Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Where Reason is Going, Religion is Already Gone

The wife has become fascinated by the figure of Saint Paul. His story exemplifies many of the issues we've been discussing, because if everything he accomplished was foreordained, then what's the point?

Again, that kind of vulgarized omniscience reduces to absolute nihilism. I don't see any way around that conclusion. If someone can explain otherwise, feel free. But a cosmos without freedom is a cosmos without even the possibility of meaning.

It's not just the risks Paul took in traveling to strange places and preaching to usually hostile crowds. Think about the fact that he would only spend a week or two, but apparently leave with a handful of converts.

But what did it mean to "convert" back then? It certainly had nothing to do with sola scriptura, since the Gospels were decades away and the New Testament wouldn't be canonized for centuries.

Even more astonishing is how the message "stuck," and how the newly converted didn't simply revert to what they had previously believed before the excitement of the apostle's visit. To insist that it was all simply predetermined is to drain it of all majesty, mystery, and heroism. Nothing to see here. Literally -- any more than there is anything to learn by interrogating a cog in a machine. The cog simply does what it does because it has been preprogrammed to do it.

Now, was there an element of divine causation here? Obviously. It's called the Holy Spirit, AKA God. But how does the HS operate? Via material or efficient causation, again, like a linear machine in a Newtonian cosmos?

I don't think so. Rather, it seems to me that the HS is the quintessential case of formal and final causation: it doesn't so much push from behind as pull from ahead or above. But we are always free to resist the attraction.

I mean, c'mon. Is there really a human being who hasn't passively ignored or actively resisted this attraction? What is sanctity if there is no resistance to the sanctifying energies? Does it really make sense to insist that Charles Manson and Pope John Paul II simply followed the path of least resistance? For there is no conceivable path with less resistance than predestination, since there is nothing to resist and no one to resist it.

I feel like I'm championing the obvious, but there are obviously many people who believe the absurdity of predestination, and not just Muslims and Jansenists.

Rather, it is an implicit secular dogma, the reason being that there is no scientistic principle -- and no possibility of one -- that can account for our free will, which mysteriously dangles from above like an invisible thread of possibility. Therefore, it "must" be impossible and illusory.

Which immediately begs the question of how one could possibly know this if one has no choice in the matter. It's not even incoherent, because being incoherent requires the possibility of coherence.

As alluded to yesterday, the very first thing we learn about God is that he creates. God has many names, but the first one -- before redeemer, before judge, before math wiz -- is Creator. Does this word have any real meaning, or is it just poetic, not to be taken literally? Because to literally create must involve freedom, which is why machines, Marxists, and Muslims (collectively speaking) do not create.

How did we reach this point of madness? By losing our mind. Topping writes that because "modernity pretends to offer a creed more universal than the Church's," the West needs a "renewal and recovery of its own mind."

The western mind has a source, a ground, a purpose and a destiny, but now the tenured spend their days tediously sawing off the diseased branch they sit upon, and then pretending it's a new and better tree.

"When religion is gone," writes Topping, "reason is going." Or in other words, where reason is crumbling, God has already left the building, since God is the principle that renders reason more than an absurcular tautology. And an enclosed world without reason or freedom has a name: hell.


julie said...

For there is no conceivable path with less resistance than predestination, since there is nothing to resist and no one to resist it.

Reading through Matthew 26 this week, I was struck again by the events in Gethsemane:

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

If everything is predetermined, then literally none of that makes sense. Why put on a show of asking them to stay awake with him, if they were destined to sleep? Why ask that the cup be removed, why be sorrowful? If all is predetermined, it's just a dumb show that serves no purpose.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

If everything we do is predetermined then there is no destiny, only fate.
And wewouldn't know it, as Bob has pointed out. We sould simply be meat bag machines.

Destiny and freedom is destined to be intertwined. You can't have one without the other.
Without freedom we cannot be humans being.

Gagdad Bob said...

Nor does the Lord's Prayer make sense: thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Good point, Julie!
That holds true of the entire Bible. What would be the point of pointing out any time a prophet, judge, king, apostle, messed up if they were preordained to do so?

In fact, there can be no sin if there is no freedom for us to choose to do it.
The entire Bible would be a sham if there wasn't the mystery of freedom.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

This is another good example:

The Faith of the Centurion

5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

How could Jesus be astonished at the Centurion's faith if it was predetermined?

Van Harvey said...

"But a cosmos without freedom is a cosmos without even the possibility of meaning."

Yep And the attempt to assert the opposite isn't even up to the level of incoherence.

Anonymous said...

I have always had a cordial disagreement with predestination and "once saved always saved" theory based on the Bible's many warnings against apostasy. If the predestineers are correct, how can apostasy be possible? How could it be regarded as a personal failure, or be guarded against? One may as well try to thwart the sunrise - staying indoors with the blinds pulled and sunglasses on might effectively keep one in the dark but the sun shines on, just the same.

Gagdad Bob said...

When the Bible mentions how God knows when a sparrow falls, or knows how many hairs are on your head, or even knew you before you were conceived, that all strikes me as perfectly plausible omniscience, i.e., knowledge of all that has happened and is happening. But the future can't be just like the past and present, or the universe would be just a big block. Foreknowledge of the future must be different from knowledge of the past, specifically, because of the Nothingness of freedom -- the radical indeterminacy -- that is a part of every now... More on this as we proceed. But how boring to be God if not for genuine freedom, creativity, and surprise. I mean, if we had those things and God didn't, we'd be superior to God.

Come to think of it, hell would be a place of ironclad predestination, with no novelty, surprise, or creativity.

julie said...

Agreed. It would be as though all existence was nothing but a work of fiction.

Van Harvey said...

Gagdad said "Come to think of it, hell would be a place of ironclad predestination, with no novelty, surprise, or creativity."

True. But leftists aren't going to appreciate your using such derogatory terms for their most heartfelt political goals.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Van, that is a tasty zinger right there. :)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hey Bob, are you gonna be covering prophecies in this series?
I know that prophecies doesn't equal knowing the future, per se, but where do they fit in? Or how?

I reckon prophecies have to do what God is gonna do or plans on doing when the time is right so there is that.

Gagdad Bob said...

Good question. No time for details, but there is a good reason why we have different words for "prophecy" and "history," otherwise describing the future would be no different than describing the past.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thanks, that's a good Bobservation.

Joppey said...

This is a great post!

Especially that one about the tenured sawing off the tree.

A formerly tenured (Dutch) friend of my parents once told me that the sixties had been so great for liberating our mind, losing religion.

I asked him what if anything was its LASTING results other than consumerism.

He didn't know.

NoMo said...

Whew, now that I've dug myself out from under that dog pile...

All I can say about about reconciling God's omniscience and our freedom is that I'm still arriving. However, the more I read and reread the Bible (yes, including Acts and Paul's writings), the more clear the story becomes. God knows all, we don't. We act freely even though He already knows what we'll do. It seems inescapable from simply reading the word, rather than reading what someone else says about the word. I believe the HS in a believer not only gives one the desire to read the word, but helps understanding.

Still arriving.

Van Harvey said...

Hey Nomo.

Not sure if that was a comment or an asnide, but it didn't clarify whether or not you still hold onto ideas of predestination. But I suppose if you do, a general lack of clarity is unavoidable.

Christina M said...

In the religion of the Leftists/secular fascists, in addition to the heresy of predestination and the meaninglessness that produces, they are also trapped in a world with no forgiveness and no redemption. They say there is no sin, and yet they infested with a sense of it, festering inside of themselves and all around them. I told my husband yesterday, that the cognitive dissonance necessary to carry that burden is beyond me. That to me, looks a lot like Hell on earth.

Islam also suffers from the heresy of predestination, because it was first a heresy of Catholicism. See Hilaire Belloq's "The Great Heresies." The one difference between it and the other heresies of Catholicism, it that it was originated by someone outside of Catholicism.

NoMo said...

Van -

It was a comment. That you weren't sure tells me that you may not do much Bible readin' or even find much value in it.

If God is omniscient then predestination is a yes. No mental or spiritual gymnastics required. Just Bible readin'. Its a choice.

Since it is the Bible that brought up predestination, perhaps we should let the Bible define it.

julie said...


"It seems inescapable from simply reading the word, rather than reading what someone else says about the word."

And here, I must completely disagree. Reading the word, I see that Christ talks of "if" and "possibility". I see that even when he knows what is going to happen, he behaves in every way as though things could be different.

For clarity's sake, obviously some things are predicted; obviously, prophecy has substance. There are things which are meant to come to pass. But I don't believe the "how" and even the "who" are necessarily concrete until they happen. And quite often, the purpose of prophecy is to warn people of the future consequences of their behavior. Why bother? If all is predestined, then the behavior will happen, regardless of what anybody might choose to do otherwise; if they are doomed to fail, they will fail whether they are warned not to fail or not, and if they are doomed to succeed, they will succeed whether anyone tells them how or not.

For that matter, why have this discussion? If all is foreordained, then whatever we think on the matter is completely irrelevant.

Gagdad Bob said...

The meaning the Bible is COMPLETELY OBVIOUS to the 33,000 Protestant denominations with different theologies.

And predestinationists can hardly choose to read the Bible when freedom to choose is precisely what they lack.

Gagdad Bob said...

I don't get the idea that tradition is posterior to the Bible rather than vice versa. Why believe something that is so demonstrably untrue? Oh well. That's a subject for a different blog.

Gagdad Bob said...

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that many Protestants imagine Jesus wrote the Bible or something. Be fun to do one of those man-on-the-street things like Jay Leno.

Van Harvey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Van Harvey said...

No mo' said "That you weren't sure tells me that you may not do much Bible readin' or even find much value in it."

I would have thought that that was beneath you Nomo, but what you've said here tells me that you are so flustered, and find yourself so without a reasonable leg to stand on, that you have to resort to making up supposed faults in my reading and understanding, rather than support your own.

And that you'll fall back on the Martin Luther line that Reason and Religion are forever locked in a bitter opposition that can never be resolved.


NoMo said...

Van -

I think you repeatedly miss my point. If one attempts to put aside preconceptions and simply sets out to read the Bible over and over, the result may be surprising and illuminating (not sad). It has been for me.

"For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Heb 4:12

Anyway, no ill will here. We all have our own paths.

Van Harvey said...

Nomo, I get your point completely. It's just that I reject it. Completely.

It's not God or the Bible that's the problem, but your attempt to apply it in a manner that limits its meaning to fit your own preconceptions.

And while we all have our own paths, given two different directions, one exemplified by the manic Martin Luther, and the other by Saintly Thomas Aquinas, I think going with the later path makes all the difference.

And no worries, although puzzling, I don't hold your being wrong against you.


Van Harvey said...

P.S. I hate Android.

NoMo said...

Van -

My hope is for conclusions derived from letting the Bible SPEAK FOR ITSELF. Assuming that is possible, it seems reasonable. The best way is to read it...over and over.

I know little about "manic Martin Luther", "Aquinas", or their thinking and hope to keep it that way. Avoid preconceptions, you know.

Van Harvey said...

Nomo said "My hope is for conclusions derived from letting the Bible SPEAK FOR ITSELF..."

If that were even possible for you to do, then you would simply transcribe it like a good little dictaphone, and remain silent, speaking nothing more of your own.

But that's not possible, is it?

Perhaps a little less worry about 'preconceptions', and a little more time and attention to careful Conceiving, is in order?

But it's not an automatic process, there is no royal predestined road to understanding, it requires deliberation, consideration, and other similar expressions of free will.

But of course... if that's a problem, you could always just repeat what someone else told you it means... no doubt the preconceptions their passing along involved no thought either.


NoMo said...

Van -

I'm hearing a whoooosh over my head (not uncommon), but thanks for trying.

Van Harvey said...

No problem Nomo, it was no doubt predestined.