Since I have Dr. Garvey's attention...God, free will, randomness, and evolution

Agreed! (And so does Joshua - I was in contact with him a few minutes ago!)… except I’d be more confident to delete “almost” from “almost always”.

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I agree with @Jon_Garvey that we cannot use the concept of randomness to get God “off the hook” when considering the problem of evil/suffering. We have to deal with the fact that God is, in one way or another, ultimately responsible for everything that has ever happened and everything that will happen. Human free will was given, with God knowing full well the inevitable consequences of this freedom.

As far as causality goes, I think epistemological randomness is the only kind of randomness that is meaningful, both scientifically and philosophically. We use the concept of randomness when we don’t have (enough) knowledge about the chains of cause and effect that trigger events (e.g., mutations). In most cases we assume randomness simply to approximate countless cause-effect chains on microscopic levels. In other words, our use of randomness derives its usefulness from incomplete knowledge, which would not be an issue for an omniscient God.

Whether an underlying cause-effect chain always exists is an unanswerable question if we simply don’t know (e.g., quantum randomness, though there is progress being made in understanding the mechanisms underlying that). But even then, it appears to be a logical necessity that an omniscient almighty God would be ultimately responsible for the outcome, in which case the outcomes would not be truly “ontologically random” after all…


No. In fact modern theologians have jettisoned a lot of baggage from “classical theologians” precisely because that baggage contains a lot of logical nonsense. We’re talking about people who thought the uterus moved around the body, just because a couple of Greeks said so. Not exactly cutting edge logic there. Some of them espoused theories on the atonement and other topics (like slavery, and “killing people you don’t like”), which are not only considered theologically wrong today, but also illogical and downright immoral.

Some of them were downright clueless about science and theology, to an extent which is truly baffling today given that some of their peers demonstrated far more discernment. Some of them even believed in witches (!), and witchcraft (!!), and contributed to four hundred years of witch hunts (!!!). The idea that they were wonderfully wise, superbly coherent, and impeccably logically robust thinkers, is just not on the table.



A fine paragraph!

I know I don’t get invited to Bible Studies because every once in a while I will stay something negative about Paul.

Paul was a brilliant "Rhetoritor", crafting beautiful speeches that were surprisingly persuasive. But every once in a while someone tries to tell me what a brilliant theologian Paul was - - and I tend to draw the line short of that conclusion.

Paul’s explanation for why Good Christian males could not get circumcised is a classic case:

Galatians 5:2

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be encumbered once more by a yoke of slavery [do not be circumcised].

Take notice: I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.

Again I testify to every man who gets himself circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole Law.…
Sentence 2 is obviously wrong. And so is Sentence 3.

Sentences like those are equivalent to someone telling a Mormon that if he were to start drinking caffeinated drinks (Mormons prohibit drinking coffee), he would have to follow all the other rules of non-Mormon society.

Or like someone telling a Jehovah’s Witness (where they prohibit parties for celebrating a birthday) that if he accepts a birthday present from a Catholic, he would be obligated to follow all the other rules of Catholicism.

I think you might benefit by getting yourself invited to at least a few Bible studies, George. Not only does Paul make perfect sense in those verses, but his point (at least the point that I see) appears to have flown high above your head. You’re still squabbling around in legalisms and wondering what sort of new Law 2.0 Paul wants to require of his new Christian audience. I think I can hear Paul spinning in his grave … 2000 years of so-called “enlightenment”, complete with printing press, wikipedia and all, and people still aren’t getting it. The point is: it’s not about law any more. Not the law as it was … nor any new or updated legalisms you now want to replace it with. If you want to make it about the law, then you’ll be opening a can of worms that requires you (for the sake of consistency) to take in all the laws, not just a few. That, I strongly suggest, is Paul’s point. And a very pertinent and still-needed point it is.


I have been in more Bible Studies than you would care to know about.

My obvious objection? Tell me how you would answer these questions, and we will see whether it is you rejecting Paul or that it is I rejecting Paul:

Baseline Question:
A) In the days of Paul, the son of a good Jewish family (let’s call him Marvin) who is circumcised, became a Christianized Jewish man, but when he marries and they have a son, he decides to have his son circumcised so that the son can join in Passover meals Marvin’s extended family still has. Is this perfectly acceptable behavior? And: “Would Paul agree?”

Test Question:
B) In the days of Paul, a pagan man named Pluto, becomes a Christian. He marries a woman born Jewish, but who converted to Christianity. Pluto decides to get circumcised so that he can attend, with his wife, the Passover celebrations that his wife’s family hold. Is this perfectly acceptable behavior? And: “Would Paul agree?”

I look forward to your clarifying comments. Perhaps I am just too hasty about Paul. But a lot will depend on how you assess these two cases.

It seemed to me that you were already making a defacto rejection of Paul up front by declaring that this or that teaching of his nonsense. I usually prefer more humility or charity in a stance such as: “my understanding of this from Paul isn’t making much sense”. As it is, I did the same thing to you; rather than assuming that I might be misunderstanding your dialogue, I assumed your take on Paul is just wrong. Very uncharitable of me --sorry.

So I’ll give it a go here … on your

Baseline question 1: I doubt Paul would have any problem with Marvin deciding what practices he and his own family adopt or maintain, as long as they don’t then export that into a demand of all others around them or pretend that their practice is some important essence of their new Christian faith. As your scenario runs, Marvin is only doing it to avoid contention with others: a very Pauline thing to do (per Romans 14). Paul also says (1 Cor. 9) that he would be all things to all people so that he might save some. To those under the law, he would become as under the law … and so forth. So Paul will give no objections to Marvin or his family’s personal practices so long as Marvin doesn’t start teaching others that circumcision is some necessary part of Christian faith, and that they too must follow his example. Paul’s ire against circumcision wasn’t so much against some particularity of personal practice as it was against the general insistence that the law must still be enforced as a matter of Christian faith. “Circumcision” was just the stand-in label that for them represented an embodiment of that teaching. If one starts down that road (of insisting that practice of law retains its place at the heart of faith), then they are obliged to go all the way down that road to its bitter end. One who casually gets circumcised (if such a thing could be done casually! :fearful:) is not really going down that road at all as they are not imposing on or teaching that to everybody else.

Test question 2: Ditto on my answer for Marvin above. Perhaps I am not really appreciating how you intended for these two questions to be different from each other. So it seems to me that my first answer above fits this one as well. If Pluto wants to do that, he is free to do so.

Did I pass?

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In my opinion, I liked both your answers. But I’m not so sure Paul would.

My reading of Galatians was (perhaps foolishly?) to conclude that Paul would be opposed to any new Christian becoming circumcised.

I’ll have to read through the material again in view of your “qualifications”.

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I find it interesting that Paul wrote Galatians for a pretty specific purpose–“agitators” were threatening the progress made in establishing the Galatian church, and an immediate response was required. You can still feel the heat of the phrases and arguments as they were generated. The impression is not that of a considered theological argument. I wonder how Paul would have reacted if someone had told him his words would one day be considered holy scripture and even the word of God itself.

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But the prophets in the Hebrew Bible were also extremely intense.

My reading is that Paul opposed any idea that a Christian needed circumcision for salvation. That’s his point. Want to get circumcised for the sake of your family? Go ahead. Want to teach that circumcision is necessary for salvation? You’re a heretic.

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Sure, and it makes sense that that’s how inspired writing would work. I just don’t think Paul imagined himself doing anything more meaningful than sitting down and writing (or possibly dictating I understand) a letter, and the writing survives in that form. He clearly took his mission very seriously, so I wonder what he would have thought about the ultimate results.

Okay, I like to have some “bend” in my theology. To put things in the terms that our Thanksgiving ancestors would have, is there “warrant” in the New Testament that you a new male convert to Christianity can choose to be circumcised without risking hellfire?

Yes. Paul circumcised Timothy so that he would be accepted by the Jews of the Greek diaspora (Acts 16:3).


I believe that Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit when he wrote his epistles. It was Paul who tirelessly founded Christian churches throughout the ancient world. He even had the courage to stand up to Peter.

However, I have heard of so-called “non-Pauline Christianity.”


I haven’t read it … but the title is intriguing…

I don’t have access rights to this pdf, but here is the link to it:

Located on this abstract page:

And here is the interesting description in the abstract:

David C Sim
First Published June 1, 2009
Research Article

“This study investigates the possibility that the author of Matthew’s Gospel had access to the letters of Paul. Using the methods of intertextuality, it establishes criteria for determining whether this was indeed the case and concludes that it is more probable than not that the evangelist did know the Pauline epistles. An intertextual relationship between the Gospel and the Pauline corpus becomes clear once we understand that Matthew, as a Law-observant Christian Jew, was opposed to the more liberal theology of Paul. A single test case reveals that the evangelist was reacting to certain claims of the apostle expressed in his letters, and raises the prospect of further intertextual connections between these early Christian documents.”

And below is a table found at this page:

The bad news is that most theological professionals misunderstand why we find differences between Jesus and Paul. Because of this, they lack a sound foundation to reconcile the differences. Here’s a clue: let the reader consider why God kept Paul separated from the Twelve after his conversion and why Paul’s contact with the Twelve was extremely limited (cf. Galatians 1.1, 11-12, 15-19). The purpose of this brief study is to answer the question about how Jesus and Paul can be reconciled (what that means) and end the confusion.

The Messages of Jesus and Paul

The below chart identifies the chief differences in the ministries and message of Jesus and Paul. Each will be analyzed.

Religions and denominations might be judged by what they don’t believe (in). For example, some Christians claim that God could not have created a universe that has random factors at work.

14 posts were split to a new topic: Quantum properties, God, and determinism

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