Free Will

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Postby Luther95 » Tue Feb 09, 2010 9:53 am

The reformer's call was 'Sola Fide' or 'Faith alone'. Luthers issue with the RC pristhood was that they had authority to issue indulgences to some and refuse the Lords supper to others, thereby condeming them. They had the right to anul a marriage or to bless it. They could baptize or refuse to baptize. Too much authority and power in the hands of the church over ones salvific state. 'Faith Alone' removed the churches authority over the soteriological state of men and placed it in God's hands alone.
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Postby Rei » Tue Feb 09, 2010 7:42 pm

While I do not disagree with what you have said, as that is a big part of why the Reformation was so necessary, you're not entirely right about baptism. Tradition has held from very early on (far earlier than Luther, although popular custom may have done otherwise) that anyone can baptise someone, so long as the intent to baptise is there, and that water is used (even spit, if there is absolutely no other water available) along with the triune formula.

Now, it may well be that the people were unaware of this, but baptism, at least, was still technically accessible to anyone who desired.
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Postby Taalcon » Tue Feb 09, 2010 8:00 pm

It was my understanding that the earliest writings from the Ante Nice Fathers stated the understanding that all baptisms should all be done under the direction of the local Bishops.

What is the earliest reference for 'intent baptism / any form (even spit) baptism'?

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Postby Rei » Tue Feb 09, 2010 8:13 pm

I would need to double check on the source for that. It is worth noting that those are for extreme situations where neither a priest nor a bishop can be accessed. I'm also relatively certain that it could be extended to if priests and bishops were refusing to baptise, which I am skeptical of happening as it would be too grievous and certain countries (England for sure) actually had laws against postponing baptism for longer than a month at a point in its history.
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Postby Taalcon » Wed Feb 10, 2010 2:25 pm

I would need to double check on the source for that. It is worth noting that those are for extreme situations where neither a priest nor a bishop can be accessed. I'm also relatively certain that it could be extended to if priests and bishops were refusing to baptise, which I am skeptical of happening as it would be too grievous and certain countries (England for sure) actually had laws against postponing baptism for longer than a month at a point in its history.
I picked up my first volume of the ANF, and flipped through it, and found the quote I referenced earlier. Just wanted to back up my statement with a reference. It's in the Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrneans, chapter VIII. (As cited in The Ante Nice Fathers 1:89).

Ignatius was a first generation Christian, and a direct student of John the Apostle, who appears to have received his authority from him. He served as Bishop at Antioch.

"Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the Bishop. Let that deemed a proper Eucharist which is administered either by the Bishop, or by one whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the Bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be...it is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that also is pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid."

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Postby elfprince13 » Mon May 17, 2010 1:14 am

ANYWAY, this forum was discussing free will. I challenge anybody to find a Bible verse that states clearly that man has the free will to do good. I have already given my verses on predestination, now I want to see yours.
Here's the text of a talk I gave last summer, which addresses your question specifically, and questions of free will and predestination more generally. http://sfgp.cemetech.net/reading/campfiretalks.pdf I've started on a more in-depth version drawing on several other sources, and for a more mature audience, but I haven't had the time. Nonetheless I'll point you towards a couple of my sources.
An essay exegeting the original Greek of the New Testament passages most commonly used to support election and predestination: http://sfgp.cemetech.net/reading/Biblic ... estina.pdf

And finally an essay, http://www.the-highway.com/DoublePredes ... proul.html arguing in your favor by a doctorate-holding professor of systematic theology at a Reformed Seminary in Florida. It's a good read, but it's almost embarassingly easy to refute, for something written by someone of his position and education. First of all, he commits a basic mathematical error in his attempt to distinguish between double and single predestination. I don't know how much probability or combinatorics you've studied, but this is one of the first things you should learn: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combination
When choosing elements from a set, 2 numbers are complementary with respect to the size of the set if together they add to its size. What that means is that if you have 12 people and elect 5 to be saved, it is equivalent to having those same 12 people and choosing 7 to be condemned as reprobates. For someone deadset on a strong Calvinist view of predestination, it is certainly reassuring of one's view of God to distinguish between double and single predestination, and tell yourself that God only chooses those He will save, but such a distinction is purely fallacious in practice. The more disturbing part of the essay is his admittedly willful dance around the most pressing issue surrounding predestination, which is the question of the origin of sin.
Though this writer favors the infralapsarian view along the lines developed by Turrettini, it is important to note that both views see election and reprobation in light of the fall and avoid the awful conclusion that God is the author of sin. Both views protect the boundaries Berkouwer mentions.
Phrased bluntly: regardless of which view of predestination you choose, you have to base your theology entirely on the state of our post-Fall world in order to maneuver your way around the belief that God is responsible for bringing sin into the world in the first place. That is to say, if we were sinless and in perfect communion with God prior to the Fall, than it was by His planning that sin is a problem at all.

Hope this sways your opinion a little - I'd hate to see your zeal for God's word wasted on spreading the spiritually unproductive tenets of Calvinism.
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Postby CezeN » Thu Jul 01, 2010 5:20 pm

Elfprince, or anyone for that matter, how do you interpret the scriptures that say that God hardened the pharoah's heart - in order for him to chase after the Israelites who were leaving and do some of the other things he did - in the context of the idea of free will?
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Postby jotabe » Fri Jul 02, 2010 5:33 am

A literal interpretation cannot be conciled with a good loving god, so i don't interpret it literally.
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Postby Azarel » Wed Jul 07, 2010 8:45 am

"When you decide, four ways are open to you: good, evil, life and death. Your own decision make the choice.
...Sirach says we are free and responsible, so did Moses in Deut 30:15-20 "life and death are before you, choose."

But, I think generally, you have to accept also that God is able to act and affect things in certain ways for a purpose.

However, I guess that is not the only interpretation.

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Postby Rei » Wed Jul 07, 2010 11:07 am

I guess I just feel that as we humans have free will, so does God and all the more so. If God chose to harden Pharaoh's heart, it was because that was the best way to demonstrate to the nations that He is God, and to show the Israelites exactly who it is that is saving them (that is, not the Egyptian gods whom He was breaking in each of the plagues). I do not believe that God would harden anyone's heart unto damnation who desired to glorify Him.

Very often, though, we do try to claim free will at the expense of the will of God. Or rather, often by "free will" we really mean "free from God exerting His will". And as much as God allows us choice and freedom to try to follow His will or not, that does not negate His shaping and guiding influence.
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Postby elfprince13 » Wed Jul 07, 2010 8:09 pm

I guess I just feel that as we humans have free will, so does God and all the more so. If God chose to harden Pharaoh's heart, it was because that was the best way to demonstrate to the nations that He is God, and to show the Israelites exactly who it is that is saving them (that is, not the Egyptian gods whom He was breaking in each of the plagues). I do not believe that God would harden anyone's heart unto damnation who desired to glorify Him.

Very often, though, we do try to claim free will at the expense of the will of God. Or rather, often by "free will" we really mean "free from God exerting His will". And as much as God allows us choice and freedom to try to follow His will or not, that does not negate His shaping and guiding influence.
This exactly. You've said almost exactly what I wanted to say, and probably a bit more eloquently too. The only point I would add is that it's foolhardy to build your theology on exegesis of a single passage.
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Re: Free Will

Postby piers_styx » Mon Apr 25, 2011 8:33 pm

Not sure exactly which section this belongs in, but it relates somewhat to religion, so I figure I'll stick it here.

Warning: This is basically going to be a long ramble, just throwing some thoughts out there and seeing what kind of responses I get.

So, recently my friend has gotten me thinking about the concept of free will. I was extremely religious until I went away for college, at which point I began questioning the beliefs I was brought up with. I'm still trying to figure it out. However, I have come to the following conclusions:

1. As far as science can tell, everything in the physical world follows laws, such that every action cause theoretically predictable reactions. An atom does not "decide" to bond with another atom, it's just the result of immutable laws.

2. Anything composed entirely of parts that follow predictable, immutable rules will also follow predictable immutable rules.

3. Taking 1 and 2 together, if we assume that people are entirely physical, then people simply follow these rules, and therefore have no free will.

4. If, therefore, we conclude that people have free will, we must conclude that there is something non-physical, which can nevertheless influence the physical world.

This non-physical, interactive "thing" is what I think most religions would call the soul. If we accept that this "thing" exists, what kind of thing is it? Why and How do people (or animals, depending on who you talk to) have this and not, say, rocks and trees? And if this non-physical, yet physically influential, thing exists, suddenly the idea of things like mind over matter seem a lot less crazy.

This is just what's been bouncing around in my head, and my logic could be completely whacked, please tell me if it it. However, for the life of me, I cannot see how one can believe in free will without believing in this "thing".

I'd challenge that the rules of science are immutable. When you advance far enough in either size direction, either sub-atomically small or cosmically large, the laws of Newtonian physics simply cease to exist and reality begins to work in really unpredictable ways. And its this ordered chaotic form of the Universe that really has always amazed me. The fact that anything really can happen and does happen in the Universe has always lead me to believe in free will.
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Postby Janus%TheDoorman » Tue May 17, 2011 11:45 am

No.

Newtonian physics don't "cease to exist", and the universe doesn't behave in weird, unpredictable ways, and it certainly doesn't do so just because you are looking at something really big or really small. Everything from quarks to quasars all act in accordance with the same laws of physics. At the moment quantum field theory and general relativity are our best descriptions of everything we've observed as yet. Every atom in your body can be predicted to act accurately according to the laws of quantum mechanics. If you take the time to work through the calculations, taking into account relativistic and quantum effects will always give you a more accurate prediction than do Newtonian calculations. It's just that in a very narrow band of conditions, Newton's predictions are within billionths of a percent of the relativistic and quantum predictions, and are much easier to calculate.

With regards to free will, I'm not sure what it is we're claiming we do or don't "have". What is it that actually happens that's different between a human who does have free will and a body with all the atoms in exactly the same places that doesn't have free will? There's been a lot of talk about God and souls in this thread, but consider the case of Watson, IBM's computer that beat Jeopardy's best champions at their own game. Presented with a challenge in the form of a question, Watson sorts through volumes of information, formulates possible responses to the situation, assigns probabilities of success to those choices and then even decides if it's confident enough to risk the loss associated with a wrong answer. It does all this in a purely physical manner, electrons bouncing around circuits, with no mention of a soul or free will. What is it that humans do that's different from this?

What exactly is a soul supposed to be? A "non-physical thing that interacts with a physical system"? This is a contradiction in terms. Anything that interacts with a physical system is necessarily physical, and yet there's no such special extra phenomenon detected that affects human brains. If we lived in a universe where souls existed, some part of our body would have to, at some point, act in a way that's not predicted by laws of physics that don't include souls. Can anyone provide any evidence that this has ever happened?

Having gone through the entire topic, no one seems to have said "We must have free will because if we didn't, the universe would be different in X,Y, or Z ways." Everyone has assumed God or souls or free will exists, and then rationalized from there.
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Postby jotabe » Tue May 17, 2011 11:54 am

The difference between IBM's Watson and ourselves is that we can track down Watson's decision making process, and we can't do that with our own, because it's so much more complicated. This is made even simpler by the fact that Watson's purpouse is just to win the game, while human purpouses are multiple and often incompatible.

But i'd be content to admit that Watson exhibits a (very small) degree of free will.
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Postby Janus%TheDoorman » Tue May 17, 2011 1:02 pm

Are you arguing that it's in principle impossible to map the circuitry of the human brain, or saying that free will is a good way to think about the areas we haven't explicitly mapped yet, a concept to be abandoned once they are?
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Postby jotabe » Tue May 17, 2011 4:27 pm

Oh, i'm sure that the brain hardware is quite well documented. I am also sure that even after we have mapped out the whole circuitry, we can still talk about "free will" with reasonable accuracy.

The problem is not about knowing the "boundary conditions" of the problem, the circuitry, as you say. The problem is solving it with a good accuracy. And in a reasonable amount of time. That's what i understand about a process being deterministic or not.
The brain is a terribly complex circuit. And it has many feedbacks and inhibitions for every single neurone. It's, in short, a complex system, whose state for a certain time you can't solve in a deterministic way. You can estimate probabilities, but that's about it. Kinda like weather predictions, you can't calculate the state of the atmosphere for the future, but you can give probabilities.

We can learn how human brain works (reverse engineering, like Watson, or emulation), but we can't hope to be able to predict how a certain human brain will response under whatever external stimuli.
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Postby Janus%TheDoorman » Tue May 17, 2011 5:46 pm

It's true that brain function is an incredibly complex and sensitive process, but I don't see how any of that implies it doesn't operate in a deterministic, wholly predictable way. Simply because we, as a species, do not possess sufficient computing power to do so at present time in no way implies that the brain is therefore unpredictable on a deterministic level. None of the inputs or boundary conditions of the brain operate in a non-deterministic manner, and neither does the brain, so how can its output be non-deterministic. Indeed, there is no separate "output" event, it's merely the deterministic result of deterministic processes. It merely seems an "output" to us because we don't yet fully understand how the process works.

Saying "free will" will be a part of our map of the brain after we've nailed down how every neuronal connection works is like expecting phlogiston to get a place in a combustion reaction. Once we map out the brain, its operation will seem like clockwork. There's no place to point to and say, "And here free will operates and changes the action of the mechanism such that it operates differently if we removed the free will device". The only way that makes some sense is to refer to the collection of mechanisms that react to situational inputs, weigh possible reactions, assign preference to one and act on it. In such a case, calling such a thing "free will" is pointless at best and maliciously obtuse at worst, taking a perfectly understandable system and bestowing upon it an air of mysticism that obscures the issue.

I'll even go so far as to say it's morally wrong to claim people have free will, because that's the sort of morality that blames the poor for their "bad choices" and sees punishing drug abuse and crimes of survival as the right thing to do, and sees war as the correct response to terrorism, as if either of those scenarios is the result of a free choice and not desperate pressure. As long as we assume people have free will, we'll never accept that people are forged by their surroundings and that to change the people we have to change the surroundings. The world is a crueler, harsher place because our society and policies continue to try and grapple with a phantom called free will instead of actually changing the scenario.
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Postby jotabe » Wed May 18, 2011 12:56 am

I just don't think it's computable at all. Like the atmosphere, it's too sensitive to the initial state, to the electric input (i problably shouldn't have used "boundary conditions" earlier referring to the circuitry, because the input is also part of them). Fail to determine the input with total accuracy and your predictions steming from deterministic calculations will break down.

It's like atmospherical physics: it's not simply a matter of having powerful enough machines to calculate it. It's not that the equations that describe the interactions between the atoms in a gas aren't deterministic. But fail to provide an absolutely exact mesurement of their starting positions and momenta, and the errors you make in said measurement grow over time, disabling your ability to predict the exact future state of the atmosphere.

And there is output: every electronic circuit gives an output as response to an input. Multiple, too many outputs, to be sure.

A different matter is the degree of freedom we have within the free will. The control we have over our free will.
Also, about war and crime punishment... i think that's more on the line of how societies, cultures are shaped by mutual struggle and competition, generating a selective pressure on the values and laws of those societies, not something that has to do with the belief in an absolutely free will.
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Postby Janus%TheDoorman » Wed May 18, 2011 7:51 am

Say you had a computer on the scale of Deep Thought (the Douglas Adams original), with more than enough processing power to accurately simulate a human being and all of it's surroundings down to the quark level, taking into account all external forces and influences above the level of thermal noise. No need to worry about imprecision in the measurements.

That simulation would then act in a completely predictable way. Run the simulation 10 billion times and it will always act in exactly the same way. The simulation accounts for every physical element of the universe affecting the person. Now I can't imagine that this simulation could be said to have "free will" in any sense of the phrase. There's all the processes we've discussed - receiving information about the situation, formulating and choosing an option in response - all completely accounted for by the physical simulation of the brain. How then does the actual physical process of human cognition have any more degrees of freedom than does the simulation?
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Postby jotabe » Wed May 18, 2011 1:52 pm

This is where we disagree, even if it's true it's a murky area.

In any case, if you go to the quantum levels, all the results that involve quantum mechanics are purely probabilistic. If you want to accurately represent that through a simulation, you need a random number generator.

What is unclear (for me at least) is if quantum probabilies have any effect in the largely macroscopic way the neurones work. They don't, if you we are talking about regular circuit theory calculation... but if we go for a real simulation from first principles (fundamental equations of matter behaviour + fundamental particles)... then you will have a quantum probability pile-up.

Precision is important. No machine can calculate with an infinite precision: just think of the irrational numbers: they have infinite ciphers to compute.

Still, if you have such a computer that you can simulate a brain (we can just summarize a human being into a brain), i'd wager with you that you won't get the same results all the time in the 10 billion runs, because of the effects i told you. The simulated person would be an entirely free-willing individual.
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Postby CezeN » Fri May 27, 2011 3:42 pm

I'll even go so far as to say it's morally wrong to claim people have free will, because that's the sort of morality that blames the poor for their "bad choices" and sees punishing drug abuse and crimes of survival as the right thing to do, and sees war as the correct response to terrorism, as if either of those scenarios is the result of a free choice and not desperate pressure. As long as we assume people have free will, we'll never accept that people are forged by their surroundings and that to change the people we have to change the surroundings. The world is a crueler, harsher place because our society and policies continue to try and grapple with a phantom called free will instead of actually changing the scenario.
I gotta say I disagree.

Maybe it's just me, but I never thought of free will as ignoring the outside influences that pressure you into decision. However, there's generally never one outside influence directing you to one choice, while there's no outside influence affecting directing you to the other. When I chose to type up this response, there was Cracked.com, my own laziness, and other reasons that suggested I shouldn't spend the time writing this. On the otherhand, my desire to voice disagreement, the interest I have in this subject, ect. were reasons to write it.

In my mind, free will accounts for outside influences because there are generally opposing influences that you have to choose between.
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Postby Janus%TheDoorman » Sat May 28, 2011 12:34 am

You're assuming free will from the get go and then bending the hypothesis to fit the facts.

Noticing that the outcome of your choice process depends on the apparently most rewarding options based on past experience lends more credence to the hypothesis of a deterministic choice process than it does to the idea of one whose outcome is completely unpredictable.

Tell me, what would have been different about the events leading up to your posting a reply if you didn't have free will?
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Postby CezeN » Sat May 28, 2011 3:27 pm

You're assuming free will from the get go and then bending the hypothesis to fit the facts.

Noticing that the outcome of your choice process depends on the apparently most rewarding options based on past experience lends more credence to the hypothesis of a deterministic choice process than it does to the idea of one whose outcome is completely unpredictable.

Tell me, what would have been different about the events leading up to your posting a reply if you didn't have free will?
That's because I suscribe to a different definition of free will than you and everyonelse; one that is self-evident.
For me, free will is the ability to make conscious decisions and choices.

Here's a post I made on the subject a year or so ago, on another forum:
We of course know what free means.
Will-
noun 1. the faculty of conscious and especially of deliberate action; the power of control the mind has over its own actions: the freedom of the will.
Your will is your conciousness. Free will basically means that you're conciously able to do what you want to do. The fact that you can make choices, be it pre-determined or influenced, means you have it.
Now, deliberate:
adjective 1. carefully weighed or considered; studied; intentional: a deliberate lie.
Meaning, the actions you chose too do, the choices you made, you did because you had the ability to analyze and weigh them.
This is why I dismiss the whole "your environment or genes made the choices", argument. Your environment and genes and whatever else simply added to the factors that you weigh when making the choice, that is part of your free will.

Again-
free will
n.
The ability or discretion to choose; free choice: chose to remain behind of my own free will.

Discretion: –noun 1. the power or right to decide or act according to one's own judgment; freedom of judgment or choice: It is entirely within my discretion whether I will go or stay.
Now, how exactly does the fact that your experiences shape you go against free will?
According to the definition, those factors are an important component in free will - for they give you the ability to make your own judgment(aka analyzation) based on them. In the end, your making your choices using your own "discretion" with those experiences, that knowledge, and other factors as a guidline.

Not having free will would be like the concept of a zombie. A host using others bodies to do what it wants, without the person having a concious decision over his own choices and actions.
Whether or not your choice process is deterministic has no bearing on free will, in my opinion. You're still consciously making decisions.

Nonetheless, since free will is essentially a metaphysical concept, I don't believe it can be proven or disproven(according to my Psych teacher!). Thus, any philosophical argument about it is based on the hypothetical derivation that it either exists or doesn't exist. That's why people are arguing from the get-go of it existing, because it comes down to belief.

EDIT:
"Tell me, what would have been different about the events leading up to your posting a reply if you didn't have free will?"
I wouldn't be thinking about what you said because I wouldn't be aware of my own existence, thoughts, and opinions. If I decided to reply, it'd be because the Bugger Queen :wink: forced me, as a slave of herself, to do it.
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Postby jotabe » Sat May 28, 2011 4:10 pm

Nonetheless, since free will is essentially a metaphysical concept, I don't believe it can be proven or disproven(according to my Psych teacher!).
That's why i like my conditional definition better ;) that is, that a being has free will if he's conscious of his decisions and if said decisions cannot be predicted (either the decision-making mechanism is non-deterministic, or if it is, the predictions are non-computable).
Of course, my definitions are not definitory at all XD so feel free to ignore it...
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Postby neo-dragon » Sun May 29, 2011 7:24 pm

I like your definition, Jota. If you want to get too picky about what free will means it is indeed hard to "prove" that it exists.

It's like randomness. Nothing is really random, but we call outcomes random when the factors that influence them are so minute and/or various that we can't account for them and thus know the outcome before it occurs.
"Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic."
- Frank Herbert's 'Dune'


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