As we move to unravel the seemingly contradictory co-existence of the doctrines of election (or predestination) and free will (man’s unlimited volition of the self), it is important to state what I think will be a natural question for most readers at the end of the entire essay:
How can God do that?
Let me say this in preemptive response: That is not the right question.
When we move to questions of “how” God does something in regards to a given doctrine we have come to a place where contradiction (I submit that election/free will are not paradoxical doctrines, but contradictory, thus, this is the term I will use…more on this later) is no longer contradiction. It is not contradictory to say that God can do something from a power which human beings do not understand. On the contrary, that is categorically reasonable. For no one can understand the “how” of God’s omnipotence; but it is the “why” which we must understand. If we can reduce our doctrines down to the “how” of God’s power, we will have effectively unlocked whatever contradictions may be found in any given doctrine; and what remains is merely the power of God to do what man cannot do.
This fact is obvious and perfunctory. For we all know we are here, for example, and before we were not here, and the only way we as Christians can explain it is to conclude that God can do something we cannot do: create something from nothing; call something that is not, IS. And the explanation of God’s power of doing, then, is always going to be “because He is God”; because in order for us to understand it, God’s power would need to conform to the laws that guide our creation and existence…and this is not possible. So, being in the place of not knowing “how” God’s power works is reasonable and, moreover, must metaphysically be the case.
But being in the place where we do not understand “why” is not reasonable; and we should never accept not knowing as an answer for questions concerning the “why” of our doctrines, particularly when those doctrines, without a reasonable metaphysical explanation, are impossibly contradictory. And moreover, even if we do not know why we don’t know something specifically, we must be able to reasonably explain WHY we don’t know why according to reasonable metaphysics. I know this seems tediously semantic, but there is a huge distinction. What I’m saying is that the answer to the “why” can never be: because He is God. “Because He is God” is an answer metaphysically reserved exclusively for the “how” of God’s power.
I might have gotten ahead of myself.
Okay, let’s go back to the start, after having said all of that.
First, for frame of reference purposes, let me summarize what I consider man’s reason for those of you who have not had a chance to read the post on Ability.
Man’s reason is what I refer to as the soul of man; the chief ABILITY (what I consider the reference ability), which is the core of man’s being; the IS which can never be made NOT.
Okay, now, moving on.
To acknowledge that God has a power to act and create which is beyond man’s reason—beyond his capacity to apprehend—is metaphysically reasonable. I would argue that it is in keeping with the very essence of reason to recognize that man cannot comprehend how God does what he does. For we have no frame of reference from which to understand how God acts. That is, I mean literally we have no place, either tangible or abstract, to even begin to understand. That being the case, the question of how God acts is the end of the search, itself. The question serves as its own answer: how God acts is how God acts. Not knowing is the only reasonable knowledge man can have for the question of how God does what he does. It is beyond our context, senses, and soul to know. It is beyond relevance, as well.
Let me say that last part again:
It is beyond relevance to know how God does what he does.
Therefore, if it is not relevant to man, then there is no reason God would grant that it is within man’s ABILITY to understand it. If He did, He would be perpetrating an act of redundancy which, in light of His perfection, is metaphysically impossible. Thus, resolving all contradictions down to the “how” of God’s power is in fact resolving the contradiction down to a perfectly logical metaphysical answer. In short, if all that remains is “how”, then we have succeeded in reasonably explaining the doctrine. There is no longer any contradiction.
As an aside, now would be a good time to mention that I understand there are those of you who are reading this who are saying to yourselves “It’s a paradox. A paradox is NOT a contradiction.” I beg to differ…not in the definitions, but in how the word paradox is applied. In the faith sense, there can be no paradox, there can only be a lack of understanding. Of course, people do not like to admit a lack of understanding, so “paradox” is much easier to feed the laity and the seekers than “contradiction”. Contradiction raises eyebrows of doubt and cynicism. Paradox sounds heady and intellectual. Appealing to all the people in all the right ways, ostensibly. The intellectuals nod and say, “Good word. Heady. Yes…a paradox.” Those who do not lean towards intellectualism say “Good enough for me. Sounds complicated. But I understand that God is God and can do anything.” (Which, no, He can’t, but more on that later.) So paradox has been the word to mask the contradiction for as many centuries as the issue has been debated. If you look up “paradox” in the dictionary, I submit that none of the definitions proffered is true for the co-existence of election and free will. It has never been found to be anything but contradictory in any discussion when you get to the root of the matter.
Our religion is either true or it’s not. Its premises are either rational or they are not. And appeals to God’s omnipotence do not make contradictions paradoxes. Contradictions are contradictions until they aren’t. And they are not only when reason says they are not.
The ability to understand why God does what he does is arguably the MOST important function of man’s inherent reason; because the “why” will always apply to man. What do I mean by this? It sounds a little “man-centered” doesn’t it? And isn’t “man-centered” doctrine purely heretical? If it’s not “all God”, then surely the theology must be errant at its core. Well, I’ll leave it to the reader to decide what they would like to consider heretical (cries of heresy don’t matter so much to me), but what I mean is that all of God’s relevance to US, which is to say, all of God’s functional relevance, is because of US. The things about God that are not relevant to US are not our concern at all…for we couldn’t understand them should we want to, and frankly, we shouldn’t want to because it is an utterly futile pursuit. But what is absolutely true, and what so many are so terrified to admit is that the only reason God is relevant to us is because we exist, not because God exists. And if that is the case, then everything we know about God MUST in some way have to do with our existence…in how WE are defined, in what WE think, and in what WE do. Outside of that, God is functionally useless to man. This is not to diminish His importance. Of course not! He is God. But His being God is only important to us in light of our own being; our own life as humans who have been intentionally created by Him with the sole idea behind our creation being that we have been granted our own lives that we must be free to live, and God’s purpose is to show us how we are to do that for our own sakes, in light of His perfection and love. And because the aspects of God that have nothing to do with us are by definition beyond our capacity to apprehend, the only relevance God can have must have to do with us existing. Christianity is, then, metaphysically man-centered, not God centered. God does not need man to be perfect, God does not need anything in creation to be what He is. He is utterly and completely Himself, within Himself. Nothing can add to God at all; that is the metaphysical definition of God. NO need of any kind outside of One’s self. Any act of creation by God is done out of one reason and one reason alone: love. Thus, our relationship is free to be all about us (in light of Him) because God needs nothing from us.
I recognize that this idea warrants a date with the burning stake in some fundamentalist reformed circles. No matter how well the metaphysics laud, prove, and point to God’s unequivocal omnipotence and mercy beyond anything the neo-Calvinist crowd’s false doctrines can approximate, these nihilist gnostics will declare it arrogant and proud and all of the other heinous things they swear is to blame for Katrina and post-modernism and gay marriage and dying humpback whales and every other banal cliche their narrow minds can conjure up as an insult.
So, yes, I know them and their vitriol. But beyond the doctrinally insane, I also know that too many other Christians who are supposed to stand in awe of God’s stark power and stability have decided that His sensibilities are so delicate that we dare not speak of what we know deep down must be true. The truth is, though, that this is not what God wants: timid followers who invent false doctrine and put on patronizing displays of pure groveling (no matter how well-intentioned) that some in the neo-Calvinist camp irrationally equate with true humility. Instead, God wants us to understand that we are important. What we think and know and do is important to Him, and makes a real and functional and tangible difference in creation and in the existence of ourselves and in others…that nothing is determined beyond our own free acts in our lives.
He understands His place in our lives. We exist to be free, to be ourselves; that is the point of our creation to begin with; God doesn’t need Himself in His creation; by definition He IS, and is ALL Himself. And we cannot be free to be ourselves if we build our faith around an idea of God that cannot possibly have a thing to do with human beings. Christianity is not all about God; it is about people who exist as creatures of God… or it is pointless. If Christianity is primarily about God and not about man in light of God, apart from God, then God has performed a redundant act, and thus, He is not metaphysically or logically perfect, and therefore, He’s is not God.
Understanding the “why” of the ways and truths of God, then, are necessary for God to be God. Without a grasp of the “why”, man has no practical use for God. And so “paradox” or contradiction can never be used to explain the “why”. The lack of an explanation that adheres to the metaphysically reasonable truths of man’s particular existence can only then exist in our faith once the line is crossed from what is relevant about God to man, to what is NOT relevant about God to man. That is where you find the “how”—at the level of God’s omnipotence. At the place where no man can find understanding because it is impossible for him to grasp it by his innate reason; and this because, again, it is a frame of reference that is outside the ability of man to exist (man cannot metaphysically BE in the place where that question can be discovered by him…thus, THIS is where we will find a true paradox, if there can be said to be one). Therefore: “How does the act of God create the result (e.g. how does God do what He does)?” has no answer for man, because, again, the only metaphysically reasonable answer is no answer at all.
Now, if we concede that election and free will are both true, and are stated as clearly true in scripture, the questions regarding how these seemingly contradictory doctrines exist together cannot be rooted in “how” but only “why” as far as unraveling the metaphysical problem goes. And by that I mean there must be a metaphysically reasonable answer to the question: Why are they both true, and both in the Bible, even though they are ostensibly contradictory?
What we have done here in separating the “how” from the “why” of the problem is the first step. It is also the easiest. Resolving the “why” of the contradiction takes a LOT of work.
When I have discussed this issue with others and expressed my determination to resolve this glaring doctrinal contradiction at its metaphysical root—a contradiction which has wreaked havoc upon the Christian faith for centuries and destroyed countless lives through “election’s” most egregious application, found most relentlessly and dogmatically applied in neo-Calvinism—I was often met with this reply: “People have been debating that for centuries.”
This is a common statement; not just aimed at me, but at anyone who thinks about the question beyond a superficial acknowledgement of the “paradox”. It is also an irrelevant statement.
What they say when they declare that the debate has been going on for centuries and what they mean are two entirely different things. What they say— that is the words—ultimately means nothing. When they say that great scholars have been debating this question for centuries, the only sensible reply is: so what? For clearly, what those words “people have been debating that for centuries” reasonably amount to is zero. How long had people been debating whether or not man could fly until the Wright brothers put an end to the debate? How long had people been debating whether an atom could be split until the city of Hiroshima was turned to dust in an instant? How long had people been debating that the world was flat, or that the earth was the center of the universe? And it is my guess that people will be debating whether Christ is the One true Messiah up until the very moment He returns in glory with a sword in his mouth.
You see my point?
Debates of any philosophical or scientific significance have always gone on for long periods of time. This is nothing new. This fact only serves to highlight the gravity of the questions, and the interest they compel in people who understand the importance of such issues.
So, the real question isn’t in that statement…that is, the superficiality of the words alone. What people mean when they utter the statement “people have been debating that for centuries” is that there is no answer to the problem. The answer is found, thus, in the fact that there has been none found, strangely enough. And what this means is: there is NO answer whatsoever to that question. It is true simply because it’s in the Bible, and there is little if anything more to it than that.
The “why” of the doctrine is effectively answered with a shrug. What people say are the words “they’ve been debating that for centuries; the greatest minds have found no consensus…who can understand God’s ways?”. What they mean is the shrug. Thus, we are left to conclude that the shrug is how Christians have resolved the contradiction of “how can God both singularly determine the final outcome of every single human life He created and yet hold man morally culpable for his choices…to the tune of an eternity in hell?”
This is the sum of our so-called superior faith’s philosophical and metaphysical answer to that inestimable question. The shrug. And we wonder why, in this ever increasingly skeptical and cynical world, Christianity in America is on the decline and looks more and more like dubious mysticism than it does a world philosophy of merit. And where it isn’t viewed this way, the hordes of spiritual despots and pseudo-intellectual “yes men”—neo Calvinists masquerading as “gospel-centered” men of “humility”—are trampling humanity under hoof and spear with utter remorseless relentlessness, pulling dollar after dollar from the bodies they fling indifferently to the ditches. And the rest of us, even though we believe what we believe with every good intention, have contented ourselves with answering perhaps the most fundamental questions of our faith with this: “Because it’s in the bible, and the bible is infallible”. Or “because God says so. God said it, I believe it, that’s the end of it.” And so the “why” of arguably the core of our religion (Why is man morally culpable in light of “election”?) is found in a resounding and glittering impossible contradiction, resolved only by shrugging our shoulders and conceding that beyond all the talk of love and grace and mercy and sacrifice lay nothing more than plain old fashioned fatalistic determinism.
Yes, with one shrug we rip the Bible to shreds, declare God useless to man, make a mockery of the cross of Christ, and define man as an irrelevant episode in a sea of cosmic irrelevancy.
So, I submit that it is immeasurably dangerous to continue to allow contradiction to define our faith, because if it does, then our faith becomes only as strong as the contradiction. The abdication of reason cannot be a foundation of our relationship with God because God is defined by that same reason! If we declare reason null and void in any doctrine that concerns us and Christ then we declare God Himself null and void to us! (This is one of the points I make in my post on Job.) God cannot ever be defined contrary to the rational truths that make our very existence possible; and even HIS existence in light of our existence. As I have declared before: a violation of man’s reason is a violation of God Himself. Thus, we must resolve the contradictions. If we want to appeal to God’s power as the reason for the contradiction then we must resolve with reason the “why” and reduce the question to a question of the “how” of God’s power. And again, the “how” needs no explanation because it does not matter to man. If it did matter, we would possess the ability to apprehend it. But it doesn’t, and so we don’t, because if we did, God is the creator of redundancy; and that is impossible.
We MUST resolve the contradiction. Claiming the inability of man to comprehend “why” God does what He does is the very opposite of worshiping the One True God because it makes Him moot; thus, no worship is needed or even useful. For if we content ourselves to include contradictions of “why” questions in our faith, then faith ceases to be faith and becomes, instead, suspension of disbelief. And what this means is that there is no longer anything reasonable to our faith. Instead, our faith is based on what can only be described as the very antithesis of how we know essentially everything else in our world; things we must know in order to survive and thrive. So, in the one issue—the most important part of our mortal existence: our worship of the Creator—we find belief in Him defined by an impossible contradiction that resembles nothing like the conceptual truths we know exist; and it is a contradiction which can have no bearing on the rational truths and laws we use to organize our world; and also, incidentally, to apply the commands and instructions of our Lord.
So in light of that fact, does the Christian appeal to metaphysical contradiction then make sense to anyone? Does it make sense that at the core of our faith is a contradiction that stands opposed to the rational laws and truths of our world and universe? A world and a universe which HE DESIGNED to be governed distinctly by NON-contradictory truths, LOGICAL cause and effect concepts, and RATIONAL natural laws of physics and chemistry?
In order to keep to God’s very design of our own reality, Christians must strive to find a metaphysically reasonable explanation of every “why” question we find in our faith. If any “why” question falls outside of reason, then Christian Metaphysical and Epistemological Truth Number 3: “A violation of man’s reason by God is a violation of Himself” is in effect
(Incidentally, Truth Number One: God will not create a thing to do something He can better do Himself; which is everything; and Number Two: Nothing exists in the future until it is in the present; there is no future until it is the present, and once it is in the present it moves directly and irrevocably to the past, where it is, was, and will be forever inevitably fixed in time).
Again, the question we are presently concerned with, once again:
“Why is there both election/predestination and free will of man expressed as functional, applicable biblical truths together, and co-existing in Scripture, when they are ostensibly metaphysically and logically contradictory?”
Let me make this next point very clear, because I understand how tempting an argument God’s power can be for everything we decide we don’t and can’t understand:
Appealing to God’s omnipotence is NOT a reasonable answer to that question. “Because He is God” is a non-answer; completely useless, patronizing, lazy, and a terrible exegesis of scripture; and dreadfully destructive to both the believer and the lost. In pointing to God’s power, we are attempting to answer a “why” question as if it were a “how” question (how is God able to both predestine and hold man culpable for his own choices?). This is logical nonsense. This cannot possibly be. There has to be a reasonable, no-nonsense metaphysical and logical answer to the “why” question, and it must be addressed as a “why” question, NOT a “how” question.
The question itself is not inconsistent; the scriptural treatment of the doctrines is not inconsistent. Therefore, our explanation of it must also NOT be inconsistent. Logical consistency is demanded for all “why” questions of our faith. In other words, if reason does not define the metaphysics and philosophy of our faith from back to front, then Christianity can no longer be claimed by any believer to be TRUTH; and certainly no more truth than any other religion. The believer can no longer claim to know that he/she knows. The statement “I can’t prove it, but I know it’s true” becomes a farce once you concede metaphysical contradiction in your faith…once you surrender reason, you surrender your claim to a rational belief in what you “know” to be true and how you know it.
Just think for a moment. How do you know anything you know?
Here’s the answer:
You reason that it is true! It isn’t blind faith. On the contrary, you recoil when non-Christians accuse you of such superficial hope as blind faith. But if your response to the world’s tough doctrinal questions is merely sanctimonious circular argument when compared to all of the logic and reason that define the laws of our very existence, the world, and universe, then how in heavens can you claim to know that you know? Thus, the only reason you can ever know you know anything is because of your ability to reason; your ability to grasp conceptual, abstract truth. Your REASON…your understanding of the fact that you can know what you know is only because it makes rational sense to your mind and soul! So I ask, how can we claim this kind of answer—“I know that I know”—and then rush headlong into rank doctrinal hypocrisy with lightning speed when confronted with a difficult metaphysical question like predestination versus free will; and, in startling irony, proceed to argue our doctrinal perspective by conceding that it is actually impossible that we can know anything at all?
And we wonder why the world thinks Christians are weak-minded. We claim to have the salvation of the world and the Spirit of the All Powerful God in our very bodies—that we are a temple of the living God—and yet we cannot even escape from our own logical inconsistency; our own irrational answers for the most important issues and doctrines of the faith.
Fatalistic determinism; irrelevancy of man and God; salvation without salvation; perfunctory and redundant sacrifice of God the Son; the idea that the Cross does not make election possible but that election makes the Cross, if it needs to have a place at all, a mere obligatory and bloody sideshow in the timeline of man’s pointless existence…all of these issues are wiped away with a gesture of doctrinal shrugging and dead-eyed indifference at best. And at worst, the non-logic and pointless platitudes of: “Who can understand His ways?” I cannot believe these answers don’t make every skeptic declare to the masses in broad daylight that Christianity a farce .
And by the way, the answer to that question, “Who can understand His ways” is this: Apparently no one, not even God; for if election is true, then it must be arbitrary. (Yes it must. ALL men are equally vile. “There is none who choose God; not even one”. There is nothing in man that would set one apart from the other, thus God cannot have even His own reason; for His own reason should tell Him that all men are equally sinful, thus, there is no logical rationale for “electing” one over the other.)
So, we as Christians concede with our appeal to God’s power that we understand nothing of our own philosophy. Now, that may say “piety” to some Christians, but what it says to the question-asking world is this: Christians do not possess the most basic logical consistency with which to ward off a metaphysical impossibility so glaring that any a ten year old with a good grasp of common sense could dismantle it utterly in the time it takes his mommy to grill a cheese sandwich.
To begin to conclude this segment of my essay, I want to be clear about my intent for the forthcoming essay: I will answer definitively the “why” of these doctrines. I will identify and argue fully my reason-based defense of the symbiosis of these doctrines, predestination and free will of man.
I am not doing this out of a desire to simply “break new ground”, but for the sake of working towards the goal of creating a completely reasonable answer for our faith, based on metaphysical logic…that we may truly give an answer for our what we believe and the hope that we have, with a logical philosophical rationale. This, I submit, is impossible with the current “orthodox” understanding of the issues.
I will answer the “why” of the simultaneity of election and free will…why they are both true, because they must both be true to be in keeping with metaphysical reason; and why they are not contradictory but work together in a dependent relationship, which takes both the free will of man and the omnipotence of God into account.
I will dismantle and destroy the false contradictory doctrine that currently surrounds this question, and in doing so will prove than man has full volition in accordance with God’s omnipotence and foreknowledge, not in opposition to it.
This is something which must be done, and should have been done a long time ago, frankly. It is to our shame as Christians that we have allowed such important core doctrines of our faith to be so misinterpreted for centuries, much to the detriment of humanity and to the maligning of God’s perfect, infallible, inerrant power. It has been put upon the shelf of incoherent mysticism for far too many eons.
“Why do you believe what you believe?”
This is the root question of every question that is asked of us as Christians. For far too long this question and others has been answered with nonsensical appeals to God’s divinity, whims, capriciousness, purely arbitrary will, man’s ignorance and stupidity, God’s vacillating and aimless acts of random omnipotence…all of that, and culminating with the false label of “paradox”. And all of these so-called answers are merely masks for the one true answer which runs through them like spiritual formaldehyde through a cadaverous interpretation of our doctrine; an answer as embarrassing as it is anemic:
“I don’t know.”
And if this is our response—a NON-response—to this eternally important question, then how can we expect to give “an answer for the hope” that we have?! It seems to me that it’s rather obvious that one cannot satisfy a question if one has no answer to give. And appealing to contradiction or shrugging our shoulders in metaphysical and theological surrender to what should be seen as the most perfunctory question of our faith (how is man culpable AND God omnipotent), again, is not an answer. It is, to be blunt, madness.
I apologize if I have offended (oh…I heartily include myself in my harsh assessment of our apologetics on this matter; remember I was a young, restless and reformed drone for years upon years; I blame only myself), but the fact of the matter is that when we agree to giving circular logic or equivocation as an answer for the hope we have to those who live in the world of reason—who can see cause and effect with their very eyes and feel its truth permeate their very existence, and recognize that they have a mind apart from God and the rest of creation—we come across as insane. And that makes Christianity about as attractive to non-believers as the philosophy of a babbling child (if not more dangerous). At best, we come across as ones who can offer the suffering in this world nothing but more suffering in the form of confusion. This confusion may be seen by some potential converts as a “spiritual” and “enlightened” escape, but for most, they see it for the snake oil that it is.
We ask for everything and offer nothing; and then we have the gall to compound this nonsense with the mixed approach of the new Calvinists, where the theology makes perfect the demanding of blind obedience and emotional submission, and decrees ecclesiastical ownership of each follower’s personal property. And this brainwashing and larceny of the soul and the wallet are done with the lording of “church discipline” (i.e. tyrannical threats) hanging over the heads of the sheep like pianos on dirty, fraying rope.
This “discipline” is, in truth, the worst sort of emotional and psychological torment imaginable: the mystic. But it is hard to ascribe a moral value to behavior that is supported by doctrine that makes absolutely no appeal to reason or rational consistency. And lest those of us who categorically reject Calvinist hedonism become too comfortable in pointing fingers, we must realize that when we do not use reason to resolve the contradictions in our own beliefs, we are only slightly better.
In light of this, who can blame the majority from turning on their heels and mocking us in scorn? And if a non-answer is our answer, those who mock us and see us as pointless lunatics are not wrong. Because they have seen that due to our inability to make rational sense of what we believe, our faith becomes utterly irrational at the place where it matters most: the practical application of it. We apply it, as they see it, like an infant excitedly tearing out the pages of a book with pudgy, random fists because he hasn’t the first clue as to what he is really supposed to do with it.
And truly, this is what we are like when we attempt to apply our faith and yet cannot explain, in light of “election”, why we apply it. By that I mean: what is the point to applying a faith that has already had its predetermined impact upon our spiritual and eternal life? For, in light of this view of election, the only answer is, again, a non-rational one: There IS no practical reason to do ANYTHING at all…for election IS determinism. That is ALL it is when we subscribe to traditional orthodox views of the doctrine. So, again, what are we really able to offer the wanting world? Only this: A faith based on a philosophy which can in no way help to practically organize or explain the world in which humanity struggles.
With an understanding of who is watching us and who we are to reach out to and love–the lost–by divine, Messianic commission, how can we as Christians live any longer as people who have no moral problem with allowing functionally irrational, impotent theology to define our faith and our philosophy?
We seem to have zero problem with the poor metaphysics of what we believe…and this is shocking. For vain philosophy is what we are commanded by Paul to avoid! And what is a faith defined by contradiction and nonsense if not vain?! But, alas, in bed with the purveyors of vain philosophy (reformed churches, new Calvinist preachers, among others) is precisely where we find ourselves. We are taught by our gnostic, authoritarian, “divinely inspired” oligarchs to EXPECT and to DESIRE the root doctrines of our Christian faith to be logically desperate. The more metaphysically impossible the better! The more irrational the more you are approved by God as being “spiritually minded”! Again, this is madness.
We accept, consciously or subconsciously, that forsaking reasonable truth makes us “good” followers of Christ (read: good followers our gnostic “superiors”). We are happily going about proclaiming loudly and proudly that incongruent and dissonant understanding of ourselves and God and holding relentlessly to contradictory doctrine is in fact a prerequisite for following Christ; that we, if we want to be approved by God, must somehow recognize that the way to get truth is to agree that we can never know truth; and that God acts in ways which cannot be defined as “truth” by man because man cannot even know his own, immediate, reasonable conceptual truths; and that the cause and effect constructs we apprehend by our ability to reason, and which makes our existence and the organization of our world possible, is either an illusion or is irrelevant (or both), and that our ability to reason—our ability to grasp rational truths that govern the universe and our interactions with it—is really spiritual depravity (our “sin nature”) and as such, is dead to God.
And this being the case, I understand completely the resistance I will face when attempting to appeal to reason as the basis for our faith…the platform upon which our understanding of God and man and the relationship between them stands, and stands strongest. Yes, I understand the difficulty that defines encroaching on the members of the “hope-at-the-expense-of-reason” church orthodoxy; and how of all the people in the world, the irrationally religious are those most likely to resort to the churlish depths of “worldly” attitudes and violent reactions, throwing aside with startling speed their views on the sanctity of life when their beliefs are challenged by the “heretics”. Indeed, the bloodlust which is deeply rooted in these contradictory doctrines, and which bubbles to the surface when pricked by a strong counter viewpoint, is enough to unnerve even the bravest of personalities. And the irony we Christians cannot see as we appeal to God as the foundation of our philosophical insanity, and the irony of the comparison of our own incomprehensible doctrines to Godliness and life, is that we often conclude that they are part and parcel of God’s divine purpose.
There aren’t words to describe this kind of nonsense.
But the idea that man has no faculty of reason at all by which he may independently grasp truth means that there can be no purpose of God for man whatsoever, and that man’s only purpose then is to be God for Him, as an extension of Himself, come heaven or hell; which also means that God can have no rational purpose for even HIMSELF as far as man is concerned, because man’s entire existence is irrelevant to the core.
So yes, I understand the difficulty to be found in this endeavor. I understand how hard it is to convince people of faith through reason in light of the things which they assume to be orthodox…and, to them, orthodox means biblical, and biblical means infallible, which is equal to God Himself. Yes, it is difficult indeed to reason with such a mindset. A mindset that says the only way to live is to deny your own physical senses which feed the building blocks of truth to your mind, and then declare, contrary to what Jesus teaches, that only the blind may truly see.
But, I ask: what is the alternative to reason as a platform for offering a contrary understanding of doctrine? One cannot use nonsense to combat nonsense. If one does, then he or she is in agreement with the premise of the opposition already. There is nothing to argue because the arguments themselves are pointless. So, the only alternative then is reason. One must use the root ability of reason to give an argument to another man, woman, or child for the hope of the faith in Christ that they have. There is no other avenue that is truly coherent; that truly matters. No other choice that works. If reason cannot explain our faith, then our faith is dead because WE do not exist. All we believe is “true” is outside of anything having to do with man.
But I will argue that, instead of proclaiming that the doctrines of election and free will are paradoxical (contradictory), that God’s foreknowledge and predestination must take into account that which must be true about man for God not to be a hypocrite and the Maker of the greatest redundancy in the history of the universe. And that is this: man has free volition of self, based on his knowledge of self as utterly separate from the rest of creation and God; and based on his knowledge of God, the understanding of relationship between two rational beings and that the relationship must be comprised of the free volition of the two participants for there to be meaning and relevance to either (e.g. for God I mean this: if He creates to control creation or to determine it, He cannot be God, because this constitutes redundancy).
So, because reason is the tool God has given man to know both Him and other men, it is to reason that I will appeal. For our arguments are not about theological interpretative vagaries; they are completely about truth versus lies. The possibility of God and man, versus the impossibility of both in a rational sense; which is to say, in a real, TRUE, sense. And this in order to free the minds that are enslaved (as mine was, but is no longer, thanks to God and the wisdom He so richly gives to those who ask) to an incoherent faith, which more often than not favors the “authorities” and destroys those who fund them.
The best place to start then, with reason in hand, is to destroy the ridiculous and humanity-wrecking concept of divine determinism. And the best way to do that is to answer the “why” of election/predestination and the free will of man. Which is, after all, what this essay is all about.
And we shall now begin again where we left off a while ago: by looking at time, but leaving physics, per se, and discussing what it means for God to “predict” the future.
Given my historic stance on metaphysics and faith, I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you to learn that I believe it impossible for God to predict the future; and even, in that sense–the prediction sense–to know it.
Allow me to explain…