The Instigator
Aziar44
Pro (for)
Losing
19 Points
The Contender
kvaughan
Con (against)
Winning
27 Points

Christianity does not support determinism

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/13/2007 Category: Religion
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 5,476 times Debate No: 359
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (14)

 

Aziar44

Pro

Free will and determinism have been debated back and forth for centuries. But I wonder which one is better suited for Christianity. To me, it seems as though free will is a better match for Christianity. The Bible says that we have the choice to turn away from or accept God and Jesus and there are numerous other examples where it seems as though we have free will. I don't want to get too much into the free will vs. determinism debate directly, just which viewpoint is more compatible with Christianity. In other words, would the Christian faith support the viewpoint of free will or determinism? You may also argue for fatalism in place of determinism if you wish to do so.
kvaughan

Con

It is clear that the modern conception of Christianity sees freewill as more compatible with the religion. This is largely because determinism is attractive to virtually no one and a religion where determinism is true does not propagate itself easily because individuals have no motivation to convert to the religion. That being said, Christianity is more compatible with determinism. There are two arguments: first, the problem of omniscience and second that determinism is in the bible.

The problem of omniscience is that of reconciling freedom and foreknowledge, specifically the existence of divine foreknowledge with the existence of human freedom. If God knows all of our future actions, then the future is fixed, but if the future is fixed, it seems that there is nothing that we can do to change it. The ability to determine our future actions, though, is what constitutes human freedom. Divine foreknowledge, then, seems to preclude the possibility of our being free agents.

Also, it's in the Bible: a few quotes for you:

"God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation." -- 2 Thessalonians 2:13

"And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." -- Acts 13:48

"For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth. .... For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction." -- Romans 9:11-22

There are others, but that should suffice for now.
Debate Round No. 1
Aziar44

Pro

First, on the point of omniscience: I do not believe that knowing past, present, and future means that the fates of all humans are determined. Simply because God is a "perfect predictor" of sorts does not mean he caused these events to happen. There is a difference between knowing without a doubt what will happen and causing it to happen. Just because he has divine foreknowledge does not mean that we don't have free will. For example, if I could somehow travel through time to the future, let's suppose I simply travel forward and look at the score of a football game and then go back to the present time. I could then perfectly and accurately predict what the score of that game will be in the future. God's knowledge is much the same way, except that he needs not to travel time because he sees time as a viewable, set continuum. To God, since he can see all time at once instead of "looking back" into the past or "forward" into the future, he merely sees all. So to the problem of omniscience, in summary, a perfect "predictor" does not mean he is the cause of all events and that everything is deterministic/fatalistic.

As to the argument from the Bible, there are passages which contradict determinism and support free will. I'll supply a few examples:

In Joshua Chapter 24,
14 "Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

2 Thessalonians 2:10 - and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved

Deuteronomy 30:15 "See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, 16 "in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. 17 "But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, 18 "I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong [your] days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. 19 "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, [that] I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.

Certainly not a pleasant fate if you turn away from God, but clearly people have the option to turn away from God if they so choose. It seems as though the Bible will not clarify this quite enough for this debate.

I also believe determinism/fatalism is not compatible with Christianity because it seems to forgo justice and punishment, which God is clearly not against. A consequence of determinism's "each action/event has a previous action/event that caused it" is the question of how can anyone be blamed for his or her actions if they were caused to do so by an endless string of prior events? I would venture that God does indeed believe in punishment for those who do wrong and I doubt I need to cite specific passages in the Bible for this argument. I will do so if necessary, but God punishes the wicked many times in the Bible and determinism would seem to suggest that God and people alike should not punish anyone. That seems to be in contrast with Christianity.
kvaughan

Con

Let's be clear about what freedom is: for an action to be free, you have to be able to either choose that action or an alternative one. God knows what I am going to do and as such, it is impossible that I could partake in any other action. This, by definition removes my free will. Of course, your reply is that knowing what event will happen and causing it to happen are entirely different matters, but while this is true in the usually human sense, I do not think it is true for God.

After knowing someone for a while, I may be able to predict what kind of soft drink they enjoy. If I guess correctly that my friend will purchase a Pepsi (the superior drink) I would say that I have not made him purchase said drink. Instead, I have played the odds, taken a guess and been correct. However, God does not work this way. With God, he knows that you are going to buy a Pepsi. He has always known this. You cannot under any circumstances fail to purchase the Pepsi. In the case where the human makes the prediction, there is a possibility that something else could happen. In the case where God makes the prediction no such possibility can exist. This is determinism.

Also, I might as how it is possible that God could be a "perfect predictor" as you claim he is. Clearly he cannot be this in an indeterministic universe; it is only possible in a world where it is possible to know the future because the future is determined by causal chains. This fact alone indicates that there is no free will by your own admission.

Onto the Bible.

Since you do not refute that my quotes do provide evidence that there is no freewill, I'm going to assume you agree that they do indicate this. Your response is to say that the Bible also indicates that we do have freewill. This line of argument is problematic because it is entirely possible that the Bible supports both the view that there is freewill and the view that there is not. (indeed the fact that Calvinists existed is evidence of this.) So my quotes still support the view that Christianity DOES support determinism even if I grant to you that it also supports anti-determinism as well. Since my only burden here is to demonstrate that determinism is supported by Christianity and not to demonstrate that it is the best possible interpretation, your quotes are irrelevant. The only relevant argument is to prove that my quotes are somehow out of context or otherwise fallacious, which you have not done.

You end with the argument that since god is in favor of justice and punishment, there must be freewill. There is a rather large step here that you completely miss: while it is wrong to send someone to Hell if determinism is true, you haven't proven that God is good. In fact, there are two ways that God could not be Good.

The first is that God is evil. He allows so much pain and suffering into the world when he could, very easily wave his magic God-wand and make it all go away. This is, by human standards immoral. It could be the case that God created a world without freewill, then waits for it to play out and damns those who fail even though it's not their fault.

A second alternative is that God is beyond human morality. After all, he created morality and thus is not bound by its standards or you merely cannot understand God's mysterious ways. I mean if God wants to create a deterministic world and still punish people for their actions in it, who are you to disagree? And, since it is not logically impossible to create a deterministic universe and punish people for their actions in it, you have no reason to reject this alternative position.
Debate Round No. 2
Aziar44

Pro

If you're using the "God works in mysterious ways" argument, I could just as easily say that God's foreknowledge not interfering with our free will is just beyond our human capacity to understand. God is just so far beyond our level of thought that we cannot understand how he knows the future yet we retain free will.

Going in reverse order as you can see, I would reject your other idea that God is not good by supplying these quotes from the Bible:

PSALM 145:8-9
8 The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy.
9 The Lord is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works.

LUKE 6:35-36
35 "But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Highest. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.
36 "Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

God's goodness is a main tenet of Christianity and to argue against it for the sake of determinism makes determinism much less compatible with Christianity simply because of that. Free will is supportive of justice as is Christianity.

As for our lovely quotes we supplied, my topic may be that Christianity does not support determinism but in my opening argument I clarify what the debate is exactly: "In other words, would the Christian faith support the viewpoint of free will or determinism?" So our biblical quotes nullify each other in a way. By the name of the debate I would agree that my quotes mean nothing, but as to the actual argument and question I have laid out, they are meaningful in that they show free will in the Bible. Still, there is evidence of both free will and determinism in the Bible, thus I thought we should look beyond direct scripture about it.

I understand what you're trying to say about causal chains and that "perfect prediction" isn't possible in an indeterministic universe, but I will explain further. You brought up playing the odds that your friend would buy a certain soft drink because you knew him/her so well. This is different from the example I gave about the hypothetical time machine. In my example, I am not going to be wrong and I am not going to play the odds when I guess the score to that game, I will know 100% the outcome. That doesn't mean the universe is deterministic, it simply means I could know both the present and the future at once (in minute form). Time is obviously a tricky subject to deal with, but I don't believe that God's knowledge of all time at a given moment means that we do not have free will.

I do not believe that I have admitted a deterministic universe to exist. God seems to be above time almost, I mean, he created time in a sense when he created this universe according to Christianity. So as I've said before, it is not as though he sees the present as the present, it is all in one continuum. Our past, present, and future are all the same to him, like points on a line. Again, this is a complex argument because it is hard for the human mind to imagine something above time, such an elementary concept.

One other argument against determinism is that determinism actually doesn't support God's existence at all. It is defined as the belief that "every event is causally determined by an unbroken prior chain of occurrences." So would that not go against the idea of God?

If a determinist were to ask a Christian the question "How did the earth come to be?" A Christian would most likely say "God." or perhaps the Big Bang theory if they were very metaphorical in their interpretation of the Bible. And the determinist may ask "What caused the Big Bang?" but whatever question the determinst will ask, it will always come back to God for a Christian. And this is unacceptable for determinism. If each event is causally determined by an unbroken prior chain of occurences, there can be no first cause. A determinist would most likely hold the belief that cyclical theory is correct.

Cyclical theory says that the universe has been contracting, expanding, and exploding for infinite time and will do so for infinite time. Therefore, there is an infinite chain of causes that would please the determinist. But in Christianity, God is that first cause. He is eternal, he did not cause himself and nothing caused him. Determinsim certainly wouldn't support that claim because there had to be some cause before God and cause before that and a cause before that, so on and so on to infinity.

An infinite number of causes is what determinism would support. An infinite being who has no cause but has always been is something determinims would not support. Therefore, free will is the much better option. It allows for more openness in the existence of God in that it does not defy his existence as determinism does. Justice is supported by both free will and Christianity. And last of all, omniscience does not mean there is no free will, just that God is beyond time, as he created it in the first place.

Thank you for debating with me, it has been a pleasure. Look forward to hearing your conclusion/counterargument.
kvaughan

Con

Aziar 44: this has been an interesting debate and a pleasure. In my experience few people defend Christianity intelligently, so your defense was much appreciated

I'm going to make this argument mercifully short. I provided you with Bible verses saying quite explicitly that determinism is true and you did not disagree with this interpretation instead you presented verses that say something contrary. Thus, by your own admission the Bible supports determinism.

Since the Bible is the basis of Christianity, we can conclude that Christianity supports determinism even if it also supports freewill. Sure, there may be some theological conundrums with this fact, but that doesn't matter because we can never fully understand God, we only have his words to guide us.

So, because of the way you phrased the debate, I necessarily win the debate because I have proven that Christianity does support determinism.
Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by keiler3 6 years ago
keiler3
What I don't understand is how we arrive at fact from theory. In other words, we assume God exists for the sake of this discussion. We can make up anything we want if we assume God exists, it simply depends on what one believes God to be. How do we move from belief to knowledge? Doesn't one have to first prove God's existence?
However, if we look at Christianity in particular, it seems freewill wins this debate. Why would Jesus have been so determined (for lack of a better word) to change peoples hearts if he already knew what they were going to do? Determinism, from a Christian standpoint, renders everything that Jesus did on earth, other than the resurrection itself, as pointless. Jesus' efforts suggest freewill. Paul's letters sometimes contradict with the message of the Gospel writers. Paul is not the final authority on how one interprets the gospels. This is particularly the case since Paul was writing before the writing of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Posted by PreacherFred 9 years ago
PreacherFred
"I provided you with Bible verses saying quite explicitly that determinism is true and you did not disagree with this interpretation instead you presented verses that say something contrary." In doing so, I believe that Aziar44 was providing counterpoint and not "Thus, by your own admission the Bible supports determinism."

Respectfully, I do not agree with Solarman1969 in that religious texts such as the Bible or Torah leave too much to fate. I do agree, however, that man's fate is in his own hands since he has the free will to choose.

Logically, God knowing what we are going to do does not mean that we can't do something else. It means that God simply knows what we have chosen to do ahead of time. Our freedom is not restricted by God's foreknowledge; our freedom is simply realized ahead of time by God. In this, our natural ability to make another choice has not been removed anymore than my choice of what to write inside the parenthesis (hello) was removed by God who knew I would put the word "hello" in the parentheses before the universe was made. Before typing the word "hello," I pondered which word to write. My pondering was my doing and the choice was mine. How then was I somehow restricted in freedom when choosing what to write if God knew what I was going to do? No matter what choice we freely make can be known by God and His knowing it doesn't mean we aren't making a free choice.

Scripturally, God inhabits eternity. (see Psalm 90:2) But this verses, an others, do not declare that God lives inside or outside of time. Rather, the Bible tells us that God is eternal. scriptures are not definitive on this issue and we can only conclude what it does say; namely, that God is eternal, without beginning, without end, and that He can accurately and precisely predict what will happen.

Good debate, the both of you!
Posted by Solarman1969 9 years ago
Solarman1969
One of the MAIN problems with the religions of the Bible and Torah is that they chalk up way too much to fate

your fate is in your own hands

believe it
Posted by Aziar44 9 years ago
Aziar44
Now I wish I would've phrased it "Which is more compatible with Christianity?" But oh well, it's my first debate here so next time I'll be sure to clarify the topic in the actual topic instead of my first argument. You had very good arguments and I think this was a very good and interesting debate.

Good luck on your next debating endeavor!
Posted by Csavage472 9 years ago
Csavage472
Man, this is a TOUGH one. Personally, I DIS-agree with KVaughn's position of Predestination.

Nevertheless, I must in all FAIRNESS give him this debate b/c it cited more ACCURATE citations from Scripture. However, his scriptural citations were out of CONTEXT, so I CHALLENGE him (haha)!!!
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