Re: the tradition that Abraham engaged in astronomical studies

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. (
Date: Thu Jun 26 2003 - 15:02:01 EDT

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    On Thu, 26 Jun 2003 14:57:09 +0000 "Josh Bembenek" <>
    > I agree that the presentation of Abraham discovering God is giving
    > credit
    > where credit is not due. However, it seems that your description of
    > our
    > coming to faith is solely placed in God's hands (as much scripture
    > supports.) It comes across almost like a natural law: God chooses
    > and we
    > believe, much like magnets are drawn to one another naturally. I
    > would love
    > to hear how you see free will participating in this process, and how
    > we are
    > given enough freedom to remain responsible for our actions and
    > commitment or
    > lack thereof to Christ, yet it is God who predestines and calls… (a
    > magnet
    > has no choice to pull toward another magnet, according to natural
    > law and
    > -besides it not being a moral agent- would not be held accountable
    > for
    > acting according to magnetic forces.) I had a conversation about
    > this with
    > some friends recently and would love to get some feedback, perhaps
    > some
    > citations. Not to elevate the credit humans have, but to develop an
    > accurate and complete picture...
    > Josh
    The determinism/free will stuff is notoriously difficult. There is no
    proof, except that determinism works well in the area of the hard
    sciences and there is a universal assumption, even by those who try to
    deny it, that human beings have a choice which is not strictly
    determined. True indeterminism is also denied to human beings, for then
    things just happen, accidents in the strictest sense, eliminating all
    possibility of responsibility in all areas affected. Things are getting
    stickier in the sciences with the development of complexity
    theory--determinsm with unpredictability.

    Causation is normally viewed as sequential. If A causes B and B, C, then
    A causes C. However, flipping the switch caused the light to go on, and
    the darkness caused Tom to flip the switch, does not allow for the
    darkness caused the light to go on. The latter would hold in a
    light-sensitive switch were involved, but not a person. But this is not
    something demonstrable, just something that underlies all attempts to
    understand the universe and our place in it.

    I think part of the problem in dealing with choice is a tacit assumption
    that free choice must the totally uncontrolled. But it should be obvious
    that every choice is restricted by the physical. No one can choose to fly
    by flapping his arms. Other restrictions are more subtle. If King David
    had internalized the Ten Commandments, he would not have brought
    Bathsheba into his bedroom. The work of the Spirit is not foolproof, but
    restricts many options.

    How it all can be fitted together is one of the more difficult problems
    of philosophy. Indeed, I suspect there is more nonsense published in the
    area that perhaps in any other. Our underlying intuitions seem to be much
    better than our attempts at codifying them. But this simply fits in with
    human abilities to twist anything to fit what they most deeply want. It's
    a real pain to be human.

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