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Author Topic: Are We Really Free To Choose?  (Read 3169 times) Average Rating: 0
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Justin Kissel
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« on: January 09, 2011, 09:22:05 AM »

If someone believes that they will suffer eternally in hell if they choose against God, are they really free to choose in favor of God? Isn't there some degree of coercion involved in such a case? I realise that one possible answer is that telling people about hell is merely letting people know that there will be consequences for the choices they make. However, I don't know that this changes things, for even if the intention is not to use coercion, it still seems like there is a problem if someone acts or believes based on fear or perceived threats of torment and suffering. Am I just looking at this bass ackwards...?
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« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2011, 02:28:40 PM »

If someone believes that they will suffer eternally in hell if they choose against God, are they really free to choose in favor of God? Isn't there some degree of coercion involved in such a case? I realise that one possible answer is that telling people about hell is merely letting people know that there will be consequences for the choices they make. However, I don't know that this changes things, for even if the intention is not to use coercion, it still seems like there is a problem if someone acts or believes based on fear or perceived threats of torment and suffering. Am I just looking at this bass ackwards...?

To me the question is much simpler:  If God is freedom, and the good of his creation is free, and sin is the antithesis of that freedom, then how can I choose the slavery of sin and expect to be free?

Well that addresses the general question of freedom at its source.

But the question that we, as religious beings, ask more specifically is: Can I choose freely or without coercion...external coercion?   And the answer comes back for us as children of God, "Yes!"

Now a more nuanced question and one that is addressed frequently by the desert fathers is one that suggests that the deeper one advances into sin, the more alienated he or she becomes from God, and thereby more distanced from the good and freedom.  So for me, one of the more compelling questions is: Can the one whose soul is deadened and darkened by sin choose freely?

And again, I believe and my Church teaches, the answer is "Yes!" because we are made in God's image and though we loose his likeness, we, as creatures and children of God, never loose the image and it is in the truth of this image that we always remain free.

Now:  If we are in hell...done...no way out...does our image change?

M.
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« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2011, 02:52:59 PM »

A difficult choice is still a choice.
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« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2011, 10:31:20 PM »

If someone believes that they will suffer eternally in hell if they choose against God, are they really free to choose in favor of God? Isn't there some degree of coercion involved in such a case? I realise that one possible answer is that telling people about hell is merely letting people know that there will be consequences for the choices they make. However, I don't know that this changes things, for even if the intention is not to use coercion, it still seems like there is a problem if someone acts or believes based on fear or perceived threats of torment and suffering. Am I just looking at this bass ackwards...?

I think the conclusion is that there’s some degree of coercion.  Who has not encountered threats, sometimes veiled and sometimes direct, that at times have emanated from the mouths of religionists?  God is love, they say, and He loves you unconditionally.  Therefore you should love Him back.  Oh, and by the way, He is also a God of wrath so woe betides you if you don’t believe in Him and love Him back.  Is God really like that?  There is reason to believe so, I’d say, and that troubles me greatly.
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« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2011, 01:22:53 AM »

I'm just spit-balling here, but what if we approached the scenario as a sick child in the hospital and a caring father watching over her? Say the child, in all she knows of the world, thinks the best "choice" she can make, is to unplug the tubes from her body, refuse medicine and walk out of the hospital, ultimately to her death. Would we be right to consent to her free will and allow her to destroy herself? Or would the father be right in ultimately forcing his child to stay in the bed, intubated, taking her medicine because he knows she's in no way capable of making decisions of this magnitude? And she lives, and grows to one day understand why her father did what she did, even though, at the time, he completely disregarded her will and forced her to do something she did not want to do.

Could not there be some justification in God disregarding our "free choice" in not allowing us to consign ourselves to eternal torments with no chance of escape?

I've also often wondered, where was St. Paul's choice in the matter when the risen Christ knocked him from his horse, blinding him?

"1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

   “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.

 7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

 10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

   “Yes, Lord,” he answered.

 11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

 13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

 15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.

Given what we know of the extraordinary life of St. Paul from this point forward, can we not say for sure that he was eternally grateful for Christ ultimately forcing Himself into Paul's life? Might there be other biblical precedents of God forcing people to do things they don't want to do, for His ultimate purposes? And is not His ultimate purpose that all might come to the knowledge of love of God?
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« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2011, 01:39:16 AM »

Given what we know of the extraordinary life of St. Paul from this point forward, can we not say for sure that he was eternally grateful for Christ ultimately forcing Himself into Paul's life? Might there be other biblical precedents of God forcing people to do things they don't want to do, for His ultimate purposes? And is not His ultimate purpose that all might come to the knowledge of love of God?

Exactly.

Correct me if I am wrong, but let's say for example you are in a great relationship with someone and then it splits. Your heart is broken, but in that it was to bring you to God. Out of your suffering you come to the know the Lord. Does God work like that sometimes?
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« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2011, 03:05:17 AM »

I've also often wondered, where was St. Paul's choice in the matter when the risen Christ knocked him from his horse, blinding him?

...Given what we know of the extraordinary life of St. Paul from this point forward, can we not say for sure that he was eternally grateful for Christ ultimately forcing Himself into Paul's life? Might there be other biblical precedents of God forcing people to do things they don't want to do, for His ultimate purposes? And is not His ultimate purpose that all might come to the knowledge of love of God?

Excellent point, Sleeper, however even here we might have reservations about the word "force." Reformed theology does regard grace as something akin to force (a.k.a. irresistible grace), and ends with a penultimate aporia or paradox when considering the question of whether all will be saved if grace is force/power. Historically this has led to double election (a minority view), God inscrutably "passing some by" for salvation (more common in Calvinism, but still a minority trajectory in Protestantism as a whole, e.g. Wesleyans, most Charismatics and most Baptists (only c. 10% Baptists are full 5-point Calvinists) etc. reject both double election and the concept of God's passing some by) and, for some by way of Reformed theology, universalism (e.g. Karl Barth). Non-Calvinist theology focuses on another biblical theme, God as the *lover of all mankind* and wonders how the same God who is alleged to "pass some by" by Calvinists then regards the Levite in the parable of the good Samaritan as morally culpable for passing by the man in the ditch who could have been saved with just a bit of help. Calvinists respond by forcing the vast corpus of texts about God's favorable disposition to all (Titus 2:11 etc.) into statements about the elect, and borderline making God a respecter of persons, except not due to anything the persons do or don't do, but to sovereign decree. Molinists resolve the paradox by supposing God created one of a myriad of worlds in which freedom would result in the salvation of most, and claim even God can't do logically contradictory things or create worlds with freedom where all do not reject the healing balm of salvation.

Universalism often occurs as a form of the predestinarian view of grace as force (irresistible grace) in that for the universalist all are predestined to eternal joy.

And while the example of Paul's conversion Sleeper cited does have some logical "force," one might doubt whether even here such force is utterly compelling if we also consider the OT wilderness generation, which rejected God despite their deliverance from servitude with a mighty hand including mysterious plagues and the very parting of the sea in their sight, along with numerous other miracles they were said to have seen. Moses, descending from the mountain of God found those same ones he had led from Egypt, and who were said to have been led by God himself with pillar of fire and smoke making a golden calf and worshiping it when Moses delayed returning. Half of the Pentateuch, and much of the Historical Books and the Writings tells this story in one way or another: no matter what God does -or doesn't do- some will follow him and some will reject Him regardless. Job who has nothing left follows God; the archangel who covered led a revolt from heaven. Miracles are not really forcing. The mind can wander after any sort of miracle: "we were led by something, but perhaps Moses was wrong, he must be dead. But let us honor the force that brought us out of Egypt with the image of a golden calf!"

Luke 16:33: "He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"

We don't go to hell for not believing in Christ, or for lack of convincing signs or evidence, rather we don't believe in Christ because we are already on the road to hell, and don't want to get off it. We like it. Believing in Christ's call would mean we would have to give up that road, so we resist belief, and the Holy Spirit who is calling us to follow Christ.

It is the Scholastic tendency in all of us that prods us to succumb to the temptation to resolve the penultimate aporia of God as the lover of all mankind and the warnings we find that some will slam the door on that love. I prefer Metropolitan Ware's approach, to state both sides of the dialectic as they are presented in the witness to God's revelation without trying to force one of them into a preconceived mold and explain away anything we find on the other side:

"Christ is the judge; and yet from another point of view, it is we who pronounce judgment upon ourselves. If anyone is in hell, it is not because God has imprisoned him there [or shown him a sufficient "forcing miracle" as was seen by Paul], but because that is where he himself has chosen to be. The lost in hell are self condemned, self-enslaved; it has been rightly said that the doors of hell are locked on the inside.

How can a God of love accept that even a single one of the creatures whom he has made should remain forever in hell? There is a mystery here which, from our standpoint in this present life, we cannot hope to fathom. The best we can do is to hold in balance two truths, contrasting but not contradictory. First, God has given free will to man, and so to all eternity it lies in man's power to reject God. Secondly, love signifies compassion, involvement; and so, if there are any who remain eternally in hell, in some sense God is also there with them. It is written in the Psalms, 'If I go down to hell, thou art there also' (139:7): and St. Isaac the Syrian says, "It is wrong to imagine that sinners in hell are cut off from the love of God' (AH 28 (27), p. 141). Divine love is everywhere, and rejects no one. But we on our side are free to reject divine love: we cannot, however, do so without inflicting pain on ourselves, and the more final our rejection the more bitter our suffering" (Bishop Kallistos Ware, PhD [Oxford], The Orthodox Way, pp. 135-136).

------------
If someone believes that they will suffer eternally in hell if they choose against God, are they really free to choose in favor of God?
 As to the OP, whether the reality of hell itself would be forcing, John Milton supposed otherwise:

"The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heav'n.

...Here at least
we shall be free; the Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choice
to reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven."  -John Milton, Paradise Lost
« Last Edit: February 08, 2011, 03:35:41 AM by xariskai » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2011, 05:42:48 AM »

If someone believes that they will suffer eternally in hell if they choose against God, are they really free to choose in favor of God? Isn't there some degree of coercion involved in such a case? I realise that one possible answer is that telling people about hell is merely letting people know that there will be consequences for the choices they make. However, I don't know that this changes things, for even if the intention is not to use coercion, it still seems like there is a problem if someone acts or believes based on fear or perceived threats of torment and suffering. Am I just looking at this bass ackwards...?
If someone believes that they will suffer eternally in hell if they choose against God, then the "God" they feel they must worship is not the Living God.
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« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2011, 08:25:47 AM »

If someone believes that they will suffer eternally in hell if they choose against God, are they really free to choose in favor of God? Isn't there some degree of coercion involved in such a case? I realise that one possible answer is that telling people about hell is merely letting people know that there will be consequences for the choices they make. However, I don't know that this changes things, for even if the intention is not to use coercion, it still seems like there is a problem if someone acts or believes based on fear or perceived threats of torment and suffering. Am I just looking at this bass ackwards...?
If someone believes that they will suffer eternally in hell if they choose against God, then the "God" they feel they must worship is not the Living God.

Do you mean to say that those who willfully reject God will not go to Hell?
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« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2011, 08:26:50 AM »

Not sure if this has anything to do with this thread, but William L. Rowe once said: "In some distant forest lightning strikes a dead tree, resulting in a forest fire. In the fire a fawn is trapped, horribly burned, and lies in terrible agony for several days before death relieves its suffering."

How do I deal with this?
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« Reply #10 on: February 08, 2011, 10:15:06 AM »

If someone believes that they will suffer eternally in hell if they choose against God, then the "God" they feel they must worship is not the Living God.

Your post is so short and “matter of fact” I guess you perceived the problem at some point and managed to work your way through it.  I’m at a loss to see how I’m going to.  Analogies fall short, quotes from sundry sources are inconclusive, and amongst the various faith communities in Christendom negative notions about God seem to be embraced rather than rejected.  The Calvinists insist that God is to be glorified for both His love to some and His arbitrary cruelty to others; the Arminians say pretty much the same thing as do the Restorationists; and the Catholics, while insisting that God is a loving Father, also declare that although He forgives sins and removes the guilt of them He has a lot of terrible punishment lined up for people after their physical death because divine justice won’t allow any other way to go.  All of which tends to suggest to an outsider that God is stern and rigid and at the very least puts pressure on people to do what He wants them to do – and when they don’t do what He wants them to do He gets mad.  Quite early on He drowned every living thing on earth but saved a surly drunkard to carry on the human race.  I mean, why?  God baffles me.  I’d really like to be able to thread my way through the contradictions to then look back and confidently assert that all of my thinking was awry but I haven’t got any further than side–stepping the problem by trying to look at the whole thing in a different way, which then leads me to attempt to avert my eyes in the vaguely pious manner that I hope won’t make God mad at me.  I’ve been stuck like this for a while. Sad

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« Reply #11 on: February 08, 2011, 01:08:26 PM »

If someone believes that they will suffer eternally in hell if they choose against God, are they really free to choose in favor of God? Isn't there some degree of coercion involved in such a case? I realise that one possible answer is that telling people about hell is merely letting people know that there will be consequences for the choices they make. However, I don't know that this changes things, for even if the intention is not to use coercion, it still seems like there is a problem if someone acts or believes based on fear or perceived threats of torment and suffering. Am I just looking at this bass ackwards...?
It seems like you are using the modern existentialist understanding of freedom, rather than the classical/Christian view. For Christians, and many classical philosophers, freedom means being free to choose the good. Doing evil is not truely an exercise in freedom, but an exercise in bondage to our lower, non-rational appetites. Because we have a rational nature, unlike animals, we are free to choose to act against our lower non-rational appetites when they conflict with our teleological end of choosing the Good.
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« Reply #12 on: February 08, 2011, 06:01:20 PM »

If someone believes that they will suffer eternally in hell if they choose against God, then the "God" they feel they must worship is not the Living God.
Quite early on He drowned every living thing on earth but saved a surly drunkard to carry on the human race. 
I don't think one can simply say that God "caused" these deaths by drowning, at least in part because of the network of cause-and-effect within the natural and human world that created the conditions for the flood.

Plus, just because natural disasters were anciently interpreted to be 'caused' by God, doesn't mean that they were 'desired' by God.
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« Reply #13 on: February 08, 2011, 06:10:54 PM »

If someone believes that they will suffer eternally in hell if they choose against God, are they really free to choose in favor of God? Isn't there some degree of coercion involved in such a case? I realise that one possible answer is that telling people about hell is merely letting people know that there will be consequences for the choices they make. However, I don't know that this changes things, for even if the intention is not to use coercion, it still seems like there is a problem if someone acts or believes based on fear or perceived threats of torment and suffering. Am I just looking at this bass ackwards...?

I tend to think that if anyone is to be going to Hell (eternal damnation) it will be because that is precisely the fate that they desire. I know that some vehemently disagree with me on this, but I have a hard time seeing any other scenario in which God would not be working to redeem the person. So no, there really is no coercion if total narcissism is precisely what the person wants.
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« Reply #14 on: February 08, 2011, 06:24:16 PM »

If someone believes that they will suffer eternally in hell if they choose against God, are they really free to choose in favor of God? Isn't there some degree of coercion involved in such a case? I realise that one possible answer is that telling people about hell is merely letting people know that there will be consequences for the choices they make. However, I don't know that this changes things, for even if the intention is not to use coercion, it still seems like there is a problem if someone acts or believes based on fear or perceived threats of torment and suffering. Am I just looking at this bass ackwards...?

I tend to think that if anyone is to be going to Hell (eternal damnation) it will be because that is precisely the fate that they desire. I know that some vehemently disagree with me on this, but I have a hard time seeing any other scenario in which God would not be working to redeem the person. So no, there really is no coercion if total narcissism is precisely what the person wants.

Exactly. Hell is a choice. And the God Who willingly humbled Himself to death on a Cross, while not destroying those who crucified Him, does not coerce anyone. This is the difference between divine and human authority.
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« Reply #15 on: February 08, 2011, 09:08:50 PM »

I've also often wondered, where was St. Paul's choice in the matter when the risen Christ knocked him from his horse, blinding him?

...Given what we know of the extraordinary life of St. Paul from this point forward, can we not say for sure that he was eternally grateful for Christ ultimately forcing Himself into Paul's life? Might there be other biblical precedents of God forcing people to do things they don't want to do, for His ultimate purposes? And is not His ultimate purpose that all might come to the knowledge of love of God?

Excellent point, Sleeper, however even here we might have reservations about the word "force." Reformed theology does regard grace as something akin to force (a.k.a. irresistible grace), and ends with a penultimate aporia or paradox when considering the question of whether all will be saved if grace is force/power. Historically this has led to double election (a minority view), God inscrutably "passing some by" for salvation (more common in Calvinism, but still a minority trajectory in Protestantism as a whole, e.g. Wesleyans, most Charismatics and most Baptists (only c. 10% Baptists are full 5-point Calvinists) etc. reject both double election and the concept of God's passing some by) and, for some by way of Reformed theology, universalism (e.g. Karl Barth). Non-Calvinist theology focuses on another biblical theme, God as the *lover of all mankind* and wonders how the same God who is alleged to "pass some by" by Calvinists then regards the Levite in the parable of the good Samaritan as morally culpable for passing by the man in the ditch who could have been saved with just a bit of help. Calvinists respond by forcing the vast corpus of texts about God's favorable disposition to all (Titus 2:11 etc.) into statements about the elect, and borderline making God a respecter of persons, except not due to anything the persons do or don't do, but to sovereign decree. Molinists resolve the paradox by supposing God created one of a myriad of worlds in which freedom would result in the salvation of most, and claim even God can't do logically contradictory things or create worlds with freedom where all do not reject the healing balm of salvation.

Universalism often occurs as a form of the predestinarian view of grace as force (irresistible grace) in that for the universalist all are predestined to eternal joy.

And while the example of Paul's conversion Sleeper cited does have some logical "force," one might doubt whether even here such force is utterly compelling if we also consider the OT wilderness generation, which rejected God despite their deliverance from servitude with a mighty hand including mysterious plagues and the very parting of the sea in their sight, along with numerous other miracles they were said to have seen. Moses, descending from the mountain of God found those same ones he had led from Egypt, and who were said to have been led by God himself with pillar of fire and smoke making a golden calf and worshiping it when Moses delayed returning. Half of the Pentateuch, and much of the Historical Books and the Writings tells this story in one way or another: no matter what God does -or doesn't do- some will follow him and some will reject Him regardless. Job who has nothing left follows God; the archangel who covered led a revolt from heaven. Miracles are not really forcing. The mind can wander after any sort of miracle: "we were led by something, but perhaps Moses was wrong, he must be dead. But let us honor the force that brought us out of Egypt with the image of a golden calf!"

Luke 16:33: "He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"

We don't go to hell for not believing in Christ, or for lack of convincing signs or evidence, rather we don't believe in Christ because we are already on the road to hell, and don't want to get off it. We like it. Believing in Christ's call would mean we would have to give up that road, so we resist belief, and the Holy Spirit who is calling us to follow Christ.

It is the Scholastic tendency in all of us that prods us to succumb to the temptation to resolve the penultimate aporia of God as the lover of all mankind and the warnings we find that some will slam the door on that love. I prefer Metropolitan Ware's approach, to state both sides of the dialectic as they are presented in the witness to God's revelation without trying to force one of them into a preconceived mold and explain away anything we find on the other side:

"Christ is the judge; and yet from another point of view, it is we who pronounce judgment upon ourselves. If anyone is in hell, it is not because God has imprisoned him there [or shown him a sufficient "forcing miracle" as was seen by Paul], but because that is where he himself has chosen to be. The lost in hell are self condemned, self-enslaved; it has been rightly said that the doors of hell are locked on the inside.

How can a God of love accept that even a single one of the creatures whom he has made should remain forever in hell? There is a mystery here which, from our standpoint in this present life, we cannot hope to fathom. The best we can do is to hold in balance two truths, contrasting but not contradictory. First, God has given free will to man, and so to all eternity it lies in man's power to reject God. Secondly, love signifies compassion, involvement; and so, if there are any who remain eternally in hell, in some sense God is also there with them. It is written in the Psalms, 'If I go down to hell, thou art there also' (139:7): and St. Isaac the Syrian says, "It is wrong to imagine that sinners in hell are cut off from the love of God' (AH 28 (27), p. 141). Divine love is everywhere, and rejects no one. But we on our side are free to reject divine love: we cannot, however, do so without inflicting pain on ourselves, and the more final our rejection the more bitter our suffering" (Bishop Kallistos Ware, PhD [Oxford], The Orthodox Way, pp. 135-136).

------------
If someone believes that they will suffer eternally in hell if they choose against God, are they really free to choose in favor of God?
 As to the OP, whether the reality of hell itself would be forcing, John Milton supposed otherwise:

"The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heav'n.

...Here at least
we shall be free; the Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choice
to reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven."  -John Milton, Paradise Lost

Sheesh dude, when you are in your wheelhouse, you are some kinda force.
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« Reply #16 on: February 08, 2011, 11:10:06 PM »

I agree! Wonderful post!
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« Reply #17 on: February 08, 2011, 11:30:27 PM »

If someone believes that they will suffer eternally in hell if they choose against God, then the "God" they feel they must worship is not the Living God.
Quite early on He drowned every living thing on earth but saved a surly drunkard to carry on the human race. 
I don't think one can simply say that God "caused" these deaths by drowning, at least in part because of the network of cause-and-effect within the natural and human world that created the conditions for the flood.

Plus, just because natural disasters were anciently interpreted to be 'caused' by God, doesn't mean that they were 'desired' by God.

I say that God caused these deaths because of what God Himself said, scil:

So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth…"

And it was so.
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« Reply #18 on: February 08, 2011, 11:45:27 PM »

I tend to think that if anyone is to be going to Hell (eternal damnation) it will be because that is precisely the fate that they desire.

Exactly. Hell is a choice.

I gently disagree.  If somebody desires or chooses eternal damnation then it seems to me that he or she would have to be totally insane or very close to it.
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« Reply #19 on: February 08, 2011, 11:54:29 PM »

^ Yeah, I gotta admit that I've never understood the whole "Hell is a choice" / "The doors of hell are locked from the inside" idea. That isn't to say that this thread hasn't had some interesting posts...
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« Reply #20 on: February 09, 2011, 01:03:58 PM »

^ Yeah, I gotta admit that I've never understood the whole "Hell is a choice" / "The doors of hell are locked from the inside" idea. That isn't to say that this thread hasn't had some interesting posts...

One of the reasons the western theology of Hell being an absence of God sits more readily with me. We can either accept Him (Theosis) or reject Him (Hell).
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« Reply #21 on: February 09, 2011, 05:19:02 PM »

^ Yeah, I gotta admit that I've never understood the whole "Hell is a choice" / "The doors of hell are locked from the inside" idea. That isn't to say that this thread hasn't had some interesting posts...

Indeed.

Although you've asked are "we" really free to choose I take it you acknowledge, as I do, that the choices open to people vary from person to person?
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« Reply #22 on: February 09, 2011, 05:32:57 PM »

^ Yeah, I gotta admit that I've never understood the whole "Hell is a choice" / "The doors of hell are locked from the inside" idea. That isn't to say that this thread hasn't had some interesting posts...

Indeed.

Although you've asked are "we" really free to choose I take it you acknowledge, as I do, that the choices open to people vary from person to person?

Yes, I would agree with that. I like how St. Gregory put it when he said--if forum posters will forgive me for quoting this yet again--that we will all be judged based on a case by case basis...

Quote
It is better both to attain the good and to keep the purification. But if it be impossible to do both it is surely better to be a little stained with your public affairs than to fall altogether short of grace; just as I think it better to undergo a slight punishment from father or master than to be put out of doors; and to be a little beamed upon than to be left in total darkness. And it is the part of wise men to choose, as in good things the greater and more perfect, so in evils the lesser and lighter.

Wherefore do not overmuch dread the purification. For our success is always judged by comparison with our place in life by our just and merciful Judge; and often one who is in public life and has had small success has had a greater reward than one who in the enjoyment of liberty has not completely succeeded; as I think it more marvellous for a man to advance a little in fetters, than for one to run who is not carrying any weight; or to be only a little spattered in walking through mud, than to be perfectly clean when the road is clean. To give you a proof of what I have said:— Rahab the harlot was justified by one thing alone, her hospitality, though she receives no praise for the rest of her conduct; and the Publican was exalted by one thing, his humility, (Lk. 18:14) though he received no testimony for anything else; so that you may learn not easily to despair concerning yourself.

--St. Gregory the Theologian, Oration 40, 19

What options or choices are open to me certainly seem different than what was open to my Great Grandfather, or even my Grandfather (for an example).
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« Reply #23 on: February 09, 2011, 06:48:34 PM »

^ Yeah, I gotta admit that I've never understood the whole "Hell is a choice" / "The doors of hell are locked from the inside" idea. That isn't to say that this thread hasn't had some interesting posts...

Indeed.

Although you've asked are "we" really free to choose I take it you acknowledge, as I do, that the choices open to people vary from person to person?

Yes, I would agree with that. I like how St. Gregory put it when he said--if forum posters will forgive me for quoting this yet again--that we will all be judged based on a case by case basis...

Quote
It is better both to attain the good and to keep the purification. But if it be impossible to do both it is surely better to be a little stained with your public affairs than to fall altogether short of grace; just as I think it better to undergo a slight punishment from father or master than to be put out of doors; and to be a little beamed upon than to be left in total darkness. And it is the part of wise men to choose, as in good things the greater and more perfect, so in evils the lesser and lighter.

Wherefore do not overmuch dread the purification. For our success is always judged by comparison with our place in life by our just and merciful Judge; and often one who is in public life and has had small success has had a greater reward than one who in the enjoyment of liberty has not completely succeeded; as I think it more marvellous for a man to advance a little in fetters, than for one to run who is not carrying any weight; or to be only a little spattered in walking through mud, than to be perfectly clean when the road is clean. To give you a proof of what I have said:— Rahab the harlot was justified by one thing alone, her hospitality, though she receives no praise for the rest of her conduct; and the Publican was exalted by one thing, his humility, (Lk. 18:14) though he received no testimony for anything else; so that you may learn not easily to despair concerning yourself.

--St. Gregory the Theologian, Oration 40, 19

What options or choices are open to me certainly seem different than what was open to my Great Grandfather, or even my Grandfather (for an example).

Right.  And to approach from another perspective, one can never know how badly a person might be emotionally or spiritually scarred, which condition could well mean that the person is simply not equipped to choose that which is good and right.
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« Reply #24 on: February 09, 2011, 07:10:46 PM »

If someone believes that they will suffer eternally in hell if they choose against God, then the "God" they feel they must worship is not the Living God.

Your post is so short and “matter of fact” I guess you perceived the problem at some point and managed to work your way through it.  I’m at a loss to see how I’m going to.  Analogies fall short, quotes from sundry sources are inconclusive, and amongst the various faith communities in Christendom negative notions about God seem to be embraced rather than rejected.  The Calvinists insist that God is to be glorified for both His love to some and His arbitrary cruelty to others; the Arminians say pretty much the same thing as do the Restorationists; and the Catholics, while insisting that God is a loving Father, also declare that although He forgives sins and removes the guilt of them He has a lot of terrible punishment lined up for people after their physical death because divine justice won’t allow any other way to go.  All of which tends to suggest to an outsider that God is stern and rigid and at the very least puts pressure on people to do what He wants them to do – and when they don’t do what He wants them to do He gets mad.  Quite early on He drowned every living thing on earth but saved a surly drunkard to carry on the human race.  I mean, why?  God baffles me.  I’d really like to be able to thread my way through the contradictions to then look back and confidently assert that all of my thinking was awry but I haven’t got any further than side–stepping the problem by trying to look at the whole thing in a different way, which then leads me to attempt to avert my eyes in the vaguely pious manner that I hope won’t make God mad at me.  I’ve been stuck like this for a while. Sad
How could there possibly be rejoicing in Heaven if even one creature is suffering eternal torments in hell forever?
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« Reply #25 on: February 09, 2011, 08:27:30 PM »

How could there possibly be rejoicing in Heaven if even one creature is suffering eternal torments in hell forever?

I don’t know.  The assertion is that people choose to send themselves to hell so I guess attendant to this belief is an understanding that the rejoicing over sinners who repent is not affected.
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« Reply #26 on: February 09, 2011, 08:48:00 PM »

How could there possibly be rejoicing in Heaven if even one creature is suffering eternal torments in hell forever?

I don’t know.
Nor do I. I just know that there can't possibly be rejoicing in the face of it.
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« Reply #27 on: February 09, 2011, 09:58:48 PM »

^ How do we know this? Not that I disagree, mind you... but what assurance do we have, other than us wanting it to be so?
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« Reply #28 on: February 09, 2011, 10:05:44 PM »

The only sort of "understanding" I've come to terms with, in regards to hell, is to think of life in a sort of Lord of the Rings fashion, where there's an immense battle underway between good and evil. Those who align themselves with the dark forces of Sauron are ultimately destroyed in the end, and those who align themselves with the good King Aragorn enjoy the peace of his reign.

Many other spiritual parallels could be drawn from this story, of course, but I've always felt a kinship with Gollum, in the sense that we can play a large role in the story, for good or for ill. When can choose to cling to our "precious" sins and in the end, be consumed by them. Or we can let them go and live. Pretty sobering.
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« Reply #29 on: February 09, 2011, 10:46:31 PM »

To me at least, this starts with the assumption that your life is your own. Though we are granted free will in certain areas we are creatures designed and created with a certain role, which is to fulfill God's plan. The pot doesn't ask the potter why he chose to make it into a pot and not into something different. Some objects are created to show the wrath of God and others to show His mercy. As a Christian I don't think I have a "right" to choose my destiny; that choice belongs to God. I have no issue with the Creator willing Himself upon another. If He sees it fit then who am I to question?
Irresistible grace is only irresistible because we were made not to resist it. A fish swims because that is his nature; it doesn't wonder what it may be to walk on land. We just dream of the 'what ifs' and 'could bes' because we're fallen.
It is that person's choice to accept or reject the idea of hell. If he accepts it then he must make a decision weighing the pros and cons. The fact that there exists a gigantic con doesn't mean the choice is made for him.
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« Reply #30 on: February 10, 2011, 12:29:50 AM »

To me at least, this starts with the assumption that your life is your own. Though we are granted free will in certain areas we are creatures designed and created with a certain role, which is to fulfill God's plan. The pot doesn't ask the potter why he chose to make it into a pot and not into something different. Some objects are created to show the wrath of God and others to show His mercy. As a Christian I don't think I have a "right" to choose my destiny; that choice belongs to God. I have no issue with the Creator willing Himself upon another. If He sees it fit then who am I to question?
Irresistible grace is only irresistible because we were made not to resist it. A fish swims because that is his nature; it doesn't wonder what it may be to walk on land. We just dream of the 'what ifs' and 'could bes' because we're fallen.
It is that person's choice to accept or reject the idea of hell. If he accepts it then he must make a decision weighing the pros and cons. The fact that there exists a gigantic con doesn't mean the choice is made for him.

If people dream about what ifs and could bes because they’re fallen wouldn't the next logical question be to ask how seriously the Fall impaired human ability to choose that which is good?  I believe that’s what Erasmus and Luther debated, wasn’t it?
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« Reply #31 on: February 10, 2011, 08:49:25 AM »

^ How do we know this? Not that I disagree, mind you... but what assurance do we have, other than us wanting it to be so?
1 John 4:8
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« Reply #32 on: February 10, 2011, 08:52:58 AM »

^ How do we know this? Not that I disagree, mind you... but what assurance do we have, other than us wanting it to be so?
1 John 4:8

 Huh And thus another free will problem pops up...  Huh
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« Reply #33 on: February 10, 2011, 09:01:20 AM »

^ How do we know this? Not that I disagree, mind you... but what assurance do we have, other than us wanting it to be so?
1 John 4:8

 Huh And thus another free will problem pops up...  Huh

1 John 4:16.
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« Reply #34 on: February 10, 2011, 09:07:19 AM »

But if heaven is a place where "there is neither sickness, nor sighing, nor sorrow," and yet a loved one is not there with me, and is perhaps even suffering in the afterlife, then how could I really be free from sorrow? Unless God's love somehow overrides my free will, in the same way that apparently he does in keeping me from committing sins and screwing up his heavenly realm  Huh
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« Reply #35 on: February 10, 2011, 09:19:20 AM »

If someone believes that they will suffer eternally in hell if they choose against God, then the "God" they feel they must worship is not the Living God.
Quite early on He drowned every living thing on earth but saved a surly drunkard to carry on the human race. 
I don't think one can simply say that God "caused" these deaths by drowning, at least in part because of the network of cause-and-effect within the natural and human world that created the conditions for the flood.

Plus, just because natural disasters were anciently interpreted to be 'caused' by God, doesn't mean that they were 'desired' by God.

I say that God caused these deaths because of what God Himself said, scil:

So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth…"

And it was so.

And, yet, God did not put an end to all people or all organisms. In fact, I'm pretty sure the fish did quite well. Smiley
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« Reply #36 on: February 10, 2011, 09:31:03 AM »

But if heaven is a place where "there is neither sickness, nor sighing, nor sorrow," and yet a loved one is not there with me, and is perhaps even suffering in the afterlife, then how could I really be free from sorrow?
Like I said, I don't know. What I believe though is that everything's going to be all right in the end. God'll find a way to fix it- He's pretty good that way.

Unless God's love somehow overrides my free will, in the same way that apparently he does in keeping me from committing sins and screwing up his heavenly realm  Huh
God doesn't keep you or anyone from committing sins. Have you seen the state of the world lately?
But from an Orthodox Christian perspective, sin is not natural. It is most unnatural and alien to human nature. Both sin and the inclination toward sin is a disease, and not a "normal" part of healthy human nature. Fix the disease and the symptoms vanish. This isn't a restriction of freedom any more than surgery to save your life is restriction of freedom.
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« Reply #37 on: February 10, 2011, 09:58:06 AM »

Well... you've almost got me on board...  Smiley
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« Reply #38 on: February 10, 2011, 10:25:43 AM »

But if heaven is a place where "there is neither sickness, nor sighing, nor sorrow," and yet a loved one is not there with me, and is perhaps even suffering in the afterlife, then how could I really be free from sorrow?

If, because of your ability to love, you can foresee that you could not be free from sorrow because of the suffering of those you love then within the same hypothetical scenario do you think it is reasonable to suppose that God, who is love, would feel at least as much pain as you would?
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« Reply #39 on: February 10, 2011, 10:28:04 AM »

If someone believes that they will suffer eternally in hell if they choose against God, then the "God" they feel they must worship is not the Living God.
Quite early on He drowned every living thing on earth but saved a surly drunkard to carry on the human race. 
I don't think one can simply say that God "caused" these deaths by drowning, at least in part because of the network of cause-and-effect within the natural and human world that created the conditions for the flood.

Plus, just because natural disasters were anciently interpreted to be 'caused' by God, doesn't mean that they were 'desired' by God.

I say that God caused these deaths because of what God Himself said, scil:

So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth…"

And it was so.

And, yet, God did not put an end to all people or all organisms. In fact, I'm pretty sure the fish did quite well. Smiley

As did the Nephilim, so some have suggested.
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« Reply #40 on: February 10, 2011, 11:42:22 AM »

Unless God's love somehow overrides my free will, in the same way that apparently he does in keeping me from committing sins and screwing up his heavenly realm  Huh
God doesn't keep you or anyone from committing sins. Have you seen the state of the world lately?

I believe Asteriktos was thinking of Heaven when he said this, not earth.
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« Reply #41 on: February 10, 2011, 11:51:46 AM »

Unless God's love somehow overrides my free will, in the same way that apparently he does in keeping me from committing sins and screwing up his heavenly realm  Huh
God doesn't keep you or anyone from committing sins. Have you seen the state of the world lately?

I believe Asteriktos was thinking of Heaven when he said this, not earth.
According to Someone Who has actually seen Heaven, even Heaven has its problems: Luke 10:18
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« Reply #42 on: February 22, 2011, 06:38:28 PM »

To me at least, this starts with the assumption that your life is your own. Though we are granted free will in certain areas we are creatures designed and created with a certain role, which is to fulfill God's plan. The pot doesn't ask the potter why he chose to make it into a pot and not into something different. Some objects are created to show the wrath of God and others to show His mercy. As a Christian I don't think I have a "right" to choose my destiny; that choice belongs to God. I have no issue with the Creator willing Himself upon another. If He sees it fit then who am I to question?
Irresistible grace is only irresistible because we were made not to resist it. A fish swims because that is his nature; it doesn't wonder what it may be to walk on land. We just dream of the 'what ifs' and 'could bes' because we're fallen.
It is that person's choice to accept or reject the idea of hell. If he accepts it then he must make a decision weighing the pros and cons. The fact that there exists a gigantic con doesn't mean the choice is made for him.

If people dream about what ifs and could bes because they’re fallen wouldn't the next logical question be to ask how seriously the Fall impaired human ability to choose that which is good?  I believe that’s what Erasmus and Luther debated, wasn’t it?
I believe the fall did impair our ability to choose good. Our conscience became dulled and we could no longer hear it as clearly. We need God's help and grace. The 5th century heresy of Pelagianism stated that man on his own could choose God without the help of God. That our nature wasn't as damaged by the fall as others would say. But this was obviously rejected.
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« Reply #43 on: February 23, 2011, 02:15:58 PM »

To me at least, this starts with the assumption that your life is your own. Though we are granted free will in certain areas we are creatures designed and created with a certain role, which is to fulfill God's plan. The pot doesn't ask the potter why he chose to make it into a pot and not into something different. Some objects are created to show the wrath of God and others to show His mercy. As a Christian I don't think I have a "right" to choose my destiny; that choice belongs to God. I have no issue with the Creator willing Himself upon another. If He sees it fit then who am I to question?
Irresistible grace is only irresistible because we were made not to resist it. A fish swims because that is his nature; it doesn't wonder what it may be to walk on land. We just dream of the 'what ifs' and 'could bes' because we're fallen.
It is that person's choice to accept or reject the idea of hell. If he accepts it then he must make a decision weighing the pros and cons. The fact that there exists a gigantic con doesn't mean the choice is made for him.

If people dream about what ifs and could bes because they’re fallen wouldn't the next logical question be to ask how seriously the Fall impaired human ability to choose that which is good?  I believe that’s what Erasmus and Luther debated, wasn’t it?
I believe the fall did impair our ability to choose good. Our conscience became dulled and we could no longer hear it as clearly. We need God's help and grace. The 5th century heresy of Pelagianism stated that man on his own could choose God without the help of God. That our nature wasn't as damaged by the fall as others would say. But this was obviously rejected.

When you write, “Our conscience became dulled and we could no longer hear it as clearly,” what do you mean, exactly?
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« Reply #44 on: February 23, 2011, 02:56:54 PM »

To me at least, this starts with the assumption that your life is your own. Though we are granted free will in certain areas we are creatures designed and created with a certain role, which is to fulfill God's plan. The pot doesn't ask the potter why he chose to make it into a pot and not into something different. Some objects are created to show the wrath of God and others to show His mercy. As a Christian I don't think I have a "right" to choose my destiny; that choice belongs to God. I have no issue with the Creator willing Himself upon another. If He sees it fit then who am I to question?
Irresistible grace is only irresistible because we were made not to resist it. A fish swims because that is his nature; it doesn't wonder what it may be to walk on land. We just dream of the 'what ifs' and 'could bes' because we're fallen.
It is that person's choice to accept or reject the idea of hell. If he accepts it then he must make a decision weighing the pros and cons. The fact that there exists a gigantic con doesn't mean the choice is made for him.

If people dream about what ifs and could bes because they’re fallen wouldn't the next logical question be to ask how seriously the Fall impaired human ability to choose that which is good?  I believe that’s what Erasmus and Luther debated, wasn’t it?
I believe the fall did impair our ability to choose good. Our conscience became dulled and we could no longer hear it as clearly. We need God's help and grace. The 5th century heresy of Pelagianism stated that man on his own could choose God without the help of God. That our nature wasn't as damaged by the fall as others would say. But this was obviously rejected.

When you write, “Our conscience became dulled and we could no longer hear it as clearly,” what do you mean, exactly?

Well as I understand it, when adam and eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they basically chose to take the world and all its knowledge on, on their own and become separated from God. Due to this separation the God-placed guide inside us (conscience) is dulled out by the open attack of demons on the mind and passions (not to mention genetic curses and what not). This inhibits us to discern good and evil without the guidance of God (and some to a greater degree than others). As we grow closer to Him through prayer and fasting we can better block the mental attacks of demons therefore better receiving and understanding God's will. This is why stillness, quiet, and hesychasm work so well in connecting us with God. In the stillness of the mind and eventually the heart, we can weed through the confusing bombardment of thoughts and hear our conscience how it was originally created.
These are things I've pieced together a bit so pardon me if there is something that seems inaccurate, and please set me right.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2011, 02:58:06 PM by CBGardner » Logged

Authentic zeal is not directed towards anything but union in Christ, or against anything but our own fallenness.

"Beardliness is next to Godliness."- Asteriktos
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