Monday, 22 July 2013

Revisiting Pascal's argument for the Hidden God in light of radical free agency

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In his Pensees, Pascal outlines an argument that this world has enough evidence of the truth of Christianity to support faith, but not so much as to compel faith.

That God is hidden, always findable to one who seeks Him - but hidden so that one who does not seek, will not find Him.

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While I was convinced by this argument, I am now re-evaluating the point of whether God could really, even in principle, provide so much evidence that it would compel belief.

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I don't think belief can be compelled because Man's free agency really is free - free will cannot be compelled, not even by God - so there never could be such a weight of evidence that would compel belief in God without need for faith.

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I think this is shown throughout the Bible - where there is always the possibility and often the actuality, of refusing faith; but perhaps especially in the New Testament, when even the actual presence of Christ - his teaching, his works - is not sufficient to compel faith; nor to prevent the apostasy of Judas, the denials of Peter, and the backsliding of most of the Apostles at and immediately after the crucifixion.

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So I don't find the argument as compelling as I did - but then, neither (from a perspective of Mormon theology and the plan of salvation) do I perceive a need for this argument - the need is probably a by-product of Classical Theology based on Greek philosophy which denies the radical freedom of Man's will in a world where creation-from-nothing implies that God's knowledge and power are absolute, unbounded and comprehensive - with no exclusions.

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In the world of Classical Theology, free will is a quantitative kind of thing, the kind of thing which can be compelled by a sufficient degree of evidence - therefore not radically autonomous of God's will - indeed, ultimately, on this conception, free will is a delusion and God is doing everything - and Christianity collapses into the bewildered, self-refuting but inescapable fatalism of trying to believe that we are both merely cogs in a gigantic machinery yet also to blame for our motions...

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Lucky, then, that most Christians always have rejected Classical Theology in practice - even when they passionately assent to it in theory!

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