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.