Friday, April 24, 2009

My Dialogue with An Atheist or Skeptic


A skeptic writes:

I understand your viewpoint, but I was hinting at 2 distinctly
different ideas. First, that if God does in fact, as they say, have infinite
ability, then he most definitely could have (could have and can) will G [good]
out of E [evil] if he wants. According to Christian beliefs at least. Infinite
ability would imply ANYTHING is possible, including a real Utopia.
That, in my eyes, would be more desirable than Earth as-is. I'd be more apt
to say it was a product of "love" than what we've got now. The idea
that a world with free will is much more desirable than a Utopian world
is absurd. Free will spawns good AND evil, but in a Utopian world, only
good come about. Free will is enjoyable because it does hold the
potential to spawn good. In Utopia, life would be enjoyed to its utmost and
one would ALWAYS feel good. I can't imagine anyone who would pass up the
opportunity to live in such a paradise for "free will." I would
sacrifice free will to live in a controlled Utopian world in a heartbeat!

Part of my response to his remarks is:

The term "infinite" is ambiguous. It seems to me that Christians have been wont to deny that God is quantitatively infinite but they have usually contended that God is qualitatively infinite. Moreover, although God is by hypothesis (EX HYPOTHESI) omnipotent or has maximal power [omnipotence], God evidently cannot do that which is logically or conceptually impossible. That is to say, God cannot do that which results in a contradictory state of affairs. Hence, certain "Christian" philosophers argue that it is logically possible that God cannot bring it about that a rational creature has free will, yet always unequivocally does what is right. Be that as it may, you raise another issue. Is a utopian world in which people always do what is right because of being determined to do X or Y (certain actions) preferable to a world in which people are free and have the ability to do what is morally wrong or what is morally right? You suggest that option A is superior or preferable to option B. But I submit that it is difficult for you to know how you would like a [deterministic] utopia in comparison to the world we have now since neither you nor I have ever experienced a utopia. Moreover, if we lived in a world where everything was determined (including our actions), would we really prefer [or have the ability to prefer] that world to a world where free will obtained? I might add that as a parent, I can tell you--and this is the testimony of a number of parents--that I prefer my child to love me because he or she wants to, not because he or she has been programmed to love me. I submit that God also wills that his creatures love him freely, not because they have been programmed or determined to love him.


Pertinacious Papist said...

Pertinacious Papist was here. Doc. Foster, you've got to give your interlocutor more credit and clean up his email before posting it!



Anonymous said...

Actually God will have a utopian world with free will. That's why he is Jehovah the one who causes to become!

Edgar Foster said...


Are you talking about my skeptical or Catholic interlocutor? :)


I have two questions:

1) Is it appropriate to call the coming new earth a utopia? I guess it depends on how utopia is defined.

2) I was particularly talking about a deterministic utopia. I'm sure we would agree that the new earth will not be deterministic. Thanks for your input.

Anonymous said...

That's correct there are several different ideas as to what a utopia is. The new earth society is not determined by another human though. I submit that Jehovah is determined to have his will to be done for the earth.
Perhaps it is more than a utopia, for instance it would not be a racist utopia. Or billionaires utopia. But it definition of acomplishing an ideal society is what God's kingdom will do. We think of Rev. 21:3,4 and the one in Isaiah which states in part. "They will not cause any harm in all my holy mountain," because of having knowledge of Jehovah.

Anonymous said...

I believe that free will is greatly misunderstood especially by skeptics. It is suceptible to desire enslaving us(all humans)to our imperfect flesh. The Fault is not God's but our own. YHWH says" the defect is our own." Deut. 32:4. It would be good if all of us would stop trying to pass the buck (sort to speak) except responsibility for our action. We are going to have to anyway.

Edgar Foster said...


I would say that the concept of "free will" is biblical in itself. What might make it unbiblical or amenable to skeptics or unbelievers is if free will is divorced from an almighty and all-knowing God who creates rational beings with free will. I understand free will to be a a faculty or power. It seems to be the power to perform a certain action (A) or a power to refrain from performing A. Nancey Murphy argues that the terminology free will may denote the ability to choose without one's action being causally determined. She calls this kind of power to choose "counterfactual freedom."

Jehovah's Servant said...

Obviously, we have an example to look to - the utopia was already here in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. And they had free will, and but one rule to obey.

I am sure the coming new world will be in the same vain.

Edgar Foster said...

Greetings all,

I speak disparagingly of a utopia when responding to this critic. The reason why is because the word utopia is often used pejoratively in English. The Encyclopedia Brittanica (1911) defines a utopia thus:

UTOPIA, an ideal commonwealth, or an imaginary country whose inhabitants are supposed to exist under the most perfect conditions possible. Hence the terms Utopia and Utopian are also used to denote any visionary scheme of reform or social theory, especially those which fail to recognize defects inherent in human nature.

Hence, I concede that the coming new earth will allow its inhabitants to enjoy the most perfect conditions possible. However, that society is not imaginary or merely an idealized scheme.


Edgar Foster said...

Should have typed Britannica.