An Argument for the Incompatibility of Free Will and God’s Absolute Foreknowledge

I was recently reading some articles by Blake Ostler, and came across what I felt was a very illustrative argument for the Incompatibility of free will and God’s absolute foreknowledge.  Mostly I hope this will help make clear what is at stake in the debate, so here is my restatement of the argument:

P1 – God has always known that I will rob a convenience store at time T.
P2 – Free will demands that I could do otherwise.
P3 – If I were to refrain from robbing the convenience store at time T, I would change the past (specifically God’s absolute foreknowledge).
P4 – My actions in the present cannot change the past.

C – Free will is not compatible with God’s absolute foreknowledge.

I like this argument because it focuses on the past which most would say is fixed.  Is there a way out of this argument without disputing a straight forward definition of free will or time?

There Are a Lot of Counterfeits Out There, What’s in Your Wallet?

The latest manufactured outrage related to the church has to do with what should be an unsurprising paragraph by an Elder Lawrence in the April 2017 Ensign.  The key quote is given below:

Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, but same-sex marriage is only a counterfeit. It brings neither posterity nor exaltation. Although his imitations deceive many people, they are not the real thing. They cannot bring lasting happiness.

I have unfortunately seen some very twisted and forced spins on this statement, that have resulted (intentionally) in unnecessary questions.  The key to understanding this paragraph is that the posterity spoken of is the eternal, sealed posterity of a temple marriage, rather than the simple biological ability to reproduce, or adopt children during mortality.  Also the happiness spoken of is the eternal happiness available through exaltation.

What I wish to add to the conversation is that there are countless counterfeits out there (which is in keeping with the article).  But before I do, I would like to point out that calling something a counterfeit need not be a fighting word, in this context it can be helpful and descriptive.  This article points this out:

Remember, counterfeits are not the same as opposites. The opposite of white is black, but a counterfeit for white might be off-white or gray. Counterfeits bear a resemblance to the real thing in order to deceive unsuspecting people.

So to extend this idea within the topic of marriage, one could make the case that any marriage outside the temple has something of a counterfeit nature to it from a Mormon perspective.  Thus even heterosexual marriage, if not sealed in the temple, is a counterfeit.  A non-temple marriage of any kind will not bring an eternal posterity, exaltation, or the same level of eternal happiness as an eternal marriage will.

This idea can be extended to many topics.  If we wish to discuss religion, we could make the case that from a Mormon perspective all other religions have a counterfeit nature to them when compared with the restored gospel.  While they may do many great things, and appear to be the real thing, they preach of false Christs and false salvation.  They lack priesthood authority and perform counterfeit ordinances.  They are counterfeit gospels.

We could take any area of righteousness and discuss counterfeits.  Sabbath day observance may be as good an example as any.  Recreation, shopping, or watching football on TV (all of which I have done sometimes) on Sunday can be a counterfeit to meaningful worship on the Sabbath day.

I hope you get the picture.  The world is full of counterfeits to full gospel living.  Those who are outraged that the idea was applied to same-sex marriage could take some comfort in this I suppose.  These folks are not alone.  Counterfeits are all over the place.  And if we extend the analogy to counterfeit money, we may all have some counterfeits in our own wallet right now.

What is the Distinction Between the Elder and High Priest Office?

I have published nearly 400 blog posts over 12 years.  I have addressed a wide variety of topics, including very controversial issues.  And it is a bit surprising to me that one of the most consistently popular posts was on the Elder/High Priest transition.  Only a couple of posts have received more clicks, searches, unique visitors and comments – and they were not Mormon themed.  That post was made shortly after my 40th birthday, and I was still just an Elder.  And now I am a 50 year old Elder.

I believe the relatively high level of interest in the Elder/High Priest transition post represents an under-rated, quiet controversy in the church.  Many of the comments on that post represent good, faithful men who are at least a little disappointed that they have not been ordained High Priests while many of their peers have been.  I admire these men, who keep on going in the church without complaint, in spite of times when they feel unwanted and unappreciated.  I have sympathy for the good sisters of the church who serve so well without being able to hold the priesthood and certain callings, yet they can take some small comfort in not taking it personally.  The men I am talking about here are eligible for advancement to this priesthood office, yet have not been invited.

I think most of the folks reading this post probably know some good brother who attends the High Priest’s group in spite of holding the office of Elder.  He is likely around retirement age or so, and most of his peer group are High Priests.  It makes me wonder why should bishoprics and Stake Presidents be stingy with ordination in these cases?  What harm would it do?  For all practical purposes these men are part of the High Priest group already.  And this leads me to the question that is the title of this post – What is the distinction between the Elder and High Priest offices of the Melchizedek priesthood?

A glance at the scriptures actually tells us very little.  High Priests preside over spiritual things – whatever that means.  And while it makes sense that the Prophet, Stake President and Bishop are presiding High Priests, what distinction is there between the rank and file High Priest and Elder?   For the most part, it seems that there isn’t any.  Is there an important distinction that I am missing?

 

Trump Endorses Mormonism

Donald Trump has invited the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to sing at his inauguration.  This of course can only mean one thing – Donald Trump has converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  This may seem to contradict some of his previous behaviors and statements, but that is sort of what conversion means.  He has obviously had a ‘born again’ experience with Mormonism.

Details of his conversion and upcoming baptism are unknown and speculative, but there seems to be no other explanation.  Inviting the Mormon Tabernacle Choir could not mean anything other than a complete endorsement of all the beliefs and practices of the Mormon faith.  Anything else would be so hypocritical that only insanity or pure evil could cause such a decision.  I will be interested to learn more about the details of his baptism, and hearing from Brother Trump about his conversion experience.

The Perfect College Football Playoff System: 2016 Version

Several years ago I published to the world The Perfect College Football Playoff System.  Since that time the NCAA has taken a few baby steps in that direction.  But this change has not been enough, and this year supplies a pretty good example of the inadaquacy of the current system.  The example is Western Michigan.

The Western Michigan Broncos have had an undefeated season, winning most of their games in blowout fashion.  Their non-conference schedule included two road games against Big 10 opponents, which they of course won.  Is Western Michigan national championship caliber?  We will never really know, since they are not even in the discussion of the current playoff system.  Why not?  Simply because they do not have the tradition behind them.

The perfect college playoff system would remedy this injustice easy as pie, and should be implemented immediately.  I will offer my services to the NCAA to oversee the transition for a fee.  To summarize the perfect system:

  • All conference champions are in (currently 10 teams)
  • Top six ranked non-champions are in (total of 16 teams)
  • Teams seeded 1-16, with 1 playing 16, 2 playing 15 etc.
  • In first round, highest seeded team is home team.
  • Subsequent rounds are at neutral sites similar to bowl games.

This year the perfect system would look like this:

Appalachian St. @ Alabama
Western Kentucky @ Clemson
San Diego St. @ Ohio St.
Temple @ Washington
Western Michigan @ Penn St.
Florida St. @ Michigan
Colorada @ Oklahoma
USC @ Wisconsin

As you can see, the Big 10 is well represented this year.  Second round games would be paired by a committee.  Games could match up a Rose Bowl type matchup with Ohio St. and Washington.  Or an Alabama and Clemson Cotton Bowl.  Regional considerations could be made for a Michigan and Wisconsin game.  Such neutral site bowl games would funnel down quickly to a national championship game.  This is the perfect system.

Typical irrelevant objections include that this would result in to many games.  Hogwash.  These teams would be playing bowl games anyway, and you could easily remove a regular season game if it was that important.  With this simple adjustment, it would only result in extra games for 4 teams.  And the best part is that this year, an undefeated team like Western Michigan gets a chance to show what they can do.

A Response to Stephen Fry Annihilating God

An old friend of mine, whom I will always remember with fondness, posted a link to a video showing atheist Stephen Fry responding to the question of what he would say if he met God.  Mr. Fry’s response addresses the basic problem of evil, and he gives a long winded version of ‘how dare you?’  It is interesting that Mr. Fry says he would prefer it if the God he met were the Greek gods.  These were gods that were flawed, so at least they would have an excuse for the evils we experience.  The commentary in the video also brings up the problem of other religions, and how can believers be so arrogant as the expect that their religion happens to be the correct one.

I am pleased to report that my religious faith was unshaken by this video, and I would like to explain why.

First off, I think what Mr. Fry is arguing against is absolute definitions of the nature and character of God, largely from Protestant Christianity.  My Mormonism has some wiggle room here.  The God I believe in is embodied, and can only be in one place at a time.  My God is fighting against evil right along with us.  There is no absolute and complete control by God over everyone and every thing.  My idea of God could be considered as non-absolute.

In addition to this, I believe life to be a test.  And often this test is quite harsh.  A test that will eventually push us to certain limits, and the important thing is our response to such tests.  These tests must be real, with real consequences, and sufficient force to create real doubt, pain, grief and all the rest.  One may wonder what point life would have if nothing ever went terribly wrong.  I think part of the problem with Mr. Fry, and those who are persuaded by him, is that they insist on impossible expectations for any God to meet.

When it comes to the question of other religions, I feel my understanding of Mormonism provides some unique perspective.  Mormonism has this concept of a long apostasy, where full gospel knowledge and ordinances were not even available.  I conclude that in many cases, our response to life in general can be quite sufficient for God’s purposes, independent of any religious affiliation.

Further, the availability of vicarious ordinances for all, potentially makes Mormonism quite universal in the long run.  It can be okay if an individual lives their life in another religion, or no religion at all.  Eventually opportunity will be granted to all.  So the all or nothing religious test, for everyone, during mortality, does not affect Mormonism in the least.

I cannot speak to the religious experiences, or the lack thereof, of other people. I can only speak to my own.  I have had significant religious experiences, and I must either follow those experiences, or ignore them.  I know that there is evil and suffering in the world – a lot of it.  I know there are a lot of religions out there with competing claims.

I still believe.

My Attempt to Understand LDS Policy Regarding the Children of Same-Sex Couples

It has been a year since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints issued a policy regarding the children of same-sex couples.  The bottom line of the policy is that married/committed same-sex LDS couples are in a state of apostasy, and that any children of such couples must wait until they are adults before deciding to officially join the church.  There are other details in this policy, but these are the main points as I see it.

After reading a couple of posts on blogs and facebook feeds, I would like to make an attempt to contribute to understanding this policy.  Understanding the policy does not necessarily mean that one celebrates the decision.  My hope is that this policy can be discussed in a reasonable and civil way.  So my attempt to provide an argument to understand the policy is this:

P1  The church has always taught, and continues to teach, that sexual relations outside of a marriage between a man and a woman are serious sinful behaviors.

P2  Married same-sex couples have made a solemn, public, permanent commitment to just such behavior.

P3  Such couples are not likely to acknowledge that this behavior is sinful, nor likely to repent of this behavior.

P4  Children of such couples, who desire to join the church, face an open conflict between church teachings and their parents’ behavior.

C1  Such couples are in a state of apostasy from the church due to this permanent, public commitment that violates church teachings on a serious issue.

C2:  Children of such couples should wait until they are adults before officially joining the church by baptism.

I hope there is value in laying out the argument this way.  I suspect that those who really hate this policy simply disagree with P1.  And while I am sure this policy may sadden some people, I do think there is potential wisdom in it.


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