Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Blogability of Predestination and Free Will

In an earlier post I discussed, perhaps confusingly, the four levels of contradiction. I have received questions and requests for clarifications regarding the Mystery and the Paradox categories. However, despite the advice in Blogging for Dummies that says I should be nice to both of my readers, I am going to politely ignore these requests for now and post a thought on the Temporary Agnosticism.

Consider, if you will, the New Testament doctrine of predestination. Why should you? Mostly 'cause I'm an amateur on the subject and I like to stir up controversy to build my readership. Predestination is when the you forget to change your clocks for daylight savings time and you accidentally arrive at your destination one hour early. This is not to be confused with re-destination which is when you miss your exit on the freeway and have to double U-turn to get back to it. At least that's what I used to think...

Until the produce guy with the eyebrow ring told me otherwise. It went something like this:

Me: Excuse me, but can you help me pick out a good butternut squash? I can't seem to choose.
Produce Guy: dude, you have to like, thump it and roll it over in your hands, yo, and like, smell it (he takes a big sniff)
Me: But what am I feeling for? I mean, how is it supposed to smell? What does a good one sound like?
Produce Guy: woah, that's like, a lot of questions dude, ultimately you just have to pick one
Me: But how do I know which one is best?
Produce Guy: well dude, really what you need to do is let the squash pick you, yo, yeah, let it pick you (at this point he mumbled something I couldn't understand and began adjusting the bell peppers)
Me: So which is it then? Do I pick it or does it pick me?
Produce Guy: (with yoda-like seriousness) yeah dude, you got it.

So there it is, a temporary agnosticism. Still don't see it? Let me elaborate. The New Testament insists on two seemingly contradictory viewpoints. One is that God is in ultimate control of everything and that even if we "choose" to follow him we have done so only because he made us to, or predestined us to. But the New Testament also says that we are responsible to God for our choice to follow him or not. Therein lies the apparent contradiction. Do we have freedom to choose or not?

Instead of trying to answer this question, a question that has eluded an answer that can be agreed upon by all (or even most) Christians for centuries, a question that has received lifetimes of scrutiny by smarter folks than I (like John Calvin in the painting), instead of embarrassing myself by giving an answer, let me just tell you what has brought me some phycho-peace about the subject. You guessed it: the wave-particle duality of light.

Physicists couldn't see how light (or electrons) could be both waves and simultaneously particles until someone eventually figured it out (Richard Feynman). Until he figured out QED theory physicists fell into one of three categories: wave guys, particle guys, and temporary agnosticism guys. The later could not dispute experiments that showed contradictory evidence, and yet they could not explain it, but they figured that one day someone would untangle the nasty mess. (See my other post about physicists and philosophers on November 27)

So perhaps those of us who take the New Testament seriously can agree to hold these two, seemingly contradictory views in tension for a while. It seems unlikely that humans will ever discover a way to reconcile them, but surely God can in heaven. So being a temporary agnostic, at least in this sense, is sounding pretty good to me. Does that sound like a cop-out to you?

1 comment:

Wasabe Jones said...

The whole issue can be addressed in a single question. If you dig a hole, are you creating the whole from the power of your free will? Or is the hole there and you're just taking the dirt out?