Author Topic: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil  (Read 362 times)

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Offline byhisgrace

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On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« on: June 26, 2015, 09:42:32 PM »
When studying the Problem of Evil and Suffering, I find that most, if not all, of the problems hinges on the premise that God knew in advance that we will freely decide the sin. "If He knew in advance that we will commit evil by our free-will, then why did He allow free will, in the first place?" We may say that free-will has much value in that we cannot genuinely love if we don't have the option to choose not to love. We may say that God desires a world of people who have a genuine relationship with Him, not a world of robots. However, I don't see how that proves that a free world with evil in it is better than a robotic world with no evil in it. Also, I don't see how God can't make this world such that we have free will to do relatively minor sins like cursing, but not very devastating sins like murder. Isn't it theoretically possible to have free will without the option to kill or do other very horrible acts (just as we don't have the option to fly like the angels, yet still have free-will)?

« Last Edit: June 26, 2015, 09:45:18 PM by byhisgrace »
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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2015, 10:09:54 PM »
When studying the Problem of Evil and Suffering, I find that most, if not all, of the problems hinges on the premise that God knew in advance that we will freely decide the sin. "If He knew in advance that we will commit evil by our free-will, then why did He allow free will, in the first place?" We may say that free-will has much value in that we cannot genuinely love if we don't have the option to choose not to love. We may say that God desires a world of people who have a genuine relationship with Him, not a world of robots. However, I don't see how that proves that a free world with evil in it is better than a robotic world with no evil in it. Also, I don't see how God can't make this world such that we have free will to do relatively minor sins like cursing, but not very devastating sins like murder. Isn't it theoretically possible to have free will without the option to kill or do other very horrible acts (just as we don't have the option to fly like the angels, yet still have free-will)?

We are not robots. There is no "middle" free will ground.
Its much like a woman who "loves" you only because you are rich, and you know if you were not rich, then she would leave you. Is that the type of relationship we should have with God; or one where true love by choice is ensured.

Offline sakura95

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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2015, 03:29:29 AM »
The Free Will defense is also there so that God doesn't have to be responsible for the Fall since the responsibility falls upon Adam and Eve who are autonomous entities that delibrately(out of ignorance and childish curiosity) ate of the fruit. However, I don't see this as having the ability to choose not to love, but rather to be free to love and be able to be a "person". Free Will is a characteristic of a person and is what allows us to delibrate, learn and compute our experiences with the world and other persons. God wants a relationship with persons which He can 'relate' to, not robots who simply process commands and simply act them out without emotion, experience, love which persons don't do. Merely the intention to carry out the command as it is in its nature to do so.

Free Will allows us to have these emotions and the autonomy that makes us genuine persons and thus able for God to 'relate' to us since we are persons or "sons of the highest" thus being someone whom God 'relates' to. We would not know why God did not create the world such that we can't commit mortal sins(sorry for using Catholic jargon here). But if I'm to postulate, those things exist not because God made it so but Adam and Eve through the Original Sin which made it within our now altered nature to be capable of doing such acts. After all since God is relating to persons here, He would not override their minds just as to prevent them from committing crimes and atrocities.
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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2015, 04:20:18 AM »
When studying the Problem of Evil and Suffering, I find that most, if not all, of the problems hinges on the premise that God knew in advance that we will freely decide the sin. "If He knew in advance that we will commit evil by our free-will, then why did He allow free will, in the first place?" We may say that free-will has much value in that we cannot genuinely love if we don't have the option to choose not to love. We may say that God desires a world of people who have a genuine relationship with Him, not a world of robots. However, I don't see how that proves that a free world with evil in it is better than a robotic world with no evil in it. Also, I don't see how God can't make this world such that we have free will to do relatively minor sins like cursing, but not very devastating sins like murder. Isn't it theoretically possible to have free will without the option to kill or do other very horrible acts (just as we don't have the option to fly like the angels, yet still have free-will)?
Good points.
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Offline byhisgrace

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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2015, 11:36:56 AM »
The Free Will defense is also there so that God doesn't have to be responsible for the Fall since the responsibility falls upon Adam and Eve who are autonomous entities that delibrately(out of ignorance and childish curiosity) ate of the fruit. However, I don't see this as having the ability to choose not to love, but rather to be free to love and be able to be a "person". Free Will is a characteristic of a person and is what allows us to delibrate, learn and compute our experiences with the world and other persons. God wants a relationship with persons which He can 'relate' to, not robots who simply process commands and simply act them out without emotion, experience, love which persons don't do. Merely the intention to carry out the command as it is in its nature to do so.
Good point about the ability to love.


Quote
Free Will allows us to have these emotions and the autonomy that makes us genuine persons and thus able for God to 'relate' to us since we are persons or "sons of the highest" thus being someone whom God 'relates' to. We would not know why God did not create the world such that we can't commit mortal sins(sorry for using Catholic jargon here). But if I'm to postulate, those things exist not because God made it so but Adam and Eve through the Original Sin which made it within our now altered nature to be capable of doing such acts. After all since God is relating to persons here, He would not override their minds just as to prevent them from committing crimes and atrocities.
Some non-Christians will counter that just as a parent can have a genuine relationship with a child without allowing them to own a gun, God can (theoretically, at least) genuinely relate to us, without the possibility of murder.   

I'm fine with leaving the Problem of Evil and Suffering as a mystery that I will not understand in this life. I also know that there are non-Christians who are not fine with that, and I don't judge them as hell-bound for that. Maybe God will reveal to them how it all fits together, after death, and they will be reconciled to Him. Are Orthodox allowed to believe that as a possibility? 
« Last Edit: June 27, 2015, 11:58:17 AM by byhisgrace »
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Offline sakura95

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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2015, 12:23:02 PM »
Good point about the ability to love.

Thanks  :)

Quote
Some non-Christians will counter that just as a parent can have a genuine relationship with a child without allowing them to own a gun, God can (theoretically, at least) genuinely relate to us, without the possibility of murder.

Yes of course there's a problem with this approach, it fails to recognize that we are dealing with an omnipotent and omniscient being who would be different from a normal human being. Wielding such power takes a lot of responsibility and a small thing may upset the whole balance of existence itself. Thus, by allowing atrocities to happen it could be that the act of preventing them might entail upsetting our personhood or requires violation of personal autonomy. But again, who am I to say anything on this when I can't even comprehend being omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent.

Quote
I'm fine with leaving the Problem of Evil and Suffering as a mystery that I will not understand in this life. I also know that there are non-Christians who are not fine with that, and I don't judge them as hell-bound for that. Maybe God will reveal to them how it all fits together, after death, and they will be reconciled to Him. Are Orthodox allowed to believe that as a possibility?

Yes, Orthodoxy tends to leave this problem as a mystery or paradox of faith. However I'm not sure whether Universal Reconciliation would be accepted in Orthodoxy. I'm personally open towards it and frankly hope for it to be true.
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Offline byhisgrace

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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2015, 12:35:06 PM »
Quote
Some non-Christians will counter that just as a parent can have a genuine relationship with a child without allowing them to own a gun, God can (theoretically, at least) genuinely relate to us, without the possibility of murder.

Yes of course there's a problem with this approach, it fails to recognize that we are dealing with an omnipotent and omniscient being who would be different from a normal human being. Wielding such power takes a lot of responsibility and a small thing may upset the whole balance of existence itself. Thus, by allowing atrocities to happen it could be that the act of preventing them might entail upsetting our personhood or requires violation of personal autonomy. But again, who am I to say anything on this when I can't even comprehend being omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent.

May an Orthodox dare say that it is possible that God is not omnipotent or omniscient (at least, not in the way that most people understand it)? It seems like the best way to solve the Epicurus dilemma. 
« Last Edit: June 27, 2015, 12:35:49 PM by byhisgrace »
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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2015, 01:08:47 PM »
Quote
Some non-Christians will counter that just as a parent can have a genuine relationship with a child without allowing them to own a gun, God can (theoretically, at least) genuinely relate to us, without the possibility of murder.

Yes of course there's a problem with this approach, it fails to recognize that we are dealing with an omnipotent and omniscient being who would be different from a normal human being. Wielding such power takes a lot of responsibility and a small thing may upset the whole balance of existence itself. Thus, by allowing atrocities to happen it could be that the act of preventing them might entail upsetting our personhood or requires violation of personal autonomy. But again, who am I to say anything on this when I can't even comprehend being omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent.

May an Orthodox dare say that it is possible that God is not omnipotent or omniscient (at least, not in the way that most people understand it)? It seems like the best way to solve the Epicurus dilemma.

Don't think we can. But we can say that we cannot comprehend God but this would not solve the Euthyphro Dilemma. One solution I've heard is that it is in God's nature to be "good" thus whatever He does would be naturally "good". This doesn't seem to solve the problem and is kinda a way to dodge IMO. One way to solve this is to claim that God is "goodness" itself and we would not be able to comprehend this simply because we can't comprehend His Divine Essence.
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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2015, 01:11:59 PM »
When studying the Problem of Evil and Suffering, I find that most, if not all, of the problems hinges on the premise that God knew in advance that we will freely decide the sin. "If He knew in advance that we will commit evil by our free-will, then why did He allow free will, in the first place?" We may say that free-will has much value in that we cannot genuinely love if we don't have the option to choose not to love. We may say that God desires a world of people who have a genuine relationship with Him, not a world of robots. However, I don't see how that proves that a free world with evil in it is better than a robotic world with no evil in it. Also, I don't see how God can't make this world such that we have free will to do relatively minor sins like cursing, but not very devastating sins like murder. Isn't it theoretically possible to have free will without the option to kill or do other very horrible acts (just as we don't have the option to fly like the angels, yet still have free-will)?


Interesting thoughts.  Evil is temporary.  There will be a time when evil, Hades, and death will be thrown into the Lake of Fire.

Offline byhisgrace

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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2015, 03:53:22 PM »
Quote
Some non-Christians will counter that just as a parent can have a genuine relationship with a child without allowing them to own a gun, God can (theoretically, at least) genuinely relate to us, without the possibility of murder.

Yes of course there's a problem with this approach, it fails to recognize that we are dealing with an omnipotent and omniscient being who would be different from a normal human being. Wielding such power takes a lot of responsibility and a small thing may upset the whole balance of existence itself. Thus, by allowing atrocities to happen it could be that the act of preventing them might entail upsetting our personhood or requires violation of personal autonomy. But again, who am I to say anything on this when I can't even comprehend being omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent.

May an Orthodox dare say that it is possible that God is not omnipotent or omniscient (at least, not in the way that most people understand it)? It seems like the best way to solve the Epicurus dilemma.

Don't think we can. But we can say that we cannot comprehend God but this would not solve the Euthyphro Dilemma. One solution I've heard is that it is in God's nature to be "good" thus whatever He does would be naturally "good". This doesn't seem to solve the problem and is kinda a way to dodge IMO. One way to solve this is to claim that God is "goodness" itself and we would not be able to comprehend this simply because we can't comprehend His Divine Essence.

What if God is only omnipotent in the sense that He is more powerful than all creation? Just because the Bible says that He is Lord of all, does not necessarily mean that He can do all things that are conceivable to the human mind. Maybe He couldn't prevent Original Sin, but He could warn us not to sin, or save us from sin by his grace? That could solve the Epicuras dilemma without undermining the authority of God. Would that be heresy, according to Orthodoxy, though?     
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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #10 on: June 27, 2015, 03:56:39 PM »
Is it possible to say that God can choose to limit His omnipotence and omniscience, and instead deal with all in a state of love and mercy until the second coming?  In other words, would it be theologically correct to say even if God has the capacity to know, He "chooses" not to know, since He is free by nature?
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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2015, 04:01:24 PM »
Is it possible to say that God can choose to limit His omnipotence and omniscience, and instead deal with all in a state of love and mercy until the second coming?  In other words, would it be theologically correct to say even if God has the capacity to know, He "chooses" not to know, since He is free by nature?

No.

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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #12 on: June 27, 2015, 04:04:25 PM »
When studying the Problem of Evil and Suffering, I find that most, if not all, of the problems hinges on the premise that God knew in advance that we will freely decide the sin. "If He knew in advance that we will commit evil by our free-will, then why did He allow free will, in the first place?" We may say that free-will has much value in that we cannot genuinely love if we don't have the option to choose not to love. We may say that God desires a world of people who have a genuine relationship with Him, not a world of robots. However, I don't see how that proves that a free world with evil in it is better than a robotic world with no evil in it. Also, I don't see how God can't make this world such that we have free will to do relatively minor sins like cursing, but not very devastating sins like murder. Isn't it theoretically possible to have free will without the option to kill or do other very horrible acts (just as we don't have the option to fly like the angels, yet still have free-will)?

There is no free-will.

Either one believes in Open-theism or in Predestination. You cannot mixed the two as they are incompatible. See my thread Angels, Free-Will and Predestination.

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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #13 on: June 27, 2015, 04:09:44 PM »
Thread locked pending review.
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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #14 on: June 27, 2015, 04:21:01 PM »
When studying the Problem of Evil and Suffering, I find that most, if not all, of the problems hinges on the premise that God knew in advance that we will freely decide the sin. "If He knew in advance that we will commit evil by our free-will, then why did He allow free will, in the first place?" We may say that free-will has much value in that we cannot genuinely love if we don't have the option to choose not to love. We may say that God desires a world of people who have a genuine relationship with Him, not a world of robots. However, I don't see how that proves that a free world with evil in it is better than a robotic world with no evil in it. Also, I don't see how God can't make this world such that we have free will to do relatively minor sins like cursing, but not very devastating sins like murder. Isn't it theoretically possible to have free will without the option to kill or do other very horrible acts (just as we don't have the option to fly like the angels, yet still have free-will)?

There is no free-will.

Either one believes in Open-theism or in Predestination. You cannot mixed the two as they are incompatible. See my thread Angels, Free-Will and Predestination.

Dracula,

The forum rules designate Faith Issues as a place for discussion of topics related to the Orthodox faith and not of non-Orthodox beliefs.  They also restrict the participation of non-Orthodox in this section. 

The post above violates these rules, with which, because of your current warning and previous admonitions, I am sure you are familiar.  Therefore, I am increasing your current warning level by twenty (20) points. 

If you would like to appeal my decision, please PM me.

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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #15 on: June 27, 2015, 04:25:12 PM »
All,

Please keep on topic and be careful to avoid discussion of non-Orthodox ideas in this section.  This thread, which is now unlocked, has largely managed to do this up to this point, and I encourage you to keep it that way.  Thanks. 
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Offline byhisgrace

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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #16 on: June 27, 2015, 04:52:42 PM »
Thanks, Mor.

I posted on Faith Issues because I only want an Orthodox (EO or OO) answer to my questions.

According to Orthodoxy, is it a heresy to believe in Open Theism?

Is it also heresy to believe in the following:
What if God is only omnipotent in the sense that He is more powerful than all creation? Just because the Bible says that He is Lord of all, does not necessarily mean that He can do all things that are conceivable to the human mind. Maybe He couldn't prevent Original Sin, but He could warn us not to sin, or save us from sin by his grace? That could solve the Epicuras dilemma without undermining the authority of God. Would that be heresy, according to Orthodoxy, though?   

Thanks.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2015, 04:53:23 PM by byhisgrace »
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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #17 on: June 27, 2015, 05:15:10 PM »
Maybe He couldn't prevent Original Sin, but He could warn us not to sin. . .
He already did.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2015, 05:15:35 PM by Gamliel »

Offline byhisgrace

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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #18 on: June 27, 2015, 05:43:28 PM »
Is it possible to say that God can choose to limit His omnipotence and omniscience, and instead deal with all in a state of love and mercy until the second coming?  In other words, would it be theologically correct to say even if God has the capacity to know, He "chooses" not to know, since He is free by nature?

Yes, possibly.
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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #19 on: June 27, 2015, 08:50:11 PM »
Well, there is a nuanced from "open theism", which seems to indicate God is unable to know the future, which is not acceptable.  I only ask because I heard an Orthodox theologian once mention it that it was patristic, particularly from John Damascene.  But he never gave a reference. Key defense is God is not limited by nature, and so can "choose" to not know.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2015, 08:51:19 PM by minasoliman »
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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #20 on: June 28, 2015, 05:13:27 AM »
Well, there is a nuanced from "open theism", which seems to indicate God is unable to know the future, which is not acceptable.  I only ask because I heard an Orthodox theologian once mention it that it was patristic, particularly from John Damascene.  But he never gave a reference. Key defense is God is not limited by nature, and so can "choose" to not know.

That's inconsistent with the faith and with Scripture. Revelation has God telling the final outcome of the cosmos.

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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #21 on: June 29, 2015, 04:08:09 AM »
What if God is only omnipotent in the sense that He is more powerful than all creation? Just because the Bible says that He is Lord of all, does not necessarily mean that He can do all things that are conceivable to the human mind. Maybe He couldn't prevent Original Sin, but He could warn us not to sin, or save us from sin by his grace? That could solve the Epicuras dilemma without undermining the authority of God. Would that be heresy, according to Orthodoxy, though?   

I think this might be considered heretical. Theists I know in general tend to note that God's omnipotence is in the sense that He can do all things(though some would contend He can't just create a square circle or married bachelor). Personally I would contend that since we can't comprehend God's own mind or being in His place to begin with, we can't even know whether such would be possible.

Thus, Just as we can't comprehend God's nature and Essence, we can't really grasp why He allowed the Original Sin to happen. At most we can give a couple of hypothetical answers which we can deduce but other than that, it is really a mystery.
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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #22 on: June 29, 2015, 10:33:32 AM »
Free will is not the absolute freedom of choice, but the freedom to follow your teleological end without interference. Put another way, murdering someone is not the result of a free choice but is the result of being bound by sin and ignorance. People who do terrible things to others are not "free" in any meaningful sense.

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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #23 on: June 29, 2015, 10:37:26 AM »
When studying the Problem of Evil and Suffering, I find that most, if not all, of the problems hinges on the premise that God knew in advance that we will freely decide the sin. "If He knew in advance that we will commit evil by our free-will, then why did He allow free will, in the first place?" We may say that free-will has much value in that we cannot genuinely love if we don't have the option to choose not to love. We may say that God desires a world of people who have a genuine relationship with Him, not a world of robots. However, I don't see how that proves that a free world with evil in it is better than a robotic world with no evil in it. Also, I don't see how God can't make this world such that we have free will to do relatively minor sins like cursing, but not very devastating sins like murder. Isn't it theoretically possible to have free will without the option to kill or do other very horrible acts (just as we don't have the option to fly like the angels, yet still have free-will)?

Because He made human in His image and likeness.
« Last Edit: June 29, 2015, 10:41:02 AM by Indocern »

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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #24 on: June 29, 2015, 10:44:15 AM »
I think its possible to make the right choices.
« Last Edit: June 29, 2015, 10:44:28 AM by WPM »

Offline minasoliman

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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #25 on: Yesterday at 03:29:36 PM »
One of the most provocative statements I read once was from Fr. Thomas Hopko, who made an interesting point on what happened when God created man with free will.  From his podcast on Predestination:

Quote
Some writers, in fact some very important Christian writers, will say, “God will never violate the freedom of his creature. Once he gives the freedom, he will not violate it.” But I think that we would have to go a step further, on the basis of Scripture and understanding of Scripture in the Tradition of our Church, by our great spiritual teachers, and that is that it is not simply the case that God will not violate our freedom. We have to say something stronger. We have to say, “God cannot violate our freedom.” God cannot force us to do anything at all. He simply cannot do it.

He can do things in the natural order, for example, cause me to break my leg or something like that, but God cannot determine, in any way, how I will relate to my leg being broken—how I will act, what I will choose, what I will do. We have this sovereign freedom given to us by God, that he not only will not violate, but he cannot violate.

...

How people are depends on how they are humanly. If there are people who are born into sinful, awful families and are abused, that is their providence and God has to deal with that. God can intervene, but he can’t intervene destroying human freedom. He can make people drop dead; he can make the earth open and swallow up people; he can let the sun stand still and part the Red Sea if he wants. He could also heal physical diseases, if he wishes. He can cast out demons when we are controlled by alien powers. But he cannot touch our freedom. That we have to sovereignly give him, by his grace. We have to pray, “Give us the grace to be free. Give us the grace to be with you.” Even that is a grace, but it is inexplicable how it works.

I find it interesting that the language of "cannot" can be applied to God.  I have read for instance from St. Clement of Rome that God "cannot" lie.  It is impossible for Him to lie.  St. Athanasius wrote that God is "consistent".  Once He says something, He CANNOT go back on His word.  If Adam will "surely die", mere repentance will not cure his disobedience.

I have never emailed Fr. Thomas Hopko any question, but if there was one question I wish I would email, it is the one I posed earlier.  Can God, while being omniscient and knowing all things who planned all things based on His divine providence, choose not to know certain things if He desired to?  Or God cannot choose not to know?
« Last Edit: Yesterday at 03:31:26 PM by minasoliman »
Vain existence can never exist, for "unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain." (Psalm 127)

If the faith is unchanged and rock solid, then the gates of Hades never prevailed in the end.

Offline biro

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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #26 on: Yesterday at 03:32:17 PM »
Just make sure you address Fr. Hopko's e-mail "(at) Heaven," these days. He moved, you know.  ;) :angel:

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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #27 on: Yesterday at 03:33:57 PM »
I know...that's why said "I wish"
Vain existence can never exist, for "unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain." (Psalm 127)

If the faith is unchanged and rock solid, then the gates of Hades never prevailed in the end.

Offline biro

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Re: On the Free-will defense to the Problem of Evil
« Reply #28 on: Yesterday at 03:36:13 PM »
 :angel: