Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet…

The error seems not sufficiently eradicated, that the operations of the mind, as well as the acts of the body, are subject to the coercion of the laws. But our rulers can have authority over such natural rights only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. If it be said, his testimony in a court of justice cannot be relied on, reject it then, and be the stigma on him. Constraint may make him worse by making him a hypocrite, but it will never make him a truer man. It may fix him obstinately in his errors, but will not cure them. Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against error. Give a loose to them, they will support the true religion, by bringing every false one to their tribunal, to the test of their investigation. They are the natural enemies of error, and of error only. Had not the Roman government permitted free enquiry, Christianity could never have been introduced. Had not free enquiry been indulged, at the aera of the reformation, the corruptions of Christianity could not have been purged away. If it be restrained now, the present corruptions will be protected, and new ones encouraged. Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now. Thus in France the emetic was once forbidden as a medicine, and the potatoe as an article of food.

Thomas Jefferson

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A morning in the pea garden

This morning I took my camera with me when I went to pick the peas, wondering if I’d see anything worth photographing. 

On the way I found a bird nest in the road.  I suppose when the last little bird left the nest on its maiden flight, it tipped the nest.

Peas are an imporant part of our garden rotations.  They are legumes, so they fix nitrogen in the soil naturally, helping eliminate the need for synthetic fertilizers.  Until this year we used two three-garden rotations, with every garden being peas every third year.  This year we switched to an eight-garden rotation, based on Elliot Coleman’s model.  This garden is planted in English peas, as soon as the soil permits.  We plant double rows to enable them to intertwine without using supports.  We plant the Alaska variety, which matures early (and tastes great).   Once these peas are done, we’ll plow them in and plant blackeyed peas, which will take us to Fall.  Deer love peas, so we surround the garden with net fencing, energized by a rechargeable 12 volt battery which is kept charged by a solar charger.

A groundhog has been enjoying the peas, but so far he has refused to go into the trap I set for him.

These peas are still developing, and the plants are still in bloom.  So there are lots more on the way.

This is a volunteer pumpkin plant, a product of last years garden.  It looks better than the peas.

There’s a watermelon plant in there too, also a volunteer from a seed from last years garden.  Unfortunately these will never fruit, since we’ll be plowing this garden under to plant blackeyed peas in a few weeks.  Notice the grass and weeds.  They’re there despite many hours of weeding.  They are proof that we don’t spray herbicides on our gardens.

Pollination.  I saw some of our honeybees too, but they didn’t stay still long enough for me to photograph them.   On the other hand, this bumblebee didn’t move even when I wanted her to.

Hated squash bugs on a pumpkin leaf.  We will battle squash bugs all summer and they will eventually kill all our squash.  But not before we bring in a bountiful harvest of poison-free squash.

Spiders are good for the garden.

Ready to be shelled.

On the way home, I stopped to admire Georgia’s new outfit.

With a glass of ice tea, on the front porch swing, shelling peas.

Three pounds of delicious goodness.

Our lives are soaked in beauty and miracles, most of which go unnoticed.   As Elizabeth Barrett Browning put it, “Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God.” 

This morning, I am thankful for some time in the pea garden.

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A System

The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you’re inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inert, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it.


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God of the Possible

I know that there a few fellow theology nerds who read this blog. For them, and for anyone else who cares, here’s some more of my wonderings…

The Free Will Defense is a solution to the Problem of Evil.  According to this defense, the existence of evil is not inconsistent with the existence of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God.  Such a God, the argument goes, may  have so valued free will that he gave it to his creatures, even at the expense of a world without evil.  Having the ability to make incorrect moral decisions introduces evil into creation, which could only have been prevented at the expense of free will.  Put differently, if free will is to exist, evil must also exist.  But is that necessarily so?  In this post I will argue that by including free will in his creation, God did not necessarily create a world containing moral evil.  Instead, God created a world with a virtually infinite series of possibilities, one of which was a world in which free creatures always make the correct decisions.  Ultimately, incorrect moral choices, though not inevitable, were very highly probable.  Once an incorrect moral choice occurred (perhaps what Christians call “the Fall”) then the consequences of that incorrect choice multiplied into more and more incorrect choices, resulting in a world in constant need of redemption.  This state of affairs, ultimately to be corrected by God’s salvation, was anticipated by God, but was not inevitable.  I will argue that Alvin Plantinga’s argument in opposition to what he calls “Liebniz’ Lapse” and his description of what he calls “Transworld Depravity” may proceed from a mistaken assumption about God’s omnipotence and omniscience.  My understanding of the contingent nature of creation will also be considered in response to John Hick’s objections to the Free Will Defense.

In his famous description of the Free Will Defense to the Problem of Evil, Alvin Plantinga devotes a substantial portion of his argument to supporting the proposition that it is possible that “God is omnipotent, and it was not within His power to create a world containing moral good but no moral evil.”  He does so in order to meet the challenge of J.L. Mackie and others, who accept the conclusion of Liebniz that an omnipotent all-good God would necessarily create the best possible world.  Liebniz concluded that this world is therefore the best of all possible worlds.  Mackie and other atheists contend that because this world contains evil, it could not have been created by an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God.

Plantinga meets the challenge of Mackie by arguing that Liebniz erred in supposing that God could have created any possible world he chose. Plantinga notes that there are some potential worlds, such as those in which God does not exist, which could not be created.  With respect to free will, Plantinga concludes that it possible that God cannot actualize a world in which significantly free creatures never make incorrect moral choices and that therefore the basic predicate upon which Mackie’s objection rests—that God would have necessarily created a world without any moral evil—is invalid.

But I suggest that Plantinga need not go as far as he does.  The Free Will Defense, it seems to me, need not insist “upon the possibility that God is omnipotent but unable to create a world containing moral good without permitting moral evil.”  It seems to me that Plantinga arrives at this possibility by relying on a possibly incorrect view of God’s omniscience.  For example, I suggest that Plantinga is incorrect when he argues that “God no doubt knows what Maurice will do at time t, if S obtains; He knows which action Maurice would freely perform if S were to be actual….We may not know which of these (conditionals) is true, and Maurice himself may not know; but presumably God does.”   In making his point, Plantinga contends that God necessarily knows which of several conditionals with respect to potential actions by Maurice in a possible, but unactualized, world are true.

Suppose instead that in creating a world inhabited by significantly free creatures, God necessarily surrendered some control over how the future would unfold.  Suppose further that God cannot know with certainty what free creatures will do, before they act.  Finally, let us suppose that creatures with true free will are capable of always making correct moral choices.

I submit that in such a world,  while free to err and while presented with almost innumerable opportunities to err, it is possible that creatures with true libertarian free will would make the correct moral decision every time, and thus sin and evil would never enter the world.  In other words, free will did not necessarily make evil inevitable.

Of course I acknowledge that in a world inhabited by billions of free actors, each of whom will be faced with billions of decisions over the course of a lifetime, it is highly improbable that no such creature would ever err.  Yet while this is highly improbable mathematically, it is not definitionally impossible.  Even if each of the nearly countless number of free decisions were purely arbitrary (that is, one was no more likely than the other), it would still be possible that only correct decisions would occur.  Thus if we imagine every free decision ever made as a coin toss, with “heads” being the correct moral choice and “tails” being the incorrect choice, it is theoretically possible that “heads” would be the result of every toss.  Put differently, however mathematically improbable it may be, it is nevertheless possible that a coin toss could result in “heads” billions of times in a row.

So perhaps God actualized a world in which he gave creatures true free will and the ability to know right from wrong.  It is possible that those creatures might have never erred, and sin and evil would have never entered the world.  It is of no consequence that God might be unable to actualize potential worlds inconsistent with a true state of affairs, because only one world was created and its history proceeds as free actors make free choices.  Once incorrect moral choices are made, then God in his benevolent grace gives opportunities for redemption.  That is, there are always correct moral choices that can be made following any incorrect choice.  Such a God could even provide a universal plan of redemption, through which all the incorrect choices of all time could be overcome.  To Christians this would be the redeeming salvation of Christ.

Returning then to Plantinga’s essay, I would suggest that the sentence:  “According to the Free Will Defense, it is possible both that God is omnipotent and that He was unable to create a world containing moral good without creating one containing moral evil,” should be modified to read, “…He was unable to create a world containing moral good without creating one containing the potential of moral evil.”

Assuming that God created a world in which free actors had the ability to always make correct choices, in which God could not perfectly foreknow what those specific choices would be, and in which God acts to provide for redemption from every bad choice, then one can easily reconcile the existence of evil and the existence of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God.  What then of John Hick’s objection that even if such a world is possible, it is not plausible?  Leaving aside his contention that “educated inhabitants of the modern world” will not accept the mythical details of the Biblical description of the Fall, there seems to me nothing “implausible” about the creation of a world in which free creatures had the ability to lead a morally perfect existence, but lost that opportunity by misuse of free will, the consequences of which have infected the earth, multiplying the effect of those consequences.  It is simply not necessary to imagine, as Hick does, that this view requires belief that free beings were “created finitely perfect.”  Instead, free creatures were created free.  Whether they exercised that freedom to be perfect or imperfect was their choice, not God’s.

Likewise Hick’s objection that responsible free beings would never have sinned seems to me to be without merit.  Hick argues that “a free being whose nature is wholly and unqualifiedly good will accordingly never in fact sin.”  But there is no reason to assume that free beings were by nature “wholly and unqualifiedly good.”  Instead free creatures were free.  Good is an option that they may choose, but they are not compelled to that choice, by nature of otherwise.  If they were “by nature” compelled to goodness, then there would be no virtue in it.

By allowing free will, arguably God created a world of possibilities.  It was possible for humans and angels to always choose to exercise their free will correctly, however unlikely that may have been.   It is not necessary to suppose a possible world in which free will could never exist without moral evil.  Nor is there any inherent implausibility in God having initiated a sinless creation, containing only the possibility of moral error.

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Sooner or Later

There is no means of avoiding a final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as a result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.

Ludwig Von Mises

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I am convinced that there are more threats to American liberty within the 10 mile radius of my office on Capitol Hill than there are on the rest of the globe.

Ron Paul

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