Here's to a good time, a good life, and a good death.
So in my last post, I referenced what I view as the weakest point of Christianity. Now, I wish to move into what I call the Ultimate Conundrum that Christianity has wrapped itself into.
So Christianity lies upon a few primary tenants. These tenants all surround the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let me explain in summary.
God created a perfect world with man, woman, and animals. People disobeyed “sinned” against God which created a divide between God and His creation. Nothing anyone could do could bridge that divide. So, God sends His Son, perfect and holy, to die for all the sins of the world as the Ultimate Sacrifice. He rises back from the dead after three days in Hell and ascends to Heaven. Now, recognition of His sacrifice and acceptance of Christ into one’s heart is all that is necessary to be saved [from hell and sin].
That, my friends, is essentially the modern, evangelical Gospel.
The entire premise of this blog post has come from Alan Watt’s lecture Mind over Mind. I strongly suggest that you check it out.
So there is one big problem.
How does man follow the will of God when the will of man is perverse?
“The theologians say you cannot do this without divine grace? How then do you get grace? why is grace given to some and not to others? But, by definition, I had no power to accept it because my will was selfish. Must I then become a Calvinist and say that only those people who are predestined to receive grace will be able live the good life. Then we come back to the inadmissible position that those who live evil lives and who do not get grace because they are not predestined to it out of the infinite wisdom of the Godhead, then God himself must be held responsible for their evil deeds. And so that is a nice little tangle…”
Alan Watts – Mind Over Mind
So what is Watts getting at here? What’s the problem exactly?
Here, we have a situation that because of the Fall of Man, man is powerless to re-connect with God. Remember that nothing a man can do can reunite him with God. So then, how does a man become saved through the Gospel? Since a man cannot make an action or advance towards the decision to accept the gospel message on his own independent will, God is responsible for the man to be saved. God must grant him the ability to desire to accept God, the idea known as Divine Grace. But what if God doesn’t grant someone divine grace? then what happens? That is the problem. If that is the case, then God is responsible for everyone who does not follow Him because He decided not to grant them grace. So do we still have a benevolent God, loving God of the scriptures? Furthermore, why wouldn’t God go ahead and rescue the world if he can simply “predestine” it?
In Christian circles, this is commonly framed as the classic Predestination vs. Free Will Debate. There are various kinds of Predestination and Free Will within Christianity. As far as predestination is concerned, there are two major strands – Arminianism (conditional) and Calvinism (unconditional). Arminianism holds that God gives prevenient grace to everyone and then predetermines the responses that people will have to it. Calvinism holds that God gives grace that is sufficient for salvation and that it is irresistible in nature, and thus God determines who receives grace.
Christians, if they are on their intellectual A-game, will respond that this is not really a problem, but only one of human perspective. Since God created the world, he becomes the owner of all so to speak. Furthermore, because people rejected Him, then He by no means is obligated to send anyone to Heaven. He simply is God and can do what He wants.
The other big response that some Christians inhabit is that God gives people Free Will. That is an enormous subject with plenty of divided interpretations in itself that I do not have enough familiarity with to discuss. However, in the philosophical frame that Alan Watts developed, he theorized that free will is not possible given the condition of man.
But it seems only logical from a benevolent standpoint that God would desire people to know him. Otherwise, why would he send his Son to die for the world as opposed to just some handful of people? Fundamentally, doesn’t God want people to go to heaven? If that is the case, then what in the world is going on here?
Basically, the argument is that if God chooses who receives grace then that comes into direct contradiction to His nature.
I suppose, just like Alan Watts reasons in his lecture, that the individual is just going to have to make an opinion as to the way to reconcile this predicament.
“Problems that remain persistently insoluble should always be suspected as questions asked in the wrong way”
– Alan Watts.