On Planned or Not

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There’s a great data department in the sky – that department is responsible for checking people in or out on a given date at a designated time.

The check-ins are the births. The assigned clerk has a card for Justin, who will check in later during the shift (3:52 am UTC) at 9 lbs 8 oz (4.3 kg). Before pacing the card to Accounting for record keeping during life on Earth, the noticed that Justin would eventually become a CEO of a prominent global company and live to the ripe age of 95.

William’s card was directly behind Justin’s because he is to be born two seconds later at a different hospital. Checking the records, the clerk applies a special sticker for expedition to the check-out group.

Accounting is much more high-tech as it tracks everyone’s determined roles for that day. With all the people in the world, there’s always much happening … and those occasional glitches in the system can cause a bit of disarray. But the Accounting staff works well under pressure, thus can get the plan back on track with seemingly unnoticeable successful adjustments.

Over in Check-Out, clerks are dealing with car accidents, cancer, heart attacks, murder, drowning, and many others. One particular clerk is unaware that William’s card will arrive at their desk for processing in a matter of hours. From the living human perspective, these clerks have a tough job … but they also look at it from a different perspective.

Some Christians see life this way – that is everything is predetermined in accordance to God’s plan for that individual – including meeting a person that turned out to be a network opportunity for potential employment … but could that have encounter been coincidental?

I don’t know why I used to believed in predestination – after all, I wasn’t taught that way in Catholic catechism … no friend guided me in that direction … I didn’t read it in an influential book … so I probably guided myself that way for whatever reason.

During my mid-20s and early in my teaching career, I met Nancy – a very bright and personable student whose father happened to be a Baptist minister. In a discussion with her, I mentioned the great database in the sky, to which she responded with a very important question – Do you really think God is that cruel?

Although it did take a long time to answer that question to myself (and I don’t know when I did), her question remained active in my mind for 40 years – but in a good way – well, at least for me.

There is no way I believe that God sent Hurricane Katrina to punish the people of New Orleans. God didn’t sent a horrific tsunami to Indonesia, or a drunk driver wildly across a road to collide with an unsuspected vehicle that killed multiple people – including a small child, a teen, and a parent. God doesn’t plan for people to be homeless, have mental illness, or be malnourished.

God didn’t make a networking opportunity possible, didn’t send volunteers to a disaster area, or provide a hole-in-one to a golfer. Nope, God didn’t make Justin a successful CEO, and Nancy wasn’t sent to me to deliver a message.

God didn’t inflict cancer on my mother nor any other unsuspecting person. God didn’t plan a young child drowning in a pool, a person’s violent shooting spree, or the physical deformities that would take William’s life in less than a day.

Nope – God isn’t that cruel .. and God isn’t playing out the world as if it was a video game. God is good. Free will is a gift to the natural world and to human beings, and with free will, many events will happen – positive and negative – which includes bad things to good people.

Thank you, Professor Nancy.

Other Posts on Free Will

 

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120 thoughts on “On Planned or Not

  1. Interesting Post, Frank. Being raised as a Catholic, serving as an altar boy for many years and going to Catholic grade and high school, I had many conversations with priests about the differing positions between predestination and free will. I never received an answer that seemed to satisfy me and in truth, whenever something didn’t make sense or defied logic, priests always fell back into the whole “faith” argument. I understand why but it’s difficult to marry the two.
    I agree with you, God doesn’t create the heartache that so many of us experience in our lives and I suppose that goes against some belief somewhere. People always say God doesn’t give us more than we can handle but I don’t believe God is so cruel that he lays those things on us. We each have our own choices to make, possess different genetic makeup, eat, drive and live lives in our own way. The gift of free will we’ve been given is ours to use as we choose. Sometimes those choices alter our lives in a negative way. I don’t know how that’s Gods fault.

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    • George,
      Our background and thoughts are very similar. You’ve explained it well. In my day, the catechisms started with three words that have stuck with me – God is good – and predetermined heartache just doesn’t fit those three words. Bottom line for me is that the many examples that people use are way too causal for my taste. Many thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Free will happened in the Garden of Eden friends. We know good and evil now. And the world was cursed because of it. God saves us from the eternal effects of this condition, if we choose Christ. Free will. Bad things happen to everyone in a fallen world. Christ is God who came to be one of us to save us out of this. But His kingdom is not of this world. Think eternity.

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    • CCT,
      Welcome first-time commenter. Garden of Eden’s role is a matter of interpretation, but that’s not the intent of this post. Nonetheless, The good and evil in the world is a human condition. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

      Like

  3. Most interesting post. What is, is.
    Though raised Catholic, I never had much to do with the church or the teachings. My mother ensured we did all the “necessary” rituals though she, herself was iffy about the whole God thing.
    I sometimes envy those with unwavering faith but I just believe in being present, doing the best we can and we’ll handle things in whatever manner we can, depending on our journey. I’ve never thought about God’s cruelty or the whole why me scenario. Why not me?
    Something to ponder as my head hits the pillow.
    And, good morning, Frank

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    • Dale,
      I wrote this post for those involved in Christianity with the realization that readers are all over the map in terms of thought. I’m glad you mentioned “Why not me?” because it’s an interesting thought and I have a personal story with that.

      My mom – a gentle, kind person to all – was battling cancer at the time. A CBS Sunday Morning segment was about a group of cancer survivors. I recall one saying that when he got cancer, he didn’t ask Why me? – but rather Why not me? … which caused me to wonder, What is so special about my mother that someone else should have the cancer, thus not her. I couldn’t come up with a reason – and that small event was played an important role for me.

      Glad to get you thinking – and Good Morning to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree. What is God anyway? A higher power, something unknowable in our present condition even though we have made many guesses… Is something more powerful than us? Sure, why not? It’s totally possible. Is that something determining our existence and plaguing us with hardship? I think not.

    Great post Frank.

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    • Trent,
      I surely am not going to try to answer that question because that’s not the intent of this post. However, the question is related. In a discussion at my church earlier this year, I the several predestination comments by others caused me to cringe. But, because that topic wasn’t the intent of that discussion, I didn’t step in to challenge.

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      • But you claim to know what God is like, and those terrorists claim to know what God is like. What’s the difference?

        Predestination is a temporal, linear idea, an idea that belongs to time. “Eternity” is an idea outside of time. Predestination, cause and effect, are ideas that are irrelevant to any idea of eternity.

        Forgive me, but these kinds of discussions are fruitless. I learned that many years ago when I was studying for my doctorate in theology. It’s all just chasing around the mulberry bush.

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  5. Maybe God doesn’t plan for any of that to happen, but I am having trouble reconciling the notion of benevolent and omnipotent God with earthquakes and tsunamis. We may have free will or we may not, but in any case our free will doesn’t in any way extend to natural disasters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • X,
      Correct, our free will doesn’t play in natural disasters as earthquakes. However, some would say that God caused them as punishments. I strongly disagree because I would say that free will is extended nature and the universe as they are free to operate within the laws of nature. I actually address that thought in at least two of the links at the end of the post.

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      • I know that some preachers and politicians call natural disasters God’s punishment, but I’m an atheist, so I can’t agree with them either.
        However, I’ve read all three posts you linked, and a lot of other posts and articles on the topic, and I haven’t seen a satisfactory explanation on why would a benevolent and omnipotent God would send (or allow) a tsunami to indiscriminately kill 200,000 people, including thousands of innocent children. Either he is loving but powerless to stop it, or he can stop it but chooses not to, in which case this is hardly loving.

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        • X,

          I’m being sincere when I ask what I’m about to ask: when you read posts like this (and others, as well, apparently), what is your reason? Is it part of a search for truth? Or is it more about a search for debate? I’ve done both, and I’ve learned to always ask what someone is after before I respond with related thoughts. Those thoughts would vary greatly depending on the reason the other person has posed their question or viewpoint. On the surface, the fact that you continue to read a blog like this would suggest that you are open minded.

          Erik

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        • Eric, first of all, I follow Frank’s blog and I read a lot of his posts, which he could surely attest to, so I didn’t just pop up here attracted by the topic. I don’t normally follow blogs on religion or intentionally seek out the posts on religion to troll them, but I read a lot, and the subject of religion tends to come up anywhere.
          And to answer your question, I’m looking for a good answer – the “truth” for me in a question of religion would be a direct evidence of existence of God that can be tested and replicated according to the scientific method – but that’s an impossibly high bar since there hasn’t been any success in the area to my knowledge. So what I’m looking for here is just an answer where I can say “I disagree with you on the subject, but your explanation makes sense”. (For example, I am pro-gun control, but I accept that there are some good reasons why you may want to have a gun in the house, like being a hunter, living in an area with a lot of dangerous wildlife, or where break-ins are a lot more common than cop cars, etc.).
          However, if I ask for the answer and the answer doesn’t make sense to me, then it’s debate time. 🙂

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        • Hi X,

          It doesn’t look like I can reply to your reply, so I’ll try this. I certainly am not one to debate. I used to be, and I’m good at it; but I’ve come to the conclusion that my opinion doesn’t matter all that much, especially where contention or ill-will may result. I’m one guy in a blip of time on a blip of a planet who will not exist (in this form at least) in another blip of time. I always think about some guy on a hill somewhere in the year 1103 B.C., shouting about his opinions which he held in very high regard. And for all the passion in his arguments and beliefs, he is now dead. His body is dirt. His name is unknown.

          That said, I’ll present one thought, which is not a scientific appeal, but which you may find has some merit.

          I don’t know if you are a parent, but if not, imagine you are for the moment. You know that bad stuff happens out in the wide world. You’ve seen it. You’ve experienced it. Was it therefore cruel and/or irresponsible to have given life to a child, knowing full well the world into which he will be born? While no parent is or claims to be omnipotent, every parent DOES have choices that could protect your child from befalling most harm. Let’s also assume that you have hefty resources at your command to further the analogy. You could make your home a fortress. You could put bullet-proof glass on all windows. You could set your son’s room on the second floor of this fortress and lock his door nightly to ensure that he does not escape through the door (the windows are bulletproof and sealed). You could even make his room a germ-proof bubble. You could home school him. You could refuse to have Internet, so he can not be exposed to even the news of bad things “out there.” He will never be bullied. Never be shot. Never be turned down for a date (whatever that is). Essentially, I’m talking about creating The Truman Show around your son, regulating each element in order to keep him from harm. Is this what love would do?

          Conversely, is the parent who has children and does not control all possible elements to keep that child from harm an unloving parent, because they are allowing their son or daughter freedom to enter into a world that could hurt or even kill them? I mean, every time a parent allows their kid to get a license and hands over the car keys, they are exposing that kid to real risk of death. Proven statistics, and all the more so for that age. So is it loving to give the car keys, knowing that in so doing you run the risk of your child being hurt or worse? Or is it loving to deny this freedom and exposure to potential risk?

          Again, I’m in no way looking for debate. I’m just presenting a viewpoint through question, based on your stated aims in looking for something that has at least some degree of internal validity.

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        • I must say, your argument does have some merit. I wouldn’t want to try to protect my children from any possible danger, because I would then rob them of all of the life’s joy, all out of concern that some highly unlikely hazard that most likely isn’t going to happen. So they’ll be getting the car keys, eventually.
          But God isn’t your average parent, and he is much more than even a parent who can afford build a Truman show around a child. God as a parent may have given free will to the child with the car keys and freedom to drive anywhere, but an omniscient God would know that the brakes of the car are shot, would know when they would fail, and as an omnipotent being, would be able to easily fix them. Yet he hands over the keys and says nothing, knowing that the kid would not be aware of the problem with the brakes, and would have no way to get them fixed (because we’re really talking about tsunamis and earthquakes that are outside of the realm of free will).
          You probably would hand over the keys as well – would you, as a loving parent, hand over the keys to a car that’s about to break, before trying to fix it, or at least warning about it?

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        • So what happened to the “simmering”? That seemed like such a good plan. 🙂

          Regarding your argument on not bringing a child into the world because it would die – now that argument didn’t make sense to me at all. I can ask you this: would you not go to a concert of your favorite band because it would end? Would you not go on a vacation because you have to come back to work? Would you not fall in love with anyone or start a friendship because any relationship is bound to end in a break up or death? Do you regret being alive because you’ll die eventually, too?

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        • X,
          Yes … some preachers, but far from the majority. And the reason you didn’t find “a satisfactory explanation on why would a benevolent and omnipotent God would send (or allow) a tsunami to indiscriminately kill 200,000 people, including thousands of innocent children” is because I’m saying (and believe) that he didn’t. As a matter of fact, I’ve stated that point more than once.

          PS: Looking for an answer for the existence of God via the scientific question is an unanswerable question for science as it is outside the boundaries of science.

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        • Can you elaborate why do you believe he didn’t? That’s the part I’m having trouble understanding – to me, omniscience means knowing the event is occurring, and omnipotence means the ability to stop it. And having both the knowledge of the event and the power to stop it, while not stopping is, to me, allowing the event.
          If you wrote about that previously and I missed that, I apologize, so you can just point me to that post.

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        • X,
          The tsunami was due to laws of nature – such as an earthquake causing the ocean floor to abruptly move, which creates a massive wave … and in this case, Indonesia happened to be in the way. I think of it as nature’s free will to operate with the laws of nature.

          I see how your concept of omnipotence creates your dilemma, but that’s not the way the majority of Christianity sees it. God didn’t intentionally send natural disasters or murderers … thus life is allowed to play itself out. In Christianity (in general), people will fall short in life – thus the importance of forgiveness.

          Just trying to be helpful.

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        • Hi X,

          I do have thoughts on the “parent sends the kid out into a car he knows is broken” analogy. But for now, it feels right to just let things sit. I respect that you read my analogy (and every analogy is inherently flawed), and I’m glad you found it to have at least some merit as it stands. Let’s give it a few days to “simmer,” and then see if it’s something we want to add to. These issues have been around a long time; I’m pretty sure they’ll still be here when we get back. 😉

          Erik

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        • X, you posed this to Frank: “… to me, omniscience means knowing the event is occurring, and omnipotence means the ability to stop it…,” but I hope neither of you will mind my adding a quick thought based on my last analogy to parental choices.

          Do parents know before they choose to bring a child into the world that death is inevitable for that child? Do parents know that this death will likely either involve pain or a slow process of deterioration, or both? Omniscient or not, would you say that all parents know this much?

          And do parents have the power within them to prevent this painful or slow death by simply not having the child in the first place? Whether omnipotent or not, is it fair to say that each parent has at least this power completely within their control?

          And so, if a parent KNOWS with 100% surety that any child they bring into the world will suffer death by some means, and ALSO KNOWS with 100% surety that they have the POWER to prevent a child from ever experiencing death by never creating them … wouldn’t we have to conclude that all parents, by the same token as your argument about God, “hardly loving” (i.e., cruel)?

          Just thought, since the first part of this analogy seemed to be worthwhile, I’d try to extend it without getting into any new ground for now.

          Erik

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    • Hi X,

      These Replies seem all out of order now! I don’t think anyone but us could make any sense of them (not that even we are managing all that well).

      Re: your last reply, we arrive at exactly the same conclusion, which was my point. Knowing a an end or hurt is coming and having the power to stop it does not warrant actually stopping the living that happens in between. Now apply that to your concept of God.

      We look at the death of a child at birth as “more tragic” than the death of an elderly person in their bed. But it’s all death. God apparently finds value in “the life between.” I suspect that has something to do with seeing it from a place outside of time. Here, time is relative and we assign value to the number of times one gets to pass around a star. It would seem God doesn’t. From eternity, what is the difference between one of our minutes and a span of 97 years? I don’t know, but I suspect it doesn’t seem all that different.

      If the whole ball of wax is to believed, God poked a hole in eternity and entered time and space, willfully allowing [him?]self to be subject to the atrocities. He knew ahead of time that the death of Jesus would be horrific, painful and untimely (just 33 years old), yet he did not intervene to stop it. Jesus is recorded as having said to Peter, when Peter tried to prevent Jesus’ captors from taking him away by sword, “Peter, don’t you realize that if I wanted to, I could call myriad angels and wipe out every person on earth right now? This is the plan.” But why? If he knew it would happen (planned it, in fact) and had the power to stop it — why subject even yourself to it?

      I wouldn’t presume to know the exact details of that answer. But I suspect it has a lot to do with why we have children, knowing they will die. And why we go to concerts, knowing they will not last forever. And why we love, knowing it will hurt when it ends.

      But then there is this whole “eternity” thing to contend with. So does it really end?

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      • Okay, so if to God ending a life at 97 years and ending a life at 1 day has no difference, it makes perfect sense why he feels no need to stop or prevent natural disasters and can still remain a loving God. It’s just a very different morality system than we humans generally use, because most human parents would try to do their best to give their kid a chance to live to 97.

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        • I guess I would probably use the term “different level of understanding” than “different morality,” but that might be moot. The best analogy I can come up with, continuing on the parent-child relationship we know, is a two-year-old with a balloon. If that balloon pops five minutes after the kid gets it, he’s going to scream and howl and throw a tantrum. If he takes very good care of it and it pops three days later, he’s still going to scream and howl and throw a tantrum, but he may have gotten more attached to it in those three days than if it had popped five minutes after he got it. The onlooking parents don’t see much of difference between the five-minute pop and the three-day pop, regardless of the tantrum level, because from there perspective, the time difference really isn’t that great; and they have the understanding that, for all the outpouring of emotion over it, their son will not even remember he had that balloon in a year (if that). They know that his understanding is limited and his focus is narrow. So good parents will hold their son while he sobs and throws a fit, because they know that, from his perspective, it hurts a whole lot – all the while knowing that it won’t matter even to their son relatively soon.

          We as humans, being bound by time, do put relative value on all kinds of things where death is concerned: how old someone was when they died, how they died, the number of people who died simultaneously, etc. So one 100-year-old man dying peacefully in his bed seems less tragic to us than 20 first-graders getting shot at a playground. Again, we’re bound by time, as well as fear, a desire to feel like there is more control over life and death than there is, and a lot of other factors.

          I think things like the number of size of the universe and the number of stars it contains were intentional, to remind us in some way that “out there where God is” is a lot bigger and has a different perspective entirely. If God, being outside and above the constructs of time and space, can see the distances between every known star and fathom their number as simply as we might add 1 + 1, it’s “understandable” (as far as that goes) that God would not see much difference between one year and one hundred as a human life span, or between 1 death and 2000. God is always mindful of the truth that all life that begins will end. When, how, how many … when compared with universe-sized time and numbers, it’s even less of a difference than that two-year-old’s balloon lasting an hour or three days.

          Like human parents in that situation, God doesn’t appear to be especially concerned with those differences we make a big deal over. And like human parents who know their child hurts over the popped balloon also know that he won’t remember it when he becomes an adult like them, I think God has the insight to know that, while death hurts and He sympathizes and loves us through the “tantrum,” we won’t see it the same way when we get to the other side of it and see it clearly “from out there.”

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  6. Interesting post, Frank. I don’t believe in God–although I guess I don’t totally not believe. I think there are so many things in this universe that are unknown. But if there is a god, then I don’t see why he/she/it would be so petty as to cause a particular person to get sick or a disaster to occur–or that only people who believe in a certain way can go to “heaven”–which pretty much dooms most of the world. I would not want to worship such a deity. I’ve always disliked the “God is on our side” mentality because it means that God does not support any of the people on the other side–and that seems so wrong. End rant here. 🙂

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    • Merril,
      Along with sharing your perspective, you’ve brought forward interesting points … and I don’t see it as a rant. 😉 I like your take on “God is on our side.” … and I greatly appreciate how you approached this topic as a nonbeliever – that is you were not negative or question believers, but addressed the premise. Many thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. predestination is safe, it’s consoling, it erases pressure and responsibility. it allows one to let the small things roll away by saying, “it’s god’s plan, that’s all.” when one does not get hired for a job they so desired, they say, “it wasn’t meant to be.” and they can smile over a glass of wine more easily. however, it also allows one to avoid careful thought, such as, “what could i have done differently to earn that job? what can i do better next time? how can i improve myself?”

    it’s rather stress-free and perhaps a bit healthier on your heart, but it’s also “healthier” on your head. when you’re a child, there is great comfort in knowing (when it exists) that your parents are there for you. they’ve got your back. they’re ready to step in when you need them. but when you’re older, and when you’ve either lost your parents or they’re not so prominent in your life, who has your back? maybe a loved one, but what about in a more global sense? to believe – or to resign yourself over to the warm bath of god, you get that comfort of knowing that someone has your back again.

    i can easily see the benefits of those thoughts. however, for many of us, dare i say like me and you, we’ve already pulled back that curtain the wizard said not to touch. there was no wizard. just a mirror.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Rich,
      I appreciate your analysis as safe because I haven’t thought of it in the light of ease, a safety net, and shedding responsibility. It makes enough sense to me that I can see this thought being incorporated into this post. On the other hand, although the mirror is a powerful tool, I’m confident in my belief in God – but in a good God. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

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    • Rich, I think much of what you say here is spot on observation. I would add that predestination appeals to other things in human nature. It allows us the false belief (and, yes, false sense of safety) that we have an “in” to controlling the uncontrollable. In my observation, it also feeds an uglier side of human nature – the part that likes to feel superior. You see, if predestination is the way, then I’m in a special club, hand-picked by the Big Guy. And in order for me to maintain that status as “special,” not just every old Tom, Dick or Harry can get in. This ilk goes to great lengths to tout predestination, while also pointing out all the reasons that this club is very exclusive and “most of you can’t get in.”

      I can’t get around “God so loved THE WORLD” and “God is not willing that ANY should perish.” It doesn’t sound like people were supposed to nail up the “Kool Kids Klub – STAY OUT!” sign, and if they are, then they’ve made a new religion (yet again).

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      • thanks for your thoughts. the only thing i’ll disagree with, but from a less-informed point of view, is the “stay out.” part. i thought their goal was to welcome as many as possible, provided you convert to their beliefs, of course, which every religion probably requires.

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      • Erik,
        First of all, welcome … and you have sure jumped into the fray. You happened to drop by on a heavy day, but you weren’t shy!

        Yes, the topic isn’t easy … and it’s the type of post were comments can take the discussion in many directions. Therefore, my responses have been very cautious – but by no means am I criticizing your thoughts!!!! After all, I like thinking. Gotta love your example of being in the SBTBGC ,,, Selected By The Big Guy Club.

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        • Rich and Frank, it looks like you figured out whom I meant. And I didn’t feel criticized. It’s rare that I jump in at all to such conversations anymore, but I wanted to say hello, so I took a chance; if there had been the ability to simply “Like” posts, I probably would have just clicked those babies instead. I guess my commenting was just meant to be.

          (See what I did there? I’m hysterical.)

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  8. Wonderful post, Frank. And I agree completely. I’ve always thought free will was a wonderful gift, giving us the choice to believe in something bigger than ourselves, or not. Personally, I’ve had too many experiences in my life to believe anything less than the fact that there is something bigger than us all – and that we are all in this world but not of it. I believe when people come together to help others overcome worldly tragedies, is when that something bigger is actually at play. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Interesting post Frank. When I was young and had some unfortunate circumstances I thought long and hard about why this stuff had to happen. I came to the point that these things could happen to anyone and I was just in the place and at the time. I came to the conclusion that God was not responsible for what happened which helped me through the difficulty.

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  10. Interesting post Frank and a lot to think about. I think that God gave us all the tools (mind, body and soul) – its up to each of us on how we use them, for good or bad. I don’t think that natural disasters are from God, again from God are the tools given to us and how we deal with disasters and events.

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  11. keep in mind that believing in free will vs. predestination is not equal to not believing in God vs. believing in God. Many people are very solid in their belief that a supreme being may have started this world, but he or she does not take an active, hands-on role in anyone’s daily life.

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  12. Terrific work, Frank. I agree, I think (!). For many years I have more or less believed that there was a supreme creator who started the ball rolling and went on about his/her business doing other things. And I’m quite sure that that supreme being never spoke to George W Bush … Positive.

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  13. The whole system (at least the way modern Western religion interprets it) is flawed. It’s a beautiful notion, for instance, that God hand picks a “one and only” for each person, and that parents can somehow pray God into aligning their son or daughter with this “one and only.” It sings well. It makes people feel fuzzy and cry. But logic would say that if even ONE person didn’t get it right and picked the wrong person, the whole card house comes tumbling down. If I marry the wrong person, it means I TOOK someone else’s “Plan A,” which leaves them with “Plan B” (or C or D …), which, in settling for this now wrong person by default, takes someone else’s “one and only.”

    Likewise, praying and fasting over which college God wants you to go to seems odd to me. It also seems disrespectful or, at best, unaware of the majority of the people in the world for whom college isn’t even an option. Why would a universal God care where you go to college, when others around the world are struggling to eat, find clean water, or keep their children from being kidnapped by militants? The whole idea is very egocentric, it seems to me.

    I have a very real faith, that simultaneously gets lighter and deeper as I get older. There are few hills I’ll camp on, about any cause or belief. Here is what I believe. God is. God goes to great lengths to express love within a broken system, even to the point of entering that system and personally experiencing the horror of it firsthand instead of sparing himself from it. God wants me to do the same thing. Anything more or less than that, and it ceases to be my faith.

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  14. With respect, Frank, after reading your three posts on free will, I see that you have accepted that God does not interfere with what happens down here on Earth, nor with the attributes people are blessed or cursed with at birth. This is called deism. Some are favored with good health, intelligence and physical beauty and others not at all. Some are like my sister.

    Susan, my only sibling, was developmentally handicapped from birth with West syndrome, a form of infantile epilepsy. Part of her brain worked well and part did not, a particularly frustrating and tormenting condition that worsened as she aged. I have asked myself, was she made in God’s image? She enjoyed going to church and the congregation prayed for her A true innocent, she died at age 64 of excruciatingly-painful stomach cancer last year.

    I submit that deism is not compatible with prayer for God to intervene, and that includes the Lord’s prayer which asks Him to provide “our daily bread”. It also asks that God not “lead us into temptation” (why would he ever do that?) and that He “deliver us from evil” (of which action there is contrary evidence such as the missionaries and other Christians who were beheaded by ISIS.)

    Bad things do happen to the good and the bad alike, as you well document. The argument that God is “good” therefore rests on Christ’s resurrection and His promise to extend that benefit to us, not on the merits of a life well-lived but on the sole basis of willful belief. I can accept that other people find this reasoning compelling even though I do not. To me it is merely wishful thinking.

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    • Hi, Jim. I was sorry to read about your sister’s struggles, and therefore, your own. Any words beyond that on the subject would not seem very useful.

      I did have one thought on “The Lord’s Prayer,” (which really wasn’t actually a prayer Jesus prayed, but more of a lesson in how to think when approaching God). Some of the problem with understanding comes from interpretation. I am saying nothing here about the validity of either, only clarifying that I don’t believe the intent, as delivered, was to encourage people to ask God to intervene. Rather, it seems to have read more like this: “May we be satisfied with having bread enough for today, and want no more; may we have the grace to forgive, as we are being forgiven; may we have the strength to resist the temptation, ever mindful of not doing evil to others.” I think it was intended to illustrate focus, not special favor. And regardless of one’s religion, I believe that such things as contentment, the ability to let past hurts go, and the intention to do no harm are good things.

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      • Hey, Erik,

        I didn’t list my sister’s plight for sympathy, rather to illustrate my reasoning, but your kind sentiments are much appreciated.

        As for the Lord’s prayer, I believe your are rationalizing its meaning because its plain transitive verbs are clear. Lead us not into temptation. Deliver us from evil. Give us this day our daily bread. No translations I’ve seen are any different. And I would contest your assertion that it is more lesson than prayer. It was a response by Jesus to a request by “one of his disciples” to teach them “to pray as John taught his disciples”.

        If everything in the bible is up for wide interpretation, then from Genesis and Leviticus to the NT, it unravels because of inconsistencies and contradictions. At its core is the Golden Rule, something central to other religions as well. Nevertheless, when I was a church-goer we were asked to accept that the bible, all of it, was the inerrant word of God.

        I find myself becoming argumentative, and I must apologize for that. I’m an engineer and my brain works that way. I have probably offended many nice people and I regret that as well. My only motive in this discussion, I suppose, is to try to resolve a conundrum which, in my heart, I know is unresolvable. Thank you for being willing to discuss it with me, Erik. Clearly you are a good person.

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        • Jim, I’ve been around long enough to not be offended by much, and was not here. As a person who speaks a few languages myself, there is an inherent problem with translation. It’s not a problem with the original text, which I believe is consistent with itself. The problem comes in both literal translation and emotional translation. The reason I believe you don’t see much variation between modern English version on “The Lord’s Prayer” is that it got singles out as a recitation for some reason, and people thus began adding “extra holiness” to it in their minds. So future translators have been hesitant to alter it too much, for fear their translation would be rejected.

          I do still believe it was a lesson in how to approach God. Again, we fumble around word choice, in this case, what “prayer” means. Some feel it means supplication of some kind (and that is spoken of in the Bible). Some feel it means simply “communing with God” (and that is also spoken of in the Bible). It’s not inconsistent, it’s just inconvenient, since people’s natural tendency is to try to compartmentalize. But as you pointed out, Jesus said he was “teaching.” But this, some have extrapolated that we now must all teach prayer as recitations or only those to be read from books. Again, an attempt to compartmentalize and make every action or (English) word literal.

          To claim that every word is not literal is just a fact. No language is without current idiom. Add to that the fact that it was spoken to real people at a time outside our ability to observe or understand, and the problem magnifies. We see modern people trying to apply rules or promises or parables that were spoken to specific people in specific situations at a specific time in the past – a time and a people who are not us. As the folks of 1611 had no trouble understanding the King James translation because it was there vernacular, the people of the original accounts had no trouble knowing what Jesus meant (or at least what he said). They only seem mysterious and conflicting to us now, because … well, we aren’t them. I think it’s a mistake any time one thinks he is being a “purist” and “devoted follower” only if he claims to know objective meaning and application of all points in the Bible. The fact is, no one can.

          This brings me back to my faith. I don’t believe the point was for anyone at any time to be able to figure it all out and follow rules. Jesus said this outright many times, indicating clearly that even the religious leaders of his own day had already begun to dissect and disagree upon older scriptures, drawing lines about who had it right. In fact, these are the only people Jesus is ever recorded as having yelled at – people who tried to draw lines, saying, “WE get it, and you don’t, and God likes us more.”

          In the end, whatever is … is. Truth is truth. Whatever we each think may change us, but it doesn’t change whatever is ultimately true. Personally, I believe that one day, God’s going to gather us all around, sit us down and say to us like a kindergarten teacher, “OK, everybody. You ALL got it really wrong, but nice try. Let me show you now with pictures.”

          Please know that my volume of words is “just me.” I’m a writer. And I’m realizing that, while they are in response to you, they are really reflective more of people who aren’t in this conversation. So I’ll stop here.

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      • Frank,

        As I mentioned to Erik, I am sorry for being argumentative, but I seem to have a need to resolve logical contradictions. If you are not a deist, perhaps you can give me an example by which you perceive God has intervened, one that is not explainable by natural or random factors, or human will.

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        • Jim,
          There’s no question I feel that I’m against the believe of the cosmic puppet master. God’s intervention is a double-edged sword. After all, his intervention can’t be proved. Do I belief he can intervene? Yes … can I prove it? No.

          Perhaps God intervened Gabby Giffords on that day. As her neurosurgeon said, “A lot of medicine is outside of our control, so we’re wise to acknowledge miracles. We can’t control that (miracles) – and when we’re dealt that hand, we are very thankful.” … then again, I don’t know
          … But that’s what faith is … something that is outside the boundaries of science.

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        • Are the principles of flight within the realm of science? We would say “yes.” But were they within the realm of science before we knew they existed? Let’s talk teleportation. Is it faith or science? Not long back, it would have been called fantasy and anyone who believed it was real would have, at best, been taking it “on faith.”

          I’m not someone who sees faith and science as antithetical. The problem is, again, in definitions. By the rules science has set up for itself, a thing must be able to be observed, have data collected, be experimented upon, and have that experiment repeated with the same results in order to “count.” By this definition, a couple hundred years ago, human flight (planes) would have to have been called “faith,” since science had not gotten there. Sending a voice further than one can yell would also have had to be called “faith,” since science was not yet aware of the truth regarding waves and what could be carried on them. That is to say, science had not observed it, collected data or produced repeatable results yet. But it was, in hindsight, still science (meaning it was able to be observed and repeated, we just hadn’t gotten there yet).

          Science and faith are both limited. The principles of flight or cell phones did not become more true when we discovered them. They were true when dinosaurs roamed the earth. But they were outside our knowing until a certain time. Science seeks understanding, but doesn’t always achieve at at the time of the seeker. This is really no different from religion, which seeks understanding of truths we just can not know yet.

          In short, science can be applied only to what is known at a given time. Like faith, it can not apply to what is not known. And the line between “not yet known” and “not knowable” is … well, beyond the scope of either.

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        • Erik – I’ve written many posts on this topic (the interchange between religion & science), … and at least one on faith … I concur on the essence of your points.

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      • The faith of the Founding Fathers was across the board … but not as broad as the population’s spectrum today. Nonetheless, the Religious Right loves to cherry pick their thoughts about the Constitution … then again, that’s what people in politics do.

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  15. You brave soul, talking about your beliefs…talking about God. I was raised Catholic and learned to fear God as much as the Devil. Then I was a devout Atheist. Then I soften to an Agnostic. When I got married, I adopted Methodism but it (like my marriage) didn’t stick. I dabbled with New Age theories and settled on Buddhism. I like Buddhist principles of living and the notions they have about life and death being part of the natural cycle of change. I believe in reincarnation and that we come back in various forms to learn stuff we didn’t (or wouldn’t) learn in a previous life. Our souls get chances to evolve. What a nice thought. I don’t fear death at all.

    For me, “good” and “bad” don’t exist–everything and everyone is just an opportunity to learn something of value for that evolution of the soul. I look back on all the things that happened in my life that felt horrible at the time and realize that they helped me grow into the person I am today. I wouldn’t change a thing. I see that those events, hard as they were, were necessary. So they weren’t bad. Yin/Yang. All the stuff that’s happening in the world is (I believe) an attempt at achieving balance. When the pendulum swings too far one way, it goes too far the other way. Somewhere in the middle would be nice, but pendulums, like life, are not static.

    Nuff said…

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    • Lorna,
      First of all, thanks for sharing your journey … and whew … that’s quite the journey. Whether I agree or disagree isn’t the most important thing because what made me smile is that you seem to have found peace within yourself. Cheers to you and thanks for sharing.

      In terms of my bravery with this post, this isn’t the first time I’ve gone into religion … and have posted much about the interchange between religion and science. What some forget is that I aim those posts at a specific audience … as this one was.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. An important and thoughtful post. I’m in agreement with those who think that God is stardust, that everything in the Universe is stardust, and that we’re stardust. Stardust gets rearranged and it’s my feeling that God doesn’t control that process. That helps me deal with loss, and with free will. I have the feeling that the stardust I share with God is the good news message of the New Testament.

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  17. I was totally raised with predestination as a core belief. I can remember that even as a child I was totally perplexed by this and struggled trying to reconcile the questioning with what felt like maybe I didn’t have “enough” faith. I do believe right along with you that God isn’t reduced down to the size of a cosmic puppet master. I love to read your political perspectives, Frank, but even more so when you explore matters of faith. Beautifully expressed!

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    • Debra,
      Many thanks for the kind words. You’ve been with me through many topics here, and you know I’ve stepped into difficult topics … but try to do it in a respectful and informative way … and another checked box for our commonalities. 🙂

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  18. Being Deist / Agnostic I appreciate there is something out there greater than me, simply don’t know what it is. I am a great believer in free will. Man’s free will has upset the apple cart, hasn’t it? Enhancing storms, drying up lakes, riverbeds and the water table, improving our opportunity to burn down acres and acres of trees thus polluting the air. But then that is simply my perspective of our free will.

    Loved your perspective Frank.

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    • Sylvia,
      Your statement is very fair because a) we wonder and b) we don’t know so your conclusion of what to do makes much sense. Of course then one could ask this question: What is involved with living a good life? … but I won’t ask.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Interesting questions you raise, Frank. The way I look at it, if life were predetermined what would be the point of it all. The whole point of life is what you make of it and we have our free will to make those choices. Without, I would feel less hopeful. So, this idea that it’s God’s plan has never made sense to me, unless of course only good things happened. 🙂

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  20. Yes, that’s what I believe too, God is good — and humans have free will — which they have abused — and that’s why things are such a mess.

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  21. Geesch there a lot of Catholics and former Catholics around. (oh, of course decended from those who had by law to become Catholics when they immigrated to TX and became Mexican citizens…does that count? HAHA)
    I had one uncle whose church had figured out exactly how many square feet there were in Heaven and exactly how many people would go there…they all stood…very close together apparently.
    There’s a reason people were given the talent of laughter..religion apparently. So many of them. My dad used to say there were so many because churches were created by humans and people always make mistakes, so they keep trying to get it right. But if you look there are common threads like don’t kill others – there are basic truths buried perhaps.
    In any case, God is busy. He doesn’t have time to wade in and constantly sort things out – or help on math tests. He gave people a brain and expects them to use it as well as they can so he can go on doing whatever he does like make universes or something….maybe laughing as he experiments?

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    • Mouse,
      On this topic, the combination of Catholics and ex-Catholics would make this post easy because as a whole, the Catholic church would supportive of my thoughts. Gotta love your closing statement (last paragraph).

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Pingback: Opinion in the Shorts: Vol. 274 | A Frank Angle

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