Monday, June 27, 2005

Manipulation, Free Will, and God's foreknowledge

Basic Thesis:
If God knows the future and uses this knowledge in his actions then we are not free.

Many people believe that God has complete knowledge of the future and hence knows what we were going to do in any given situation. They believe that God uses this knowledge of how we will act to set up the world how he wishes it to be. This is a widespread view, not merely Calvinists, but virtually everyone who denies the Open View of God's foreknowledge would hold such a view. I suggest this amounts to God manipulating us for his own ends, and as such, is inconsistent with free will.

Defence of said thesis:

Premise 1. The above stated view of God effectively says that God manipulates us.
("Manipulate" = control to one's advantage by artful or indirect means)

Allegedly, God uses his sure and certain knowledge of how we would act in different situations in order to create the "best possible world", by putting us in situations such that the outcome is as he wants it. It appears to me that this view portrays God as manipulating us.

Premise 2. Manipulation to the degree depicted above is inconsistent with free will.
("Free Will" = The power of making free choices that are unconstrained by external circumstances or by an agency such as fate or divine will.)

It appears to me fairly obvious that if someone else is manipulating us in order that we act according to their desires, we are not really free. Now I think there are definitely degrees of manipulation: eg I could try and make someone who I liked to like me back by being extra-nice to them or giving them presents. This sort of low-level human manipulation doesn't really override free will because it's far from certain that we will actually succeed. But when God does it, it is alleged, he has sure and certain knowledge of exactly how people will act in different situations he might put them in.

Conclusion. The belief that God uses his foreknowledge of how we will certainly act in different situations is effectively saying that God manipulates us, which is inconsistent with free will.

In short, to preserve free will one must hold the open view.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Mixed up terms

After having done a pretty serious study of the word "justification" and concluding that it meant "the process of being made morally virtuous" I was chatting to someone about it. And they asked "aren't you then equating justification with sanctification?" Hmm.

Well, I suppose I was. I had just taken for granted that the meaning of sanctification as popularly understood to mean "inner moral renewal" (or similar) was correct (I had intended to check it but had forgotten). A couple of greek dictionaries later I was reconsidering that opinion: Sanctify (hagisdo) is listed as meaning to hallow / dedicate / consecrate / purify. Hmm. While "purify" is admittedly part of the meaning, the primary force seems to be the fact that the object is being dedicated to God, set apart from ordinary use and given over to God's use. I can see why it's translated to "sanctify" in English - an object that was to be placed in a holy sanctuary (such as a temple, altar etc) needs to be "sanctified", probably by having a prayer prayed over it and being placed ceremoniously in the sacred area. A time we would sanctify something today would be when a new church building is built and the elders would go and pray in it and dedicate ("sanctify") it to God.

Obviously the meaning of the word when applied to converts is little different - their sanctification is the consecration of their life to God. Admittedly an aspect of its meaning can be the idea of cleansing, but a few word searches quickly reveals that the word "consecrate" fits very nicely for "sanctify".

Here's a few occurances of the word that reveal most about its meaning:
so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. (Rom 15:16)
can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, "I am God's Son'? (John 10:36)
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, (1 Cor 1:2)
And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:11)
nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by God's word and by prayer. (1 Tim 4:4-5)
How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by those who have spurned the Son of God, profaned the blood of the covenant by which they were sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace? (Heb 10:29)
For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, (Heb 9:13)
God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. (2 Thes 2:13)
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication; (1 Thes 4:3)
For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification. (Rom 6:19)
For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. (1 Cor 7:14)

So, if sanctification means "consecration" (is there a less antiquainted english world with the same meaning?) and justification means "becoming morally virtuous", then a few unresolved questions remain.
1. Are either or both instantaneous events, or are they processes? Are they a one-off point at which your life changes to a new state, or are they on-going processes of change? Does it matter?
2. Does either one come first? Does one cause the other? Does the order matter?
3. Are sancification and justification the same thing? Is it important to differentiate them?
4. Is answering any of the above questions meaningful in any way whatsoever? Are there even true answers to these questions, or would Paul himself said that the questions were meaningless and that the answers didn't matter? Does it matter to us in the least what the answers are?

I think my answers are probably 3 - Similar but not quite the same, 4 - as long as you understand the basic meanings of the words the precise relations between them are unimportant, Paul himself would probably not have cared.