Sunday, 2 April 2017

Dream big little god: SJT takes on parochalism and freewill


The last two responses (I refuse to call them rebuttals) by SJ Thomason can be summarised briefly as, "you're ignoring my objections again".  I'm so surprised...

Number 9

My objection. It is inescapable that the events of the bible are restricted to a tiny part of the world. Most of Asia, Africa, the Americas and Oceania are excluded. For a universal deity, this is suspiciously parochial. It is according to the Abrahamic religion capable of communicating in all kinds of ways. There are burning bushes, talking donkeys, angels etc. But only a small tribe of pastoralists are selected for this direct communication. In particular, a tribe that whose accomplishments were so minor, they had little ability to communicate their god to others. While civilisations around them developed maths, astronomy, engineering, democracy and philosophy, ancient Judea developed, well, penis modification.
Even within that context, only a small part of the population is considered worthy of this message. This part being men, of course. For a universal deity that considered all to be equal, this incredible favoritism does not make any sense.

When you've no argument, quote the bible.

SJT: The most famous Bible quote, John 3:16, states: “For God so loved the WORLD, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” If God were only trying to appeal to a small segment of the world, He wouldn’t have made this declaration.
No, if he was a universal deity he'd have been appearing to the ancient Greeks and Romans, Egyptians, Persians, Indians and Chinese. He'd have been appearing in the Americas, in Oceania, to Aboriginal Australians.  Appearing to one minor civilisation in the Eastern Mediterranean only makes sense if that culture invented him. Bible verses don't trump history. The god of ancient Israel does not manifest himself anywhere else. 

SJT: Furthermore, in Mark 16:15-16, Jesus says, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed His word by the signs that accompanied it.” Such passages call attention to the call from Jesus to grow Christianity in all parts of the world.
Noting their idea of the world was pretty much the ancient classical world, and they never made it to China, or the Americas etc.  Ideally, an appearance during the Achaemenid Empire, or Alexander the Great's empire centuries earlier, would have spread the Christian word sooner, faster and over a wider area.  Both the Achaeminds and Alexander were in contact with India afterall. 

A far less parochial manifestation of this universal deity, and to states that were capable of propagating the Christian message sooner and faster, makes sense.  You're not explaining why earlier opportunities were dropped, or why a simultaneous manifestation was eschewed.  You're not even explaining the bias toward appearing to men. From Abraham to Jesus, and perhaps Paul, the universal deity has a strong preference to men. 

In his book, On Guard, William Lane Craig cites a study by David Barrett, which notes that in 100 A.D., the ratio of non-Christians to committed Christians in the world was 360 to 1. In 1000 A.D., the ratio was 220 to 1. In 1500 A.D., the ratio was 69 to 1. By its final count in 1989, the ratio was 7 to 1. In other words, for every 7 people on the planet, one is a Christian. Christianity is slowly but surely closing the gap.
So even after 2000 years, 6 out of 7 people on earth aren't Christian.  This is the problem.  If the bloodgod that appeared to the ancient Israelites wasn't so parochial, if it had manifested and communicated with more than one culture in ancient times, then it would have acted like a universal deity.  More of the planet would have been Christian, sooner. 

Number 10 - Free Will

Free Fallin’ 
The problem with an all-knowing (omniscient) god is well known. It makes free-will a fantasy. If a deity knows everything I’m going to do and say over my life-time, there’s nothing I can do to change that. If Abe’s god knows I’m going to have sushi for lunch, then I cannot choose anything else. That extrapolates to every other action I take, to very word I utter. I cannot choose anything, choice is always following a single course of action. I can only say the lines I was given. I can only play the role I was destined to play.
Life in this case, is meaningless. If I am going to hell, then, nothing I do over my life will change that. I can only undertake the actions this deity already knows I’ll take. All life is, is a brief moment where I can change nothing, followed by an eternity of hell. There’s no point to this life at all. This god may as well put those destined to hell, straight there. Because nothing will change that destiny.

Blah Blah 

The sins of humanity are the result of God’s gift of free will, 
Let's not forget that picking sticks up on the Sabbath is a deadly sin, but owning another person as a slave, or executing a nonvirgin bride isn't.  Seems to me that sin is more likely to be the concoction of some filthy ancient slave-owners who needed a rationale for oppressing others. 

SJT...which underscores God’s generosity and love in giving such a gift as He knew the implications. He knew that by giving the gift of free will, He would also need to make a tremendous sacrifice to give the gift of eternal life, as free will in a world of temptations and challenges often leads to sin, which leads to death.
Given free will is disputed, blathering on about it as if it is a fact, is just ignoring my objection

C.S. Lewis says, “If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.”
Vacuous and irrelevant. 

The Strawman Gambit

SJT: Kaimatai asserts that if God is omniscient, we cannot have free will. This assertion is untrue as it conflates our free will to make choices with His control over our choices. Omniscience refers to “all knowing,” not “all controlling.” God does not control our actions, which is the essence of free will.
 No. You are grossly misrepresenting my objection.  That is not what I said at all! 
There is nothing in the objection about your deity controlling actions.

  • It is that any choice or action is an illusion in the presence of omniscience.  
  • Because every time someone thinks they have a choice, they can only act in the way your god knows they'll act.  
  • E.g. I don't buy sushi for lunch because your deity controls my purchase.
    • I buy sushi because your god knows I will. 
    • I can't deviate from that.  
  • There's not a single thing I will do, that can deviate one bit from god's omniscience.  I cannot make any choice that will alter my eternal afterlife.  
  • If your god's omniscience means he already knows I'm going to end up in hell, that's not a single thing I can do to change that.  I will end up in hell.
  • That makes freewill an illusion.  You can't have freewill when your actions and choices are already known and unalterable. 

SJT: To understand God’s omniscience and our free will, we need to understand that God is unbounded by time. The reason God knows our future is not because He’s controlled our future, but because He’s witnessed our future. Just as a journalist can skip through the pages of the newspapers in which she has published, moving back and forth in time, God can move back and forth in time. So, the real time that constrains us does not constrain Him. He sees our decisions and actions and knows whether we’ll be in the Lamb’s Book of Life, not because He’s predetermined our destiny, but because He has watched us as we exercise our free will through the lens of unbounded time. Furthermore, God is always in the present, yet He is unbounded by linear time so He is concurrently in our future and our past. According to Revelation 1:8, the Lord God “who is and who was and who always will be.”
Blah blah blah.  It's not about god predetermining our destiny. It's about every choice we make being an illusion of a choice. That we could not at that moment, choose to do anything other than what your god knew we were going to do. 

Let's say for argument's sake, your god had foreknowledge I'd go to hell when I was born. It knew I wouldn't believe you when you said he was real. Could I choose to believe you instead now?  Could I make a decision now, that deviates from what your god knows I will do, and change my afterlife? In other words, could your god not know the choice I was going to make? 

SJT: C.S. Lewis described this concept in his book Mere Christianity in this way: “Our life comes to us moment by moment. One moment disappears before the next comes along; and there is room for very little in each. That is what time is like. And of course you and I take it for granted that this time series – this arrangement of past, present, and future – is not simply the way life comes to us but the way things really exist…But many learned men do not agree with that. It was the theologians who first started the idea that some things are not in time at all: later the philosophers took it over: and now some scientists are doing the same. Almost certainly, God is not in time…If a million people are praying to Him at ten-thirty tonight, He need not listen to them all in that one little snippet which we call ten-thirty. Ten-thirty – and every other moment from the beginning of the world – is always present for Him.”
Vacuous rubbish

This is a difficult concept for some to grasp, but according to C.S. Lewis, it fits within Christianity. People may choose to ignore the concept, which is fine, yet it serves to understand the relationship between free will and omniscience.

You didn't address my objection. At all. It doesn't matter how your deity is omniscient.  Once you concede it knows every event in my life, then I'm bound to act only in ways that comply that knowledge.


  1. How about unblocking me on Twitter? I miss our chats. In the meantime, I appreciate that you at least showed all of my words. I stand by my rebuttal of yours. I still don't think you understand the distinction between all knowing and all controlling as God knows how you'll act but He doesn't control your actions.

    1. 1) not one of my premises was that your god controlled my choices.
      2) the objection is based on the consequences of omniscience.
      3) Give me one decision I could make, that contrary to your god's foreknowledge I am going to hell, could change that fate. Explain how I could ever deviate from what your god knows I will otherwise do.
      4) You don't have any choice, hence free will, if you can't deviate from the single course of action at any moment, your deity knows you'll do.

    2. I notice you've added more rebuttals. Thanks for thinking this through. I will need to respond to all, yet I'm a bit busy with work these next few weeks. In many of your responses I see that you've alluded to Jesus' humble roots. Isn't that exactly what makes Christianity so amazing? It demonstrates God's great power to overcome the odds. I also noticed that mentioned that if God wanted you to know Him, He would make Himself obvious. Well, I know you'll delete this when you read it but He is working through me to get to you. 😉

    3. that *you* mentioned

    4. It's a common theist trope to emphasise the common roots of their founders. Mohammad was a humble and mediocre merchant, Jospeh Smith was a humble and mediocre conman, Jesus was a humble and mediocre carpenter...

      Rather than being amazing, it reflects the historical marketing strategy of going for mass appeal by ending unpopular features of Judaism (dietary restrictions, circumcisions etc).

  2. If I took a Tardis into the future and saw that you were now living in Tahiti, would simply knowing that cause you to make the decision to move? I'm really sorry I don't understand this argument and hate go agree with SJ. Everything else was brilliant.

    1. It's got nothing to do with the omniscient being causing or forcing me to do anything. It's about the omniscient being's knowledge. This drives a wedge between what I *think* my choice-set is, and what my choice set *really* is.

      Take your example. Suppose when I'm deciding to go on holiday, I think my choice set = {Tahiti, Samoa, Fiji}. You however, are omniscient and already know I will go to Tahiti. My real choice set is {Tahiti}. This set has one element. I can "choose" to do anything I want, so long as I "choose" Tahiti.

      The problem is, this isn't a real choice anymore. Anytime you can only 'choose' one thing, you are not really make a choice anymore.