Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Freewill theism as Neopaganism

It's striking how freewill theism repristinates pagan principles. Before making comparisons, let's expound what I mean. The pagan worldview oscillated between chance and fate. That's because paganism has no single, omnipotent, omniscient Creator God. No creation ex nihilo. 

In paganism, the world is a patchwork of independent power centers: personified natural forces. Stronger gods and weaker gods. Ancestral spirits. Gods with different spheres of influence. Some gods know more than others. But all the gods are finite in knowledge and power. 

In Greco-Roman mythology, the Fates represented fatalism. The Fates were sisters and goddesses. They were the daughters of night–an ominous pedigree.

They are classically represented as spinning thread, measuring thread, and cutting thread. That represents the lifespan of each individual. That predetermines the time of death. 

The specter of fatalism is also represented by dire oracles (e.g. Croesus, Oedipus). 

Likewise, the development of astrological fatalism. Your destiny was written in the stars. 

This generates a familiar dilemma: if the future is known, it must be settled in advance. But if you know your future, does that not give you an opportunity to change it?

Conversely, chance or luck was represented by the goddess Tyche or Fortuna. 

On the face of it, chance and fate are opposing principles. However, they may consistently coexist if both are less than universal in scope and sway. 

Classicists debate whether the Fates were absolute autonomous powers whom even the gods could not overrule. I have no reason to think Greco-Roman mythology was consistent in this regard. As the mythology evolved, it was natural to unify more phenomena under Zeus, but it didn't start out that way. You had varied traditions which originated independently in place in time. Later, there's an effort at synthesis. Zeus becomes a unifying principle. And you have philosophical conceptions, like Aristotelian theism.

One might ask what it was in pagan experience that gave rise to their beliefs about fate and fortune. For now I will content myself with speculation.

On the one hand, some events, like death, are inevitable. Ultimately inescapable. 

On the other hand, some people seem to be lucky while others seem to be unlucky. There's a certain apparent randomness to weal and woe. 

So even though these principles tug in different directions, they both appear to be true some of the time. 

And we see both principle vying for dominance in freewill theism. For instance, the chance element in open theism is its radical commitment to libertarian freedom. The ultimate contingency of the future. Uncaused events (i.e. free choices). 

But to curtail the destabilizing consequences of this principle, open theists invoke the classic deus ex machina of the cosmic chess master. No matter what move you make, he will beat you every time. Yet that's just like inexorable fate. 

Likewise, in Molinism:

The counterfactuals of creaturely freedom which confront Him are outside His control. He has to play with the hand He has been dealt. 

Just like the Fates. Even the gods can't overrule them. 

There are feasible and infeasible possible worlds. God can only choose from among the live options. The rest are out of his hands. That's classically fatalistic in positing ultimate autonomous entities to which even God must defer. 

By the same token, Craig says:

This event was the result of an incomprehensible multitude of free human choices which God did not determine. If her parents had decided not to travel on this flight because of a dream, then God’s plan would have taken a different course. His providential planning would have to have taken into account that free choice instead of the choices He did have to work with. God’s providential plan does not override human free. 

It's as if once the ill-fated parents board the plane, God must allow the natural consequences of their free choices to run their course unimpeded. Their doom was sealed the moment the cabin was sealed. God mustn't override the results of our free choices. Que sera sera. Once he flicks the first domino, his hands are tied thereafter. He just watches them fall. 

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