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  #1  
Old Jun 9, '12, 11:55 pm
Safia's Avatar
Safia Safia is offline
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Default God vs. Individual Creation, Free Will, Etc.

Hi! I was speaking with a friend of mine today, telling him how excited I was about the possibility of my entering the convent next year, and we started to talk about the importance of prayer (I'll be a contemplative). He feels very strongly prayer has no impact on the status quo, and I asked him why.

I need help answering some of his questions, as I couldn't during our actual conversation.

He's a physicist. And his analogy is this (he knows it's a false premise, but it was his way of setting up his logic about God): An all-knowing physicist sets a ball rolling down a hill. While no one observing may know where the ball will end up, the physicist, via math and physics, can tell you where exactly it will cease to stop rolling based upon the qualities of the starting point (the angle of the hill's decline, etc.).

In the same way, He said, if God knows everything -- which I said He does -- He knows that, in creating a person, in allowing them to come into being within particular circumstances (genetics + environment), God knows that he's allowing a person to have a more or less difficult time following Him (say, allowing St. Therese to be born into the holiest of families, vs. allowing a murderer be born into a family that maintains no values). He couldn't understand why, if God could "tinker" with the circumstances, say having a child born into a St. Therese-like family versus a worse-off family, and the child would go on to be a saint, and how free will comes into play. Where does God cease being the architect and where do we and our choice begin? What is free will within the grand scheme of things?

My friend continued to explain that, insofar as these circumstances are as they are, the decisions we make aren't actually willed freely. It's the same way of someone going forward in time, seeing what the results will be, and then coming back; the future is unalterable.

So there are lots of things mingled in here, but I was at a loss for words. ()

Any help?
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  #2  
Old Jun 10, '12, 1:59 am
Rob in Oregon Rob in Oregon is offline
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Default Re: God vs. Individual Creation, Free Will, Etc.

In a way that we do not fully understand, an all-powerful God grants us the power of free will. Although He knows what choices we will make in the future, He gives us the power to make choices on our own.

Some skeptics argue that God's foreknowledge prevents us from having free will.

The philosophical arguments are difficult to debate on this point, but I fall back on this:

WHY does an all-powerful God give us the power of free will? Because He wants us to freely choose to be with Him in Heaven, instead of creating robots whom He can command to do the right thing.

Imagine a scientist who could create the perfect robot. He could get his "female" robot to obey any command. Would he want to order that robot to marry him? Or, would he want a real, human woman to fall in love with him and freely choose to marry him, when she could have married someone else? Her free-will gift of herself in matrimony makes him very happy, a happiness no robot could give. Our free-will gift of ourselves to God is most pleasing to Him.

This is the reason we are gifted with the power to choose for or against God. And, while God can foresee what choice we will make, he refrains from causing that choice.

On another point: Our supernatural God who has established the scientific laws of the material world, is capable of intervening in the material world in a supernatural way. It doesn't happen very often, but it CAN happen. Witness the miracle of the sun at Fatima.

God bless you in your vocation. The Church needs more good women like you.

- Rob in Oregon
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  #3  
Old Jun 10, '12, 3:12 am
meltzerboy meltzerboy is online now
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Default Re: God vs. Individual Creation, Free Will, Etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Safia View Post
Hi! I was speaking with a friend of mine today, telling him how excited I was about the possibility of my entering the convent next year, and we started to talk about the importance of prayer (I'll be a contemplative). He feels very strongly prayer has no impact on the status quo, and I asked him why.

I need help answering some of his questions, as I couldn't during our actual conversation.

He's a physicist. And his analogy is this (he knows it's a false premise, but it was his way of setting up his logic about God): An all-knowing physicist sets a ball rolling down a hill. While no one observing may know where the ball will end up, the physicist, via math and physics, can tell you where exactly it will cease to stop rolling based upon the qualities of the starting point (the angle of the hill's decline, etc.).

In the same way, He said, if God knows everything -- which I said He does -- He knows that, in creating a person, in allowing them to come into being within particular circumstances (genetics + environment), God knows that he's allowing a person to have a more or less difficult time following Him (say, allowing St. Therese to be born into the holiest of families, vs. allowing a murderer be born into a family that maintains no values). He couldn't understand why, if God could "tinker" with the circumstances, say having a child born into a St. Therese-like family versus a worse-off family, and the child would go on to be a saint, and how free will comes into play. Where does God cease being the architect and where do we and our choice begin? What is free will within the grand scheme of things?

My friend continued to explain that, insofar as these circumstances are as they are, the decisions we make aren't actually willed freely. It's the same way of someone going forward in time, seeing what the results will be, and then coming back; the future is unalterable.

So there are lots of things mingled in here, but I was at a loss for words. ()

Any help?
I think the basic issue is how can G-d be omnipotent if He gives us free will to make our own choices. Yes, He can know what we will decide, but He does not decide for us. Further, if G-d does indeed know what we will decide since He is omniscient, how can He not be controlling our decisions? The second question can be answered by your friend, the physicist, who knows what will happen, based on the laws of physics, but does not directly control the outcome. The same for your example of time travel: you can see the future but you did not cause the future. What about the question of omnipotence? Since we do not cause the outcome, we are not omnipotent. Wouldn't this also apply to G-d? The answer is no, because G-d has created us with certain capacities, including the ability to think and reason, as well as His having created the laws of physics; whereas we did not create either ourselves or the laws of physics. Therefore, even though we make the decisions, it is G-d Who has fashioned us in order that we can arrive at these decisions. In other words, G-d is still the ultimate cause of our cognitions, emotions, drives, behaviors, personalities, and lives, while we are the immediate cause. Therefore G-d is omnipotent as well as omniscient.
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  #4  
Old Jun 11, '12, 7:24 am
hicetnunc hicetnunc is offline
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Default Re: God vs. Individual Creation, Free Will, Etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Safia View Post
I need help answering some of his questions, as I couldn't during our actual conversation.
Hi Sister-to-be! I have great respect for the Dominican sisters--great things happening tehre in Kentucky I hear!

Your physicist friend is a determinist: it's the philosophical position that free will is an illusion and everything in the universe in predetermined. It is basically and indefensible and illogical position, for reasons I will try to sketch out briefly here:

First of all, if determinism is true, then we have no way of knowing the truth of things, since all our answers would be equally determined by those inexorable forces your friend seems to think are behind the universe. This would include not only your position on prayer, but his too: neither of your positions could be verified, but would simply be bare assertions conditioned by an unthinking universe and therefore meaningless. Even his effort to try to convince you of an opinion would be simply determined and therefore no better nor worse than your own position. If, however, he thinks his position is 'true', he is already appealing to something that can evaluate this determinism and therefore is outside of it.

Secondly, if determinism is true, then where do we get our sense of freedom and agency from? The deterministic universe would have had to have given us this false sense of agency which contradicts its own nature, which is impossible.

St Thomas (your great ally and teacher-to-be!) explains very well how prayer can be efficacious. He explains this in the Summa Theologica, 1a.q23.a8. God has predestined (pre-determined) the salvation of each person, which prayer cannot alter (because God’s will is eternal). However, prayer—as with our freely chosen good actions—cooperates in Providence, which orders the effects of God’s will (because the created order is not eternal and thus contingent). A simple analogy is a game of pool: the object of the game has been predetermined (to sink all the balls in a certain order in a choice of pockets). But every pool player has the freedom to decide and cooperated as an agent in how this end is achieved. So it is with our prayers; God knows from eternity who will be saved. But we participate in that eternal Will through Divine Providence which is in evidence in the created order.

Hope this helps.

I will be praying for you and your vocation with the confidence that prayer is truly efficacious!
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  #5  
Old Jun 27, '12, 2:33 am
greylorn greylorn is offline
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Default Re: God vs. Individual Creation, Free Will, Etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Safia View Post
Hi! I was speaking with a friend of mine today, telling him how excited I was about the possibility of my entering the convent next year, and we started to talk about the importance of prayer (I'll be a contemplative). He feels very strongly prayer has no impact on the status quo, and I asked him why.

I need help answering some of his questions, as I couldn't during our actual conversation.

He's a physicist. And his analogy is this (he knows it's a false premise, but it was his way of setting up his logic about God): An all-knowing physicist sets a ball rolling down a hill. While no one observing may know where the ball will end up, the physicist, via math and physics, can tell you where exactly it will cease to stop rolling based upon the qualities of the starting point (the angle of the hill's decline, etc.).

In the same way, He said, if God knows everything -- which I said He does -- He knows that, in creating a person, in allowing them to come into being within particular circumstances (genetics + environment), God knows that he's allowing a person to have a more or less difficult time following Him (say, allowing St. Therese to be born into the holiest of families, vs. allowing a murderer be born into a family that maintains no values). He couldn't understand why, if God could "tinker" with the circumstances, say having a child born into a St. Therese-like family versus a worse-off family, and the child would go on to be a saint, and how free will comes into play. Where does God cease being the architect and where do we and our choice begin? What is free will within the grand scheme of things?

My friend continued to explain that, insofar as these circumstances are as they are, the decisions we make aren't actually willed freely. It's the same way of someone going forward in time, seeing what the results will be, and then coming back; the future is unalterable.

So there are lots of things mingled in here, but I was at a loss for words. ()

Any help?
Maybe, and it depends upon what you might regard as help. You're a bit outgunned by your physicist friend, so perhaps we can even the odds a little.

There is a book titled (if memory serves correctly) The Spiritual Brain by Beauregard and O'Leary, which deals with prayer, among other things.

This link might connect to the Amazon details about the book, but if not, it is easy to locate. Your friend might even find it interesting.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Spiritual-...gy_cc_b_text_b

They describe a series of experiments on the effect of prayer upon the recovery of ill or dying patients. They engaged the services of a group of Carmelite nuns and employed rigorous experimental standards, using statistical analysis to derive their results.

Their results were positive, under certain circumstances which were themselves notable. For example, the best results were obtained when the nuns prayed with no knowledge of the patients, and when the patients did not know that they were being prayed for. Distance did not effect outcomes.

However, scientific proof of the efficacy of prayer does not invalidate your friend's argument against omniscience. There are other arguments against omniscience as well, several of which I invented. This is also a subject which I introduced on several CAF threads. The result of my best thoughts on the matter are that the Creator is neither omniscient nor omnipotent, on the grounds that both properties lead to logical contradictions such as those noted by your friend.

I've also concluded, as have a few others, that the Creator does not require either property in order to create the universe. Historically, these properties seem to be aftermarket features added to Christianity by some Gnostics and subsequently formalized by Augustine and Aquinas. Christ did not teach these ideas; as best I can tell by the first three N.T. books, he taught no theology at all.

I realize that this leaves you thinking somewhere between your beliefs, logic, and an interesting tidbit of experimental reality which you are on a path to experience personally, That's okay. There is more uncertainty in this world than certainty.
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