Weblog of a Christian philosophy student

Weblog of a Christian philosophy student. Please feel free to comment. All of my posts are public domain. Subscribe to posts [Atom]. Email me at countaltair [at] yahoo.com.au. I also run a Chinese to English translation business at www.willfanyi.com.

Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Does sin explain why people don't use their free will that much?

"Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." - John 8:34-36.

Two interesting facts:

1) We have a very strong, gut feeling that we have free will.
2) It often seems that hardly anyone uses it. Most of the time our personalities don't change throughout our life in very significant ways... we usually choose the same way.

Think about it. If you're an introvert you probably don't feel you could suddenly decide to become a very outgoing person. If you have a short-temper you probably don't feel like you could flick a switch and become very calm in all situations.

Yet we feel we have this thing called 'free will', which should ideally allow us to do what I've just described. If free will is true, then we should be able to change our personality if we feel like it, and choose to do anything physically possible for us. But even though we feel that we have this power, we hardly ever change/use it. The person who starts off liking certain choices will probably stay that way regarding most of them.

I think that the reason why we find it hard to change comes from sin.

How so?

Well to begin with, the greatest commandment is that you should 'love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind'. This is basically saying that we should love and serve God with every fibre of our being.

Now, if you were doing this, it wouldn't detract from your freedom at all. Because God is good, and honours our free will, it would basically mean that you never sin. It wouldn't actually detract from your freedom in any other area, except you would not sin. Your personality would actually stay the same, except regarding the areas where your personality is morally flawed.

Now, if you followed this greatest commandment, you could really exercise your free will. You could always make the choices you know are the best. How? Well, by loving God with such a great love, you would only do what God wanted. So you could say to God 'Today I feel like making such-and-such choices', and God would say 'That's what I want for you then' and you would do it, because you would prioritise God's will with infinite importance.

That would enable someone to easily make whatever choices they wanted (apart from sinful ones) very easily; instantly.

Maybe this is the 'default' setting for the people that God creates in His image. In the 'default' setting we have free will and we use it. If anyone chooses a certain way, it's because that's how they genuinely want to be.

It's ONLY due to our fallen, sinful nature that we get 'locked into' certain choices. So it's ONLY because of our sin that we have the phenomenon where someone is addicted to something and can't break out, and so on. Or someone can't change in a way they want to change. That's not something that 'naturally' comes with free will, but can only come with free will + our fallen nature. That's why it sometimes seems as though people don't have free will even though we all do.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Podcast: How did God become a man?

Podcast summary:

How did God become a man? First we must look at the image of God. When it comes to being a person, having a mind and intentions, we're exactly like God. That implies there can be a kind of 'crossover' between finite and infinite. An analogy: you could say that our body and brain is on one side of a mirror, and our mind/person is on the other side in a subjective reality. For Jesus the man, the mind on the other side of the body/brain was God in God's reality.

Title: The incarnation
Time: 18:21 minutes
Size: 8.4 MB mp3

Direct link to the audio file (Right click and 'Save As')
Link to the audio file page

Further Reading:

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Is religion a fairytale that people believe in?

(picture above of the ideas in this article, click on it to see it normal size)

People often object to the idea of a loving God, who happens to be a three-in-one trinity, who became a man to take away our evil (which required His death) because it sounds too much like a story.

But there are reasons for thinking that's not a very good reason to reject Christianity.

Think about this: fundamentally, what is the most basic kind of thing that you can get? What was there first and is the foundation for everything?

Atheists/agnostics say it's inanimate matter - like the chair you could be sitting on.

People who believe in God say that 'mind' is the most basic thing. Before there was inanimate stuff like a table or a chair there was a mind (or 'mind' itself). A 'super-mind', if you will, we call 'God'.

The atheist view has the advantage in that it sounds scientific, and reality can in principle be entirely understood.

The religious view of the world can sometimes look like a story, a tale made up to make sense of the world.

But think about this: if 'mind' is the most foundational 'thing', then how can reality be anything other than an elaborate story? Stories are the stuff of minds; stories are what minds deal in.

Imagine what kind of world would be the case if reality is fundamentally mental. There would be a 'super-mind' at the bottom of it all, who had to exist, who created everything according to (mental) intentions. Sounds like the makings of a story.

So in defense of the storylike view of reality offered by those who believe in God, if mind is at the 'bottom of it all' then this is totally expected. So religion shouldn't be rejected on that basis.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Why would a perfect God create the universe?

Why would a God who is perfect, who lacks nothing, create humans?

It's true that God is completely happy in Himself, and there is nothing that can add to His happiness, including the creation of humans. But a reality where only God is perfectly happy has objectively less joy in it than a reality where God and billions of other beings are happy. So God created us purely so that we could be happy as well, as an act of kindness. But this act of kindness doesn't fill any lack in God's happiness, it's purely an act of kindness to creatures that haven't been made yet.

But then you could object that God doesn't do a very good job of making us happy...

The answer to this is that bearing the image of God is a great gift, but it needs to 'work' a certain way for that image-of-God to be happy. Much like if you make a car to run on petrol then you cannot give it fruit juice to run on. If we make choices that God wouldn't make in our position, namely, to sin, then our image of God doesn't 'work properly'. When the image of God is 'working' it's connected to God and feels the happiness of God. But when we sin, God is cut-off from the image of God (our soul) and that brings about suffering (Rom 5:12-14). So instead of being a wonderful gift, being a sinner makes bearing the image of God a terrible burden, because you must live life with your image of God cut-off from God and that means persistent suffering.


Monday, July 06, 2009

What's going on with the whole 'original sin' thing?

This is very speculative but I think it hangs together as a good explanation of the whole 'original sin' thing and the difference between humans, angels, and fallen angels. The Bible doesn't talk about the argument in this essay, but speculation can sometimes be helpful.

Let's say that God made billions and billions of souls, but didn't put them into bodies just yet. Let's also imagine that God couldn't make just the souls that would choose the way God wanted (as part of the mysterious nature of 'free will'). Yet, even though God couldn't make or not make souls on the basis of their choices, God had the power to predict how every soul would choose in an infinity of possible situations. Before putting them into bodies, suppose that God searched out how every soul would choose in an infinity of possible situations, to be better informed about what sort of bodies to put each soul into. There is also "no respect of persons with God" (absolute equality between all souls) - Acts 10:34; Rom 2:11.

Suppose that everyone has the option of looking at good and evil from God's perspective, or from their own. Imagine that without God's protection, everyone faces constant temptations to sin, as only God is certainly good ("on the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die" - Genesis.)

The 'tree of knowledge' symbolises a person rejecting God's way of looking at good and evil, in favour of looking at good and evil in a way determined by oneself. The fruit was not literal, it was the option to reject God's protection of our choices - God's way of looking at people and moral choices.

Suppose that there were some souls who would never have eaten of the tree of knowledge if God told them not to. In other words, it is possible to be in the Garden forever and never give in to the temptation.

These souls could be the souls of good angels. In other words, God put the souls of those who would have eternally rejected Adam and Eve's temptation into the bodies of good angels. These souls serve God faithfully forever and never experience a 'Fall' because with God's help they can be made 'strong' enough to eternally reject the temptation of Adam and Eve.

The souls that God couldn't make 'strong' or 'faithful' enough to avoid the temptation of Adam and Eve forever were put into human bodies. There's something about us (them) that means we are drawn to reject God's protection of our free will, and not even God can teach us not to do that without a 'Fall' happening. Because every one of us would have eaten of the tree if we had personally been there, Adam's 'curse' was placed on all of us even though only a few of us were actually in 'the Garden'.

OK, that deals with good angels and humans, but where do fallen angels come from?

Let's modify this a bit, and say that after deciding to work out good and evil for oneself (which is what the 'tree' symbolises) some souls decide to become completely evil, and some souls hold on to a sense of goodness.

The souls that would have decided to hold on to a sense of goodness after eating of the tree were put into human bodies and put into history at various times.

God can still win those souls back to Him by convicting us of our failure to live up to our own and God's standards, through the Holy Spirit (Luke 19:10: "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.")

The souls that (after 'eating of the tree') would have decided to become completely evil were allocated into the bodies of the fallen angels. They 'started off' in heaven with the good angels, and were given every opportunity to be like the good angels. But God knew that they would reject His protection of their choices and that's exactly what they did. When these souls rejected God's protection of their choices (in their own 'Fall') in heaven, they became completely evil and became the 'fallen angels' of the Bible. These souls didn't hold to a sense of goodness like the souls that God made into humans.

Because these souls rejected all goodness (after 'eating of the tree') they were never put on earth to hear the gospel because they have eternally rejected all goodness. There could be nothing for God to appeal to, in order to win them back to Him.

God decided to use these fallen angels for a good purpose. Through manipulating necessary suffering and sin, these angels give many the desire to be like the prodigal son and go back to God, and make Christians develop into being more like Christ through special kinds of adversity.

So this quite neatly explains why the whole 'tree of knowledge' and 'original sin' set-up had to be the way it is:

1. God made a lot of souls but didn't put them into bodies just yet.
2. God knew that some souls would not choose to eat of the tree, some souls would and would still have goodness left in them, and some souls would and would become completely evil.
3. Based on how God knows they will choose, God allocates everyone into bodies, respectively, the good angels, humans, and the fallen angels.
4. We were put on earth to hear the gospel, unlike the fallen angels, because we chose to hold to some goodness, and thus God can appeal to us to 'return' (in a sense) to a state where we act according to the image of God (shown by Christ and the good angels), through the cross of Christ.