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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

"Glad to be here!"

A Dialogue

Scene: The edge of the Lake of Fire after the passing of sentence on a lost soul, named Jake.

Characters: JAKE, a lost soul, and ERNIE an enforcement angel

ERNIE speaks first.

"Go on. Off to Hell with you."

"Wait! That looks a lot more unpleasant than I expected!"

"Of course. Hop in."

"Wait! Wait! Don't you think that this is terribly unfair?"

"Here we go again."

"I mean, don't you think that this goes against free will?"

"Go ahead."

"I mean, if God is sovergn over the human will, then there is no way I could have willed otherwise than I did in the course of my life."

"God is only holding you responsible for the deeds you did because you wanted to, so you are not being condemned for anything you didn't want to do."

"True but my wanting to sin was not something up to me. If I had wanted to be a saint and not a sinner, I couldn't have any control over that. Only God could."

"It was either God or blind luck. Since you could only do what you want, it's not like if God 'withheld His power' that you would thus be in control of your destiny."

"So you are a 'compatibilist' about free will then?"

"Of course. We are all good Reformed theologians up here. If free will means anything, it means being able to choose between actions. But actions are not mere states of affairs or events. They have an end or purpose which is essential to their character. Consequently, while choice is necessarily a condition of action, mere choice is not sufficient to account for directed or purpose determined feature of action since choice is simply the power to actualize or bring about one state of affairs rather than another. To account for the directed feature of action, will must also include inclination as well as choice. So free will must be about action, choice. and inclination. So one acts freely when they can choose the action they want. These are the necessary and sufficient conditions for free will. To choose to act apart from inclination is impossible, since what would result could not be an action. Further, a choice-making is a paradigm case of an unmoved mover, a something that cannot act unless first inacted. As such, it either is unexplained, a brute choice, or explained by a prior choice-making, or explained by a prior inclination. A brute choice would result in no action, as explained before, and this not be a meaningful expression of the human will. If you, per impossible, could have an infinite regress of choice-makings, it still would not be sufficient to account for the the thing to be explained, which is the human action, just like in the Aristotle's metaphysics. (You'll be passing Limbo on your way down so you can check with him personally.) So the explanation must terminate on something in motion and in the will which naturally is inclination. Just like in Aristotle's argument, the causal series terminates in a final cause. So a free act is an act that chooses according to the soul's inclination. In short, you are free if you can do what you want. That being the case, free will is comapatible with divine sovergnty since God can manage our freedom without interfereing with it by managing what we want. Now dive in!"

"Wait! Don't you see? Let's suppose that there is a sheriff of a small town full of good people who is very able and clever. The town is a very good town with good people so the sheriff doesn't have a lot to do. He wants to be remembered as a worthwhile sheriff but if something bad doesn't happen the town will never see his skills at putting away crime. He finally gets a great idea. He checks the local hospital to find out about all the new births of children that month. Then he begins a longterm program of cultivating evil in the hearts of the children so that most of them grow up to be criminals and he can demonstrate his concern for justice. He does this, not by coercing them by force, but rather by brilliantly managing their circumstances so that they cater to all their weakness and most base desires. He is very careful not to make them do anything they do not want to do but only managing according to what they want to do. He thus succeeds in his plan and the town realizies what a valuable sheriff he is. But do we really think that those kids are freely being criminals? Isn't this what God is doing according to you?"

"So you think that it's the apostle Paul who's the real monster in Romans 9 do you?"

"That's just a matter of an uncharitable interpretation. You see . . . ."

"Stop! We don't need to play that game. It's time for me to show you this. Here."

"What is it? It looks like an album for a certificate."

"Look inside it."

"It looks like a photo of a bunch of guys at a crawfish boil party all dressed in neon clothing."

"And who does that guy look like -- the one with the huge stogie between his teeth."

"Why that looks like the one who was on the throne in the room we just left!"

"That's right! And who does that guy off to the side look like?"

"Why it's . . . it's ME!"

"We all had a pretty good time then."

"I don't remember this. When was this taken?"

"At the Covenant of Redemption ratification party 'before' the creation of Heaven and Earth."

"I thought it was just the members of the Trinity. You mean all of us were pre-existent souls that were part of the consultation? I didn't see that anywhere in the Bible."

"Something like that. Only you were a lot less utilitarian then. You thought that justice was objective and intrinsic and worth pursuing for its own sake back then. The Bible only has stuff on a need to know basis and you really didn't need to know this. There was a 'time' when all souls existed in a state of perfect rectitude and with a perfectly clear frame of mind. The plan of God to create was presented before all of you while you were all competant to be ideal observers not blind to any relevant fact nor biased askew toward any judgement. It was shown that there was no coherent world plan possible that did not include lost sinners and that the one proposed was the best on the balance of considerations based on aspects of the character of God with respect to His justice, His love, His mercy, and so on. Everyone considered the various possible ways the world might go and the various roles they would play in each scheme, until one was selected that was the best solution. No one minded and everyone was excited about the best way of acheiving the highest aim. Once the decision was made to uninanimous acceptance, creation proceeded apace with each soul waiting to fuflfil its role during its turn on stage. Each soul was the advocate for its appearance on the earth. Of course, I'm not getting it exactly right but you get the idea."

"Funny, I don't remember this."

"Now that you have the album in your hands, something like recollection should be happening to you now."

"Yes . . . yes . . . I see what you mean. In one sense, I have existed from all eternity but not so in another sense."

"There you go."

"So you're saying that at a time when I was a competent observer of all the possible worlds that God might make, I concurred in choosing this one knowing that in it, I would be eternally lost among other things?"

"That was your original position. See for yourself. Turn the page there."

"It's a will and testiment! It says, 'Whereas I am in a condition of exceptionally sound and competent judgement and whereas I have been fully informed of the relevent facts and whereas I concur with the judgement that this world is among the best world for bringing about the glory of God to whom such glory properly belongs and to whom I conscientiously intend to glorify, I hereby freely volunteer to play the part assigned to me by the said chosen plan, even though such a plan includes my ultimate damnation. Kudos on all the good work and congratulations.' And that is my signature by my hand on the bottom!"

"Even so."

"So what you're really saying is that in the case of God rather than the sheriff, its possible to see the particular course of life as a kind of rational contracting under ideal conditons with God even if I can't actually control the circumstances of my life and their impact on my desires."

"That would be a bingo. Anything else?"

"Let me think. Nope. I got nothing."

"Fine. Now skip along. You're scheduled to magmafy the leathery hide of the demons of lust so that it melts off their bones and exposes their screaming little nerve endings."

"I thought it was supposed to be the other way around."

"Boy, you're 0 for 3, aren't you?"