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November 24, 2006

Predestination or freewill.....

Last night I attended my monthly Theological Forum and our topic was the question of Freewill and the questions which arise as a result of our expanding understanding of Quantum Mechanics. That's right, God in a Scientific debate. The world of Quantum Physics is a fascinating one and the paper, prepred by Fr Julian our Scientist and Curate, was a very readable and very interesting one. Had I the paper in e-format I would venture to post it here, but sadly I cannot. The question really stems from the discovery that "natural" laws govern just about everything. In fact just about everything can be measured with greater or lesser accuracy and just about everything can be calculated in some mathematical model - except God. And we really don't know about that either.

Playing the Devil's advocate, one eventually has to ask the question "Does God have complete freewill?" If He is, like His creation, bound to act within it, surely he is then bound by the laws which govern it? Or is He?

The debate was a lively one with many aspects explored in the process, but then, that is the purpose of our meetings - to explore the interactions between ourselves and the world around us, our understanding of faith, theology and spirituality. To try to discover where we need to be to do God's will. If one looks carefully at the world of Physics one finds two distinct models, one deterministic and the other Quantum. Both suggest a Dualistic aspect in some areas, yet our faith demands a Monistic approach; ie; God is a part of the His Creation just as we are, there is no separation between the physical and the spiritual, they are bound together in one creation. Dualism says that the two are separate and that there are two states of existence - physical and non-physical. As you would expect our debate rejects this latter vision. Yet, the science and the maths have gaps.

So, do we have freewill? Are we completely free to walk our own road and in making our choices determine our own end result? To answer that we have first to determine what we mean by freewill and then to determine what other constraints lie upon us to determine how we will respond to any given choice. In a sense this means that, even with complete freedom of choice, we are in a sense bound to make that choice based upon a number of influences in our lives. In short, those "influences" will determine our choice - therefore we cannot be said to have completely freewill! A leopard will always be a leopard, it cannot become a tiger, and so with us, our background experience, peer pressure, physical limitations, educational achievements, cultural constraints and personality type all gang up on us to determine how we respond to any given set of choices.

Calvin developed a doctrine of Pre-destination, something most theologians reject since, by that measure, everyone need make no effort at all to modify their behaviour - if you are born damned not even turning to Christ can save you. That is patently a nonsense in strictly Gospel terms. But equally, if we are constrained by our background influences, we may not be far off some form of predestination either!

Judeo-Christianity, Judaism and Islam all accept - in fact it is a crucial tenet of faith - that freewill is an essential element of the grace of God, yet, we find ourselves faced with the question "why do we need it?" Why is it so central to our faith? Our forum agreed after much debate that freewill is the ability to choose between following God or rejecting Him. A simple set of "Yes" or "No" answers, yet, and this is where we ran out of time, for each Yes or No there is a fresh question to be answered and even where you have answered No to the first, these questions ultimately lead you back to God.

It was a good debate - and it is one that stimulated our thinking. I am sure it will continue to do so for a while!

Posted by The Gray Monk at November 24, 2006 01:56 PM

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