Free Will - its scope and purpose

Discussion in 'Christianity' started by Tariki, Apr 22, 2007.

  1. Tariki

    Tariki New Member

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    The idea of "free will" seems to be going the rounds at the moment.

    The idea seems to raise its head as some sort of justification for "judgement" and I was reflecting on this from my own perspective. It does seem to me that in many ways the conservative/fundamentalist perspective compromises the whole concept. It seems that it is only the exercise of choice/free will when it comes to "accepting Christ" that has any real meaning.

    A human being could choose the ethically sound throughout their existence, yet if the decision for "Christ" is not made, they are damned. Alternatively, a human being could indulge themselves throughout their life, causing great suffering and discord, yet at the very end "repent" and "choose Christ" and they are "saved.

    And again, it seems the value of free will/choice has no need to extend into the after-life. No "free will" exists here! Only its consequences. Eternal joy or eternal suffering. Apparently "God" no longer values the idea of free will! Those in heaven are perfect yet without it (in as much as the possibilty of losing "salvation" is no longer an option), while those in hell are unable to choose annihilation/non-existence.

    So "free will" is a great value, yet we only have it for one short ambiguous life that lasts for "three score years and ten" - if we are lucky............And the ethical acts performed and freely chosen by those "outside of Christ" are mere "dirty rags" in the sight of the Almighty!

    I may misunderstand. Personally I live with the subjective experience of freedom...............whatever the reality may or may not be concerning "free will/determinism". And I live as being "grasped never to be abandoned" by Infinite Compassion. I can make mistakes within the embrace of such a Compassion without fear of any form of rejection. Thats the end of it. I must admit to finding certain Christian beliefs and expressions more and more obscure.........

    :)
     
  2. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Kindest Regards, Tariki!

    While I want to agree with your assessment, I feel it is incomplete.

    Perhaps for a "fundamentalist" what you suggest may be true, or may only appear to be so.

    For a deeper Biblical scholar, there are more pressing issues surrounding the matter of free-will. Those matters focus around the concept of love.

    Free-will is also typically contrasted with predestination, with those advocating one or the other standing on opposing sides of a fence (wall?).

    There may be other issues as well, but these two immediately jump to mind on this subject. Predestination presumes that people have no mind for themselves...that whatever will be, will be. No matter how good they conduct themselves, it is the arbitrary whim of the powers that be upon their conception as to whether or not they "make it" to heaven or not. So what is the sense or purpose of morality teachings at all, let alone the Bible? Why did Jesus even bother?

    Since Jesus (and other religious leaders of other faiths) teach the significance of love, it is imperitive to see that love cannot be forced to be genuine. To the Christian, G-d is Love. Since love cannot be forced, predestined love is impossible. G-d did not create, nor did He intend to create, a bunch of little pre-selected robots to run around and mouth the words "I love you G-d" all day, every day, in heaven. G-d loves His creation, and desires that love returned to Him (don't we all?). For that love to be genuine and sincere, it must be freely and willfully given. Free will is a gift, and a test. It is what we do with the gift of free will that determines where we end up in the final analysis, when the wheat is separated from the chaff. Those who can and have displayed love in their lives (what you do to the least of these, you have done to me) will gain favor, IMHO. Those who cannot love or choose not to, gain their reward according to their actions (works).

    That is how I see things in the Christian walk I follow. ;)
     
  3. Quahom1

    Quahom1 What was the question?

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    No where in scripture does it state that all are damned. Nor does it state one MUST choose. What it states is that all fall short of the glory of God (I think that can be a pretty accurate statement, since none of us are even close to being God). It also states that none are completely righteous (again, I think that is a pretty accurate picture of man).

    What Christianity does is offer a choice to man. Live life with Christ, or live life without Christ. Now, life will continue regardless of which choice is made. But Christianity opines that after life, there will be a day of judgement. Those that did not live with Christ in their lives will be judged on their merits in life. It's a 50/50 chance of being deemed worthy to enter heaven, or not.

    Those that did live with Christ in their lives, "skip" that part of judgement. Instead, they will be judged based on their merits AFTER accepting Christ (all life before being tossed away), and will be awarded "status" if you will, accordingly, in heaven. (take me for example...I'll be lucky if I'm made the doorman) :D Hey, as long as I'm in heaven...who cares? Of course that means I'll have to listen to St. Peter boast, for eternity...

    What Christianity also opines is that if one accepts Christ, the duration of one's life will be filled with calm and self peace beyond understanding, regardless of the situation, or condition. Only it is sudden, and given and constant, not learned and efforted, and fleeting.

    I'm not like my esteemed colleague Juan...(I talk from the gut), but I think we are saying the same thing. :D

    He's just more eloq- elloc-elloqui-oh hell, he has english under his belt. :eek:

    v/r

    Joshua
     
  4. InLove

    InLove at peace

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    :D You guys are great--all of you! :D
     
  5. Quahom1

    Quahom1 What was the question?

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    Uhhhp! that gets you through the gates...Now you gotta get past Pete...:eek: :D
     
  6. Tariki

    Tariki New Member

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    juantoo3,

    Thank you for your response. I do think that in a certain sense it is possible that all are predestined to love without any denial of free will.................though not if our relationship with/within God/Reality-as-is is frozen at death - which I admit does seem the teaching of much of Christianity (allowing for a bit of purgatory....:D )

    St Augustine once said something like we are made for God and our hearts remain restless until they find their rest in thee. Given an eternity and the assumption that a God "unwilling that any should perish" will never cease to seek our salvation, given that the only point at which a heart can rest would be "in God" and "within love", each heart will remain "restless" and "on the move" until such time as it freely accepts the call of love. (It would be possible I suppose to insist that some will hold out eternally, yet eternity is a pretty long time.......)

    Obviously, if one wishes to insist that a time limit is set..............though why it ever should be I fail to see.

    :)

    P.S. Please note that as a Buddhist some of the terms I am using remain problematic.............I'm merely seeking to heave some of my Universalist Pure Land pathways onto the Christian road!!
     
  7. Quahom1

    Quahom1 What was the question?

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    Wasn't it Buddha that said "I seek the light"?..

    Christ said, "I am the light". ;)

    v/r

    Joshua
     
  8. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Kindest Regards, Tariki!

    Forgive me for beginning at the end. Thank you for being up front with your objective. I have no issues with this, so long as it is kept respectful, and I know you well enough to believe you will. However, if too much stink is raised, I might suggest we move the discussion to the liberal board so that others here do not feel pressed upon.

    I am afraid this is foreign to me, and I mean no pun. I cannot envision a heaven where all is static, where we all sit around on clouds playing harps all day with nothing better to do. Not that I haven't tried, but I do not see it in the Bible. Perhaps some of your imagery holds a place in one form or other of orthodoxy, I cannot say. I distance myself from a great deal of the trappings of orthodoxy (traditions of men, and all of that). Matters such as purgatory are intellectual fodder for debates, but I have never seen anything of that nature from my first hand studies in the Bible. So I am struggling to understand quite what it is you mean by "it is possible that all are predestined to love without any denial of free will." I suppose anything is possible, but probable in accord with sacred scripture is another matter altogether. It is possible that the whole of the Bible is just some multi-millennial political con game, but the probability of that being so without coming to naught over the long term is pretty doggone low.

    Ah, what a clever way to insert the concept of reincarnation and / or rebirth. While I have heard some interesting arguments in that regard, some even from Jewish quarters, I am still inclined to hedge my wager along with Pascal. I do not close the door to the possibility, but again, in my personal untethered studies I do not find such written. Besides, I have known a few persons in my life who come to take such possibility for granted...oh, if I don't get it right this lifetime, I'll make up for it next time. Me, I would rather not have that safety net beneath me to make me lazy and carefree (careless?) when I walk the straight and narrow high wire. In accord with my understanding of Karma...if I get it right this time, I step to a higher level next time. Conversely, if there is no next time, I still advance. The poor person who wagered their life on a next time and doesn't get one, is in for a rude surprise, no?

    Those are command decisions, they don't pay me to make command decisions. I'm just a lowly grunt taking orders like just about everybody else.

    I am thinking kinda like a basketball game (Go Gators, National Champs two years in a row!!! Whooo whoo!). You have to focus on the game you are playing right now, you can't be worrying about next week's game when your opponent is charging down the court right at you. If the whole Karma / rebirth thing turns out to be correct (and I am not one to say outright it is not), then so be it. I find I guide myself more diligently if I do not play my game by that assumption. ;)

    How rebirth factors in with predestination, love and free-will, I haven't got a clue. But I don't see love possible without free-will, otherwise it is not genuine love. It is forced, and love cannot be forced for very long at all, certainly not for eternity. I hesitate to say, but I don't think even G-d could do that. Besides, why would He want to? Which would you prefer...a forced love that lasts for a fleeting moment?...or a genuine and sincere love that lasts forever? Isn't it a wonderful feeling to love somebody or something, and have your love unquestionably returned? It's such a rush, such a positive feedback loop that feeds itself, like a perpetual motion machine. Forced love is like a windup toy, once it runs out or the spring breaks, it's no fun anymore. ;)
     
  9. Quahom1

    Quahom1 What was the question?

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    See what I mean? Juan's got english...:D
     
  10. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Kindest Regards, Q!
    Close enough for Jazz.

    Thanks for the vote of confidence! :)
     
  11. Quahom1

    Quahom1 What was the question?

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    Za za, shaboom. ;)
     
  12. earl

    earl ?

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    Well Derek, while it's a minority position in Christian theology, you might find the notion of Christian universalism interesting-has some parallels to Pure Land in its notions of mercy and ultimate reconciliation-see for instance Christian universalism--Ultimate Reconcilation: The True "Good News" Gospel of the Bible

    It would certainly be the only Christian theology I'd ever entertain & I believe it's Luna's orientation. We'd be in good company though as it apparently is also Huston Smth's, (the man also apparently believes rebirth/reincarnation is not contradictory to a Christian theology):
    http:jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/15877.htm

    have a good one, earl
     
  13. Quahom1

    Quahom1 What was the question?

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    Beg your pardon Earl, but didn't Juan just state, "so long as it is kept respectful..." That means respectful of those who adhere to strict Christian standards. And forgive me if I an in error, but did you not just slight those basic Christians?

    Again, if I am in error I apologize...
     
  14. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Q, we know Earl well enough...I seriously doubt there was any intentional slight within anything he wrote. Personally, I have no problem entertaining discussions such as these, but there are others who do feel jeopardized by such "foreign excursions." It is well to protect their interests too. If it becomes a burden, perhaps it would be better to carry this to the other board? Like Paul said, eating meat offered to idols is no sin, because the idol is nothing. However, if this is offensive to a brother, do not eat meat offered to idols in front of him and lay a stumbling block before him.

    I do not wish to seem to equate Buddhism with idolatry, that is not my intent. The point is that sometimes it is better to refrain from deeper discussions in the presence of those who haven't fully developed their understanding. These things sometimes seem offensive when they are misunderstood, which is why it may be best to take this elsewhere.

    Oh yes, thank you for your contribution, Earl! :D
     
  15. Quahom1

    Quahom1 What was the question?

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    I stand corrected.

    v/r

    Joshua
     
  16. earl

    earl ?

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    Huston Smith would be astounded-and amused-if you thought he wasn't Christian. :) earl
     
  17. Dor

    Dor Bible Thumper

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    Christian Universalism....not biblical.
    I can see a scenario where a universalist can be a Christian (death bed) and I believe that it is possible to be saved in confusion and error -- including in the confusion and error of universalism.
     
  18. Dor

    Dor Bible Thumper

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    Hmm please show many anywhere it says he is. I cant find it.

    During his career, Smith not only studied, but practiced Vedanta Hinduism, Zen Buddhism, and Sufism for over ten years each. He is a notable practitiner of autodidactism.
    As a young man, Smith, of his own volition, after suddenly turning to mysticism, set out to meet with then-famous author Gerald Heard.
    Heard responded to Smith's letter, invited him to his Trabuco College (later donated as the Ramakrishna Monastery) in Southern California, and then sent him off to meet the legendary Aldous Huxley. So began Smith's experimentation with meditation, and association with the Vedanta Society in Saint Louis under the auspices of Swami Satprakashananda of the Ramakrishna order.
    Via the connection with Heard and Huxley, Smith eventually experimented with Timothy Leary and others at the Center for Personality Research, of which Leary was Research Professor. The experience and history of the era are captured somewhat in Smith's book Cleansing the Doors of Perception. In this period, Smith joined in on the Harvard Project as well, an attempt to raise spiritual awareness through entheogenic plants.
    He developed an interest in the Traditionalist School formulated by Rene Guenon and Ananda Coomaraswamy. This interest has become a continuing thread in all his writings.



    HMMM see nothing about Christianity in there so I wont say it but...
     
  19. Quahom1

    Quahom1 What was the question?

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    Ouch!
     
  20. Tariki

    Tariki New Member

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    Juantoo3,

    Again a thank-you for your response. Its a pity we are not able to meet up over a pint in a pub (forgive the English slang!) where misunderstandiings could be sorted out in a connivial atmosphere. There are those here who appear ultra sensitive (not your goodself!), so I had better state explicitly that I am in no way - no way, I repeat no way - seeking to equate myself with Christ when I say that I understand just what He meant when saying .....the foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. On Buddhist forums I have argued against any form of explicit "belief" in karma or rebirth, and brought down wrath upon myself for doing so. I was in no way seeking to be "clever" in inserting it anywhere. I have even argued on Buddhist forums that a "one life scenario" is, existentially, more favourable for gaining "enlightenment" than a multi-life one..........though along the lines of Thoreau's answer to the question "What do you think of the world to come?" and his answer..."One life at a time please".

    When I spoke of things being "frozen at death" I was only speaking in respect of the majority Christian view that the opportunity for salvation ended at death, not that further progress/change is no longer possible in the "heavenly state".

    As far as the idea of "predestination to love" not being incompatible with free will, I thought I explained myself adequately based upon the words of St Augustine........that with all of eternity in which to work, each and every human being will eventually freely choose to love. And that this is God's intention and will. (Just throwing in another idea, based upon the ideas of the French existentialist Jean Paul Sartre, who argued that free will can never be truly free in a Christian context for the reason that in as much as God creates us - and thus chooses our essence - having not chosen our own essence we can never be ultimately "free" in the deepest meaning of the word.)

    And as for my closing statement, it was more my words concerning certain terms I was using being problematic from a Buddhist perspective that was the point. (Yes, I am seeking dialogue and mutual understanding so I am throwing Buddhist pathways onto Christian roads..................but) This has to do with Buddhist teachings concerning "no-self" (anatta), which will always bring a fresh perspective and understanding to the Christian idea of "souls" being newly created at birth. However, this is far too complex for this to be raised here at the moment......once again, for the ultra sensitive....:) ......not because of any lack of intellect on the part of anyone here, merely the factor of time!

    I have further things to say, but have run out of time.

    All the best
    Derek
    :)
     

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