Atheism, Free Will, Science

Study shows Free Will is an Illusion. Really?

[~1,100 words, reading time: ~6 minutes]

Image of computer keyboard with brain key
Copyright: maxkabakov / 123RF Stock Photo

If you were being programmed to believe something that wasn’t true, and that lie was leading you to a harmful end, would you want to know? If there was an agenda to lead you to abandon reality and ultimately give up your freedom, would you be upset?

Several weeks ago, we had cordial and thought-provoking discussion of free will here. Since that time, a new study was trumpeted across national news outlets, promoting a study that suggests free will is an illusion.
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Atheism, Free Will, Science

Do We Have Free Will, or is Free Will an Illusion?

[~2,100 words, reading time: ~10 minutes]

Image with ball and chain with open shackle
Copyright: faithie / 123RF Stock Photo

Many scientifically-minded people claim that mankind does not have free will. Instead, they say that all of our choices are determined by physical laws, and our perception of free will is an illusion. I hope to show that this claim is either false, or if it’s true then we can’t know it, because it is self-refuting.

In his bestselling book, Free Will, atheist neuroscientist Sam Harris boldly proclaims that our perception of free will is an illusion. He begins by telling the story of a heinous series of murders committed by two psychopaths. Dr. Harris then explains that if he had the same genes, upbringing, environment, and brains as these men, he would have also committed the same crimes. He says:

As sickening as I find their behavior, I have to admit that if I were to trade places with one of these men, atom for atom, I would be him: There is no extra part of me that could decide to see the world differently or to resist the impulse to victimize other people. Free Will (p. 4)

This is a compelling argument. It reminds me of Star Trek’s transporter: a person’s atoms are beamed across vast distances, and when they rematerialize, they are still the same person as before. If my atoms were converted into the atoms of another person, I’d be that person.

Beg Your Question?

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Theology

An Open Letter to Dr. Albert Mohler

Dear Dr. Mohler,

As president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, you have exercised significant influence over the direction of the modern evangelical Christian landscape. Your leadership is also recognized outside the church, as attested in a 2003 Time magazine article which called you the “reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S.”

Back in October, you responded to a New York Times article entitled “Tormented in the Afterlife but Not Forever: Conditionalism Gains Ground.” The article focuses on the life and work of Edward Fudge, the comparison of his views and the traditional of endless conscious torment in Hell for the finally impenitent, and the efforts of the Rethinking Hell ministry on behalf of conditional immortality. In your podcast, you dismissed conditional immortality as a modern invention of liberal theologians.

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Theology

The Eternal Purpose of God: An Interpretive Lens

Father & Son PhotoWhen we consider ultimate questions, everyone has a starting place. Popular options include tradition, experience, preferences, and feelings. Others start with the Bible, but with all of the issues the Bible addresses, what should be considered foundational?

The good editors at the Conditional Immortality Association of New Zealand graciously posted my latest paper as a three-part series on their website. The article is my attempt to show that the Eternal Purpose of God is a valid foundational starting place for interpreting other truths. While the series ends by applying God’s eternal purpose as a lens to interpret last things, I hope you’ll be able to see how the knowledge of God’s eternal purpose provides context through which you can interpret many other ideas, teachings, doctrines, and practices.

Please enjoy, and share them if you find them valuable. I’d love to hear your feedback, whether as comments here or on their website.

If you prefer a PDF version of the entire article, leave a comment on this post with your email address (it won’t be posted anywhere) and I’ll email it to you.

Theology

A Tribute To Edward Fudge For His 70th Birthday

Photo of Edward FudgeCoinciding with the occasion of Edward Fudge’s 70th birthday, a historic theological conference is being inaugurated in Houston, TX on July 11-12, 2014. It’s called the Rethinking Hell Conference, and is organized by the outstanding group of Bible scholars who run the Rethinking Hell website and podcast. If you’re anywhere within driving distance of Houston and have a high regard for the Bible, I wholeheartedly recommend you considering attending this conference.

I wrote the following tribute to Edward for the conference. I’m sharing it here in the hope of exposing you to him and his work, and also to invite you to attend the conference and meet Edward yourself.

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Atheism, Science

Why Evolution Is True: A Pragmatic Theist’s Response

Cover: Why Evolution Is True
In an earlier post, I claimed that the popular definition of the debate between advocates for creation and evolution is incorrect. The debate is not religion vs. science, but it is actually religion vs. religion. Both systems of origins have a faith-based worldview through which they interpret the world. Those on the naturalistic evolution side tend to use a more scientific vocabulary but nevertheless show passionate religious fervor in defense of their position.

Several readers posted thoughtful and challenging comments, including one by Brett who said I might be “unaware of huge swaths of data that might help [me] make a better informed conclusion.” He suggested I read Why Evolution Is True by Dr. Jerry Coyne. I am very grateful for Brett’s suggestion, as Dr. Coyne’s book really seems to encapsulate the case for naturalistic evolution in a comprehensive, yet approachable manner.

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Atheism, Science

The Curriculum Battle Is Not Religion vs. Science; It’s Religion vs. Religion

Brian Boyko, a candidate for Texas state representative, recently posted an article on his website entitled “Why Are Some Hell-Bent On Teaching Intelligent Design?”. A self-described “geek,” Boyko criticizes people of “faith” for interfering with “science” instruction. He makes some interesting points that I believe represent the arguments of many people who believe the universe came into being without a Creator.

I interact with Boyko’s post as a fellow “geek,” with over two decades of software engineering experience. I affirm and share his desire to look at the world through a pragmatic lens informed by experience in the world of high technology.

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Atheism

Dialog with an Articulate Atheist

Last week, an editor asked to republish my article “A Christian’s Apology To Atheists”. My tweet of that news yielded quite a response from atheists on Twitter and as comments on this blog.

A thoughtful atheist by the handle of @CosmoBrony wrote such an articulate response to my post that it deserved more than just a threaded comment. So, I’m going to interact with his comment here in hopes of continuing a positive dialog. @CosmoBrony’s words are quoted before my responses.

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Theology

One-night Screening of Hell and Mr. Fudge Coming to Nashville: March 21, 2013

Hell and Mr. Fudge Movie PosterHell and Mr. Fudge is coming to the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville. The screening will be held on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 7:15pm.

A platinum award winner at the 2012 Worldfest-Houston International Film Festival, Hell and Mr. Fudge is the warm, thoughtful, and sometimes humorous story of the trials and tribulations of evangelical scholar Edward Fudge. His groundbreaking work on hell and the hereafter has aroused fierce controversy. He’s either a hero or a heretic, depending on who you ask. Both friend and foe can appreciate the movie’s authentic revelation of his character.

Readers of this site know how important we believe this movie is. If you are interested in Christianity at any level, from skeptic to devoted disciple, this movie is for you. The hell doctrine is almost secondary to the character of Edward and his tenacious spirit. His desire to follow the truth wherever it leads is a value anyone should desire to emulate.

Producers will also attend and will answer questions following the screening.

Tickets are $8.50, and are available through the Belcourt’s website. We’d love to see you there!

Visit the movie’s official website to find screenings in other cities.

Theology

Moses Lard’s Foretelling: May It Be!

Edward Fudge shared the following in his latest GracEmail:

MOSES LARD’S FORETELLING — Moses Lard was an influential 19th-century leader within the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement, which is my own faith tradition. In 1879, Lard published a 50-page book titled “Do the Holy Scriptures Teach the Endlessness of Future Punishment?” in which he foretold the future in these words:

“Belief in endless future punishment is destined to wane. With it, moreover, is doomed the present tyrannous orthodox sentiment which denies to dissent freedom of speech. Men dare not now utter aloud their conviction on the subject. But the day is at hand when they will be free. Manly independence will, at last, assert itself; and intolerance will grow gentle. Mark the course of coming events, and remember this foretelling.”

One hundred years later, in 1979, with no knowledge of Lard’s foretelling, I was hired by Australian Robert Brinsmead to thoroughly research the origin and evolution of the doctrine of final punishment through the Bible, intertestamental literature, and through church history. The research project led to my writing The Fire That Consumes, first published in 1982. The year 2011 saw the publication of the revised and enlarged third edition by Cascade Books, a division of Wipf and Stock, with foreword by Richard Bauckham of Cambridge University. The feature film Hell and Mr. Fudge now showing in selected cities across the USA, is based on the “people-story” behind the book The Fire That Consumes.