Friday, November 17, 2023

Why Determinism -- Whether Theistic or Naturalistic -- Leaves Us in an Epistemic Vacuum

Here's how this works out.

If God is determining everything--not only actions, but also the beliefs we hold--then we have a significant problem with being able to determine whether the beliefs we hold are true.


If God is determining everything, and someone believes that God is determining everything, then that person's belief conforms to reality. No problem so far.


If God is determining everything, yet someone believes that God does not meticulously determine all things, then that person holds a false belief. However, that false belief was itself determined by God. Additionally, the false beliefs of the Buddhist, Muslim, Sikh, atheist, and Satanist are also held by them because God so determined things. 


As well, the idolatry and apostasy of OT Israel was also determined by God, in direct opposition to YHWH's explicit commands to NOT go astray after idols. Israel and Judah were punished with exile for their idolatry. But if God determines ALL things, then He is punishing people for being disobedient, when in reality they are actually obeying His "decretive will" instead of His will as revealed through the prophets and holy writ.


This makes God out to be duplicitous. This sounds more like the two-faced Roman deity Juno than it does the God of Israel revealed in inspired Scripture. It actually flies in the face of the scriptural witness, because if God meticulously determines an individual’s interpretation of Scripture, and causes someone to interpret Scripture in a way that is not correct, then we cannot even trust God’s revelation of himself, because we cannot have any level of confidence in the veracity of our understanding and beliefs.


If I am determined to hold a certain belief -- whether by exhaustive divine determination or by naturalistic determination (the automatic, mechanistic responses of the atoms in my brain cells to certain stimuli and chemical reactions at the cellular level) -- then there is no epistemic confidence in that belief. It might be true; it might be false. I cannot even know whether it is true or false, because even my thought processes in analyzing my beliefs are themselves determined by another force, whether natural or divine.


Granted, there are passages in Scripture about God turning people over to a reprobate mind, sending them a strong delusion, even putting a lying spirit in the mouths of the false court prophets of the northern kingdom of Israel. But these were all acts of judgment against individuals and groups that had already rejected YHWH’s prior entreaties to turn from evil and idolatry and return to true worship of Him. Those particular-case examples of God judicially hardening someone as a means of punishing their rebellion are not grounds to build a case that God causes ALL false beliefs people may hold.

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