Cosmic Fast-Forward Button
For Playful Cat-God's Mice?
I read John Gannon's letter "Your Opening Quote Has a Deep Flaw" and felt compelled to write.
One thing that has always befuddled me about the free will argument is that eventually, according to the Christian religion, Jesus Christ will come again, and we will all either end up in hell or in heaven; presumably to stay at one or the other forever.
Why, then, if God is good 'n' powerful, having already made the mistake of allowing "evil" to exist, does he not just hit the "fast forward" button in time, taking us either directly to heaven or hell instantaneously, therefore quickening the punishment for the sinners, and avoiding the unnecessary pain for the ones destined to go to heaven? I had this thought when I was eight years old, for crying out loud, and my Sunday school teacher couldn't answer it. The problem with the "programmed robot" argument is that it presumes that free will must coexist with evil. This is ridiculous. God could simply make evil an impossibility, and we would have free will to do anything within the framework he has created. Our free will is defined only within the laws of the universe. The impossibility to do something does not hamper free will.
One more point to drive it home: Will those souls lucky enough to make it to heaven check their free will at the pearly gates? No. They will keep their free will, and have everlasting, immortal bliss in heaven. Christians who forward the "programmed robot" argument don't even realize their own religion refutes it. After I realized this point when I was a child, I imagined God was a cat, and we were the mice that he played with before he ate us.
From: "Positive Atheism" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Response to John Gannon's letter "Your Opening Quote Has a Deep Flaw"
Date: December 23, 2001 11:34 PM
The dilemma with predestinarianism is the classic one discussed throughout history: the Scripture, wanting to describe God in the most powerful terms imaginable, inevitably sides with the idea of predestination, while human emotion tends to recoil against it. This argument crosses all forms of Monotheism, almost all other religious views, and even materialism. On my opinion, it has no answers, being incomprehensible any way you look at it. Wayland Dong and I began a materialist version of this scuffle some time back, in a thread called, "Atheism, Free Will, And Material Determinism. There are more files to be posted, which merely await the time when I can relax and put my best into this discussion. As tough as this discussion is (and as rare as a materialistic version of this argument would be), I wouldn't want to give it my second best. But you can see the basic groundwork laid down in what is already posted.
The notion that God has predestined a certain (small) number unto salvation is, in Christianity, included among the collection of doctrines known as "Calvinism" (after John Calvin, who was neither the first nor the most important proponent of predestination). A study of the Christian Bible will show that between three and four passages support Divine Election for every passage that supports human free will. By selectively emphasizing some passages and ignoring others, one can pronounce either viewpoint as being "biblical" and the opposing viewpoint as going against Scripture. Almost all predestinarians argue that the notion of Election does not mean that God has predestined the rest unto damnation; however, I don't see how this can be done in all honesty.
Predestination was favored up until the Age of Enlightenment, when just about every viewpoint was given a complete shake-down. Christianity, for the most part, did not escape these changes. Now, the opposing viewpoint, Arminianism (after James Arminius), has gained preeminence, particularly due to the efforts of John Wesley. First, Arminianism fits in much more nicely with post-Enlightenment thinking than any form of Christianity has ever fit in with anything before it. Secondly, preaching became very successful as the result of Arminianism. Sophisticated Arminians sometimes admit that Calvinism has more biblical weight, but justify preaching Arminianism because it brings more sheep into the fold: the Calvinism-Arminianism question is not grave, by any means, and so people will not be in danger of Hell-fire because they believed the wrong way on this one matter (although you'd better have such teachings as the Trinity and the Nature of Christ right on the money, according to most sects).
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