Remnant · Scientific Creation · Theology

Free Will and(/or) Predestination

Predestination must be true. So must free will.

How?


Predestination

Predestination refers to the concept that all events of history are predestined, usually in reference to divine predestination, but also in reference to the concept that the future is theoretically predictable and, thus, unalterable; that is, the idea that, given knowledge of everything in the universe, one could predict the future, because there is nothing in the universe that does not follow the laws of physics.

First note that predestination is a concept; an idea; a theory. Neither atheists nor creationists nor followers of most other major religions completely subscribe as a united block to predestination. Various counterarguments have been proposed from different points of view to prove predestination false. For our purposes, the main comparison to make is that between the Biblical argument of divine free will and the atheistic argument of quantum indeterminacy.


Free Will

The Biblical argument is that of free will, which like predestination is a more general term than its Biblical use. In Biblical contexts free will refers to the concept, confirmed in Scripture, of humanity having free agency to change and affect its future. More generally, free will refers to all beings having free agency to change affect their futures.


Quantum Indeterminacy

Quantum indeterminacy is, like most things starting with ‘quantum’, a complex concept, but it boils down to the idea that, at a very basic levels, quarks, the components of atoms, are unpredictable. The idea is that, since to gather information about something you must observe it by bouncing rays of some sort off it, once the observed thing is small enough, it is impossible to gather all the information about it. This is borne out in reality; you can tell either where a quark is or tell its momentum, but not both at the same time, because to observe one quantity you inevitably alter the other. Thus one cannot have knowledge of everything in the universe, and therefore the universe cannot be predicted, and therefore predestination cannot be true, at least as we know it. Obviously this feels somewhat suspect, but under atheistic beliefs it holds true. The idea needs some altering under Biblical beliefs, though, because an omnipotent God would not need to alter a quark to observe it.

The counterargument I would offer is this: that we know that illogical things are a caveat of omnipotence (God can’t make a rock that he can’t lift, which is not a problem with his omnipotence but rather a necessary facet, just as he cannot make a square circle). It is possible that quark observation could be considered just as illogical as divinely un-liftable rocks, even if it doesn’t feel like it to humans for the simple reason that we have no practical experience or understanding of quantum indeterminacy. There is simply no real way for us to have a practical comprehension of most quantum things; they fall outside the wheelhouse of what our minds are trained to understand.


But Predestination!

It is an inevitable counter-counterargument that the Bible contains examples of what many consider to be predestination (see Proverbs 16:9, Jeremiah 10:23, Acts 13:48). These are complex issues, and I would advise you to seek out all the arguments you can on the topic so as to gain a full understanding of it. Here, though, are a few articles that I commend to your study of free will: an argument that predestination is a man-made doctrine, an overview of predestination and free will, a list of Bible verses relevant to the topic, and an article about the prominent Richard Dawkins’ seemingly contradictory beliefs on the Bible, free will, and comfort against correctness. All these and more have their own light to shed on the fascinating topic of free will and predestination.

At the end of the day, though, this is a problem that nearly every religion, plus atheism, faces in one way or another. For instance, the solution of quantum indeterminacy may soon find threats as advances in the quantum field are made. I cannot make any claim to discovery of the silver bullet that will put the debate to rest once and for all, but rather would make you aware of the debate and lead you towards different solutions and problems, for your own perusal and conclusion-drawing.

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Politics

What Happened:

what happened_

In nineteen days, Donald Trump will have been president of the United States for a year. This time last year, pundits were screeching about the impending disaster that would likely unfold. Previously reasonable people were warning of a nuclear winter, a mass exodus from the United States, and an unchecked rise in global warming. And yet, one year later, what has actually happened?

Not much, it seems. Obamacare is set to be repealed this summer, true. And a new tax bill recently went into effect.

Actually, let’s talk about that tax bill. It’s the most relevant source of recent Republican-Democratic debate.chart (1)

As the chart above shows, the bill (the last line segment at right) wasn’t actually all that major. Obama had passed a larger cut just a few years earlier.

So why all the hullabaloo? Simple. Donald Trump’s actions have caused people to dislike him, and thus, many are automatically suspicious of whatever he may do, even if they don’t actually know that much about it.

This unveils what is really a problem with politics at large: very few people actually bother to understand what they’re talking about. The statistics are merely a means to an end, and it’s easy to pick whatever end you want. The chart above shows historical tax cuts and increases overall, which makes sense, and in that light Trump’s is relatively tame. But what if it were to show historical tax cuts and increases for the wealthy (or the poor)? How would the bill look then?

You can see how easily seemingly clear data is to manipulate. What, perhaps, you don’t see is how often it is manipulated.

Almost every major company, politician, and medium of news is deceiving you. And it’s being done in increasingly clever and unnoticeable ways.

Consider Vox’s video about the decision to transport the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which also informs about the general issue. You can watch it at this link, or below:

Seems simple enough. But consider, for example, this line, from near the end of the video:

Israel has arrested Palestinians and is clamping down on protests…

The rest of the sentence quickly moves on to other topics  – and that’s intentional. Think about the way that sentence is structured.

Why, exactly, is Israel arresting Palestinians? Is their reasoning good or bad? Where is it happening – is the area Israel’s rightful jurisdiction? Are those protests peaceful?

On the face of it, the sentence sounds rather bad: ‘arrested’ and ‘clamping down’ act as buzzwords that put the viewer into a negative frame of mind about Israel’s actions, but the video draws attention away from it before the natural questions framed above surface.

And it’s not just Vox that does this. CNN, Fox, ABC, NBC, Washington Post, and many more use confusing charts, tricky turns of phrase, and other ways of painting the picture they want to varying degrees of obviousness. For instance, Fox more or less openly accepts that they are conservatively bent, whereas Vox proclaims itself ‘a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what’s really driving the events in the headlines’.

As I’ve stated before (and I try to do so when I write about politics) I would be classified as ‘centrist-right’. That is, if I classified myself, which I don’t like to do. The idea that (at least for an American) political view is just as defining as age, gender, or religion is bizarre. The less I think about my political views (like my opinion on whether Republicans deserve to die), the better.

It’s definitely not worth arguing about from a Biblical perspective. After all, both liberals and conservatives will be in heaven, unless I’ve somehow overlooked a part of the Bible that refers to political parties that didn’t even exist until a few centuries ago.

If that means giving up spending a valuable chunk of time arguing over the newest stupid thing that Trump has said (which, by the way, will most definitely not have an impact on your eternal destiny), count me in.

Remnant

Matt Lauer, Marriage & The Gospel

This is a guest post from Christine Pack of the Sola Sisters blog.

 

According to a recent article, disgraced NBC talk show host Matt Lauer allegedly communicated to a friend that he had been blindsided by harassment allegations made against him by a fellow NBC employee because he had assumed that the sexual contact between them had been “consensual.”  By his comment, Lauer revealed his deep misunderstanding of what the covenant of marriage involves (e.g., fidelity to one’s spouse).

So to be clear: The God of the Bible was the One who created marriage.

Which means that:

The Hindu gods did not institute marriage.
Buddhism did not institute marriage.
Islam did not institute marriage.
Taoism did not institute marriage.
Atheism did not institute marriage.
The world system of power/weakness and predator/prey did not institute marriage.

Then the man said, ‘This, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:23-24)

Marriage was instituted by the God of the Bible and was ordained by Him to be a monogamous lifelong covenant between one man and one woman. Marriage, as instituted by God, is right and good, and contributes to the flourishing and the stability of families and cultures.

The “marriage” between Matt Lauer and his wife was not really a marriage at all. It was allegedly an understanding of sorts between an unrepentant serial adulterer who lived apart from his family for the majority of the time and a long-suffering heartbroken wife.

However, before my fellow Christians start piling on Matt Lauer here or give in to the temptation to look upon him with disdain, let’s please remember that without God’s grace, “such were some of you”…. and me….. and all of us. We are all sinners in need of God’s grace and mercy and cleansing and forgiveness. Please pray for God to use this situation to draw Matt Lauer (and others around him) to Himself. In Christ, there is always hope, even after public humiliation and shaming such as the kind we have witnessed with Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and others. Sometimes the uncovering of secret sin is actually God’s mercy. May that be the case in some of the circumstances we have read of recently. May God have mercy, and may He be magnified and glorified.

Remnant

In All Circumstances

 

1 thess 5-18

 

What does ‘in all circumstances’ mean?

I mean, we’re probably fine with ‘give thanks’, since it is, after all, ‘the will of God’, but in all circumstances?

Well, that’s just exaggeration. It has to be. Hasn’t it?

Not exactly.

 


 

The Problem With ‘In All Circumstances’

Modern society (even modern Christian society) has a tendency to run on a situation-response system, in that what we do rests largely on how we are feeling and what’s going on at the moment. For this reason, the idea of giving thanks in all circumstances is rather foreign, at least to us.

By contrast, Hebrew society has been doing this for millennia. There are dozens of Psalms which begin with lament but end in praise despite no change occurring physically – the change is in the psalmist’s heart, as they repent of failing to trust God.

I understand that Thanksgiving is over. Those of us who took vacations are likely already back – and that’s intentional. I waited until today to post this in part because it’s more effective further away from Thanksgiving.

After all, everyone is talking about thankfulness on Thanksgiving (at least in the United States). It’s easy to enthuse about how thankful you are for everything, the same way it’s easy to be generous on Christmas or make resolutions on New Year’s Day.

But now – just five days after Thanksgiving – you’ve likely hardly thought about being thankful today. Right?

Thankfulness should be a year-round thing. So should charity (Christmas) and faithfulness (New Year’s), to name but a few.

Thanksgiving – and other holidays like it, celebrating positive aspects such as thankfulness – can be very useful to Christianity. We can use them to point unbelievers to the Bible, as many do. But be wary that you do not relegate such aspects to solely these occasions.

Don’t just be thankful at Thanksgiving – give thanks in all circumstances.

 


 

The Remnant is working on launching a podcast! We’re aiming to have it ready by Christmas, so stay tuned and look for Theology Over Tea in Google Play and on YouTube once we launch.

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Fruit of the Spirit · Remnant · Theology

Word Study – Love

FotS 1

What is love?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as ‘strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties’, which is accurate, but that’s not what we usually use love as. Love is more likely to be a verb than a noun – for instance, I love you rather than Love is what I have for you.

The term ‘love’ first appears in the Bible (at least in the ESV) in Genesis 22:2: ‘He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”‘

In this context, as in many other contexts throughout the Bible, love refers to what we think of now as paternal love. An oft-used – but still applicable – metaphor is that of a mother bear protecting her cubs.

But not all love in the Bible is paternal. The four most common words in original Biblical manuscripts are phileo, agape, storgē, and eros.

 

I. Phileo: Love of Friendship

Phileowhich is used most noticeably in contrast to agape in John 21, is a Greek term referring to a companionable love: one between friends. To use the term ‘love’ for one’s friends nowadays would be considered rather strange, so certain translators may choose to render this as a less amorous term; nevertheless, it is still a form of love.

Companionable love is an important but lacking aspect in society in modern times. Love is a term that has become increasingly polarised in recent times, hence the taboo nature of love among friends. This definition is virtually unknown nowadays, the word typically meaning either relational (among family members) or amorous (between lovers) love.

 

II. Agape: Love of Esteem

Agape refers to a love born of esteem for that which is loved. This, too, is an obsolete usage in modern English, typically replaced by ‘respect’ or ‘awe’. Though used rarely outside of the Bible, it appears 320 times in the New Testament.

An agape love wants only the best for that which is loved. It is unselfish and is best exemplified by 1 Corinthians 13, which serves well as a general description of the term. In other words, this is a platonic love.

 

III. Storgē: Love of Relation

Storgē is a love for one’s relation. Purely platonic, it is rare in the Bible, usually appearing only in the sense of negation (e.g., ‘unloving’ in Romans 1:31).

At its most basic form, however, storgē refers to a love for one’s family member – for one’s spouse, child, parent, relation, or even pet.

 

IV. Eros: Earthly Love

Eros is a curious case. Referring to a love existent for the lover’s benefit, it does not appear in the Bible, despite being a common Greek term. Why?

Well, eros represents all that the Bible opposes. It embodies egocentrism, lust, and self-satisfaction all in one. Eros is an earthly love, one which desires more for itself. It has the implication of sexual love, but by itself, sexual love is not morally inclined. Indeed, it is encouraged in the Bible, and it is the way God’s relationship to us is portrayed (translated typically as a form of the word know).

But nevertheless, eros is absent from the Bible for two reasons: firstly, it carries with it the baggage of its Roman origins: Eros (whose Roman counterpart was the more famous Cupid) was the Greek god of lust (though not always explicitly; he is also sometimes portrayed as the god of ‘sexual attraction’). And secondly (and more to the point), it is clearly not a part of the Bible’s vision. Marriage is, indeed, a temporary, earthly thing, and its facets should be enjoyed (as God directs), but eternally, our love and complete allegiance is to God, not to one another. It is a brotherly love that we are commanded to share eternally, not a sexual one.

 

In conclusion, the term love may be misleading. It can refer to friendship, honour, family, or lust. At any rate, it is a mistake merely to read passages containing this term without context or understanding. Properly interpreting love is not something to be taken lightly.

But it is supposed to be more common than it is. We are to have brotherly love for each other (see Hebrews 13:1, which puts it succinctly). So do so.

 

Love one another.

 


Sources

McLean Bible

Bible Gateway

Remnant

The Colonel

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This article is a guest post by Christine Pack of the Sola Sisters blog.


To the right is a picture of my grandfather, Lt. Colonel Arthur Harris, who fought in WWII. Also pictured are my grandmother Helen, my uncle and my mother.

My grandfather, whom we all called ‘the Colonel’, was a complicated man: very smart, very complex, sometimes difficult, and sometimes hard on his loved ones. He was an engineer with a speciality in metallurgy, and after the end of the war, he contributed to the rebuilding effort in Europe. One of the minor – though interesting – projects he participated on was the melting-down and repurposing of a very large bronze statue of Adolf Hitler. During this project, he gave a picture of my mother to the bronze craftsman, who transformed the statue of Hitler into several smaller bronze sculptures, including a bust of my mother as a little girl. That small bust of my mother still sits in her home today.

752D05B4-54D2-4A93-89FD-8C6856B31E00The Colonel was a hobbyist historian who spent some of his spare time researching our family tree. He researched as far back as the middle ages, and this was back when doing research meant writing letters and going through legal records, not just googling. Thanks to him, those in our family knew that we had English, Scottish, Welsh and French blood running through our veins.

He drank 20-year old scotch, played the fiddle, threw legendary parties with his wife Helen, and told the best stories you’ve ever heard. He read the Bible every day, and towards the end of his life, we had several meaningful conversations about God, regrets, forgiveness, family, and God’s good purposes in our lives. Like the great Reformer Martin Luther, my grandfather was deeply affected by the book of Romans, which he told me he kept returning to again and again throughout his life. Deep waters.

People sometimes change as they get older. Some become meaner, some nicer, some more eccentric or outspoken. My grandfather became more gentle. Remember where I noted above that he was ‘complicated’? He was. But over time, his earlier, rougher edges were honed off by the daily, continuous, transformative effect of God’s word on his mind and on his life. By the end of his life, I saw a man who was at peace; who was gentle, humble, and mindful of God’s great forgiveness that had been extended to him through Christ’s atoning work. In short, he was ready to meet his Maker. He died in 2012 at the age of 94.

Thinking of him and missing him (and my Nana) this Veterans Day.