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"There are a thousand hacking at the branches
of evil to one who is striking at the root." -
Henry David Thoreau
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"Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are
convinced beyond doubt that they are right." — Laurents van der Post

Determinism and Foreknowledge

One of the most pernicious doctrines in Christian theology is the teaching that god knows everything down to the minutest detail that will ever happen in the future, including human decisions and choices. Not only does this idea make a mockery of human volition, but it makes a mockery of God by making him the author-initiator of evil and suffering. If this is true, I would ask, "What is the point of creation?" and say that God should/would die of boredom because there is only one possible movie and he has seen it already.

Of course this idea—sometimes called "predestination", "double predestination", "determinism", or "extreme Calvinism"—was spawned in Christianity by statements in the Bible such that god "knows the end from the beginning", and that he is "the Alpha and the Omega". Setting aside the challenge that the Bible is NOT the word of god, to interpret even these statements this way is extreme and is little short of perverse or moronic. The Bible itself does NOT overall foster or teach this extreme doctrine, and that can be readily ascertained.

In Genesis, God says, "I repent that I made man" and of Abraham with Isaac on the altar, "...NOW I know that you love God", in Kings he says, "I repent that I made Saul king", indicating that things did not turn out the way he hoped they would. Not only was the predictive prophecy of Jonah aborted, but to Daniel the angel Gabriel says, "I have come because of your words. The Prince of Persia has withstood me these twenty one days."  All this and other scenarios imply that the future is conditional, and that god doesn't always know what will happen and works in limited ways—he will not ever override our choice/volition— to accomplish certain other things.

Of course the point is moot for those that don't accept the Bible as infallible or as the word of God. That leaves us free to use human logic and reason, and to realize that Jesus doesn't put his stamp of approval on this sweeping and disturbing concept. His prophecies were mostly about his own situation and what HE would do in the near future and the final end-point of the resolution, something that was going to happen one way or another no matter how long it was going to take.

His prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem was a prediction that any astute and knowledgeable political and/or military analyst of the times could have made. And let us remember that the Gospels were compiled after these things took place, opening up the possibility that prophetic words were put into Jesus' mouth, or that his words were slanted or embellished into more specific predictions.

A majority of Christians take the positions both that God knows exactly what will happen in the future and that he constantly meddles with human affairs. When in discussion situations and presented with the many sound arguments, including Bible passages, that can be raised against these positions, the "true believers" invariably take refuge in mysticism—"Who can know thy way, thy ways are past understanding"—or they claim with some undisguised disdain, "Oh, but you are using HUMAN logic."

Set in the proper context and properly understood, what Jesus said never violated logic nor reason, and was intended to be understood except in the couple of cases where he wanted to avoid trouble from the crowds. In the light of the above, can we not see that the totally-and-only-human Jesus paradigm again not only makes the most sense but is the most consonant with good news?

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