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» Nauvoo Forum » NauvooTimes Forum » In the Village - Orson Scott Card » God's foreknowledge: This life shows who we are (Page 1)

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Nauvoo
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God's foreknowledge: This life shows who we are

[ July 26, 2011, 03:36 PM: Message edited by: Nauvoo ]

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Jason
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I knew you would say that.
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Randy
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I agree that it is probably not possible to predict the future based on the extrapolation of the present trajectory of every single particle in the universe.

I prefer to think that the final state of our souls is never based on random chance.

If God has foreknowledge of the final state of our souls, it is, in my mind, probably based not upon a calculation of where Jimmy Brown is going to happen to be on the evening of July 7, 2011, but instead due to reading of his soul. I would therefore expect the final state of his soul to be the same regardless of where random chance places him at a particular time.

Sometimes it is said that the reason we come to earth is to prove ourselves to ourselves rather than to prove ourselves to God, since God already knows what we're going to do. I prefer to believe that this earth life is more than gaining information for either ourselves or for God. I prefer to think that this life is here to give us the experience and the refining that we need in order to attain our ultimate potential. As the silversmith's job isn't finished when he ascertains what the potential of the silver is, God's job with us isn't finished when he or we know what our potential is. It is in the actual gaining of that potential that fulfills our purpose, and God's.

In other words, this life is not for the purpose of generating information. It is for the purpose of becoming.

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Terry
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Having read the poorly edited version of this article in the Deseret News this morning, I had to read it online in order to fully understand and appreciate it. Why can't the desnews editors leave OSC to write his article without cutting it to pieces?

This was not the first. In future, when I see the newspaper version, I will not even bother to read it, but go directly to the full version.

To their credit, they do note that the full version is available online. Not enough for me. Sadly, it further damages my regard for newspapers.

Thanks again OSC for a thoughtful piece.

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kazbert
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“People who live through horrible trials that most of us shudder to imagine will reveal their true character in those times of duress.”

Actually, during times of duress we all don’t always put our best foot forward. Thankfully we can choose to change if we don’t like what we see in the mirror. Our “true character” is not revealed by our knee-jerk responses under duress, but rather is revealed when we exert our will to try to be something better. We are here to have our weaknesses exposed, and then to have the opportunity to desire and to struggle to rise a little higher.

We are taught that each of us has the potential to become as God is. I struggled with the subtleties of the logic of that statement for ten years before I resolved it to my satisfaction. “Potential” is made up of two parts: “Opportunity” and “Desire.” My view is that we are here mostly to discover our desires, and in the end we each will get exactly what we wanted [Alma 34:34]. In the October 1997 General Conference, Elder Neal A. Maxwell stated, "Amid the array of mortal tutorials, we too should strive to finish our preparations for the third and everlasting estate.... By so doing, we too can become ‘completed’ and ‘finished,’ having finally attained our varied individual potentials."

As for God’s foreknowledge and the level of detail in God’s influence, we each have people in our lives we know so well that we can reasonably predict their response to certain situations. If we can do it, God can do it and do it better.

If God knowing only what He is going to do is a sufficient amount of foreknowledge, then that implies there are an infinite number of acceptable outcomes at the detailed level, so long as everything roughly goes according to plan at a high level. That’s plausible. God is holding all of the trump cards in the form of spirits yet to be born. Even if God doesn’t influence every life in minute detail, He can send down any spirit of His choosing at any time to be born into any family, and if He exerts even a modicum of “influence” (not “control”) over that one person, He can get a lot done. The gospel encourages us all to submit our will to God’s Will, which provides God with even more opportunities for getting things done His way.

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Theodore Brandley
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Brother Orson:

I think you should reconsider your position. There are about 20 scriptures that state clearly the God “knoweth all things.” That means, past, present and future. Adam, Moses, the Apostle John and other prophets have been shown a complete history of the world from beginning to end. Here are a few samples:

2 Ne 9:20
O how great the holiness of our God! For he knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it.

Moses 1:6
...but there is no God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I know them all.

D&C 130:7
But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord.

Knowing the future does not control it any more than knowing the past controls the past. There are many possible futures, depending on our choices, but only one actual future. The real future is the only true future. That is the one that God knows.

To visualize this, draw a timeline that represents the history of the world. Put a mark on it to represent our day. To the left on the line is the past, which we may remember, or read someone else’s memoirs. This is our view. To the right on the line is the future, which we can surmise but cannot see for sure. Now draw a large circle around the time line. This is God’s view. It may include many time lines. Perhaps an infinite number of time lines. All things are then before his face, past, present and future, “in one Eternal round”.

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Capt Coaldale
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Many thanks to OSC for this insightful article.

I have long been troubled by the notion that we are here to work out what God already knew about each of us. Under this premise, life becomes an exercise in "virtual reality."

I now suffer from kidney failure that stems from a major trauma in 1984. That was compounded by contracting Hep C from a bad blood transfusion. The thought that my present difficulties could have been "God's will" makes Him a monster. That just doesn't seem like a father's wish for his child.

How much better to realize that He sent us to an environment where bad things happen to good people. There had to be a "delay" between action and consequence to allow us to act by faith. Otherwise there can be no agency.

By the way, the Theodore Brandley that came so often to see me in the General Hospital in 1984 was a true angel! I could not have survived without him and the boost in faith that he always brought. Is the poster above the same Theo Brandley?

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Randy
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I once had a discussion with a faithful member of the church who was also a very intelligent man.

He said, "Is it possible to surprise God?"

No, because he knows everything.

"If it is not possible to surprise God, then it is not possible to do anything other than what God expects you to do. Therefore, we don't have the power to make a choice other than what God knows we will make."

It seemed to me that he had a point.

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kazbert
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quote:
Therefore, we don't have the power to make a choice other than what God knows we will make
This statement is correct but irrelevant. Putting these two thoughts together in the same sentence implies a cause-effect relationship that is not there. If I see a brick falling my knowing that surely it will continue its path to the ground doesn’t mean that I caused it to strike the ground. Unlike the brick, though, we can choose to take a different path. We are not compelled to stay on the path we are on. Just because I desire an unholy path today doesn't mean that I will stay on that unholy path for the rest of my days. (And vice versa.) Our desires can change.

We are here to discover our conflicting desires, and upon making that discovery we are given an opportunity to choose between them. We become what we most desired to become, and we will spend eternity with those who most desired to be likewise.

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Taalcon
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quote:
This statement is correct but irrelevant. Putting these two thoughts together in the same sentence implies a cause-effect relationship that is not there. If I see a brick falling my knowing that surely it will continue its path to the ground doesn’t mean that I caused it to strike the ground. Unlike the brick, though, we can choose to take a different path. We are not compelled to stay on the path we are on.
Yet, if God perfectly and certainly knows 100 years ago that I would freely do action X today, does that mean there's nothing I could have ever done to make it so I don't do X today? If God certainly knew it 100 years ago, does not that determine what will unavoidably be done? If I did freely change my actions and behaviors so that I did not do X today, would that have made God's knowledge 100 years ago wrong, or would my free actions today have retroactively changed his past certain knowledge?

These are some of the issues involved when infallible foreknowledge is declared and unequivocally accepted.

For the record, I HIGHLY recommend Blake Ostler's "Exploring Mormon Thought, volume 1: The Attributes of God" - it explores the options of concepts of free will, omnipotence, and foreknowledge from an LDS perspective using an analytic philosophical method that is far beyond anything anyone else has ever published from an LDS perspective.

While I don't always agree with all of Ostler's conclusions, his method is certainly one to make one rethink some standard assumptions. Not a light read, but one that will generate a lot of thought.

[ July 08, 2011, 04:00 PM: Message edited by: Taalcon ]

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Zeta-Flux
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Okay, this is a topic which I've probably thought too much about. So get ready for a post which is way too long, but hopefully enlightening.

I'd like to start by addressing Br. Card's article. I think the main thrust was to refute some common false doctrines that pass around the church once in a while. Unfortunately, in the process Br. Card made 'foreknowledge' the source of these false teachings, and tried to show how rejecting (strong) foreknowledge allows one to reject those false teachings and also avoid problems with free agency. Let me list some of these false teachings, and show how they are not really related to foreknowledge, per se.

Teaching #1: God stands outside time.

It is true that this is a false doctrine. God is not removed from us, but has a body of flesh and blood. Further, the idea that God stands outside time may even be incoherent, but that's for another discussion.

The problem is that while it is a false doctrine that God stands outside of time, it is true doctrine that God's relationship to time is different than ours. The source of the false doctrine is not God's foreknowledge, but a misunderstanding of the true doctrine. The scriptures tell us that time is not measured to God, and all is as one day to Him. See Alma 40:8 or 2nd Peter 3:8. As Theodore quoted, in D&C 130:7, we learn that all things are continually before the Lord, the past, present, and future. Our apostles and prophets have expounded upon this further.

The point I'd like to make is that it is important to understand that God doesn't view time the way we do.

Teaching #2: When bad things happen... it must be part of God's plan

In some senses, this is a true doctrine--for as Br. Card states, this second estate is God's plan for us. However, as Br. Card also states, it is not true that God desires/forces all bad things to happen, or that he specificially planned each occurrence to happen. We have been given free agency, and thus can choose to do what God does not want (such as condemn ourselves).

There are a couple of misunderstandings that lead to teaching #2. First is one that Br. Card himself stated: "Since he is all-powerful, and he did not prevent this great evil, it must have been his will that it happen." But notice, this has nothing to do with foreknowledge, per se. Furthermore, the parts of Br. Card's article about "God willing" apply equally well to an all-powerful God who is watching what happens as it happens and can intervene. Even if the pathways of cause-and-effect are just too complicated to calculate, they are not so hard to calculate 0.1 seconds in advance, and an all-powerful God can intervene then to get things back on track if He needs to. Foreknowledge has nothing to do with it--it only has to do with the fact that God can see what is happening, has the power to change it, and does not change it. Whether or not God foresaw that a child would be left in the woods to be eaten by wolves, He saw when it happened and had the ability to rescue the child if He so desired.

The trouble is that some people do not realize that God's willingness to allow evil is necessary for our growth, but not something that God specifically puts in our paths every time; and even that God sorrows at the bad choices we make. He is not pleased with the parents who leave their children to die in the woods. He did not want them to do it. (But, and I'll get to this later, His foreknowledge does help Him plan for ways to counter such evil.)

The second issue is related to something Br. Card notes: "Others don't go so far, but they believe that important events are part of God's individual plan for our lives; he sent these events or people into our lives." Unfortunately, Br. Card seems to lump this into the "false doctrine" category. It isn't false doctrine. God does have certain things planned for our lives. Often these things are mentioned in our patriarchal blessings. Sometimes they go by the name of Abrahamic tests. God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son. This was a test specifically given by God. Period. Some of the things that Moses did were part of God's plan to free His people. It was God's plan to have Joseph Smith translate the Book of Mormon.

On the other hand, people can misunderstand this truth and think that trials are specifically sent by God when they were not, or that it is God's fault when we fail a trial. We know that Abraham's trial came from God because it was God himself who asked for the sacrifice. Other circumstances are not so clear. We don't know the exact process how our spirits are sent to our bodies, and it may not be the case that God chooses where we each go, but there are clear cases where God sends certain spirits to be born to certain couples. Similarly, there are cases where God puts two individuals in the path of each other so they can marry if they so choose.

There are dangerous ways we can misunderstand this doctrine. A primary case being when a young man tells a young woman that God has told him they must be married. Another being the case in question, of thinking that God desired to happen what did happen. Nevertheless, it is a true doctrine that God does plan *some* things for us, and is involved in our lives. He is not merely reactionary, helping us through the trials we or others cause. While He can help us fix problems after they occur, sometimes He fixes them before they get too far, or prevents them by revealing to us a way to avoid the problem.

As for seeing an entire movie of our lives and agreeing to it: this is clearly folk doctrine. However, it is doctrine that Christ agreed to His part in the plan. He agreed to atone for the sins of the world. It isn't much of a stretch to believe we were similarly prepared before the world for some specific tasks. (D&C 138)

================

Now, let me change venue. When trying to fit free-agency and foreknowledge into a coherent whole, one of the most important things to get at is the purpose of foreknowledge. Why should we care that God has it? What does God do with it?

First, it is used to teach us what will happen, to increase our faith in God's plan for us. God told mankind about Christ's atonement long before it happened. God told the Nephites about Joseph Smith long before he was born. One purpose for Mormon making his record at all was to convince people (both Jews and Gentiles) of Christ, which God knew would be a necessary task at some future day.

Second, it is used to protect His children. God had Nephi keep an extra record for purposes which only became clear much much later. There are many more examples.

So when Br. Card says "God's perfect foreknowledge needs to be no more than this: In this life, we will freely show who we are, so his judgment will be just. That is the end, and he knew it from the beginning; all his promises are fulfilled in this." I disagree. There are too many explicit instances where God's knowledge of the future aided His children in coming to eternal life.

===============

Finally, I want to respond to Taalcon's post. He asks: "Yet, if God perfectly and certainly knows 100 years ago that I would freely do action X today, does that mean there's nothing I could have ever done to make it so I don't do X today? If God certainly knew it 100 years ago, does not that determine what will unavoidably be done? If I did freely change my actions and behaviors so that I did not do X today, would that have made God's knowledge 100 years ago wrong, or would my free actions today have retroactively changed his past certain knowledge?"

Since you are familiar with Blake Ostler's book, I will assume that you are familiar with the modal fallacy. See http://www.sfu.ca/~swartz/modal_fallacy.htm This should answer your first two questions about unavoidability.

I will also assume you are asking your questions coming from Blake's formal argument, where he assumes time is linear and causality only goes one way. But, as I said above, the point of foreknowledge is for God to use what will happen to affect the past. For example: Parts of the Book of Mormon will be destroyed, and a plan put into effect to discredit Joseph Smith if he retranslates. God knows this in the past. God puts a counter-plan into motion to negate the effects of such a plan. Question: Did the future affect the past?

Positing that causality only flows one way is simply assuming an axiom that either directly contradicts foreknowledge or tries to remove the future's effects on God, making Him the cause of those future acts. Further, it doesn't seem to square with what the scriptures and the prophets tell us about time's relationship with God. [Note: They don't say He is outside time. But they do say some other things.] Once we reject the premise that the future cannot affect the past, many of your questions are easy to answer.

Also, I should probably let you know that I don't find libertarian free will all that useful (nor Blake's arguments against compatibilism compelling). What good is a free will which posits, at its base, the possibility to doing something that cannot be done?

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Taalcon
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quote:
Positing that causality only flows one way is simply assuming an axiom that either directly contradicts foreknowledge or tries to remove the future's effects on God, making Him the cause of those future acts....Once we reject the premise that the future cannot affect the past, many of your questions are easy to answer.
I do reject the premise that the future can effect the past.

I do embrace the concept of fallible foreknowledge . In other words, I believe that God knows all that is possible to know (nobody knows more than Him), but there are still some things that are open, and would be impossible and nonsensical to know.

I acknowledge that prophets in the past have believed and taught infallible foreknowledge, and even have written - even under inspiration - histories retrojecting 20/20 hidsight into them! I also happen to reject the premise of prophetic infallibility, and acknowledge and rejoice in corrective and progressive revelation [Wink]

quote:
Also, I should probably let you know that I don't find libertarian free will all that useful (nor Blake's arguments against compatibilism compelling). What good is a free will which posits, at its base, the possibility to doing something that cannot be done?
I find libertarian free will the only form of free will at all compelling in a Mormon context compatible with the concept of man being at its core uncreated Eternal Intelligence who are naturally free agents.

I'm not a fan of compatabilism, and at present, see determinism as being incompatible with the Plan of Salvation - at least as we teach and generally understand it today. Determism makes perfect sense from the context of individuals being created ex nihilo by God, or by their being solely programmed by our evolutionary genetic material. Both being premises I don't currently accept.

As my past has shown, I am quite willing to have a major paradigm shift on this given a convincing argument. I just haven't experienced that yet - or at least had the time and experience for it to sink in [Wink]

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Zeta-Flux
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quote:
I do reject the premise that the future can effect the past.
Why? We have examples from the scriptures, and the words of the prophets. Physics doesn't rule it out. Furthermore, physics tells us that anything traveling faster than light goes back in time--and if God really does have a physical body and exists somewhere in the universe (and Einstein was correct) and He sees all His creations at once, that has some major implications with regards to causality and time.

quote:
I acknowledge that prophets in the past have believed and taught infallible foreknowledge, and even have written - even under inspiration - histories retrojecting 20/20 hidsight into them! I also happen to reject the premise of prophetic infallibility, and acknowledge and rejoice in corrective and progressive revelation [Wink]
Okay, but what progressive and corrective revelation on this matter is there? I am unaware of any prophet or scripture which teaches that God does not know the future.

Personally, I find great comfort in the idea that God sets plans in motion to account for things that will one day come to pass. I'll also take the words of the prophets over your claim of hindsight. (Especially since some of those examples were given *previous* to the occurrence, rather than in hindsight.)

By the way, I disagree with you that prophets taught infallible foreknowledge. Infallibility is a philosophical term. Rather, they have simply claimed that God knows the future.

quote:
I find libertarian free will the only form of free will at all compelling in a Mormon context compatible with the concept of man being at its core uncreated Eternal Intelligence who are naturally free agents.
Go ahead and flesh this out. What do you find appealing about it? It just doesn't even make sense to me. An ability to do other than you would have done? What does that even mean. We can't go back and change things, so it is a counter-factual claim.

quote:
I'm not a fan of compatabilism, and at present, see determinism as being incompatible with the Plan of Salvation - at least as we teach and generally understand it today. Determism makes perfect sense from the context of individuals being created ex nihilo by God, or by their being solely programmed by our evolutionary genetic material. Both being premises I don't currently accept.
Compatibilism and determinism are not related. Further, foreknowledge does not imply fatalism, only a very soft form of determinism (namely, there is a mechanism available to see what will happen, much earlier than just waiting for it to happen).

What don't you like about compatibilism?

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kazbert
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quote:
If God certainly knew it 100 years ago, does not that determine what will unavoidably be done?
A foreknowledge born of wisdom still does not become a cause to an effect. If yesterday I read a prophecy from 100 years ago that said today X will be done by some John Doe, does my knowledge that it was going to happen mean I assisted to cause it to happen? That is just not logical.
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kazbert
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quote:
God is not removed from us, but has a body of flesh and blood.
May we assume that this is a typo and that you meant "flesh and bone" not "flesh and blood?"
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Zeta-Flux
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Yes, that was a typo (or more accurately, a mistake).

[ July 08, 2011, 10:57 PM: Message edited by: Zeta-Flux ]

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Capt Coaldale
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-----
Randy asks: "Is it possible to surprise God?"
-----
I follow the thinking. But I am not certain that to have a perfect knowledge God has to be able to produce a hologram of my life before I live it.

Consider a related question: "Is it possible to please God?"

It seems to me that if God were to have foreknowledge of all my actions it would be impossible to please Him. It would rob all pleasure from the exercise. And human lives would amount to no more than lab rats proving or disproving a theorem.

I think OSC tried to show in this article that God may not have a perfect knowledge of my life before I live it. I actually take comfort from this thought.

Those who demonstrate that they want to do right here in this wicked environment bring a great deal of satisfaction to our Father in Heaven. If we cannot "surprise" Him with our good choices, at least confirming His best hopes for us can bring him "pleasure."

And the scriptures certainly confirm that He can be "well pleased" with some of His children. In contrast, Enoch saw Him weep for those who rejected Him.

It may be a bit simplistic, but my teensy mind cannot fathom these emotions arising from a God who sees everything in my life before I live it.

And I am convinced that He is as passionate about us as I am about my own children and grandchildren!

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rayb
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I've always been curious how Alma could predict the fall of the Nephites 400 years after the coming of Christ--he having lived prior to Christ. It just seems to come out of nowhere.
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Zeta-Flux
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"Is it possible to please God?"

"And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?"

Consider the context of when the Lord is weeping, and for what reason.

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kazbert
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quote:
It seems to me that if God were to have foreknowledge of all my actions it would be impossible to please Him. It would rob all pleasure from the exercise. And human lives would amount to no more than lab rats proving or disproving a theorem.
Have you ever watched a movie that moved you to tears, watched that movie again, and been moved to tears again? Knowing the future does not emotionally disconnect you from that future.
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Zeta-Flux
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Thanks roper66 for getting it. :-)

Enoch knows the Lord is "from all eternity to all eternity", and thus can't understand how He could weep.

Similarly, Capt Coaldale knows the Lord has emotions, and thus can't understand how He could be "from all eternity to all eternity".

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Jason
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If our universe is the inside of a singularity of another universe, then God, being outside of this universe would have infinite time in comparison to us, from all eternity to all eternity. Since he was outside of it, he could see the past, present, and future.

He could probably figure out a way to interact within our singularity, even coming inside and visiting us. When visiting, he might reside at a place of near infinite gravity, which (like the book of Abraham says) would mean that his time would move much slower than ours. If his place in our universe is a giant urim and thumim, then it may have access to outside of the singularity, which gives him access to past, present, and future.

Within this universe all events are indeterminate. I specify indeterminate and not random, because things in this universe follow certain laws. Random means that all events are possible. Indeterminate means that we cannot predict the exact outcome, but there are only a finite number of outcomes possible. Hence, free will is possible, despite God knowing everything that will happen.

And here is a freebie of my speculations: How about the spirit world consisting of the "dark matter" and "dark energy" that makes up most of our universe, but is currently undetectable to us because it is more refined and pure than our bodies are able to identify (aside from indirect gravitational effects). It is awe inspiring to think of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field pictures which show that the detectable universe consists of billions of billions of galaxies with all their stars and possible life forms. Yet, that is only a small fraction of our universe. A much larger portion is the spirit world. This is an amazing universe and God rules it all.

[ July 11, 2011, 09:19 AM: Message edited by: Jason ]

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Jean Valjean
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As C.S. Lewis pointed out long ago, there is an important difference between scripting the future and foreseeing the future.

Our agency is absolutely real. But because all things are present before God, he foresaw how we would use it from the beginning.

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FlyByNight
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Given my current mortal understanding, it's hard for me to conceive of an existence consisting of: 5238 years from now I will be sad because I will flood the earth. 7450 years from now I will be happy when 4 Nephites will venture into Lamanite land and convert many souls to the gospel. 8390 years from now happy and sad. Happy because my son will serve most honorably, and sad because people will kill my son. And so on, and on, and on, and on,


and on,


and on,

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FlyByNight
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and on
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FlyByNight
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Seems like it would be the godly equivalent of flipping burgers for all eternity.

Sure, building a universe is infinitely complex. But, God is infinitely wise. So, I'm destined to become George Jetson (assuming I actually make it to the Celestial Kingdom).

Plus, there's the whole this life is a similitude of our eternal life concept thing. If the life to come has no challenges (and how can a challenge be a challenge if you know the solution even before you start solving it), then this life isn't a similitude? Because this life is most certainly one challenge after another.

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Zeta-Flux
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One of the things I love about the gospel is that we don't let philosophy and mortal reasoning constrain our beliefs. We let truth serve that function.

FlyByNight you have a choice. You can let your limited understanding of what it means to live forever and understand the future dictate what you believe about God, or you can be like Enoch who when seeing God weep at an event hundreds of years in the future was similarly puzzled but then had to reconcile two truths--God is from eternity to all eternity and yet He also feels.

Frankly, one can make any eternal action sound like "flipping burgers", if you phrase it just right. Eternal progression? Well, after 10 billion years of progression, wouldn't that get old too? Line upon line, upon line, upon line...

Sounds boring.

You have to disconnect the joy of existence and the feeling of a tender parent to end up with the humdrum.

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FlyByNight
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Fairly certain that God isn't learning line upon line anymore. I will certainly agree that God knows everything that can be learned. I am not convinced that he knows the future by virtue of seeing the future. However, given God's knowledge it would be easy for me to believe that he is the ultimate Psychohistorian.

But, I think a good question to discuss is what is the effective difference between God having a highly developed predictive ability and God simply knowing the future?

And if one of the answers is that God might be wrong, then I put forth that God would not give a vision of the future containing information that was uncertain, and so forth for any other activity requiring knowledge of the future.

Men put plans into motion all the time with extremely limited ability to predict the future. Seems to me God's predictive ability would be so much better that he could have plans sufficiently well made that every thing that needed to take place would take place. But still, within the plans there could be allowances for actions at variation from what would normally be predicted.

I am not a believer in the butterfly effect.

[ July 12, 2011, 10:35 AM: Message edited by: FlyByNight ]

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Jean Valjean
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quote:
I am not a believer in the butterfly effect.
Do you mean you actually don't believe in the butterfly effect in its original context, or that you don't believe it is a good model for the great plan of happiness?
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FlyByNight
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Either, both, context is irrelevant.
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FlyByNight
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Elaborating on that point. There are points in my past where if I had the chance I would like the opportunity to change my decision. Some of those paths may have led me down alternate paths to perhaps even marrying a different woman. However, in the overall plan of salvation, I do not believe that my changes would result in the plan playing out differently. A big change in my personal life does not necessarily imply a big change in society.
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Jean Valjean
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Well, the original context was meteorology. In that context, saying you don't believe in the butterfly effect is like saying you don't believe in the Third Law of Thermodynamics.
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FlyByNight
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Hardly, it's an impossible to prove theory since proving would involve time travel. Additionally, the very name implies that the smallest of changes will have nearly global effects. There is no evidence of that.

There is evidence that a small (but not smallest) wind could be a contributing factor in the development of a storm. But that is hardly in keeping with the premise that even the smallest (i.e. the wind change resulting from the flapping of a butterflies wings) could alter the creation of a giant storm.

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Jean Valjean
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The mathematics of chaotic systems is pretty straightforward. The Earth's atmosphere is clearly such a system.

We can't predict weather more than about six days in advance even with the biggest meanest supercomputers. The slightest change in the input meteorological measurements grows until it swamps the answer. That's classical chaotic behavior.

But this is rather a derail. So maybe I'll just back slowly away ...

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FlyByNight
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What ties it back to the discussion is that I believe God can have an overall plan and that small variances (i.e. someone making an unexpected choice) do not invalidate the plan. I seem to recall a scripture someplace that essentially says if Joseph Smith failed God had someone to take his place. Seems to me that Joseph Smith failing would have been a bit more than a minor variance.

So, I don't buy into the notion that everything has to go according to one single plan. A butterfly flapping or not flapping its wings is not going to change the outcome.

Oh and 6 days or even 30 days is nothing for weather. If we had a model accurate enough to show the effect of butterflies flapping their wings, I could look up the weather for my birthday 10 years out and plan with certainty that it would be right. Shoot, we can't even accurately predict the effect of the changing Carbon Dioxide levels in the atmosphere, right?

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Jean Valjean
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So far as God's planning goes, I agree with you. There's no butterfly effect because there is a guiding intelligence to keep things on track.

On weather, I deeply disagree. I thinki. I'm not sure you really understand the meteorological butterfly effect. But, like I said, that's way off-topic.

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anxioustolearn
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I have to make a comment about Jason's comment. I have thought for some time that the dark matter in the universe is the spirit world, possibly spirits both before birth and after death. If this is so, the scientists will never figure out what it is, partly because most of them wouldn't believe such a thing, and I don't think God would let them know about it anyway.

As far as God being all-knowing, I have always thought that he is outside our time, so he can see what happens from beginning to end. And maybe He can even see all possibilities of all choices we could make. OSC seems to think that would be just too much for God's computer, but if he can keep track of every bird that falls, he certainly can keep track of us.

I've actually been thinking lately about the idea that since God can see the end from the beginning, He could easily judge us without our even having to live in this life. But He gives us this opportunity to prove to us what the results are so we can't say it wasn't fair.

Just some speculations.

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Zeta-Flux
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I just had Jehovah's witnesses stop by. I mention this because of the scripture they shared with me, Jeremiah 29:11. :-)
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Jason
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For those that don't want to look that up:

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

[ July 13, 2011, 10:33 PM: Message edited by: Jason ]

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Jason
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I also knew this thread would die down.
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