A Problem for the Classical View of Divine Foreknowledge

One problem every Christian must deal with is why the world is not a better place. There are certain conditions in the world which are great, but many that are not. One of the more striking problems for Christians is the belief that only a remnant will be saved. This is found both in the Old and New Testament. Narrow is the path to heaven, but large is the gate to Hell. Many will try to enter the narrow gate, but few will find it (Matthew 7:13-14). When that belief is connected to the belief that God knows all future actions, we have a problem. Why would God create a world where the majority of the people would not be saved? One answer could be that He could not create any world better than this one. This may come in the form of trans-world depravity. I find this implausible. What reasons do we have supposed that God could do no better than this world? The traditional concept of God seems that He would have enough power, knowledge, and creativity, to make creatures that would choose what is right (If He could foreknow their actions). On the whole, it seems very plausible that God could have created a world where the majority of people would have been saved. As long as that is correct, there are only a few moves one can make: (1) God has created multiple worlds, (2) reject the traditional idea of divine foreknowledge, or (3) bite the bullet. I am open to either (1) or (2). Perhaps God has created multiple worlds and this world was one of the less good ones, but still better to create than not. However, for those who reject (1), they must come to the belief that the traditional view of God’s foreknowledge is mistaken.

A Brief Defense of Open Theism

Open Theism is a position within the divine foreknowledge debate. I believe it is the least defended view. The other three primary views are Predestination, Molinism, and Simple Foreknowledge. Within these positions are different debates as well. Now, I wish to outline why I currently favor Open Theism over the other views. It should be noted that I believe in free will, this Predestination/Calvinism is ruled out for me. However, Simple Foreknowledge and Molinism are still live options.

Open Theism can be outlined in a few different ways. God cannot know future propositions even though their truth values exist, God cannot know future propositions because they don’t currently have truth values, or God chooses not to know future propositions. Both the former and latter have some deep flaws, thus I opt for option two. The toughest challenge option two faces is the question ‘how does God seem to know some future propositions?’. Here I think His omnipotence comes into play, He can override people’s wills at times, some future statement might be certain while the majority are open to probabilities. Take a game of chess as an example. Most of the moves are freely chosen between multiple options, but the game can go in such a way that one player only has one move she can make. In the same way, the world can have a similar state of affairs where only one option becomes available because of the former free will choices. Even if such a state of affairs doesn’t exist, God certainly has enough power to make His will happen even if it overrides free will sometimes. What is important is that He does not override it in a way that affects whether a person will go to heaven or hell. For example, say He overrode my decision to go to a restaurant and I found myself walking in a park instead. It could be the case that going to the restaurant would have been an amoral choice, but he wanted me to meet someone who was at the park. I see no reason why God couldn’t do this. But this is likely to be off-putting to some peoples’ view of God. However, I think both positions I have defended are scripturally sound. Look at Daniel 4:33, Nebuchadnezzar was forced to act like an animal in the field. God did this so that Nebuchadnezzar would repent and this is sufficient evidence to show that God will sometimes override our free will.

Open Theism has been sufficiently outlined. I believe there is a solid scriptural case for Open Theism as well. There are two times that God regretted; Genesis 6:6–7; 1 Samuel 15:11. There are multiple ways of explaining these verses, but Open Theism clearly has simple tools. God regretted because He didn’t know things would turn out the way they did. Another route to take is the one John Piper does. He says that God emotions are complex and can both be the best option, but still feel regrettable or unfortunate. While this is true, it seems odd to me that God best option would be to make Saul king when it turned out poorly. The God who can turn rocks into Abraham children couldn’t make a king that wouldn’t cause regret? I find that hard to believe. Because of this, I think Open Theism is a better option.

I believe there are more scriptural reasons to believe Open Theism as well such as God changing his mind. However, I would like to cover a philosophical reason for this view. God has an option between creating W1 and W2. W1 and W2 are almost identical so all the same people exists. If God creates W1, 15 more people would choose God than if W2 would have been created. However, there are 10 people that would have been saved in W2 that don’t choose God in W1. This seems to go against the tenant that God cares about each individual as well as mankind as a whole. Because those 10 people would have had an eternal loving relationship with God if He had just chosen to make W2 instead. I believe it would be unfair to those ten people to lose out on an eternal relationship with God ultimately because of the world He chose to create.

Lastly, I find the idea that God is the master of probabilities who can maneuver his ship in an uncertain sea to his destination no matter, a beautiful theory. I tend to think of His knowledge about the future like a never ending decision tree in which He knows every probability and knows just how to act in each scenario. Every choice a person has two or more branches which lead to two or more branches. And thinking about how God can keep up with that and still have control over where the world goes creates a sense of awe for Him within me.

G.K. Chesterton’s argument(s) for God’s existence 

G.K. Chesterton did not write a formal argument for the existence of God, but there are sketches of one in his book Orthodoxy. This isn’t surprising since his goal was to defend Christianity. This is attempt to take his argument from the chapter Ethics of Elfland. One argument is:                                                                                                                                             1. Life is a story                                                                                                                                     2. All stories have story-teller(s).                                                                                               Therefore,                                                                                                                                                 3. Our life has a story teller(s)

I find his defense of one intriguing, “Now, the mere repetition made the things to me rather more weird than more rational. It was if, having seen a curiously shaped nose in the street and dismissed it as an accident, I had then seen six other noses of the same astonishing shape. I should have fancied for a moment that it must be some local secret society. So one elephant having a trunk was odd; but all elephants having trunks looked like a plot.” (Orthodoxy, p 57)

His argument summed up is this: unlikely similarities indicate a plot, and nature has unlikely similarities, thus there is an ultimate plot. There is clearly some intuitiveness to this, since it is a version of a design argument.

Gender Dysphoria: An Identity?

The other day I was informed on what gender dysphoria is. It is an identity, supposedly. What is meant by the term “identity” is left unclear by the author. Identity is not a strange term, common examples abound; national identity, political identity, religious identity, and/or some kind of ideal. National identity is an identity of legal status. I would be surprised if dysphoria is supposed to be meant solely as a legal identity. The legal part is usually taken as a sub-part of the problem, not its entirety. The other kind of identity is that of the political/religious which is a choice in belief. It seems that people (the majority) who have dysphoria would proclaim that they do not have a choice in the matter. Thus, what is meant by identity is unclear since it is not a choice and more than just legal status. The most plausible account must be something like this then, “identity is something in which I am born into and that is an essential part of who I am.” This means something more like, “I am intellectual”. Something which can be a keen part of one’s personality without being necessary to everyone. There is a problem still lurking around the corner. Take a person with schizophrenia. They identify as several different people. Each person has their own unique personality. Now, what makes this a mental illness is that it is a deviation from the common human experience and hurts the individual’s ability to function. Both of these conditions are met in the dysphoria experience. Thus, a person who wishes to defend that dysphoria is not a mental illness must find a way of defining the both mental illness such as schizophrenia and gender dysphoria without them overlapping. I wish to end with being clear that I am not picking a side on this debate. Rather I am writing to help clear some ideas, and figure out what things need more clarification .

Transgender: A Mental Disease?

“In the last couple of decades, many medical institutions have moved away from the view that being transgender is the result of mental illness, as they previously did with homosexuality.” (http://time.com/4424589/being-transgender-is-not-a-mental-disorder-study/)

Transgender is a term for a person who was born in one sex but has a feeling they are the opposite gender. They often will go to lengths to transform their body to match the feelings they have. According to times, this used to be considered a mental disease but now it isn’t by most organizations. This seems to be done out of practical considerations for how transgender people are treated. Strictly speaking though, the move away from a mental disorder is a tricky one. According to psychiatry.org mental illnesses are ” are health conditions involving changes in thinking, emotion or behavior (or a combination of these)”. This definition rather lose. The definition covers every single person without further stipulation since everyone faces some changes in thinking, etc. (The National Alliance on Mental Illness define mental illness the same way). Clearly, a stipulation such as a frequent change that doesn’t normally occur in other people would be needed. This definition probably needs further clarification as well but should work for our purposes. Now, it seems clear that a transgender person faces a mental difference(s) that most people do not. Does this mean that gender dysphoria is automatically a mental illness? Not necessarily. A view that can help people who wish to claim gender dysphoria is not a mental illness is substance dualism (perhaps other dualism views could as well).
Substance dualism is the idea that people are more than their physical body. Typically there is a brain and a mind/soul. Under this view, a person could be born in the wrong body in the sense that their soul is the opposite gender from their biological sex. If that is the case, then the dysphoria would be a problem based on the incompatibility of the body/soul instead of a brain issue. Now, to be clear I am not making any claims about the truth values of gender dysphoria, substance dualism, or mental illnesses. Rather, I am making the claim that substance dualism would have to be true for gender dysphoria not to be a mental illness. However, it could be the case that substance dualism is true and gender dysphoria is a mental illness, but a different kind of argument would have to be made.

 

Epistemic Uniqueness

My friend Joel wrote about a possible counter-example to Epistemic Uniqueness.

“Epistemic Uniqueness: for any body of evidence, E, and any proposition, P, E permits at most one rational attitude toward P (i.e., given E, it is either rational to believe P, disbelieve P, or suspend judgment about P, but not more than one). ” (http://joelballivian.blogspot.com/2017/03/a-counterexample-to-epistemic-uniqueness.html)

I commented on why I thought the counter-example he gave failed. But as I was reflecting on some different today, I thought there might be a counter-example. Person S is aware of all the different theories of T for Y because they are an expert in T. They have assigned probabilities of each T: A: 5%, B: 10%, C:15%, and D: 45%. There are no other theories which are above 1%. It seems that person S is justified in both believing D and suspending judgment about D. Since, P(D)>P(C+B+A), but Pr(D) is still under 50%. It is the most likely, yet not likely at the same time. It seems pragmatically one would believe D, but also keep wondering if D was true. In addition, I think it likely that there are epistemologists who fit this scenario in the structure of knowledge debate.

What is a Metaphor?

I picked up a book called Philosophical Perspectives on Metaphors because of how cheap it was. I have almost no experience in the philosophy of languages and thought it was strange that metaphors were being examined rigorously. To my knowledge, metaphors played almost no role in arguments, unlike analogies. The reason that metaphors are examined is because they cause major problems for theories of language, since most language is direct.  I have only read two chapters from the book and am going to give my uninformed thought. As of now I think metaphors are mini-poems for sentences, paragraphs, etc… One problem of this view is that we need a definition of poem which might be just as elusive. A second problem is if one creates a metaphoric poem, then really it is just a poem-poem, which is intuitively wrong. A possible solution to this is that it is a poem within a poem, which is sensible. Overall, I am not too optimistic about this view. If it is wrong, I will likely adopt Max Black’s interaction view.

Here is an example of each sentence is just as poetic as the poem

“Love is a walk in the rain at night,
Two hands, holding onto each other tight;
Love is honey on a pair of lips,
Onto a tender heart it drips;
Love is a soft and gentle touch;
Your heart, a child’s hand may clutch,
Love is a song that stains the air,
Dead or not, it’s always there;
Love is both the sun and moon,
Across the sky, like stars, it’s strewn;
Love is a tree of abundant fruit,
Giving and serving with every new shoot;
Love is a document, faithful and strong,
To one another, now do you belong;
Love is a river that rages with passion,
Finding ways to calm pools no matter the fashion”  (http://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/love-is-4)