Friday, December 13, 2013

The Will to Deny Free Will and the Intelligence to Deny Intellect

Among yesterday's comments is one from a predestineer, a position I admittedly find metaphysically absurd and logically impossible.

That being the case, it can only be defended based upon selecting certain biblical passages and interpreting them in such a way that they not only contradict the overall thrust of scripture -- i.e., man as moral agent -- but also contradict the very people who put the book together.

The compilers would have been quite surprised to learn that they were promoting a doctrine that denies free will. Among other inconveniences, denial of free will renders life utterly meaningless, as meaningless as the world of pure chaos from which religion is here to rescue us.

To put it another way, absolute order and absolute chaos are both absolutely meaningless. Besides, no sane human being actually behaves as if he has no free will, for it is an impossible doctrine. Might as well pretend the world is just an extension of one's own imagination.

(By the way, the purpose of this post is not to argue with anyone, for such arguments are pointless, being that if someone believes in predestination, it is not because it is rational, but because he prefers to or is destined to, i.e., it is rooted in will, not intellect. So this is for my own clarification. No offense intended.)

The Catholic Catechism puts it about as clearly as possible, saying that "God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions." This is "so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him." I mean, if we aren't free, then Jesus's instruction to evangelize is pointless.

St. Irenaeus, a disciple of John and one of the earliest theologians on record, wrote that "Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts."

I suppose this common sense (to us) position had to be spelled out, because it was in direct contrast to the pagan view, which was indeed that man has no free will, but is a prisoner of fate and a plaything of the gods.

Christianity was unique -- along with Judaism, of course -- in promulgating this novel doctrine of human freedom and therefore dignity. One can draw a straight crooked line from those early pneumanauts to RIGHT HERE and NOW, where you and I are exercising our precious freedom. (Most of us, anyway; my site meter indicates we have readers in a number of unfree locales from outside the Judeo-Christian stream, yesterday, for example, Tunisia, Viet Nam, and Manhattan.)

Here again, the Catechism is quite lucid in defining the meaning of freedom, with hardly a wasted word: "Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility. By free will one shapes one's own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude."

And "the right to the exercise of freedom... is an inalienable requirement to the dignity of the human person. This right must be recognized and protected by civil authority," Obama and illiberal leftism notwithstanding.

This is precisely what we were saying yesterday vis-a-vis the "three freedoms," i.e., horizontal <--> vertical <--> divine. And because we have free will, we inevitably fail to exercise it properly, hence the reality of sin. Among other things, predestination renders sin impossible because it fails to posit man as moral agent.

Rather, as the presaved commenter put it yesterday, only "the originals," i.e., Adam and Eve, had the freedom to choose God, and since they chose unwisely, we are all subject to the same punishment, and no longer free to so choose. It was a one-time-only offer, and they blew it for everyone.

I can't stand any presentation of religion that makes it look foolish and provides ammunition for postmodern sophisticates to ridicule and reject it. In my opinion this falls under the heading of taking the name of the lord in vain, which is a quite serious offense. After all, it blocks the path to salvation.

In concretizing the parable in this manner, its true meaning is lost. In other words, in making it about a historical "Adam and Eve," it is no longer about us, except indirectly, via hereditary collective punishment.

But if the parable is about us, then it goes directly to the misuse of our own freedom, here and now. According to tradition, "The grace of Christ is not in the slightest way a rival of our freedom when this freedom accords with the sense of the true and the good that God has put in the human heart."

While looking up another passage, I found this one from Schuon, that man "alone among terrestrial creatures is free to go against his own nature," hence the possibility of such intrinsic deviations as homosexual marriage and the like. Interestingly, he does not situate this liberty in the prelapsarian phase, but rather, only as a consequence of the fall, which "separates [man] first of all from that immanent Revelation which is Intellection."

In other words, the fall ushers us into a kind of meaningless horizontal freedom, no longer oriented to the divine attractor. Thus, "in God and through Him, man can be reunited with pure Liberty; only in God are we absolutely free" (ibid.).

Conversely, man "possesses the paradoxical freedom to wish in his turn to make himself God..." Ironic that this is precisely what predestination does, that is, turn man into God, since his self-styled "destiny" is indistinguishable from God's will.

This follows from an Intelligence Fail -- i.e., from a Major Malfunction in the use of our most precious gift -- in that "Intelligence separated from its supra-individual source is accompanied ipso facto by that lack of sense of proportions termed pride" (ibid.). Hence the irritating smugness of the Already Saved.

At the other end is the scientistic pride that "prevents intelligence become rationalism from rising to its source," here again elevating man to God. Numberless are the ways, both religious and secular, to "prove the absurd."

The final, ultimate freedom, the daring of freedom and the burden of freedom, is the virtue of religious maturity. To arrive at religious maturity means to know final freedom.... He who is not free, the slave, cannot enter the Kingdom of God: he is not a son of God; he is subject to lower spheres. --Berdyaev

Not that there's anything wrong with that.


Blogger Kurt said...

Amen to that, brother! The last time this issue came up another commenter mentioned something that I think says a lot about those who take predestination position - 'I have never met a Calvinist who felt that God had chosen them for damnation.' Kind of a spiritual 'apres nous le deluge' thing. 'I got mine, too bad about the rest of you suckers!'

12/13/2013 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Having said that, one can perhaps understand the appeal of predestination in a climate in which people could purchase salvation in the form of indulgences. As usual, one error provokes its opposite extreme.

12/13/2013 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I didn't mean to come off as argumentative either.

As Kurt points out, even the most ardent advocates of predestination when they are teaching appeal to free will when they are preaching.

Probably the most compelling and compact argument for predestination can be found in Romans chapter 9, e.g., verse 16: So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

In response to your assertion here: Among other things, predestination renders sin impossible because it fails to posit man as moral agent. -- Paul appears to contend that we are in no position to judge God.

You will say to me then, Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will? (v.19)

Paul says that the clay can't complain to the potter about what he might choose to make of it, i.e., a wine goblet or a chamber pot.

But, again, in the overall context of Scripture, Romans 9 is specifically addressing the point that many of the Jews had rejected the idea that Jesus was the Messiah. The question this raised was whether or not Jews remained God's Chosen People.

Paul is essentially saying not to worry about it because the rejection served God's ultimate purpose. He then goes on in chapter 11 to explain that the apparent rejection is partial and temporary.

Meanwhile, in chapter 10, we see him proclaiming the necessity of free will -- ... if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (vv.9,10)

12/13/2013 10:30:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

OK, I'll shut up. NoMo, we're still brothers, right?

12/13/2013 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I think in general that predestineers have to tolerate the unavoidable orthopardox at the heart of this discussion.

12/13/2013 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Like its complementary principle in physics, i.e., determined particle and indeterminate wave.

12/13/2013 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Not that I pretend to be an expert in these matters. Or rather, only pretend to.

12/13/2013 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Ironic that this is precisely what predestination does, that is, turn man into God, since his self-styled "destiny" is indistinguishable from God's will.

And at the same time, it makes God's will utterly meaningless.

12/13/2013 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Particularly, I have in mind all those who have dedicated their lives to spiritual practice. If all is predestined, why pray? Why sacrifice, as many do, or practice asceticism, or even just obey the law? And at the same time, the belief in predestination makes it all too easy for some to assume for themselves the mantle of holiness, which they then use to run amok and give themselves license to behave in ways they'd never dare if they still thought they had the opportunity to fail.

12/13/2013 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Predestination's just another word for nothing left to choose.

12/13/2013 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

In reverse, this life (mine) looks like a total set-up job. Coconut cream pies to the face one after the other.
Little did I know I wuz in charge all along! Me and my selfish genes -- we're always the last to find out...

12/13/2013 11:25:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, the confluence of freedom and providence is most mysterious. We see the pattern on top of the rug, but we can't really see what's going on on the other side.

12/13/2013 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

This is not dissimilar, in essence, to psychoanalysis, whereby two events that are widely separated in time -- from here to infanity, so to speak -- are contiguous and even interpenetrating.

12/13/2013 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified."
(Romans 8:28ff)

It's not a hill to die on, but certainly one to try and climb.

Julie - Why choose to act according to God's will once He has enabled us to? For the simple reason that it pleases and glorifies Him when we do.

Mush - Can you say ba-a-a-a?

12/13/2013 01:45:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

One could easily cite equal and opposite passages, such as "man is justified by works, and not by faith only" (Jam 2:24), and "faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead" (Jam 2:17), for which reason one must exercise common sense and intelligence (not to mention tradition, which settled the question in the first generation of Christians and for 15 centuries thereafter), certainly not by excluding one side of a complementarity, which only generates confusion.

12/13/2013 02:41:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The fulness of the Gospel not only permits orthoparadox, but demands it. Usually, to deny an orthoparadox is to affirm a heresy -- or in other words, most heresies are half-true.

12/13/2013 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Yes, exactly. Even Mary had the choice to say "No." That's why her "Yes!" matters.

12/13/2013 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger Kurt said...

I never met a Calvinist who could pole-vault over John 3:16...the operative words being WORLD and WHOSOEVER!

12/13/2013 03:21:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

A footnote to the Orthodox Study Bible suggests that John 3:16 is a kind of fractal, in that "this single verse expresses the whole of the message of John's Gospel, and indeed, of salvation history."

12/13/2013 03:33:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

This Just In: Jay Carney To Exit as WH Press Secretary, to be replaced by the hallucinating 'signer' from S Africa. Obama felt he did a great job: "If I had a son who was an aspiring signer on acid, he might look just like Thamsanqa..."

Apparently there were some deaf people who saw the sign language of Obama's eulogy and felt for the first time he sounded genuine and sensible.

12/13/2013 04:37:00 PM  
Blogger Peyton said...

In my opinion this falls under the heading of taking the name of the lord in vain, which is a quite serious offense. After all, it blocks the path to salvation.

I've been thinking about the Second/Third Commandment, and realizing that I often take the Lord's Name in vain; not the occasional GD (or GB?), but the common platitudes like "God has a reason for it." Or worse, "God made me this way." Just thinking.

12/13/2013 05:14:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

This is a great deal if you need a gift for that obsessive Beatles fan in your life: only $10.99 and free shipping for their first four American albums, which are quite different from their British counterparts, both in content and sound. It's also a Japanese import, which makes it more rare, and therefore imbued with more Beatles juju.

These albums are considered "controversial," since a faceless executive at Capitol records in America decided that the Brits didn't know how to record rock & roll properly -- that it sounded too dry and clinical. Therefore, he decided to pump them up with reverb and other effects in order to make them jump out of an AM radio and grab you by the throat. In this they succeed. An unsurpassed lesson in how to properly Rock.

12/14/2013 08:49:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

Iran sends second monkey into space, president says

12/14/2013 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I didn't pick on Romans 8 specifically because it mixes foreknowledge and predestination -- which makes it almost too easy. God knew that some would accept the offer of grace (foreknew). Those who will accept are then predestined. Predestined to what? To be conformed to the image of Christ. Those who were predestined were then called, and so on.

Once I make the choice, the Holy Spirit begins to work in my life. After that, as Rick noted, it does seem like a setup.

12/14/2013 04:58:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I think what distinguishes Christianity and elevates it above the pagans is that nothing is written until we write it.

12/14/2013 05:22:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

Weekends! are for discovering new unpronouncible European philosophers who may offer food for thought or abominations to purge
....Ready for a post-Nietzschean, Habermas-duelling onetime Rajneesh visitor described thus: "Peter Sloterdijk finds in Diogenes what many of his contemporaries found in Norman O. Brown, or in Zen, or for that matter in drugs and music: permission to turn off reason, objectivity, “logocentric” thinking, the head."

Faced with its demise, philosophy ... confesses: The great themes, they were evasions and half-truths. Those futile, beautiful, soaring flights—God, Universe, Theory, Praxis, Subject, Object, Body, Spirit, Meaning, Nothingness—all that is nothing. ....
The last philosophy, willing to confess, treats such things under a historical rubric—together with the sins of youth. Their time has come. In our thinking there is no longer any spark of the uplifting flight of concepts or of the ecstasies of understanding. We are enlightened, we are apathetic. No one talks anymore of a love of wisdom. There is no longer any knowledge whose friend (philos) one could be. It does not occur to us to love the kind of knowledge we have; rather we ask ourselves how we might contrive to live with it without becoming ossified. ...
“Knowledge is power.” This is the sentence that dug the grave of philosophy in the nineteenth century. ... This sentence brings to an end the tradition of a knowledge that, as its name indicates, was an erotic theory—the love of truth and the truth through love ... Those who utter the sentence reveal the truth. However, with the utterance they want to achieve more than truth: They want to intervene in the game of power. ...

12/15/2013 07:47:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Bob, thanks for that CD recommendation. Got 'em.

Here's a toughie, we're getting the boy his first turntable (nothing fancy) and what seems like to me a pretty great sounding (for the price) wireless speaker system/amp to connect to it. About the size of a breadbox. Samsung is making some great products these days. Wood cabinet interior with vacuum tubes (that you can see glowing from a little Jules Verne-ish glass porthole in the top). Sounds great and rich and warm (for the price).

Here's the Q: He has a few Beatles album hand-me-downs from an aunt. I'm guessing they're well worn. That's it for the collection of vinyl. Can you recommend a personal favorite LP you love to listen to just for that quality that only vinyl can deliver of a fantastic recording? Any artist past or present. Maybe a new vinyl press of an original recording?

12/15/2013 07:50:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Wow, that is a tough question. To be honest, I almost never listen to vinyl anymore, because of the convenience and length of CDs, plus new vinyl is so expensive.

Like right now I'm looking at this mail catalog from MusicDirect, which seems to have EVERYTHING. (website is here).

Let's see... I've heard the Sinatra's on Mobile Fidelity are breathtaking, but they haven't yet issued the two best ones, Swingin' Affair and Songs for Swingin' Lovers. As it so happens, that is how I was introduced to Frank, back in 1985, I think it was. They were practically giving away vinyl back than, so I started collecting audiophile editions of his Capitol albums of the 1950s, and was completely blown away.

Just flipping through the pages... Oooohhhh, Pet Sounds. Hard to beat that, especially at the Boy's age, in that the whole album is about a young man' search for his identity in the world.

Ahhh, REM's first full album, Murmur, sounds amazing on vinyl... Wo: Aretha's Gold. That must be epic. Any of Stevie Ray Vaughan's first four.... Bill Withers Live -- never heard the vinyl, but must be great... Pixies Doolittle, if he really wants to be sonically assaulted....Marvin Gaye What's Going On, for a long time was my favorite album...

12/15/2013 08:18:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Still flipping.... Oh my: Raspberries Best. This is a fantastic album, although I don't know whether vinyl would enhance the experience.... Every Picture Tells a Story is -- been all downhill since then for Rod.... Dead Can Dance Into the Labyrinth must sound incredible, but it does on CD as well.... Nirvana Never Mind.... Hendrix Axis Bold as Love....

Still flipping...

Van Morrison Moondance....I have Graceland on vinyl, and it sounds great....

You know what is one of the greatest sounding records of all time? Muddy Waters Folk Singer. Really breathtaking. Allman Brothers Live at the Fillmore East, greatest live album ever -- six heads, one body. London Calling by the Clash?


12/15/2013 08:30:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

Of course I spoonerized yr somatic Skydog metaphor & envision a 6-body/1 head model also working well!

12/15/2013 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

Rick to refer yr ? to the decade of vinyl's heyday ['60-70S], i'll always recall the A&M releases for a stretch there beating all others in sonics---they seem MASTERED 'hotter'/ better compression/limiting equipment/ears of engin-ears, who knows? [well the Ear knows/nose :)]

Most of these I'm sure were on that kinda dirty yellow A&M label, good luck at garage sales!: Cat Stevens MONA BONE JAKON...Procol Harum A SALTY DOG...FAIRPORT CONVENTION'S 1ST...JOE Cocker W/ A LITTLE HELP...Flying Burrito Bros GILDED PALACE

12/15/2013 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

That's especially true of Cat Stevens -- his first three in particular are impeccably recorded. Lots of ambience. Speaking of which, I'll bet Nick Drake sounds great on vinyl.

12/15/2013 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

You guys are the best. This is a list for many more than just this Christmas. Sounds like a tradition!

The boy does not know how loved is he by the CoonSquad.


12/15/2013 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Just flipping through my vinyl collection, and two great ones are Guitar Town by Steve Earle and Lyle Lovett's first album. I don't think either one ever surpassed those two.

12/15/2013 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Okay, seriously, THIS would be heaven.

12/15/2013 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Only $24 on amazon. Damn, I may pick up the gold CD version...

12/15/2013 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

[all produced by Larry Marks] would be more good finds on that A&M vinyl

12/15/2013 04:12:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

1st cut of

12/15/2013 04:16:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12/15/2013 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

Love all the music suggestions! @ge, Peter Sloterdijk may be a philosopher to contend with in the post-secular age. Also, enjoying a recent blog post by Almaas on Which Ultimate is Ultimate? Lastly, wondering what some of the occultists like Robert Bolton would say about predestination, as they posit that there are cycles laid out for us in the cosmos?

12/15/2013 06:17:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

Reading this guy's cultural-critiquey talks on Sloterdijk I came across his piece on
Ch. Whitman
the starter of the lone psycho random innocents-killer motif [which shows no sign of abating, alas]

12/16/2013 07:02:00 AM  

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