Wednesday, June 17, 2009

God's divination abilities- deterministic, causal or inductional?

One of the many phenomenons that God is able to practice is divination- the ability to predict a future outcome. This phenomenal ability has implications to our understanding of how time or the physical mechanism of reality works. In this article, I seek to find an explanation for the divination power of God and to evaluate its cogency with the notions of free will and the goodness of God.

In biblical accounts, the reader would encounter scenerios whereby God is able to predict the morality of an individual or a group of individuals even before there is any clear evidence that they would commit their actions. For example, God was able to predict that the descendents after the first generation israelites that were brought out of Egypt by Moses would go astray from God's principles. Jesus was able to predict Peter's denial of him even under Peter's strong insistence that he would not do so. I am curious to know how one's morals can be predicted by God even when that present moment offers no clear indication that the future event would happen as according to the prediction.

One possible explanation for God's ability to predict morals is that the mechanism of morality is a deterministic process. Consider an experiment whereby I roll one ball towards a stationary one. I can predict based on the rules of physical laws, that when the ball I rolled collides wiht the stationary ball, it would cause the stationary ball to be propagated into motion as force is exerted from the first ball onto the stationary one. Given the information of the different variables present, such as the individual masses of the two balls, the friction between the balls and the surface on which the balls move, the angle at which the balls collide etc., we can make accurate predictions of the directions, speed, distance and time at which the balls in the set up will move. In the case of complex concepts such as morality, it might work in the same deterministic way as the way balls collide in the experiment I had described. Given knowledge of the many variables that control morality, one can predict outcomes pertaining to it. God, with his perfect knowledge of reality and the variables that control morality, would hence be able to predict the morality of an individual

However, this explanation is in contrary to the notion of free will which proposes that the morality of individuals are within the individual's ability to make choices, and that the ability to make choice is independent of any variables of the environment. My use of the term 'environment' here does not pertain only to an external environment separate from the individual's body, but also includes the composition that makes the body- The brain, the biological chemicals of the body, right down to the irreducible atomic constituents that the body is composed of. All physical components of an individual are compliant to deterministic laws. At the macro level, the human body is subjected to physical laws such as force and gravity. At the micro atomic level, atoms operate according to the physical laws that dictate the behaviors of atomic particles. The notion of free will proposes that morality must be independent of all these. If God can predict an individual's morality by taking into consideration all the variables that composes the human body and the external environment and then make predictions, it suggests that morality is determined by all these variables and that there is no free will to choose one's morality. I am opposed to the notion that morality is not a matter of free will because this absolves an individual from any responsiblity for his actions whether the actions be good or bad.

The next possible explanation for God's divination ability is that it has a causal relationship with the outcome. God predicts the future and then causes it to happen. Let's take the experiment of the two balls. The setup of the experiment is that both balls are stationary at the start of the experiment. Now, I can make a prediction that one ball would move and hit the other. I can then make the prediction come true by pushing one of the balls with my hand to make it move such that it would hit the other ball. In the same way, God may be the cause of the outcome of his predictions. When he predicts the successions of kingdoms in the book of Daniel, the reason why the events unfolded as they did is due to the Lord causing them to happen as such. However, the notion of God intervening in the morality of a person is once again in conflict with the notion of free will and the characteristic of God's goodness. How did God predict that the punishment for King David for his adulterous sin would be the rape of his concubines by his son Absalom? Going by the theory of causal relationship between God's divination and the event that unfolded, the conclusion is that God caused the punishment. As in regards to those divinations regarding the morality of the subject, the conclusion would be that God caused the morality of the individual- An individual does evil because God caused him to do evil. This is against common sense, and it is against the notions of free will and the goodness of God.

The third possible explanation for God's divination power is that God is merely presenting a possible future scenerio which can be changed. For example, when David asked of God whether the people of Keilah would betray him and turn him over to Saul, God predicted that they would. David is then able to change that outcome by escaping to another place. The prediction that God made did not take place because David chose an action that did not allow that event to take place. Another example would be that you see me in my school uniform and carrying my school bag and predict that I am going to school. However, I may decide to play truant and not go to school. Yet another example would be the inductive logic that the Sun would rise from the East tomorrow because it has always been rising from the east. However, an external event such as the entry of an external body may cause a different gravitational pull on the earth and hence disrupt the orbit of the earth around the sun, causing the sun to rise differently the next day. The fulfilment of these predictions do not depend on a causal relationship with the predictor, nor does it require a full knowledge of the determining factors. Likewise, God may predict the morality of an individual. His prediction may just be a representation in his mind of what may happen. It may not happen.

However, the seemingly complete dearth of information makes it difficult for us as humans to reason out how God could make any predictions accurately. This theory also supposes that God can be wrong and that circumstances can turn out differently from God's prediction. Without a determining factor or causal factor to the predicted event, the prediction is purely guesswork.

My explanation for God's divination ability is that it is causal at some occassions and deterministic at others. When God prophesizes that his blessings or curses would be on a particular group of people of the future, that divination is causal as God is the one who causes the blessing or curse. When God predicts a chain of misfortunate event for a person or group of people, of which the misfortune is evil in nature, God's divination is deterministic. The fact that the evil of the misfortune is deterministic absolves responsibility from God as the cause of the evil. How can the divination be deterministic?

The proposition I would like to introduce here is that evil is deterministic in the absence of God. There is no way an individual can escape evil when there is an absence of God. David's cocubines were raped by his son Absalom and there was no way that could be changed because God is absent to give the individuals free will to stop the evil. The ability to do either good or evil is part of free will only when God is present.

Hence, God can make the accurate prediction of evil in the future without the compromising on his nature as a good god because he is not the cause of the evil. His absence only allows the deterministic nature of evil to take place.

I doubt that God's divination abilities are mere inductions because inductions are not certain. With God's perfect knowledge and almighty powers, there is no need to rely on inductions. We can induce that the sun from the east because it has risen from the east for the past many days in history, or we can deduce that the sun rises from the east based on our knowledge of the physical laws(eg:gravitation) that governs the way the earth orbits around the sun to produce the effect of the sun rising from the east. God deduces, not induces.

Questions I am considering
1. What if you take it that God's absence is to be implied as causal in nature, and that his absence does not absolve him from the responsibility of the evil?

2. How did God predict that the 2nd generation israelites would go astray? According to my theory, it suggests that God was not with them. If God was with them and free will existed, then God would not have been able to make predictions on deterministic grounds.

3. How do I prove that evil is deterministic without God? Isn't this a speculation?

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