Category: determinism

Making a Murderer and Providence

by Andrea Elizabeth

*contains spoilers* Unlike Teresa Halbach’s brother, who seems to believe God guides all things, even gruesome murders, I believe God can use all things for his purpose. It seems Calvinists believe that God’s end game is to make sure that justice prevails where the right (chosen) people live happily ever after and the wrong (unchosen) people are punished. But what about his sister? The prosecution played a video tape of what a sweet, loving person she was. I suppose they think God will reward her in heaven, but caused her to be killed to bring punishing justice to the poor white trash inbred Averys.

One internet theory is that she committed suicide and that county officials used her body to frame Steven. That fits with her brother’s affect during the whole trial and weird statements about the grieving process and how messages got erased from her voicemail. If so, then her brother would believe himself an agent of God to punish the unchosen Averys.

I don’t think this was all God’s plan A. Calvinists believe that the fall of man was God’s plan A because evil was part of man and then was a necessary deterrent for the chosen ones. I believe the Orthodox position is that evil is allowed because of man’s free will, so that he has an option. God can use the freely acted evil actions of others to correct a person, though. Even if Steven was falsely accused again, it seems that all of this light shining on their family sins has had somewhat of a cleansing effect that previous jail time didn’t have. To me, that means that there’s someone in the family who desired or deserved saving. Maybe a young Avery girl who would have been victimized.

Light has gotten shed on the county officials who behaved very badly as well. The difference is that they didn’t think they were bad people. The Averys were more resigned to and accepting of their reputation.

I love how this documentary equalizes both sides: the frozen chosen and the unchosen. There is a hero, though, the humble defense attorney who believe everyone deserves to be presumed innocent. He was the most shaky when trying to accuse Lt. James Lenk of tampering with the evidence, however, but you have to have an alternate explanation. He wasn’t wanting Lenk sent to jail, though, just to shed doubt on Avery’s guilt, which was his job. A google search will show that a lot of people think he’s a modern Atticus Finch.

What I mean by indomitable

by Andrea Elizabeth

During the Q&A after Bishop Maxim‘s talk, where he had introduced the logos of human nature, I asked His Grace, “What is the difference between logos and telos?” With a follow up question after his brief answer, ‘are there many possible teloses?’ He said logos is like DNA and cannot be taken from us. We are inclined towards God. Telos is the goal, which is only being fixed in Christ. This is attained by following our natural coarse towards God with our free will. Unlike Aristotle’s teaching about the inevitability of reaching our telos, we can choose to go against our nature.

notes after The Tragic in Ancient Drama

by Andrea Elizabeth

from Kierkegaard’s Either/Or. Seems to me that Antigone’s inheritance of her father’s guilt is voluntarily taken. Kierkegaard may have discussed it because of his inherited western tradition of inherited guilt. The fact that Antigone was so loyal to it does not have to be an ontologically given association, but could be a psychological belief in it. Kierkegaard also discussed her love for her father and the ancient Greek belief in determinism: that she was fated to protect Oedipus’s secret.

Perhaps Kierkegaard’s alternative was even more tragic to him given the romantic influence of his time.

Tragedy shows us that life isn’t fully realized in this world; it is hinted at. I hope he discusses comedy later.

This post swims apricots

by Andrea Elizabeth

Absurdist literature can be interpreted as nihilistic, or apophatic, or a therapeutic antidote for determinism. It is a painful therapy for those who like tidy patterns, however.

What if all our opinions fall way short of reality, and God just does damage control and allows the illusion to keep life from feeling chaotic and from the panic and despair that would result. But panic and despair are based on a certain confidence in cause and effect, that if my idea of goodness is false, then badness must necessarily be true. This is still based on the same perceived order. If one were truly convinced that things are not as they seem, then there remains the possibility that things are better than they seem. Maybe one could blindly believe that.

Theological pros and cons to the quantum theory of multi universes

by Andrea Elizabeth

1, Con. If all possibilities are actualized, whose spouse will you be in heaven? Even if people will be like the angels and not married, wont they have memories of their past life? Too many memories?

2, Pro. It could explain how people can possibly know everything and be everywhere in heaven, provided the alternate selves will be integrated.

3, Pro. It could explain how someone is guilty of murder or adultery for just thinking it.

4, Con. It dilutes the importance of this set of actualities, such as the Fall, the Incarnation, and every day decision-making.

5, Pro. It supports being credited for your intentions.

6. Pro. It is a way to see fiction as the gateway to knowing what some of the other worlds are like, thus making fiction real or true, and those who get caught up in it not crazy or delusional.

7. Con. It is an excuse for these people to think they are not crazy or delusional.

8. Con. It makes truth too relativistic, unless certain foundational truths about human, divine, and created natures remain constant.

The pros and cons are equal, therefore I have determined that multi universes both exist and do not exist.  (see related posts on Schrodinger’s cat in the February archives of Sine Nomine, starting with “Quantum Cats”.)

Elizabeth R

by Andrea Elizabeth

Elizabeth R (1971) on Netflix streaming is a surprisingly good and captivating 6 episode miniseries. I agree with this reviewer, though I’ll take her word for how historically accurate it is, that the costumes themselves are reason enough to watch all 9 plus hours.

I’m divided as to whether so much time should have been spent on courtly love. It probably accurately reflected its emphasis in the period, however.

What I appreciated most was the handling of the religious climate. Elizabeth 1 solidified Protestantism in the land. I hadn’t studied how much the campaigns of the time were about which Church would control western Europe. Since Protestantism won, what are we to conclude? I get ahead of myself. What did Protestantism have to do with the success of Elizabeth? My tendency is to say that in her case, the best “man” won. She was smarter and more savvy than her counterparts. She didn’t take her religious superiority for granted as much as Mary 1, Mary Queen of Scott’s, or Phillip II of Spain did, which to me doesn’t speak to the merits of their confessions, but of their personal characters, educations, backgrounds and talents. Now, did God ordain Elizabeth to be superior in these ways? That’s the tough question. If so, was it because of the defects of Catholicism? Since I am neither Protestant nor Catholic, but Eastern Orthodox, I don’t have to choose between the two. I can speculate that He let the Protestants ascend to stop a tyrant. Since my background is Protestant, I can also believe that the Protestant values of individual critical thought have influenced westerners to be able to think in terms of an alternative to Roman Catholicism. That protesting the Catholic Church is a necessary step. But only as a step towards Orthodox Christianity. So was it necessary to go through the last 400 years to get to Orthodoxy in the west? Surely not is my impression. But maybe so. It took 3758 years to make Christ, not to mention Mary, after all.

Argument against the prosperity doctrine and determinism

by Andrea Elizabeth

From the Prolog of Ohrid for today:

They were all commanders of the Byzantine Emperor Theophilus. When the Emperor Theophilus lost the battle against the Saracens at the city of Ammoria, the Saracens captured the city, enslaved many Christians and among them these commanders. The remaining Christians were either killed or sold into slavery. The commanders were thrown into prison where they remained for seven years. Many times the Muslim leaders came to them. They counseled and advised the commanders to embrace the Islamic Faith, but the commanders did not want to hear about it. When the Saracens spoke to the commanders, saying, “Mohammed is the true prophet and not Christ,” the commanders asked them, “If there were two men debating about a field and the one said, `This field is mine,’ and the other, `It is not, it is mine,’ and near by, one of them had many witnesses saying it is his field and the other had no witnesses, but only himself, what would you say, `Whose field is it?'” The Saracens answered, “Indeed, to him who had many witnesses!” “You have judged correctly,” the commanders answered. That is the way with Christ and Mohammed. Christ has many witnesses: the Prophets of old, from Moses to John the Forerunner, whom you also recognize and who witness to and about Him [Christ], but Mohammed witnesses only to himself that he is a prophet and does not have even one witness. The Saracens were ashamed and again they tried to defend their faith in this manner: “Our faith is better than the Christian Faith as proved by this: God gave us the victory over you and gave us the best land in the world and a kingdom much greater than Christianity.” To that the commanders replied, “If it were so, then the idolatry of the Egyptians, Babylonians, Hellenes, Romans, and the fire-worship of the Persians would be the true faith for, at one time, all of these people conquered the others and ruled over them. It is evident that your victory, power and wealth do not prove the truth of your faith. We know that God, at times, gives victory to Christians and, at other times, allows torture and suffering so as to correct them and to bring them to repentance and purification of their sins.” After seven years, they were beheaded in the year 845 A.D. Their bodies were then thrown into the Euphrates river, but they floated to the other side of the shore where they were gathered and honorably buried by Christians.

But what about the Bible verses where God promises to prosper you?

First thing that comes to mind is that these are promised to Israel as a whole, not to individuals. Second thing, ‘What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul’. Third thing, what about all the wealthy Christians out there?

First thing that comes to my mind about the last question, ‘It is harder for a rich man to get to heaven than for a camel to get through the eye of a needle’. The other day I was thinking this relates to the Rich Young Ruler who was attached to too many things to give them up for Christ. He couldn’t fit through the small hole with all his stuff.

Then why is being prospered presented as a good thing?

Old Testament materialist typology of spiritual blessings?

That sounds gnostic.

C.S. Lewis implies in The Great Divorce that material things get more real in heaven. I take that to mean we exchange them. ;Lest a grain of wheat fall to the earth and die’, it can’t grow into a healthy plant. Material things are like seeds. Gotta plant them, not horde them. In this way a rich man is to live the same way as a desert hermit. Just as unattached to his money and stuff, even though he, unlike the ‘desert ascetic’, or martyr for that matter, keeps getting more of it.

(references to the above quotes supplied upon request if you want to put me through digging them up)


by Andrea Elizabeth

When I say “transported” I don’t mean that I have an out of body experience where I’m flying above cloud 9. It’s more like a momentary vacation from cares and bothersome logismoi that distract me. Remembering God’s eternal kingdom posits (Kierkegaard’s word) eternity in the midst of temporal affairs and makes them seem less overwhelming.

On a different note in the next section on the nothing of anxiety inducing paganistic fatalism, (take a breath) “Fate […] is the unity of necessity and the accidental.” (p. 96) I find that freeing.

Using evil

by Andrea Elizabeth

Speaking of Gollum (and Dr. Vermillion) and if God uses evil to bring about good, the part in Lord of the Rings where Gandalf says that Gollum has a part yet to play has always bothered me. I didn’t see Gollum as being necessary to the success of the mission, and if he was then it seems to me that Gandalf was too obscure about how to handle him and should have warned Frodo and Sam more. Assigning him a necessary part means that evil is necessary.

The other day Jared said that he believed that Gollum could have been saved/repented, and that he did do some key things to guide Frodo and Sam. That made me remember that it did seem possible for him to turn to the good side until they met Faramir (I’ve only seen the movies). Still, Gandalf’s prophecy was about the necessity of Gollum’s guidance which was not contingent on if he repented or not.

One could possibly believe this and not believe that God ordains evil. Frodo obviously did not have experience fighting Sauron’s forces or knowledge of the backroads. Plus he was very enticed by the ring. We could say that these are all post-fall states. If the fall is plan – B, then one has to work with what one has, and post-fall we have evil mingled in with good. Wheat lives alongside tares. I suppose in the Divine economy, tares can be used for kindling, and even dandelion recipes in order to sustain a person. Sometimes being bitten by an ill-intentioned creature is what it takes to snatch us out of the larger jaws of death, as it were.

In that case, God did not will for a creature to be ill-intentioned, or for his chosen ones to be enticed towards evil, but since the latter was, and would only listen to the former, he was allowed proximity. For a time. This doesn’t deal with bad things happening to mature, impassive people. I wouldn’t know about that.

Tolstoy on Determinism

by Andrea Elizabeth

War and Peace (14)

Volume III begins with a philosophy of determinative causes in the context of the Napoleonic wars.

When an apple ripens and falls – what makes it fall? Is it that it is attracted to the ground, is it that the stem withers, is it that the sun has dried it up, that it has grown heavier, that the wind shakes it, that the boy standing underneath wants to eat it?

No one thing is the cause. All this is only the coincidence of conditions under which every organic, elemental event of life is accomplished. And the botanist who finds that the apple falls because the cellular tissue degenerates, and so on, will be as right and as wrong as the child who stands underneath and says that the apple fell because he wanted to eat it and prayed for it. As he who says that Napoleon went to Moscow because he wanted to, and perished because Alexander wanted him to perish, will be both right and wrong, so he will be right and wrong who says that an undermined hill weighing a million pounds collapsed because the last worker struck it a last time with his pick. In historical events the so-called great men are labels that give the event a name, which, just as with labels, has the least connection of all with the event itself.

Their every action, which to them seems willed by themselves, in the historical sense is not willed, but happens in connection with the whole course of history and has been destined from before all ages. (p. 606)

Up to this last sentence I thought he didn’t believe in determined causes at all, but here he is promoting destiny. Destined by whom or what? God, Karma?

One thing about Calvinism I used to like was the idea of predestination where God is causing “all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose”. This is how I’ve made peace with bad things in my life. There’s a reason. In emphasizing free will, it can seem more like we are subject to each other’s whims, and that God is not in control. I(?) don’t let myself go that far with it. I like the complexity and broad thinking that Tolstoy employs, and agree (if this is what he means by destiny) that some sense can be made of the multitude of variables that bring about every outcome. God’s hand is omnipresent, but not heavy, usually.

There is a way to bring in matter/antimatter and stability (Crime and Punishment)/instability of character (Brothers Karamazov), which lack seems almost voluntaristic, but I’ll do it this way instead. Perhaps God is the unexplained reason why matter has survived the probability of an equal amount of antimatter annihilating it completely. This prevention could be known as God’s will. But why would he allow antimatter in the first place? Necessary tension for the good of the material? But what about the material that gets destroyed, or at least does not live ever well? Is survival of the fittest a loving plan? Only if overcoming is available to everyone. God is only loving if there is enough energy available to keep everyone together. I believe there is. That healing is available to everyone – so the reason that some aren’t healed is that they didn’t try. Not that all can or have to attain the same outcome in this life. There are some who maybe do not want goodness, however much the ones who do are confused about it due to their gnomic wills. I’ll leave that in God’s merciful hands.

About instability of character and voluntarism in Brothers Karamazov, the character of Lise in particular troubled me in that I believed her instability at the end was unfounded. Perhaps she lacked the attention that Raskolnikov was given in Crime in Punishment to satisfactorily explain her transformation. Her sudden change seemed almost soap operaish where people change willy nilly and you can’t count on any story line following a stable trajectory. Perhaps stability (surviving antimatter) is more tenuous than I have been romantically trained to believe. This is why we must be vigilant.