Jun 04 2008

Future Undetermined… Partly

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 10:10 pm

Greg Boyd is the author of God of the Possible, a book that introduces the “open view of God”, or “open theism”, or the “open view of the future”. Of these three expressions, I like the last one the most, although aspects of the others also make some sense.

In many ways, this entire approach is an attempt to be as literally faithful to scripture as it is possible and prudent to be. There are places where scripture is clearly metaphorical, poetic, and the like, but when there is no obvious reason to interpret scripture in those ways, then a “literal” approach is at least worth considering, i.e., maybe it means more or less what the words say in a simple understanding of the text.

So, to the meat of it, Boyd’s idea is that:

1) God knows all possible futures, but not every single detail of which of an infinite number of paths will actually occur. This is not a limitation on God’s knowledge in the sense of His ability to know what can be known, but is rather an observation about the nature of the universe which God created. God created the future to be largely unknowable, because that was the way He chose to make it possible for His creatures to make real choices that actually changed things.

2) God has predecided what certain features and events will be in the future that eventually happens (prophecy of specific events, “election” of certain people, “predestination”, etc.), but has not decided exactly how He will bring about those features and events, because he doesn’t yet know what humans will decide to do, which will affect how He will need to respond in order to bring about His intentions.

3) God actually responds to us. That is, God is not completely unchanging, but actually can be surprised, change His mind, actually feel emotion, etc. All those scriptures that seem to say exactly these things are not to be taken metaphorically, or interpreted as anthropomorphized texts, but rather mean what they say. God DOES have expectations about what humans will do, and is sometimes surprised when they do something else.

4) When a prophecy is made, the complete path from the time of the prophecy to its fulfillment is not usually specified, and is not part of the prophecy unless it IS so specified. So, most prophecies should be interpreted as God stating what He intends to bring about as an outcome, in the understanding that God, Who knows everything that can possibly happen, has already planned in advance for what He will do in response to each individual possibility, so that His decisions will come about. For example: Jesus’ betrayal was a necessary part of the prophesied plan for salvation, but the fact that Judas would do it was not. God, knowing humanity, knew that regardless of all human decisions up to the point of the betrayal, there would be someone around who was willing to do it. He knew this not in a mere probabilistic manner (i.e., humans are flawed, so someone will betray) but very specifically he knew WHICH human would do the betrayal in all possible future timelines, possibly including humans that never in fact existed, because the events required for them to be born never happened. And, he knew exactly what He would do to be sure that the betrayal (“committed to” by the person in whichever timeline actually happened) would be done in the necessary circumstances for His purposes to be served.

And so on. I find the entire idea very interesting, and while I haven’t really decided just what I think of it, it makes some very persuasive points, and does a reasonable job of resolving conflicts that are hard to resolve any other way without essentially interpreting some scriptures out of existence. I am waiting to see what others whom I respect might have to say about it, so that I can weigh their points pro and con.

A frequent criticism is that this view of God “limits” God by limiting His knowledge. However, the open view requires a God with an infinite number of possible futures all in mind, and with the power to bring about His purposes in any one of them, and therefore not dependent on simple decree, but with the power and knowledge to work His will in ANY of them, so that we can trust His promises, even though the exact path by which they will be carried out is not pre-determined. It is hardly credible to assert that the open view of God makes Him smaller or less powerful and knowing than earlier views expressed in Christian history.

This entire approach seems to do a better job of reconciling God’s knowledge with human freedom than any other I’ve seen, though I’m willing to be convinced otherwise, if someone has the goods.

The book is a short read, and there are other books on the topic: just do a google or amazon search for “open theism” or “open view of God”. Wikipedia also has some introductory material on “Open Theism“, including information about its critics.

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Jun 04 2008

Peter Schweizer: Conservatives more honest than liberals?

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 7:04 pm

A new book by Peter Schweitzer, “Makers and Takers: Why Conservatives Work Harder, Feel Happier, Have Closer Families, Take Fewer Drugs, Give More Generously, Value Honesty More, Are Less Materialistic and Envious, Whine Less … And Even Hug Their Children More Than Liberals”, asserts that conservatives are simply different, on average, in the values they live by, and not in ways that are particularly complementary to liberals. As with all books of this sort, it won’t do to apply statistical averages to individuals. We all know honest liberals and dishonest conservatives, and vice versa. Schweitzer’s point is the trend, and the norms. So the “I know some honest liberals” disclaimer is unnecessary, and does not really blunt the point.

In the Los Angeles Examiner online edition, Schweitzer says: “The honesty gap is also not a result of “bad people” becoming liberals and “good people” becoming conservatives. In my mind, a more likely explanation is bad ideas. Modern liberalism is infused with idea that truth is relative. Surveys consistently show this. And if truth is relative, it also must follow that honesty is subjective.”

Read the whole article, and notice the sources he quotes. These are not unsupported assertions, but peer-reviewed, prestigious journals, supplying his data.

I just ordered the book.

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Jun 04 2008

Stoopid flies live longer

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 8:07 am

Idiots with multifaceted eyes live longer: “Scientists Tadeusz Kawecki and Joep Burger at the University of Lausanne said Wednesday they had discovered a ‘negative correlation between an improvement in a fly’s mental capacity and its longevity’.”

I’ve wondered for some years now how it is that Robert Byrd has lasted so long in the Senate. Perhaps now I understand.