 or 16 times. Not of my own free will, I should add. My parents were Baptists, and insisted on reading the Bible through every year as long as we were living under their roof. In fact, I learned to read from the King James Version of the Bible. My first grade teacher, on the first day of school, asked each of us to say aloud the longest word we knew. Mine was "circumscision." And, I knew what it meant.

 

I think that the idea of G-d is contained within our beings (mind - consciousness), and explains why we describe the deity (any deity, really) in largely anthropomorphic terms. It also explains why, when you put the Tanakh in historical order, it reveals an evolution in the concept of who or what G-d is. In earlier writings, G-d is distant, wrathful and "jealous" - quick to anger, and unforgiving in judgment and punishment. Then, you see this deity begin to "repent" and "change his mind." Finally, in post Babylon captivity, you have the G-d of Israel pouring out blessings and almost human-like empathy for the poor and downtrodden. This sets the stage for the first century reformers like Jesus, the Galilean peasant-preacher-prophet-king.

 

In my way of thinking, this provides great freedom to, in biblical terms, make mankind "Lord of the Sabbath" rather than the other way around. This is what, I think, Jesus was really trying to say: religion is yours to use as you see fit. If you imagine a deity that loves us all equally, and values each of us without judgment, then we can bestow the same blessings on our fellow human beings.

 

"People want me to do everything for them. What they don't realize is that they have the power. You want to see a miracle? Be the miracle," the god-figure who looks an awful lot like Morgan Freeman in Bruce Almighty says.

 

We have within us all the power of the universe. We have the power to embrace you in your grief, and be the miracle of healing to help you get through your pain at the loss of your granddaughter.

 

In one of my adopted faith traditions, Judaism, when one of us loses a family member, we sit Shiva. People bake bread for you, and cook meals for you, and come over and tell you funny, sad and inspiring stories about your loved one. You are overwhelmed with the feeling that YOU ARE NOT ALONE in your grief. I wish folks in the Christian tradition would adopt this practice (there is something similar in Islam).

 

NORM

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