Questions Theists Can’t Answer, Election/Predestination

More questions from the Reddit thread that proposes questions theists can’t answer. These are focused on election/predestination.

If god knows everything that is and will ever be, and he knows that you will not accept him before you are even born, why would he send you to hell? You are essentially judged before you can do anything. What kind of “good” god would do that?

So, basically, if you don’t accept God’s free gift of grace, it’s his fault?  No, no, no, no, no, no.  The only way that someone is judged before he has a chance to do anything is if God actually creates the unbelief and decrees the sin leading to, nurturing, and sustaining the unbelief.  God doesn’t do any of that; he knows all of that in advance.

“Knowing” that something is so is a far cry from “making” it so.  The example I gave recently is rather crude, but it works.  Ted gave Bill two choices.  Either Bill could watch Eliza Dushku privately re-enact the scene where she models bikinis in The New Guy just for Bill, or Ted can slap Bill in across the face with a wet codfish.

Ted knows without a doubt that Bill will pick the bikini modeling thing.  There can be no question in anyone’s mind, even if you haven’t seen Eliza model the bikinis in The New Guy, that Bill will pick that option.  Ted didn’t make Bill pick that option.  He only knew that Bill would select it.

In other words, God knowing that a creature will do X is not the same as God forcing a creature to do X.  Or, more appropriately, ordering the universe in such a way that it is inescapable the creature will do X.

Some are going to argue, fairly, that the hole in my analogy is that Ted isn’t omnipotent and can’t order things so that Bill will request a bikini dance from Eliza.  I can safely say that God does imply in his word that he can change the will of his creations.  After all, God kept Abimelech from committing adultery with Sarah (Gen 20:1-7).

But can doesn’t imply will.  Ask any wife.  The husband can do the dishes, but he never does.  The husband can put the toilet seat down, but he never does.  Or, in a previous post, we see that God can get by without rest but did rest.  Nothing in Scripture makes humans out to be cosmic puppets with God pulling the strings.

God knows ahead of time who will accept his gift of grace through Christ, and who will reject this gift.  In fact, we Calvinists believe that he chooses his elect (the ones who will accept the gift) from eternity.  But that doesn’t make God culpable for anyone’s unbelief, nor does it diminish God’s goodness.  The fact is, there are things under our power.  Otherwise, Ezekiel 7 and God’s repeated admonishing that he will judge us by our ways wouldn’t make any sense.  In fact, God has made it clear that the judgment can be reversed if we hear his prophets’ warnings and repent (Jer 18:7-8), so his divine decree is not in spite of our actions but because of them.

If we were mere puppets, then God admonishing us for our actions makes no sense.

If you subscribe to the notion that those who have never heard of the word of God do not go to hell, then why do you try to spread the word of God?

I don’t subscribe to any such notion.  Next!

Why is geography the most important part of belief, if you were born in the jungle you may believe the volcano god?

Religion and culture are inextricably intertwined.  Why is this a problem suddenly?

People most often believe exactly as their parents believed.  On the whole, people are little like sheep.  Tell them something once, and they repeat it ad nauseum, believing it to be true even if confronted with contrary facts.  Contrary facts actually strengthen their resolve to believe it.  This is how urban legends are born.

But here’s some food for thought: What one believes about reality doesn’t affect reality.  That a person is taught one thing and believes it from then on without checking it out has no bearing on what actually is true.  On the whole, few people actually check things out.  They hear it and believe it.  It’s my conviction, however, that people should make it their duty to find out what is true and what isn’t before they forward the next e-mail chain letter or copy & paste a Facebook status with an interesting “fact,” asking you to repost so that everyone can share in the knowledge.

And with religion, it should be no different.  Take me.  I was born in the United States, which means that I am a Christian geographically.   However, that doesn’t absolve me of the responsibility to seek the truth of God and submit to God as God, not as some conception of God that isn’t true (idolatry).  What most people in the United States believe about God pays nothing but lip service to Christianity, and few will ever rise above such an infantile conception of God.  That I’m taught something false doesn’t negate a personal duty to seek the truth.  That most people won’t seek anything beyond what they are taught is their fault, not God’s fault.

I will address one final, three part question from this thread tomorrow.  Then, I am officially done with it, except perhaps to publish a “best of” article.

About Cory Tucholski

I'm a born-again Christian, amateur apologist and philosopher, father of 3. Want to know more? Check the "About" page!

Posted on July 6, 2011, in Apologetics, God, Theology, WWGHA and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. You seem to be missing the subtle point of the question; knowing everything eternally makes the universe determined (and being Calvinist doesn’t help here :), while the “free gift of Grace” requires libertarian free will. You make no attempt to deal with that conundrum, and is at the core of this question theists (and I’m tempted to say, especially Calvinists) can’t answer.

  2. “In other words, God knowing that a creature will do X is not the same as God forcing a creature to do X. Or, more appropriately, ordering the universe in such a way that it is inescapable the creature will do X.”

    The humans are forced in two ways –

    (1) Yahweh’s opnipotence/omniscience means that it gives its tacit approval to all events. No other outcome can occur, than what Yahweh wants to happen. So, even if a human thinks there is a choice between X and Y, option X will always be chosen. Re-run that choice a trillion times, and there will be a trillion X’s. So, it is not a genune choice, there is only one outcome, X.

    (2) according to the idea that Yahweh created everything. Before a human is created, Yahweh knows that the human will choose X. The human has no other option but to choose X, because not-X is impossible. The human doesn’t choose to be created, she just appears. Then she is stuck with the non-choice of X. Then she dies. No choices were made by the human! She is just a puppet.

  3. Restating the original objection, unchanged, is not answering my point. Knowing it isn’t the same as making it happen. PERIOD.

  4. Sticking strictly to the thread of judgement and eternal life and the individual’s refusal to ‘accept God’ are we missing the data a bit? God isn’t going to judge us on our theories about his existence or otherwise. But God is painfully interested in what we do. I’m tempted to say God dosn’t give a damn about whether you think he exists! What he wants to know is did you feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, visit the prisoners….

    He does not judge anyone before they are born. God is quite sane!!!!!!!!

    • What a terrible reply! You’ve got it completely backwards; Of *course* your god cares about our theories and whether we think he exists or not, it’s the fundamental base for the salvation you’re promised. Your god does in fact care absolutely nothing about what we do, only what we believe. A rapist and mass-murderer only has to believe and hence get forgiveness to get into heaven, while the atheist altruist who never hurt a fly goes straight to hell. This is what Christianity is all about; forgiveness of evil thoughts and actions in belief, but has no redemption for goodness without belief. I wonder how you could get is so wrong, being a believer and all.

  5. Thanks for responding, Cory Tucholski, I think I am clearer now. Here is my position:

    “Restating the original objection, unchanged, is not answering my point. ^i^Knowing^/i^ it isn’t the same as ^i^making it happen^/i^. PERIOD.”

    1) The existence of any entity with Omniscience means that the universe is determined.

    2) Yahweh ‘makes it happen’ (the person to hell) by creating the person. And a peson cannot do otherwise in a determined universe. So Yahweh is morally blameworthy.

    3) Yahweh passively allows it to happen (the person to hell), by being able to pervent the suffering, but taking to preventative action. So Yahweh is morally blameworthy.

    4) [?depending on how this actually works?] Yahweh ‘makes it happen’ (the person to hell), by taking action to teleport the soul from the recently dead body to the location of hell. So Yahweh is morally blameworthy. (This is very speculative, I’m not sure of your exact position, Cory Tucholski.)

  6. Dear Mr Johannessen,
    Thank you for replying. May I humbly say that you need to look at what you think Christianity is and what its data is. You are arguing with a religion that, to some extent others have invented for you. What you assert as ‘chistianity’ is not the message that the Gospels give. Read Matthew chapter 25 – and think about it. It is Christ’s definition of what you need to do to have eternal life. In GB we would say that it is the bottom line…..
    With sincere respect,
    Sr Maria
    (A Roman Catholic Nun in North Wales)

    • Dear Sister,

      I’m very surprised by your answer. Instead of approaching the argument given, you’d rather just sweep with a “you’re wrong” or that I don’t know what Christianity is all about, a rather brave and sweeping assertion of someone you don’t know anything about. For all you know I could be a former Christian, but then, epistemology is not the focus of believers.

      It seems to me that either you didn’t understand what I wrote, or you don’t know the basic tenant for your own religion. I’ll go with the former.

      Christianity is nothing without belief in a specific god. This god needs your belief before he needs any good behavior, and not only that but the belief has to be in a specific sub-part of the godhead (so belief in the god alone is not good enough). Shall we throw the baby out straight away? I denounce that there is a god. There, no matter what I say or do, even if I had regret and begged for forgiveness, by your and your gods standard I am going to hell. He does not care what I do or say, only what I said. It doesn’t matter that I feed the starving, give money to the poor and otherwise do all manner of good things to my fellow creatures of this earth. He cares about accepting a serious notion of a specific clause on the lack of any evidence.

      Here’s what you said: ” I’m tempted to say God dosn’t give a damn about whether you think he exists! What he wants to know is did you feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, visit the prisoners….”

      I’m sorry, but the lack of belief in your god is the very thing – and I’m tempted to say, the only thing! – he cares about; believe – and it has to be a belief in a specific part of him – or go to hell. And do some good on the side (Matthew 15), but only if you believe will it do good, and, really, it won’t change my mind anyway because of John 14:6. Are you going to argue against Jesus’ own words?

      Oh yes, your god cares quite a lot about whether you think he’s real or not. The bible, that book you claim you know, has quite a number of references to people killed by your god or his people for the simple lack of belief.

      I wish you people could get to grips with the claims you actually make. *sigh*

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: