Warning: Theology ahead

Most days, I'm not a sanctimoniously motormouthed, aimlessly inane, woefully underinformed theologian. In fact, it only happens on the fourth thursday of every prime month. So bear with me. This post was inspired by this essay by Alex Jordan Harris.

It's easy to be able to predict the reactions of certain people in certain situations; a mother rescuing her endangered child is an excellent example. Why is that such a sure, safe prediction? Because the mother doesn't really have the "free will" to choose to abandon the child.

Free will is not a vast expanse of possibilities which we may roam at random; rather, it is the no man's land between the forces of good and evil. The human character is in a state of war; it is partly occupied by evil, and partly occupied by good. This hypothetical mother has enough good in her character that she does not even consider abandoning the child; it's not even an option to her. However, let's say she also has enough evil in her that she doesn't hesitate to gossip about her neighbors; she doesn't even consider refraining from gossip; perhaps it doesn't even occur to her that it's wrong.

Where is her free will, then? It's the battlefront; the space between the extremes. There are certain decisions that make her stop and think; certain decisions that give her the opportunity to award a victory to righteousness, or give the upper hand to sin. When she chooses righteousness, evil must retreat. The territory occupied by sin shrinks. The battlefront shifts Choices that she previously would have had to consider carefully are now answered immediately with a righteous response.

God knows where the battle lines are drawn. He knows what choices we'll make without thinking twice. But he can't see the future laid out as a chain reaction of predictable decisions made by robotic "free agents", because there are some choices that do make us stop and think, and in those choices, our free will can't be predicted.

"Thus actions repeated form habits, habits form character, and by the character our destiny for time and for eternity is decided." (If you don't know who said that, I'm not going to tell ya :p)


The edges of omnipotence

As christians, we often take refuge in the idea that God is omnipotent. But exactly how omnipotent is omnipotence? Is it possible that there are things God can't do? I think it's not only possible, but crucial to a true understanding of His character.

Think of it like this: If God is both loving (i.e. unselfish, and willing that others should be happy) and omnipotent (i.e. able to do ANYTHING), there should be no pain in the world. The existence of pain implies that either there is some motivation greater than love that is causing Him to permit pain, or that he does not have the power to stop it.

The contemporary christian explanation for this is that God can't take away our pain without taking away our free will, and thus taking away our ability to love and be loved. After explaining that in one breath, the typical evangelical will triumphantly exclaim, "You see, it's his love that keeps him from putting an end to our pain!"

But the question remains: Who, or what, made the universal "law" that a being cannot love or be loved without free will? If it was God, then obviously his character must once again be called into question. If it wasn't God, then He must exist in the context of a set of "laws" he cannot break, even if he wants to. God can't have his cake (a lovable and loving creation) and eat it, too (absence of pain), any more than we can.




Isn't it stupid how you have to have a blogger account to post on some blogs?


Anyway, I'm never going to use blogger -- when I finally get around to setting up a personal site of some sort, it will go up at http://www.farfromnormal.org/. And it probably won't be a blog, because I much prefer commenting on other folks' posts to writing my own.