Sunday, August 02, 2009

Dissertation Topic Musings #1

So there's this thing called a "dissertation" that I'm supposed to write for my PhD. If topics were geographical regions, then you could say that I've located the country in which I wish to write: the ethics of religious belief. So now where am I going? I thought I would simply spit out a few thoughts--things I have strong intuitions about--that might help me pinpoint the city in which I will write. (Warning: I am not a Calvinist, in the ordinary sense of the word. So don't post comments like, "People don't choose to believe, God chooses." I am familiar with this view.) An additional qualifier here is that I would like to write on something that might actually be of use to the church in the area of evangelism.

1. People are, in some sense, responsible for either having or lacking theistic belief. That is, if you believe in God, it is, in some small way, due to something that you did of your own free will. (Or perhaps, we are not responsible for believing that God exists, but we are responsible for the subsequent choice to "come to God." But this is not a choice to believe something, it is a choice to act in a certain way. But then again, maybe this choice depends on a further belief--my belief that I need to come to God. How do I come by that belief?)
2. Believing in the existence of God is necessary for salvation. As the author of Hebrews says, "for he who comes to God must believe that He [exists], and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." (Heb. 11:6)
3. We do not typically, or perhaps ever, just decide to believe things. Rather, we do other things that indirectly either lead us toward or away from various beleifs.
4. Two people with exactly the same evidence can reasonably come to different conclusions regarding the same proposition, e.g., the proposition that God exists.
5. If someone goes to hell, it is not simply because they failed to be reasonable. There is more to it.
6. I do not understand exactly why it is that some people believe in God and some do not. But even if it is attributable to some virtue, it does not follow that such a believer has "earned" anything before God. Such a believer may then go on to "come to God" and be saved, but the believing and the coming do not earn the saving. A person may believe that God exists, and beg God for salvation, and none of this obligates God in any way, nor does it cause God to do anything. God is free in all His actions. As C.S. Lewis says of Aslan, "He is not a tame lion."
7. If what I've said is close to correct, then when we talk to an unbeliever, there must be something we can say to them by way of how they might come to believe. There must be something they can do to indirectly help them toward belief. Perhaps it is the cultivation of some virtue?


Anonymous Derek said...

Wow, you're at that point now huh? Congrats Chris! I look forward to hearing how it goes for you, best wishes!


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Blogger adam31415926 said...


Great blog!

You bring up some good points. What does cause one person to accept the gospel and another to reject it? I think election offers an answer. Election means that God works in the heart so that person is willing to accept the gospel. The alternative mans that there is something morally superior in one person vs. another person and to me that can't be.

Since accepting the gospel is a moral act, a good act; and given we can't do spiritual good apart from God; it follows that God had to have worked in the human heart prior to or maybe concurrent with hearing the gospel. I think reformed theology captures this well.


11:03 AM  

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