When Christians Abandon Free Will


One of the internal contradictions in Christianity that has long seemed obvious to me is that they use free will as an excuse, then jettison the whole idea when it suits them. Free will, they say, eliminates the problem of evil because God wants us to freely choose to follow his dictates. And yet they then pray for God to convert people, as Tony Perkins encourages people to do for Dan Savage:

I would put out this challenge to folks who are listening: to put Dan Savage on the top of your prayer list and pray for him because I believe he has the potential to be a modern day Saul of Tarsus. I mean, just think if the Lord got a hold of his heart and changed him and turned him from persecuting Christians to being an advocate of Christianity and morality, what a huge impact that would have. So don’t get angry at Dan Savage; he’s doing what people do when they’re lost. Pray for him that he would see the light, be blinded by the light, and come to know Christ as his personal savior.

So you have to freely choose to love and follow God. Unless God “got hold of your heart” and made you believe in him against your will. And yet they remain oblivious to the inconsistency and incoherence of their position.

Comments

  1. tbp1 says

    Yes. The whole idea of intercessory prayer, whatever you’re praying for, never made any sense to me. Doesn’t God already know what you need, better in fact than you do? Do you have to beg him in exactly the right way before he does anything? How do you know what the right way is? And doesn’t he know with absolute foreknowledge whether or not he’s going to answer your prayer anyway? If so, what’s the point of praying?

    In the parking lot at work I often walk by a certain car with a “Pray to End Abortion” bumper sticker. Again, the thinking here eludes me. Supposedly God hates abortion, and because he’s omnipotent and all, he could put an end to it any time he wants to, but he doesn’t. Is he refusing to do so until a certain number of people pray about it? Do non-Christian prayers count? Is there a certain prayer formula they have to use? If I really hated something and had the power to abolish it at any time, with essentially no effort or even the slightest inconvenience, I wouldn’t wait until a certain number of people asked me in precisely the right way to get rid of it—I’d just do it. What’s the tipping point? Let’s say it’s 100,000,000. Does that mean that if only 999,999,999 people pray to end abortion he’s not going to act, but the moment that hundred-millionth person chimes in abortion is history?

    Just as an aside, I’ve asked people on numerous occasions to provide Scriptural backing for the notion that “God wants us to freely choose to follow his dictates.” I’ve never been cited a Scripture verse that even remotely supports that idea, but there are lots of verses to back up the Calvinist predetermination view.

  2. dingojack says

    tbp1 = asks: “What’s the tipping point? Let’s say it’s 100,000,000. Does that mean that if only 999,999,999 people pray to end abortion he’s not going to act, but the moment that hundred-millionth person chimes in abortion is history?”

    As it says in the Holy Book*.
    “And lo in the sky appeared a sign. And that sign appeared in shakey letters of ye Comic Sans surrounded by ye flashing stars, saying: ‘Congratulations thou art the 100,000,000th person to pray to end abortion. Click here to collect your prize!'”

    Dingo
    —–
    * ‘God’s Great Big Book of Holes’. – Simony & Shyster, ca. 150ce

  3. Brownian says

    Considering Paul’s influence on Christianity, I doubt these fine folks have any idea of the ramifications of a new Christianity remade in Dan Savage’s image.

    “And if thine eye causes thee to no longer be GGG, DTMFA.”

  4. eric says

    While Ed is talking about Christians jettisoning free will when it comes to intercessory prayer, the whole free will defense (for God hiding) is also completely inconsistent with the bible. Lots of people in the bible have a direct interaction with God or his angels. Yet these folk exercise their free will to disobey him, question him, or disagree with him…or, the theology claims they get to heaven despite having proof for their beliefs (instead of pure faith).

    Examples of the former group (those who know god yet disobey) include Adam, Eve, Satan, an a third of the heavenly host. Examples of the latter (those who know god, but get to heaven despite not needing faith) include Noah, King David, Mary, and all the new testament disciples.

    So, the next time some Christian says that God cannot directly intervene because that would abrogate our free will choice to accept him, just say “Satan.”

  5. says

    Dear God,

    Please change the minds of my enemies to force them to agree with me, because I suck at actually giving them reasons to do so. Since I obviously can’t conclude from this that I am in fact wrong, the only course of action is to appeal to supernatural intervention to help me triumph in a disagreement. And since you, God, are not powerful enough to change logic itself in order to make me right, I ask you to instead reconfigure someone’s brain to make it amenable to my illogic.

    Amen

  6. axilet says

    Or the opposite, where God hardens your heart for you, thus condemning you to bloody rivers, locusts, and your dead first-born son. I”m sure the Pharaoh felt ever so grateful for God’s intervention in his life all so He could have an awesome break-out scene complete with divine smiting in His ghost-written bestseller.

  7. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

    Note, too, that free will apparently ceases the moment you get to heaven (else there would be sin in heaven). So the time that you can exercise free will constitutes only a vanishingly small fraction of the entire duration of your existence. And this infinitesimal fraction determines whether or not you’ll spend the rest of eternity in agony.

  8. says

    Pray for him that he would see the light, be blinded by the light, and come to know Christ as his personal savior.

    Also be sure to pray he be revved up like a deuce, and be another runner in the night

  9. garnetstar says

    All Dan has to do is convert, and he’ll be a modern St. Paul?

    Sounds like an awesome financial opportunity!

  10. raven says

    The Calvinists don’t believe in free will anyway.

    It’s all Predestination.

    Dan Savage was predestined to be gay. Tony Perkins was predestined to be a crazy bigot babbling like a loon.

  11. dwimr says

    I guess Tony Perkins thinks Dan Savage will be converted on the Road to Anasskiss.

  12. heddle says

    raven,

    The Calvinists don’t believe in free will anyway.

    You truly never have a clue what you are talking about, do you?

  13. says

    The idea of “free will” is contradictory in a universe where a supreme being occasionally reaches in and violates physical law. Of course, that’s because the idea of “free will” contradicts everything we know about reality, period.

  14. Who Knows? says

    axilet @ 9,

    I was thinking the same thing. The whole turning them over to a reprobate mind thing.

  15. tbp1 says

    At heddle, #15. I’m hardly an expert on Calvinist theology, but when it comes to salvation issues, then it’s undeniably true that Calvinists don’t believe in free will. According to them, people are completely incapable of coming to God on their own, but if they are one of the “elect,” then they are completely incapable of resisting God’s call. This was all decided, basically on a whim, long, long ago, and people have no say in it.

    http://www.thecaveonline.com/APEH/calvinTULIP.html

    I will give the Calvinists a few points for at least trying to come to terms with the notion of God’s omnipotence and sovereignty, but really the God they believe in is absolutely evil.

  16. heddle says

    tbp1,

    I’m hardly an expert on Calvinist theology, but when it comes to salvation issues, then it’s undeniably true that Calvinists don’t believe in free will.

    I am a Calvinist, and like all the Calvinists I know, we absolutely believe in free will, so your claim is demonstrably false.

    Calvinism, in fact, proposes the most libertine view of the free-will possible, namely that we always choose what we want most at any given instant. If we deny anything, it is that we deny, in a certain sense, the very possibility of self-denial.

    Calvinism never claims that God is a puppet master who pulls the strings. Rather is says that at as a result of the fall man is free to choose god but never will–not because of a lack of free will but as the result of (as the great American Calvinist put it) a moral inability.

    A reasonable analogy is this: consider a mother, who is of sound mind, and no extenuating circumstances, no heath issues, not financial issues, etc. She is sitting holding her baby whom she loves more than life itself.

    She has the free will to stand up, walk to the microwave, put the baby inside, and turn it on high for 30 minutes.

    She never will; she is morally incapable, even though she possesses free will.

    So it is in Calvinism- fallen man has the free will to accept god (god is not preventing, say, PZ from choosing him) but the moral inability–so he (fallen man) never will. Predestination does not mean that god “makes” you choose him or prevents you from choosing him, but rather simply this: he regenerates the elect without regard to anything good or bad they have done. This regeneration, among other things, removes their moral inability and allows them to choose god.

  17. DaveL says

    This regeneration, among other things, removes their moral inability and allows them to choose god.

    Do you believe it is possible for such a regenerated person not to choose God, despite being capable?

  18. tbp1 says

    Heddle, Sorry, your rationalization, like that of other Calvinists I have known, simply doesn’t hold water. I am not free to choose something which is impossible. I can “choose” to try to lift a 10,000 pound boulder with my own strength, but I physically can’t do it, so it is wrong to hold me morally responsible for not being able to. Likewise it is wrong to hold someone morally accountable for not choosing God if he is absolutely unable to do so. Free will is meaningless under those circumstances. Likewise, if God’s call to election is irresistible, then I can’t choose not to respond to it.

    Any being that would create other beings for the sole purpose of torturing them forever would be evil. Fortunately there is no evidence that such a being actually exists.

    Arminianism has its own inherent contradictions, of course.

  19. Randomfactor says

    Doesn’t God already know what you need, better in fact than you do?

    God’s a computer. He knows what the unlock code is, but unless he hears “Unlock Special File Zebra” as an outside input, there’s nothing he can do…

  20. beezlebubby says

    Perkins is such a butt hole. If only Dan Savage persecuted xians the way Saul Tarsus did. Then we could have a conversation where the word “persecution” wasn’t so badly cheapened that it includes mere criticism. I just wish so many networks would stop giving air time to such an obvious lying bigot.
    Oh, and Heddle? Please stop embarrassing yourself and insulting the readership. Even *I* know that Calvinists don’t promise salvation to all believers. The only protestant sect more reliant on predetermination that yours are those loony J-dubs.

  21. Michael Heath says

    The most common deflecting argument I’ve encountered defending Tony Perkin’s plea without changing one’s belief that free will exists is that the intercessory prayer is a request for God to “soften [the subject’s] heart”. Hardly a defense but we observe rhetorical justification, not a defendable conclusion.

    It’s the other side of the same coin of another losing argument. When losing the argument claim that the winning debater is “spiritually blind” or, “Satan has blinded you from seeing the Truth [sic]”. I’ve had all three used against me when I debated conservative Christians in meat-world, which I no longer do for all the obvious reasons.

  22. heddle says

    beezlebubby

    Oh, and Heddle? Please stop embarrassing yourself and insulting the readership. Even *I* know that Calvinists don’t promise salvation to all believers.

    Are you nuts? I defy you find one Calvinist who says John 3:16 [*] is false.

    Keep in mind I’m not insulting the readership, just (in this case) you.

    _____________________
    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NIV)

  23. tbp1 says

    Heddle, John 3:16 is necessarily false if Calvinist doctrine is true. That Calvinists can’t see that is proof positive of the brain-killing power of religion.

  24. says

    Heddle said:

    Calvinism, in fact, proposes the most libertine view of the free-will possible, namely that we always choose what we want most at any given instant. If we deny anything, it is that we deny, in a certain sense, the very possibility of self-denial.

    Calvinism never claims that God is a puppet master who pulls the strings. Rather is says that at as a result of the fall man is free to choose god but never will–not because of a lack of free will but as the result of (as the great American Calvinist put it) a moral inability.

    A reasonable analogy is this: consider a mother, who is of sound mind, and no extenuating circumstances, no heath issues, not financial issues, etc. She is sitting holding her baby whom she loves more than life itself.

    She has the free will to stand up, walk to the microwave, put the baby inside, and turn it on high for 30 minutes.

    She never will; she is morally incapable, even though she possesses free will.

    So it is in Calvinism- fallen man has the free will to accept god (god is not preventing, say, PZ from choosing him) but the moral inability–so he (fallen man) never will. Predestination does not mean that god “makes” you choose him or prevents you from choosing him, but rather simply this: he regenerates the elect without regard to anything good or bad they have done. This regeneration, among other things, removes their moral inability and allows them to choose god.

    I believe in free will, but the free will I believe in sure as hell isn’t that. Further, if the moral inability of the fallen man to accept God is really like the moral inability of a mother to microwave her baby, it sure sounds like the fallen man is more virtuous than the un-fallen.

  25. Doug Little says

    heddle,

    She has the free will to stand up, walk to the microwave, put the baby inside, and turn it on high for 30 minutes.

    She never will; she is morally incapable, even though she possesses free will.

    So it is in Calvinism- fallen man has the free will to accept god (god is not preventing, say, PZ from choosing him) but the moral inability–so he (fallen man) never will.

    So deciding to believe in god is as crazy as a person of sound mind stuffing their baby into the microwave. Right, got it.

  26. Brownian says

    I am a Calvinist, and like all the Calvinists I know, we absolutely believe in free will, so your claim is demonstrably false.

    Based on this alone, it’s demonstrably false that David Heddle is anyone worth listening to whatsoever.

  27. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

    @tbp1:

    Not necessarily false, just incomplete. You just need to qualify “whoever believes in him” with the caveat that God gets to decide who can or will believe. Perhaps during the course of manuscript transmission a footnote was lost.

  28. Doug Little says

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

    Isn’t eternal life and salvation different things?

  29. steve oberski says

    @heddle

    Does your microwave have one of those platters that turn round & round or does it have a meat probe you can stick in the baby so it turns off automatically when it’s done ?

  30. heddle says

    tbp1,

    Heddle, John 3:16 is necessarily false if Calvinist doctrine is true. That Calvinists can’t see that is proof positive of the brain-killing power of religion.

    As an intellectual argument, that is the equivalent of using “Evolution is true? Well then, what good is half an eye? Huh? Tell me that Mr Scientist!” and actually believing that you have a “gotcha” rebuttal.

    Doug Little,

    So deciding to believe in god is as crazy as a person of sound mind stuffing their baby into the microwave. Right, got it.

    Yes, if “crazy” means “impossible.”

    Gretchen,

    Further, if the moral inability of the fallen man to accept God is really like the moral inability of a mother to microwave her baby, it sure sounds like the fallen man is more virtuous than the un-fallen.

    Gretchen,

    This is the same as Doug Little’s argument–and frankly it surprises me that you make it too. You usually don’t go for silly false equivalencies. You, I would have expected, would have seen that I was merely showing that even with free will some choices are effectively impossible to make–that an impossible choice does not logically violate free will if the constraining influence is internal (our desires or lack thereof) and not external (god or someone else forcing us).

  31. DaveL says

    an impossible choice does not logically violate free will if the constraining influence is internal (our desires or lack thereof) and not external (god or someone else forcing us).

    I think the argument everyone else is trying to make is that when those “internal” constraints are entirely under the control of an “external” influence, that’s a distinction without a difference.

    Imagine you had a switch that, when turned on, would give the mother in your example the moral capacity to microwave her baby, along with an irresistible desire to do so. Switch off, 0% chance the baby gets microwaved. Switch on, 100% chance the baby gets microwaved. You might choose to believe this is consistent with Free Will, but if the CIA mind control researchers of the 20th century had found something like this, they surely would have creamed their pants and broken out the champagne.

  32. says

    So deciding to believe in god is as crazy as a person of sound mind stuffing their baby into the microwave. Right, got it.

    No, it’s more like the very thought of wanting to give your life over to God is as repugnant as the idea of stuffing a baby into a microwave.

    But it’s not your fault you feel that way, your heart has been hardened against God because of some mythical event that supposedly happened at the dawn of mankind to a remote ancestor of yours that condemned humanity to be “morally incapable” for the rest of eternity (or at least until God decides otherwise) unless God decides you are to be “regenerated.”

    In any case, introducing the concept of a moral incapacity that is so paralyzing that not one single person has ever been able to overcome it in the entire history of the world merely allows one to argue that, in principle, people have free will when it comes to choosing God. In practice, they have as much freedom to choose as that baby does to choose to kick down the door to the microwave it suddenly finds itself it.

    By the way, Heddle, are there as many regenerate Muslims as there are regenerate Christians, per capita? And if so, does that mean there as many Muslims in Heaven as there are Christians?

  33. says

    that an impossible choice does not logically violate free will if the constraining influence is internal (our desires or lack thereof) and not external (god or someone else forcing us).

    And thus the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy is saved, once again.

    That’s what all this tortured logic boils down to, right? Allowing one to affirm the internal logical consistency of one’s Holy Scripture.

  34. Doug Little says

    No, it’s more like the very thought of wanting to give your life over to God is as repugnant as the idea of stuffing a baby into a microwave.

    Well, yeah. For very good reasons. Why does god make it impossible for me to believe in him? Sounds kind of silly to me, and what do all those religious types keep talking about if it is impossible to believe in god? They seem convinced, are they all liars?

  35. heddle says

    tacitus,

    By the way, Heddle, are there as many regenerate Muslims as there are regenerate Christians, per capita? And if so, does that mean there as many Muslims in Heaven as there are Christians?

    I don’t know what that means. I guess that I would answer it this way: Nobody is a Christian before they are regenerated, and everyone who is regenerated is a Christian, even if they never heard of Jesus Christ and couldn’t tell you a thing about him.

  36. says

    You truly never have a clue what you are talking about, do you?

    Yes, heddle, he has several clues — and I’ll bet half of them come from your own comments, both here and on SB. You’ve been the Calvinist-apologist-in-residence here for several years now, and in that capacity, you’ve flatly denied free will (while pretending not to) in a haze of theological abstractions about regeneration and grace and moral inability yadafuckinyada till the ‘tubes echoed with our laughter.

    Don’t call us ignorant when we’re basing our opinions on things you yourself have said — unless you’re willng to admit what that says about you.

  37. says

    …he regenerates the elect without regard to anything good or bad they have done. This regeneration, among other things, removes their moral inability and allows them to choose god.

    So in other words, they can’t “choose” God unless, and until, God “regenerates” them. Which means no free will. Thanks for proving our point.

  38. heddle says

    Raging Bee,

    I have flatly denied free will? Please point out where. All my discussions about free-will are one of three planks:

    1) A declaration that Calvinism supports free will, and even has a model for it.

    2) A challenge for anyone to explain a scientific model of free will–no, not a woo-based one like that that old fraud Dennett and his “consideration-generator” nonsense, but one based on actual science.

    3) An appreciation for honest atheists like William Provine who instead of spewing woo (like Dennett) simply argue that there is no such thing as free will.

    I have been completely consistent through the years–so I can only conclude that you are smoking dope. I have never denied free, let alone “flatly” denying it.

  39. says

    Heddle said:

    This is the same as Doug Little’s argument–and frankly it surprises me that you make it too. You usually don’t go for silly false equivalencies. You, I would have expected, would have seen that I was merely showing that even with free will some choices are effectively impossible to make–that an impossible choice does not logically violate free will if the constraining influence is internal (our desires or lack thereof) and not external (god or someone else forcing us).

    Of course I can see what you were trying to show. But you couldn’t have done a worse job at it because you had to appeal to a choice that a person couldn’t make because she is moral and call that a “moral inability” that is the same kind of thing that prevents a “fallen man” from accepting God. The problems with that are not only numerous but bleeding obvious, and I’ll detail a few of them for you.

    First, belief is not a choice. People do not choose whether to believe in God like they choose whether to put babies in microwaves, and they only pretend otherwise when trying to justify the horrific position that a person’s beliefs can legitimately justify their eternal salvation or damnation.

    Second, a moral sense is internal, yes. It is also what makes the notion of free will make any sense at all, because we make moral decisions based on consequences. If we are extremely basic, these consequences can be direct reward or punishment, but in general they are more complicated and involve trying to avoid harming others, obey rules of propriety, and so on. If the word “free” meant that our decisions were completely unfettered by anything, then they couldn’t be moral because they would be random and consequences would play no role at all.

    Third, if there is a God then our moral sense came from God. So yes, it was absolutely forced on us because it was built in. Any “moral disability” to accept God’s salvation was therefore created by God himself. I am not “morally unable” to accept God’s existence; I simply am mentally unable to believe because a posteriori evidence is lacking and a priori arguments like yours frankly are as well. They also employ some pretty laughable circular reasoning in that the person making them is always conveniently him/herself one of the saved, and never one of the “fallen.”

    You’re right that I usually don’t go for silly false equivalencies, which is why I found your explanation to be utterly ridiculous.

  40. tbp1 says

    I just remembered something I read on a Calvinist website some years ago. I can’t recall the exact wording, but basically they said that the fact that doing what God commanded was impossible didn’t excuse us for not doing it, and that yes, an eternity of torture was a fitting penalty for not doing the impossible, even if we never heard of this God or his requirements. And apparently it didn’t bother anyone there that at least some people they knew and loved would not be among the elect.

    I’m about as sure as I can be that there is no such deity, but it seems pretty self-evident that if he did exist, he would be infinitely morally depraved, unimaginably worse than any mere human dictator ever has been or ever will be.

  41. heddle says

    Raging Bee,

    So in other words, they can’t “choose” God unless, and until, God “regenerates” them. Which means no free will. Thanks for proving our point.

    Only in the same sense that the hypothetical mother who can’t choose to fry her baby is a flat denial of free will.

    Will you ever rape a child? I am confident the answer is no. In your present circumstances it would be impossible for you to make that choice, even though you have free will. At least I think you have free will–maybe you don’t. Maybe you think your actions are just the inevitable time-steps of the universe’s differential equation.

    So no, I didn’t prove your point.

    And why do you keep speaking for others? Proved our point and, previously: call us ignorant and our opinions. Who is in this group for which you are spokesman?

  42. says

    Just a note…comparing the presence or lack of beliefs to the choice to or not to microwave, fry, rape, or otherwise bring grievous harm to a baby makes you sound like you’re trying to be a Poe.

  43. heddle says

    tbp1

    Yeah, right. I am sure the arguments were just as naive as you remember. Yes I am sure that “it didn’t bother anyone there that at least some people they knew and loved would not be among the elect.”

    If you knew even one Calvinist (which seems doubtful) you would know that if anything preoccupies us it is the extreme distress over loved ones who appear to be lost or who have died having given no indication of accepting Christ.

    You are just piling on bullshit higher and higher.

  44. smflex says

    Thank you heddle for explaining your religion so succinctly. As a lurker here I’ve often wondered precicesly what you believe. That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever read.

  45. heddle says

    Gretchen #50,

    Why? Those are simply examples of choices that cannot be made because one’s internal moral state precludes it. I happened, because they are easier to construct, to choose examples where the person’s moral state is such that there is a horrific choice that, even though they are free moral agents, they simply cannot make. Regardless of the moral compass direction, the point stands: the inability to make a choice doesn’t imply a lack of free will. It is the old may vs. can.

    Your calling it Poe-like seems cheap and obfuscatory to me–and again surprising coming from you. There are several on here that I would fully expect to say: “heddle says choosing God is the same as choosing to fry a baby!” But you would not have been one of them.

  46. says

    Only in the same sense that the hypothetical mother who can’t choose to fry her baby is a flat denial of free will.

    Your analogy is like Hitler at an ice rink. You actually compare choosing communion with God to a mother choosing to kill her own baby? Do you have any clue on Earth how fucking ridiculous you sound? Even within the context of that sad little fantasy you call a theology, those two choices aren’t even remotely comparable.

    And why do you keep speaking for others?

    Why do you?

  47. says

    …the inability to make a choice doesn’t imply a lack of free will.

    No, but your bullshit about “regeneration” and “grace” does. (BTW, neither of those concepts apply to such choices as a mother killing her own baby.)

  48. says

    Heddle,

    Nobody disputes that there are choices that people don’t make– don’t feel that they can make– because they are morally abhorrent. The problem is, that in no way applies to, much less supports, what you’re saying.

    1. You haven’t demonstrated that failure to believe in God is anything like an aversion to doing something morally abhorrent.

    2. You haven’t demonstrated that belief or failing to believe, is a decision, period, let alone one based on a moral disposition.

    3. You haven’t even suggested why a “fallen man” would feel anything like moral abhorrence at the thought of accepting God’s existence and salvation.

    In short, you have discarded the entire basis of significant free will as I know it, which is making moral choices based on external consequences. That’s why you can say that you believe in free will until you’re blue in the face, but for the moment I’m inclined to disagree. But you’re in good company– there’s no shortage of other Christians who are willing to make the exact same sort of argument in order to justify eternally torturing people for simply not being convinced of something, all in the name of “free will.”

    You can continue being surprised by my finding your argument ridiculous, and I’ll continue being surprised that you’re making it.

  49. heddle says

    Raging Bee,

    You actually compare choosing communion with God to a mother choosing to kill her own baby? Do you have any clue on Earth how fucking ridiculous you sound?

    You can’t seem to deal with a single level of abstraction. I am confident that anyone with at least half a brain would understand that I am giving different examples of how one’s moral state can preclude choices (good or bad as the case may be) without violating free will. And I am confident that anyone with at least half a brain would understand that I am not making an equivalence among the different scenarios–they are merely unrelated examples of the same point.

  50. Doug Little says

    If you knew even one Calvinist (which seems doubtful)

    Please refer to the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

  51. tbp1 says

    @ Heddle: “if anything preoccupies us it is the extreme distress over loved ones who appear to be lost or who have died having given no indication of accepting Christ.”

    But according to you, they CAN’T accept Christ unless God decided countless eons ago to force them to. And, seemingly, you think it’s not morally depraved to torture them forever for not doing something they literally cannot do.

    How do you anticipate enjoying Heaven knowing knowing that people you love, people who in some cases are doubtless actually better people than you (or I, for that matter) are suffering an eternity of unbearable pain through absolutely no fault of their own?

    And yes, if this God you believe in exists, then nothing that we do is our fault. We didn’t set up the Universe, we didn’t ask to be born, God was no under obligation to create us in the first place, and certainly not under any obligation to set things up so that most people would, in fact, spend eternity in Hell. If he did so, it was simply because he wanted to, and gets some kind of satisfaction out of torturing his own creation. Even if you really believe such a god exists, I completely fail to see how you can think he is good, or worthy of worship.

  52. says

    You can’t seem to deal with a single level of abstraction.

    I do know the difference between “abstraction” and a completely inappropriate analogy.

    I also notice you’re harping on this analogy, and my refusal to “get” it, while ignoring my more direct point about how your bullshit about “regeneration” and “grace” contradict your assertion of free will. Wassamatter, boy, still waiting for God to regenerate your theology so you can refute me?

  53. says

    I am confident that anyone with at least half a brain would understand that I am giving different examples of how one’s moral state can preclude choices (good or bad as the case may be) without violating free will.

    Owner of at least half a brain here, and that wasn’t in question. What’s in question is the idea that belief in God– especially your version, in particular– is one of them. If you say that X is an example of free will, and I agree, and then you say that Y is too, I don’t have to agree. I also don’t have to agree that you know what free will is, much less believe in it.

  54. heddle says

    Gretchen,

    It is all based on the Calvinistic view of the fall, which is namely that it leaves us in a state that we are morally incapable of seeking god.

    There is no way to prove that–the best I can do is support it from scripture. But if one accepts it for the sake of argument then the rest follows:

    1. You haven’t demonstrated that failure to believe in God is anything like an aversion to doing something morally abhorrent.

    It is the same “type”. In both cases you cannot make a choice due to a lack of ability, not because some external agent is preventing you.

    2. You haven’t demonstrated that belief or failing to believe, is a decision, period, let alone one based on a moral disposition.

    It seems patently obvious. I believe–but I don’t see how anyone made me believe any more than I suspect you think someone made me believe. If nobody made me–then is it not clear it was a choice? The only difference I suspect is that I think I was enabled to believe supernaturally. How you think I decided to believe–in some way that preserves free will–I’ll leave that to you to explain–but we both agree, trivially, that I chose. (Unless you are a determinist.)

    3. You haven’t even suggested why a “fallen man” would feel anything like moral abhorrence at the thought of accepting God’s existence and salvation.

    I did, circularly. That is the very definition of fallen man to Calvinism–except that it is not so much a “moral abhorrence” but a lack of desire. That is, when I say fallen man is morally incapable, I don’t mean he feels moral repugnance at the thought of accepting god–though some do–but rather he has no desire. He does not seek god. (Rom 3:11).

  55. Michael Heath says

    heddle writes:

    If you knew even one Calvinist (which seems doubtful) you would know that if anything preoccupies us it is the extreme distress over loved ones who appear to be lost or who have died having given no indication of accepting Christ.

    And yet you celebrate the existence of such a god who would purposefully and knowingly create a reality where this god condemns your supposedly lost loved ones for an eternity of unrelenting unimaginably horrendous suffering. Do you understand how spurious your remorse comes across given the predicted ramifications coupled to the fact you celebrate such a supposed deity?

    I am often horrified by the evil humans do, and yet you celebrate your belief in a god who will do infinitely worse than all the evil humans in total have done.

    I know I’m a broken record on this issue, but I don’t recall you ever directly confronting how you can justify your own behavior, especially when you claim remorse for possibly lost loved ones.

  56. says

    That is, when I say fallen man is morally incapable, I don’t mean he feels moral repugnance at the thought of accepting god–though some do–but rather he has no desire. He does not seek god. (Rom 3:11).

    Yeah, well, Calvinist theology or no, that statement is just plain observably wrong: people seek communion with God(s)/Spirit/The Force/Higher Power all the fucking time, and try a rather wide variety of paths, and not all of them find it.

  57. Doug Little says

    I don’t mean he feels moral repugnance at the thought of accepting god–though some do–but rather he has no desire.

    So putting a baby in a microwave is just a lack of desire rather than is morally repugnant. Kinda like my lack of desire to mow the lawn every weekend until my wife badgers me enough to get off the couch and do it.

    Honey I told you to put the baby in the microwave, how many times do I need to say it….

    Yeah, Yeah I’m getting around to it, I’ll do it after I finish watching That Metal Show, it’s not like the baby can’t go a couple of weeks without being microwaved.

  58. Michael Heath says

    tbp1 writes:

    God was no under obligation to create us in the first place, and certainly not under any obligation to set things up so that most people would, in fact, spend eternity in Hell. If he did so, it was simply because he wanted to, and gets some kind of satisfaction out of torturing his own creation. Even if you really believe such a god exists, I completely fail to see how you can think he is good, or worthy of worship.

    The first time I raised this issue to an elder of the church, way back when I was a teenager, the trite response which came across as avoidance, was that God is holy. I wasn’t smart enough for a quick come back, but after some reflection I noticed that if this is true, it falsifies the idea God is all powerful. In fact on this aspect God is weaker than me since I willingly dealt with objective immorality on a weekly basis, as do so many others if not nearly all of us (though perhaps at a lesser rate).

    As I moved up the corporate ladder back in the late-80s and 1990s I also got a chance to work with and observe people with great power over many people. I also began to develop my own management skills in line with the increasing responsibility I was afforded. I found my perspective of the Bible changed by my noting how the god described in the Bible is not only a lousy communicator and not very bright, but also an incredibly poor designer. My creative/design skills are most likely remedial, yet I can easily envision a similar universe without the horrendous consequences we observe and the Bible’s god promises. I remain somewhat confident the Bible’s original authors were not dummies, just primitives who had yet to learn to think critically to the point they could develop their emotional intelligence. It’s also unfair to them that we take what they write and assign it to an all-powerful God rather than the writings of people within the context of their time.

  59. Michael Heath says

    heddle writes:

    It is all based on the Calvinistic view of the fall, which is namely that it leaves us in a state that we are morally incapable of seeking god.

    There is no way to prove that–the best I can do is support it from scripture. But if one accepts it for the sake of argument then the rest follows:[quotes something Gretchen wrote]

    […] you cannot make a choice due to a lack of ability, not because some external agent is preventing you.

    This appears incoherent to me. We are incapable of seeking God because of how he designed the universe, knowing in advance we’d fall – the odds were near 100% given it only took one supposed defective act out of countless opportunities to act defectively. We don’t earn by our behavior but instead inherit this incapability to seek this supposed god. Some of us die supposedly still incapable of seeking God.

    Yet this is free will in practice so it’s our responsibility we didn’t believe and God is justified in punishing us for all eternity. God’s off the hook for designing such a monstrous reality, nor is he culpable for failing to reveal himself or the rules in a way we can validate – in spite of his supposed judgment going against all logic we’ve successfully used to validate what we can empirically validate about reality.

    I admit I don’t know much about Calvinism but I think I do get logic and this is not logical. I instead assume this is an attempt by Calvinistic theologians to reconcile conflicting passages of the Bible in order to maintain the assertion the Bible is the inerrant word of God. But when we rise above the trees and look at the forest it’s absurd.

  60. Michael Heath says

    Gretchen writes:

    2. You haven’t demonstrated that belief or failing to believe, is a decision, period, let alone one based on a moral disposition.

    heddle responds:

    It seems patently obvious. I believe–but I don’t see how anyone made me believe any more than I suspect you think someone made me believe. If nobody made me–then is it not clear it was a choice? The only difference I suspect is that I think I was enabled to believe supernaturally. How you think I decided to believe–in some way that preserves free will–I’ll leave that to you to explain–but we both agree, trivially, that I chose. (Unless you are a determinist.)

    You didn’t respond to Gretchen’s point regarding the failure to believe, which you previously asserted we’re incapable of doing on our own. If we can’t believe on our own, and don’t, where was the free will we supposedly have?

  61. tbp1 says

    At Michael #66: I agree that the original authors of the Old Testament books probably didn’t think of Yahweh as all-powerful and -knowing, just much more powerful and knowing than people. The whole omni- thing is almost certainly a later construct. Nothing in the text suggests that it is a rhetorical question when God asks, for example, “Who told you you were naked?” or that he actually knew for sure what Adam and Eve, or Abraham, or Job would do when tested. And there’s that whole “chariots of iron” deal. I’ve never seen anyone even come close to reconciling that with the idea of an omnipotent deity.

  62. heddle says

    Michael Heath,

    If we can’t believe on our own, and don’t, where was the free will we supposedly have?

    The same location of the free will of the mother who cannot choose to harm her baby.

    Another analogy.

    Suppose I start college as a die-hard political conservative. 100% of the time if you ask me to choose between two options I will vote for the conservative choice.

    I am, in some sense, morally incapable of choosing the liberal choice. Nobody is forcing me to vote conservative but my own desires. I have free will, even though my choices are in some real sense determined–but they are self-determined and not coerced by an external agent.

    Now suppose I get some teachers who introduce me to new ideas, new arguments, etc. After a while I start to vote liberal.

    Where is my free will? (Same place it always was.) Without the teachers I would continue to vote conservative. Their instruction has caused my values to change, and now I can’t vote conservative. Where is my will? Same place as always, as free as always. My moral standing changed as a direct result of action by my teachers–but did they violate my will? They did not. Are they causing me to vote liberal? They are not.

    Calvinists say the same thing happens to people in regards to their ability to seek/choose god–with the only difference being that teachers and students do it interactively and by natural means, while god does it unilaterally by supernatural means.

    Raging Bee,

    people seek communion with God(s)/Spirit/The Force/Higher Power all the fucking time, and try a rather wide variety of paths, and not all of them find it.

    Duh. Of course–nobody denies that people sought Baal, for example. The passage in Romans does not teach that nobody in their fallen state seeks “a god or gods or truth or divine enlightenment” or even denies that some in their fallen state seek the things god offers–rather the bible (according to Calvinism) teaches that nobody in their fallen state seeks the god of the bible.

  63. Michael Heath says

    Me earlier:

    If we can’t believe on our own, and don’t, where was the free will we supposedly have?

    heddle responds:

    The same location of the free will of the mother who cannot choose to harm her baby.

    Analogies can be beneficial when used to illustrate a point so people better appreciate that point; but analogies fail miserably if the advocate is depending on an analogy in lieu of actually making the point. So I’d appreciate considering a point made cogently enough no analogy is required. Especially since what I quote at the top of this post from me earlier seems to convincingly point out the contradiction between the assertions we have free will to choose or not choose God while simultaneously being unable to seek God unless he arbitrarily decides to provides that capability – to some, but not others.

    heddle responds:

    Another analogy.

    Suppose I start college as a die-hard political conservative. 100% of the time if you ask me to choose between two options I will vote for the conservative choice.

    I am, in some sense, morally incapable of choosing the liberal choice. Nobody is forcing me to vote conservative but my own desires. I have free will, even though my choices are in some real sense determined–but they are self-determined and not coerced by an external agent.

    Now suppose I get some teachers who introduce me to new ideas, new arguments, etc. After a while I start to vote liberal.

    Where is my free will? (Same place it always was.) Without the teachers I would continue to vote conservative. Their instruction has caused my values to change, and now I can’t vote conservative. Where is my will? Same place as always, as free as always. My moral standing changed as a direct result of action by my teachers–but did they violate my will? They did not. Are they causing me to vote liberal? They are not.

    Calvinists say the same thing happens to people in regards to their ability to seek/choose god–with the only difference being that teachers and students do it interactively and by natural means, while god does it unilaterally by supernatural means.

    There are two reasons a conservative (or liberal) would always and only vote for a conservative (or liberal for that matter) – they are mentally ill or they choose to do so. In the former free will is compromised because of illness. Neither of your analogies are also equivalent to your assertion God has denied people the ability to seek God – in both case they are incapable of making such a choice. Where in the case of the sane conservative and the mother, they freely choose to both vote conservative and not microwave their baby.

    Prior to this thread I was under the mistaken impression Calvinists didn’t believe in free will. That was based on my own mundane ignorance of Calvinism and my cognizance of the biblical passages Calvinists’ relied on which non-Calvinist biblical inerrantists effectively ignore/avoid because they appear to contradict the idea of free will. However your efforts here compel me to believe that Calvinists are effectively arguing people have no free will to choose God while claiming the opposite, which of course also contradicts other passages in the Bible. If true this is incoherent. I am cognizant that Calvinists go to far greater and it appears, more imaginative efforts to reconcile biblical passages which infer free will and passages which seem to me to unambiguously deny its role in our supposed eternal destiny.

  64. LightningRose says

    Dear Flying Spaghetti Monster,

    Please have Heddle demonstrate he’s a raving loony. Ramen.

    Hot damn! It worked again! Maybe there’s something to this prayer crap after all.

  65. Wowbagger, Madman of Insleyfarne says

    heddle wrote:

    Now suppose I get some teachers who introduce me to new ideas, new arguments, etc. After a while I start to vote liberal.

    Which would be a good analogy if you could demonstrate that someone been given the magical wand-wave from your god had actually had the character to say no* – since I’m pretty sure that conservatives are likely to be exposed to liberal teachers from time to time, and (sadly) not all of them start to vote liberal.

    The lack of people stepping forward to say ‘God gave me the choice and I refused’ kind of undermines the argument that it’s anything resembling ‘free will’.

    *Which one hopes they would, given the fact that your god , if it did exist, would be the kind of monster no decent person would chose to worship out of anything other than fear and/or the desire to see others suffer.

  66. dingojack says

    The thread so far:
    Heddle says the prize for not microwaving your baby is an eternity of torture. But you deserve it, even though you there is no possibility of you could do anything else.
    As I understand it.

    :/ Dingo

  67. says

    I glanced at a number of the comments and found them to be similar to the thousands, by heddle and others (including mine) that have been made in other thread. They are, in a word, “leftovers” of sorts and THEY can be microwaved into wholesome, gooey yumminess in much less time than a baby*.

    * My little countertop microwave unit won’t even HOLD a baby. My old Sharp microwave, which was the size of a 21″ CRT televsion would hold an 18 pound turkey, but it took at least TWO HOURS to cook. Plus, there was no browning or drippings for gravy. Microwaved baby has nothing on pan-fried, braised or poached. I particularly like Infant au jus.

  68. steve oberski says

    smflex says:

    Thank you heddle for explaining your religion so succinctly. As a lurker here I’ve often wondered precicesly what you believe. That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever read.

    A quick review of pretty much anything heddle has every written might disabuse you of that notion, although as today’s guest on “Ask A Calvinist Anything” (TM) the stupidity, irony, vileness and disgust meters were once again pegged at maximum.

    xtians quite often accuse atheists of confronting a caricature of their beliefs but when presented with such a sophisticated representative of the medium one wonders why they seem to go out of their way to make disambiguating the flavours of craziness such a difficult task.

  69. says

    “And yet they then pray for God to convert people, as Tony Perkins encourages people to do for Dan Savage:”

    Is it because he wants to help him prey away teh GAY, in some by the hour motel room?>

  70. says

    Another analogy…

    …that still fails, because it doesn’t involve an all-powerful Creator God giving supernatural “regeneration” or “grace,” without which the “choice” in question can’t be made. A professor introducing a student to new ideas (which the student could have discovered by other means) is nowhere near comparable to any of that.

  71. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    It’s amusing that heddle slags Dennett, while heddle’s explanation of free will — “that we always choose what we want most at any given instant” — is indistinguishable from compatibilism of the sort that Dennett promotes. I guess his aversion is because Dennett’s explanation is so thorough that it’s risible. But heddle evidently does not believe in contra-causal free will, so in truth he doesn’t believe in free will at all. (Which speaks well of his intellect, even if he doesn’t realize the determinism he’s articulating.)

  72. Tigger_the_Wing says

    The Heddle explanation, as I see it.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    God sits in his Heavenly throne at the top of a long, steep flight of steps. He creates humanity and puts them into a narrow place between Heaven and Hell.

    He makes the narrow place slope down towards Hell.

    He then tells humanity that he can save anyone, who can climb up the steps to him, from being unavoidably hurled into the pit of fire and eternal torment.

    Then he destroys everyone’s limbs.

    They fall. They are incapable of climbing the stairs now, however much they might want to.

    He regenerates the limbs of a few random people.

    He now says it is the free choice of anyone to climb or not to climb.

    Of course, the regenerated ones could choose not to climb the flight – but why would they do that? They wouldn’t save anyone else by their self-sacrifice so they would merely be adding to the numbers that go to the horror of hell without any reason.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    As I see it, neither group actually has free will in any way.

    It doesn’t matter whether Heddle’s God creates the inability to follow him as a spiritual or physical disability. If Heddle’s religion is correct, his God creates every aspect of everyone. If they are incapable of reaching God, it’s because God made them that way. If Heddle’s God is omni-anything, God created the Universe, Heaven and Hell and decided who would end up where.

    Which, as others have already pointed out, makes Heddle’s God the most horrific in the pantheon.

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