Saturday, 17 November 2012

How does God act on us - and it he arbitary?

I'm doing A level philosophy at the moment, and currently we are studying your arguments about miracle being an act of God in the world. I've noticed that you say that God only acts through people, however I do not understand how God is meant to 'act' or influence us if he is a transcendent being, is it through our conscience? And does this not interrupt the supposedly free will of humans?

As well as this, I was curious as to whether this makes God arbitrary? I say this because he only seems to act on individuals and sometimes (arguably) people who do not deserve it, or who deserve it less than others.

Response: I don’t know that John holds that God works only through people – though He seems to work mainly through people.

The idea of free will is not that nothing influences human decisions (which would be absurd) but that our decisions are not completely determined (which is an empirical fact) and that they are in some real sense ours (which is clear but hard to pin down philosophically). There is no reason I can see why God should not influence a person’s free decisions – it is not a problem to say that a parent influences a child’s decisions.

Arbitrary is also a rather slippery word. All free choices are in a certain sense “arbitrary” and God is certainly free. To be arbitrary is not necessarily to be unfair: if I have (say) two necklaces of equal value that each of my daughters would like it will be “arbitrary” which I give to which daughter but not “unfair”.  We are of course in no position to judge who is, or is not, worthy of God’s interaction since we cannot possibly have the necessary knowledge.  What looks odd to us can well be the actions of a wise and loving father.  And if we believe that we have a Loving Ultimate Creator then it is very reasonable for us to suppose that things that seem odd to us probably don’t to God.

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