I have enjoyed listening and reading T. J. Mawson’s Philosophy of Religion lectures and notes available through Oxford University. I find his simple review of key topics to be very accessible. And when I combine my typical Mormon background with his logical presentation of important topics, I find some clarity. It also reminds me of what I like about my religion. Today’s properties are omnipotence, omniscience and eternality.
Archive Page 2
I have been enjoying some free audio lectures on philosophy from Oxford University. And one set of lectures I just started listening to involves the philosophy of religion, and included some lectures on the essential properties of God. The first three properties are referred to in the title of this post. I do not literally agree with two of them, but I now understand that I am not as far away from these concepts as I originally thought.
I suspect that I view God as less absolute than most people do. Because I believe in an embodied God, I do not feel that He can literally be everywhere and everywhen. And because I have a robust belief in free will, I do not feel that God can have absolute foreknowledge. All this leads to a somewhat non-absolute view of God.
I thought I might pass this along:
From February 15th to February 29th, Mormon Artist magazine will begin hosting the Mormon Lit Blitz, an online literary contest for Mormon creative writers. As its organizers, we hope it will be one of the most significant literary happenings in the Mormon arts community this year.
The format of the contest is simple. Beginning on February 15th, the Mormon Artist blog will post one short story, poem, or personal essay a day for the rest of the month (excluding Sundays). At the end of the contest, readers will be encouraged to vote for the piece they like best, and the author of the winning piece will be awarded a Kindle loaded with works of Mormon literature.
The thirteen pieces that will be featured in the contest were selected from almost two hundred entries from four different countries. They were written to appeal broadly to Latter-day Saint audiences, particularly committed members of the Church. As judges, though, we were careful to select artistic works that avoided the cheesiness and preachiness that people often associate with Mormon literature. Among the finalists are Kathryn Lynard Soper, author of the award-winning The Year My Son and I Were Born; Wm Henry Morris, founder of A Motley Vision and co-editor of Monsters & Mormons; and Deja Earley, Marilyn Nielson, and Jonathan Penny, three poets whose work can be found in Fire in the Pasture: Twenty-First Century Mormon Poets.
I have been in the process of making some very large decisions, and this has brought out what I think Kierkegaard was getting at with his aesthetic – ethical – religious stages of life.
With aesthetic decision making, one goes about doing what looks good, sounds good, or feels good. It is sensual – or sense based. It is somewhat hedonistic. The results of this approach will be temporary pleasures, followed by regret. Do it, or don’t do it – you will regret it either way. Because something that appears better will always come along.
With ethical decision making, one seeks to determine what one ought to do. We try to do what is right, and avoid what is wrong. It is the attempt to do the responsible thing – the wise thing. The results of this approach will often be the fulfillment of tasks and duties, and to be filled with anxiety and worry. Have I accounted for everything? Am I in complete control? Life is complex enough, that one can never quite be certain of every decision.
With religious decision making, one seeks to authentically follow what one feels from within. This revelation will lead one to do God’s will. This is the attempt to learn the will of God, and to follow it. Decisions authentically made in this way will be free of regret and worry. These decisions will be accompanied by confidence and peace.
I have found that I tend to move around each of these stages during times of significant decisions. Even after gaining what I feel is revelation, I will backslide and think about what looks good, or how it will all work out. I still seek for control and for pleasure. I want the decision to make sense to my mind. And I temporarily loose my peace by exchanging it for worry and regret. I then need to once again seek answers to prayer to get the peace back again.
Religious decision making is one of the grand advantages to having peace in our lives. I hope that I can get better at being, and staying, in that stage while making important decisions.
Many people who criticize the idea of free will, will say that it implies randomness or chance as the phenomenon of choice. William James embraced this in his essay on the dilemma of determinism. Now, as I am embarking on my own personal leap of faith (which for me seems like a head first dive into the unknown), I find my thoughts wanting to return to this idea. And I think I see some converging parallels between faith and my sense of what free will might be.
I have suggested before that free will may be the desire to take action in spite of a lack of an objective evaluation of what course is best. If we objectively know what was best, we would surely do it. Yet, how often do we really know what action is objectively best? Ever? Even deciding on what criteria to use in our evaluation seems difficult, and then to accurately measure all alternatives seems speculative if not impossible. Yet, we desire to act anyway. So, perhaps we arbitrarily pick some criteria, assume some measures, assign some weights, fake analysis, and act. This may not be much better than randomness or chance, but it appears to be what we do most of the time. We act on partial information based on arbitrary criteria.
Is faith so different? Faith is somewhat subjective. If faith were fully objective it would no longer be faith. A desire to act based on partial information seems like a possible definition for either faith or free will. Are the two so different?