Free Will, Causality, Character, and Moral Accountability: Part 2

“If a ‘free’ act be a sheer novelty, that comes not from me, the previous me, but ex nihilo, and simply tacks itself on to me, how can I, the previous I, be responsible? How can I have any permanent character that will stand still long enough for praise or blame to be awarded?”
-William James

“Since your majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason--I do not accept the authority of popes and councils for they have contradicted each other--my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.
-Martin Luther during his trial at Worms (pictured here)

I want to mediate on Choice and Character in the church. In my comments to Pecs in the last post I said that I would like the church to begin making the following transitions:

Choice to Character
Rhetoric to Behavior Change
Trying to Training
Evangelism to Moral Formation
Missions to Social Justice
Moral Blame to Moral Luck

Let me elaborate on this list.

Choice to Character: I think the church makes mistakes when she is overly confident in her appeals to choice. The church should rather focus on the formation of character and the acquisition of virtue.

Rhetoric to Behavior Change: Elaborating further, character is not formed by persuasive rhetoric (i.e., a weekly appeal from the pulpit to be a good person). Rhetoric is excellent for changing opinions and, thus, an excellent tool for improving doctrine. But it is a poor tool for transforming the lives in the pew. That is, we are NOT volitionally nimble. We possess characterological inertia and causal forces will need to be brought to bear upon us to form us into the image of Christ. The word form (as in mold or shape) nicely captures the idea. We don't choose. We are formed.

Trying to Training: Thus, the focus of Kingdom living is less about "trying to be a better person" (via what William James called a "slow heave of the will") than about "training to be a better person." Church should be a kind of boot camp for Kingdom living.

Evangelism to Moral Formation: What I mean here is an evangelism that is volitionally-based, the traditional "Do you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior? Yes or no?." The move should be to what Jesus asked for in the Great Commission: "Make disciples." Again, the word make gets at the idea very well.

Missions to Social Justice: These last two go together. Mission work should move away from "persuasion models" to actually changing the world. The question for missionaries should shift from "How many souls were saved?" to "How have you transformed that community into the Kingdom of God?"

Moral blame to Moral Luck: We shift from seeing the moral landscape as populated by the "righteous" and the "blameworthy" to seeing the "fortunate" and the "unfortunate." As Immanuel Kant said: “And how many there are who may have lead a long blameless life, who are only fortunate in have escaped so many temptations.”

If we make this shift, from strong volitional to weak volitional models, what gets lost? Actually very little. And the gains are enormous. By embracing causality and the contingent nature of will--by focusing on Character over Choice--the church might actually start being more effective (a nice causal word) in this world. We will rely less and less on God Talk and more and more on, well, actually doing things. You know, make a difference.

But what does get lost in this shift away from strong volitional models is a robust sense of moral blame or praise. In the contingent picture I paint you can't take credit for your good character and neither can we "blame" others for poor character. Yet much of Christian theology seems to hinge on notions of moral praise and blame. Particularly soteriological visions of Heaven and Hell.

But let's reflect on this a little. Do any of us really “take credit” for our character? I don’t. In my reflective moments I really just feel fortunate. I feel fortunate for my family, my wife, my opportunities, my friends, my church, and, ultimately, my God. I see myself as the product of a myriad of causal influences and I simply feel fortunate. Thomas Talbott, philosopher and theologian, in the book Universal Salvation?: The Current Debate, puts it this way:

“So how, then, do the [theologians of free will] explain the supposedly final division within the human race? Presumably by an appeal to human freedom: We ultimately determine our own destiny in heaven or hell. But if that is true, then the redeemed are also in a position to boast, it seems, along the following lines: ‘At the very least, some of my own free choices—my decision to accept Christ, for example—were a lot better than those of the lost, and these choices also explain, at least partially, why my character ended up to be a lot more virtuous than theirs.’

So the question I would put to [these thinkers] is this: Do you really believe that the differences between you and those who will supposedly be lost forever, or even between you and the world’s worst criminals, lies in the superior character of your own free choices? For my own part, I can find nothing either in myself or in the New Testament that would justify any such belief as that. I also find it revealing that few first person accounts of conversion sound anything like liberation free choices. To the contrary, a persistent theme in such accounts is how the Hound of Heaven gradually boxes someone in and closes off every alternative…God drags people to Christ by closing off their options and by undermining over time every conceivable motive for resistance. In that way God gradually restricts and then eliminates altogether one’s power to resist his grace…”

In sum, God gets us to a point where our character is formed like that of Martin Luther. Where we can stand for the Kingdom and the Cross and declare, not our freedom, but of a divine and blissful failure of freedom:

"Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise."

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26 thoughts on “Free Will, Causality, Character, and Moral Accountability: Part 2”

  1. In this light, then the OT law could be seen as the "moral training manual" for the "moral boot camp." It gives many more specifics on moral behavior than the NT. But according to orthodox tradition stemming from Paul's writings, the coming of Jesus made these laws obsolete. If moral perfection and the acquisition of virtue are the goals of the "New Kingdom" then why the de-emphasis of the OT law, and the new emphasis on right belief and relationship?

  2. In this light, then the OT law could be seen as the "moral training manual" for the "moral boot camp."

    Could you unpack this analogy for us?

    Specifically, could you say more about why the OT should be thought of as a guide for spiritual formation?

  3. It was really just a reflection on Richard's comment that "church is a boot camp for kingdom living." It strikes me that, in light of Jesus' coming, Paul (IMO) interpreted that event as the end of Jewish Law. The OT, with all of its emphasis on right living, seems a more appropriate arena for living these highly morally trained lives. If this is what "New Kingdom" living is all about, I'm struggling to see what differentiates it from the Old Kingdom. It seems to me, at least in the mind of Paul, that the New Kingdom was new precisely because the Law was no longer to be emphasized. Instead the emphasis was to be on right belief and relationship. Of course, James and Matthew have a different take on things, and this relates to the faith/works issue (and just how separate Christianity was going to be from Judiasm, that the church was working through).

  4. not too long ago, i abandoned the notion of free will. being a universalist, the lack of free will does not bother me in terms of soteriology. however, throughout church history theologians have been able to skirt the problem of evil in the world by invoking the argument of free will. but as the idea of free will becomes increasingly untenable, all the evil in the world gets laid squarely at the feet of God. because of this, i have quite literally lost the ability to sing praise songs that speak of God's goodness. all i can think is "what kind of 'good God' creates a world where such horrible atrocities take place?"

    to be blunt, sadistic is more the word that comes to mind. and while it may be true that humans lack the perspective to know God's plan, given that my perspective is my only frame of reference, i can't help but have little more than ambivolent feelings towards God.

    my purpose for this comment is to know if anyone else struggles with this problem, and if so, i would like to know how you have dealt with it. being a professing chrisitian, i would like to be able to worship and love the God whom i believe in.


  5. Nolan,

    Yes. I can identify very much your post. One possible solution is to see the future as something that is unknowable, even for God. In this mode of thinking, God created the world, without knowing the evil that would result. Not because he is not all-knowing but because the future just isn't knowable. Well, creation went south, in spite of God's best intentions. And so what you have in the story of Christianity is God doing everything he can to make things right again. This New Kingdom of highly trained moral agents vision of Richard's fits well here in this process. Anyway, I guess the point is that if God didn't know what would happen, then it seems like he is less responsible. Especially considering that the Christian story is one of him doing everything he can to rescue the situation.

    An alternative to this view, is that perhaps the world, in its current state, is the only arena in which we can learn the virtue and morality that God wants. In other words, perhaps some things can only be learned experientially. And perhaps some of this instructive experience has to be "bad." i.e. some things that God wants us to know can only be learned by "bad" experiences. So having evil in world is really just an instructive tool.

    I don't know that I believe any of this, but it seems to make sense. The thing that bothers me most about getting rid of free will, is that it is the best argument against the "hiddenness of God" argument. What I mean by this, is that if our choice to follow God or not, is not the be all and end all, then why doesn't God reveal himself more? You would think that if God desires relationship with us, and that he desires us to become more like him, then he would be a little more involved in the process. If he were more visible, then perhaps the pill of evil would be easier to swallow. If you believe in free choice, then it is easy to explain why God remains hidden: he wants the choice to follow him or not to be truly free. As it stands, the world "looks" like God is absent (i.e. the average rational Joe can have reasonable unbelief). This is a big problem for me.

  6. pecs,

    thanks for your response. about the theory that the future is unknowable, even to God. it would seem as though this theory is possible only if free will is still a player in the game. scientists theorize that if we had infinite knowledge about the physical properties of the universe (which one would assume God has)then we would be able to know the future becuase everything is reducible to the physical level. there is no "X factor" that leaves the future unkowable.

    and in regard to the alternate view. it is a plausible argument that with "the world, in its current state" pain is the only way to teach us certain things. but then we are left with the question, "why did God create a world in which pain/evil was a necessary tool in moral development?" are God and satan working together? are they the same person? couldn't God have either (a) preordained us with virtue and love, or (b) devised a system in which redemption/moral development was a much less painful process.

    if i have misunderstood or not thought through either of these theories please let me know. but if nothing else, it is comforting to know that my concerns are shared by others.


  7. Hi Dr. Beck,

    Of course, we shouldn't forget that Luther (as I understand it) struggled a lot more with the other side of the issue; namely, he began with the assumption that God is sovereign and in complete and total control, and then wondered, "how can humanity have any freedom at all, especially when it comes to salvation?"

    The traditional Reformed approach, as I'm sure you know, is that God decides who who is "saved" based upon God's election of those predestined to be saved, and so, while Talbott's quote is interesting, it would be a moot point for many Reformed Christians, where all humanity is deserving of damnation because of the "fall" and God decides who will be saved through His mysterious sovereignty that extends only to those who are "in Christ."

    I'm not saying I necessarily agree with all of the above propositions (and I realize there are a variety of interpretations of Reformed theology), but given the tradition of the Church and witness of Scripture, and the current resurgence in "conservative Reformed theology" throughout the U.S., this perspective is worth keeping in mind. Understanding the tension on both sides of the spectrum is valuable, IMO, if we are going to develop any sort of helpful response to the problem you are describing.

    But then again, perhaps you have already dealt with that issue somewhere else on your blog, in which case, never mind! :-)

  8. "scientists theorize that if we had infinite knowledge about the physical properties of the universe (which one would assume God has)then we would be able to know the future becuase everything is reducible to the physical level. there is no "X factor" that leaves the future unkowable."

    I am a novice here, so take this with a grain of salt, but I'm not sure scientists are in agreement on this. I think you are right that IF one had infinite knowledge of the present, then the future is predictable. What is debatable is the infinite knowledge of the present. This is where Schrodinger's Cat rears its head, and says that one can only determine probabilities of the present and therefore the future can only be known within certain probabilities. For example, there is a probability that my hand could pass write through my keyboard while I'm typing. But it is really, really low. Anyway, I lack the depth to be able to connect this in any way to God creating the universe and his ability to predict what would happen after.

    The point is, I think that is a debatable position.

    As for your criticism of argument 2: It definitely does require some "faith" to believe that things are as they are so that they will be better in the end.

  9. pecs,

    this is pretty far off topic, but since you brought up quantum mechanics, i often wonder if the uncertainty inherent within the system was God's way of leaving himself room to perform miracles while still "playing by the rules"

    just thought i'd throw that out there.


  10. Long day so I'm showing up late here.

    First, I have no answers. At the end of the day theodicy is going to be the weak spot in any theistic system. Always has been, always will be. This is partly why I'm drawn to universalism: It at least draws all the threads together in the end. But that doesn't get to Nolan's concern: Should God have created the world, given its pain, in the first place?

    There seems to be, as I sit here, a two answers to this:

    1. God had/has an epistemic horizon. Maybe this is due to free will, quantum uncertainty, or algorithmic incompressibility. Problem with this answer: Is God omniscient?

    2. God knew the unfolding but created the world anyway. This calls God's goodness (or judgment?) into question. But perhaps this question of "What is good?" is beyond us right now. We are left with inscrutability. Not an easy "Who are we to question God?" but a hard won inscrutability that is the seed of lament.

    You're right that I'm largely working from my Arminian tradition and that I'm leaving Reformed perspectives on the side. Apologies to all Reformed readers! I just don't know ya'll as well.

  11. "i often wonder if the uncertainty inherent within the system was God's way of leaving himself room to perform miracles while still 'playing by the rules'"

    Nolan, I don't know if you've read any of John Polkinghorne's books, but in Belief in God in an Age of Science he explores that idea in a chapter entitled "Does God Act in the Physical World?"

  12. I would still like to hear some of you, who have given up free will, comment on how you deal with the hiddenness of God argument. While it is related to the problem on evil argument, it is not the same (IMO). The problem of evil is: how could a loving god create/allow a universe with so much evil? The hiddenness of God argument is: How could a God, who supposedly desires relationship with us, be so absent? In other words, the world looks as if God is either deliberately remaining hidden or that he doesn't exist at all. This observation is supported by fact that it is completely rational not to believe in God. There are loads and loads of rational people who have completely reasonable nonbelief. We have more and more physical explanations for what used be considered "God's Hand" in the world. Evolution explains the origins of humanity; nueroscience is explaining the origin of the soul, etc. If God values belief and relationship with him, as Christianity (and probably every other religion) claims, then why doesn’t he make himself more visible, i.e. make it easier to believe/have relationship?

    Free will is the best argument against this, IMO. If God was less hidden, then our decision to believe in him would be influenced unduly. In other words, he values freedom of choice above all else.

    Remove free will, and this becomes an extremely compelling argument (IMHO).

  13. Pecs,
    Here's the way I'd come at that question.

    God doesn't want a "relationship" with us as commonly understood. He's not interested in being our Lover or Friend.

    God is interested in our happiness and joy. And He knows that deep joy must be self-authored. It has to psychologically "owned."

    Thus, to make us deeply happy and joyful, he has to create character and virtue within us. How does He do this without forcing Himself upon us via a kind of volitional rape (making us do something against our sense of Self) or an overt display of his Presence (creating obedience out of fear; recall all direct encounters with God in Bible)? He has to work "behind the scenes" and from the margins. Slowing shaping human wills without force or fear.

  14. I like where you are going with this. Couple questions though:

    1. How do you view prayer with your de-emphasis on the relationship?

    2. Do you think people can be deeply happy in the abscence of a knowledge or belief in God? In other words, is this Godly character and virtue attainable without the belief behind it? Or is belief a prerequisite or involved somehow in this process?
    If not, then it seems that God would be equally content with us believing in him or not, as long as we were aquiring the kind of character he wants. If, in fact, this belief/relationship is part of becoming virtuous (from God's perspective), then we are back to the question of why he is so hidden.

  15. Hey Pecs, re: your comment -- I thought I'd add a couple of my thoughts... though I haven't given up on free will (even though it may appear I have after reading this)!

    From my perspective the "hiddenness" argument is a corollary of the theodicy problem. That is to say, the reason God seems "distant" is because we relate God's "distance" to an experience of evil. If we never experience evil, it seems unlikely that we will view God as distant. Even from a "rational" perspective, the distance of God is always related to the idea that if God exists, He should show Himself in order to "do something" about the problems of the world, or my personal doubts.

    I struggle with these ideas every day. But what I find intriguing is that evil and suffering apparently lead some people to God and push others away from God. Is this evidence of free will? What is it about some who endure vast hardship and suffering that creates in them a desire for God and sense of God's presence? Is it simply another facet of the "narcotic function of faith" (to use Richard's words)? Is it a choice based on rational or experiential reflection? Or is it possible that somehow, for those individuals, God *is* less "hidden" in that moment? This, of course, leads to the question 'why would that be the case?'

    You seem to be saying that God values free choice because without it there is no defense against the hiddenness of God. But I think what we call "free will" has less to do with responding rationally to God's hiddenness, and more to do with taking that irrational leap into God's hiddenness, because something God has done makes it impossible for us to do otherwise.

    Maybe I'm completely batty :-)... but it seems to me that if God values free choice above all else, rather than making theodicy and hiddenness less of an issue, it leads to the logical conclusion that God is rather sadistic, given the lack of evidence for His existence. Why force freedom upon creatures only to make it unbearably difficult for them? Which makes me hope that God is, in fact, revealing Himself in ways that we don't realize, and the main focus shouldn't be our "free will" but rather God's revealing.

    Hope that makes some sense :-)


  16. Geoff,

    You lost me in the last two paragraphs. This probably has more to do with me being a chemist and not a philosopher, rather than you being incoherent.

    "with taking that irrational leap into God's hiddenness, because something God has done makes it impossible for us to do otherwise.

    If God did something making it impossible for us to choose otherwise, how is that "free will"?

    Now I can how a deterministic, future knowing view of God can lead one to believe he is sadistic for creating the world, but struggle to understand why this would be the case if there were free will.

  17. pec,

    you asked about how those of us who have given up on free will deal with "hiddeness of God" issue.

    my short answer is that i don't have an answer. we can just tack that on to the ever growing list of things i don't have an answer for. but what i would like to respond to is the way you framed your comment:

    "Free will is the best argument against this, IMO. If God was less hidden, then our decision to believe in him would be influenced unduly. In other words, he values freedom of choice above all else."

    my issue with your statement is that you seem to be advocating free will becuase it is convenient. i would love for there to be free will. the presence of free will would go a long way in explaining a great deal of things. the problem is that the convenience of espousing a certain view and the plausability of that view are two completely different things. again, i am really hoping i am wrong about free will. but i just don't see free will as plausible anymore. and as much as i hate that, i try very hard not to reject an idea simply because i don't like its implications.


    i have not read Polkinghorne, but i have been wanting to do some reading in that area so i will definitely check it out. thanks for the suggestion

    one more thing, everyone uses these abbreviations so much that i feel like i am missing something really obvious. but i cannot for the life of me figure out what yall are talking about when you use IMO and IMHO...if someone could clear that up for me i would really appericiate it.


  18. I would just like to restate that I don't know how helpful it is to debate free will vs. determinism.

    My interest in attacking free will has less to do with determinism and more to do with realism. This is why I like the terms "weak volitional" and "strong volitional" models of the mind.

    Now those terms may be simply a delaying tactic, pushing off the free will vs. determinism debate, but they do allow us to have an important and realistic (!) conversation about how we affect behavior change in the church.

    Another thought. Freedom, with the kinds of minds we have, appears to be related to knowledge/information. As the NBC commercial says "The more you know!" Meaning this: My will might not be wholly "free," but if it has all the information out in front of it, all choices and outcomes, the mind is exquisitely attuned to making good choices. That is, the mind/will is less built for radical freedom and is more like an optimization engine, guiding the person to greater fulfillment and joy. But the mind needs good information. This is why we value education so much, for moral reasons, in liberal democracies.

    Given this angle, then, "sin" looks more Eastern/Buddhist. That is, sin is a manifestation of ignorance and not "evil inclinations." Thus, salvation in this model is more akin to education (btw, this fits with a Girardian view of the cross; see The Voice of the Scapegoat series). If this is so, we can say that freedom is less about acausality and more about "control/power" to affect changes and manage your life. To be free is to see all those choices before you and be equipped to move toward joy. Freedom is the expansion of both capability and choices (as in the phrase "America is a free country"). And all this is compatible with God working alongside and with humanity helping us create and maximize our freedom.

    To conclude, perhaps freedom isn't granted to us from birth by the bestowing of a free will upon us. Perhaps, freedom comes at the end. Freedom is something that is attained and acquired. And this fits the biblical witness: We move from slavery to freedom. Sin to salvation. Darkness to light.

    We are becoming free.

  19. Nolan: IMO/IMHO= In my opinion


    Pragmatism should always be the goal of any discussion like this, I think. I am interested in this theology of the cross that you are referring to and just ordered some of the books you recommended via ILL. On first glance, it sounds kinda "new agey," and my gut reaction is to disregard it.

    So is what you are saying that education is the foundation to this "new kingdom" that Jesus inaugerated? That education is how people are equipped to make wise (Godly) choices?

    It seems to me, in this view, that Christianity would then have a lot in common with psychotherapy. The goal of both being to "affect changes and manage your life" in the pursuit of greater joy. If your view is to be taken seriously, perhaps churches should all hire therapists, as professional help to speed this process along.

    If this were Jesus' goal in starting this new kingdom, then I wonder why he didn't spend more time teaching (and writing, especially) on process to accomplish this. Also, the joyous path is not exactly the one he chose (at least from an earthly perspective). And so when he calls us to come and follow him, what is he calling us to exactly? A morally trained life that will lead us ultimately to greater happiness? I don't know about that.

    I'm sure if I read the books you recommended, your viewpoint will become clearer... so don't feel like you need to respond to all these questions.

    Lastly, I'll repost some earlier questions that also have pragmatic implications:

    1. How do you view prayer with your de-emphasis on the relationship?

    2. Do you think people can be deeply happy in the abscence of a knowledge or belief in God? In other words, is this Godly character and virtue attainable without the belief behind it? Or is belief a prerequisite or involved somehow in this process?
    If not, then it seems that God would be equally content with us believing in him or not, as long as we were aquiring the kind of character he wants. If, in fact, this belief/relationship is part of becoming virtuous (from God's perspective), then we are back to the question of why he is so hidden.

  20. Pecs,
    Regarding the "therapeutic model." You may be working with an odd model of therapy. Therapy doesn't lead to joy or fulfillment. It generally takes depressive people and makes them less depressed. At least well enough to function.

    Psychologists have recently begun to notice this and have of late been looking at issues of happiness, fulfillment, and meaning in life. And guess what? The route they have found (note that these are secular researchers) is the path of virtue. Exactly the witness of the bible. So, when I say "education" I don't mean therapy. I mean virtue acquisition. This focus is converged on by both faith and science. That is, faith and science agree on the “How?” of happiness. They disagree on the “Why?” For science the happiness = virtue equation is a product of natural selection. This appears to be a bit of a stretch: Why “nature red in tooth and claw” produce creatures that attain bliss through self-emptying and self-sacrifice? Religion’s answer to “Why?” is metaphysical: The Universe, or the One Who Made It, is good.

    Also, issues of Kingdom living are sociological as well. Joy is fundamentally communal. Thus, virtues like "turn the other cheek" are also about joy. In sum, your statement that Jesus didn't talk much about this stuff seems to be based on a misunderstanding.

    Moving to your other questions.

    1. For me, prayer is also about virtue acquisition. It is an act of kenosis (which I'm posting on next).
    2. Can you be happy without belief in God? Yes. Happiness is not about cognitive content. It's about character. So, anyone living a cruciform life would be happy. The issue is: Can you get to a cruciform life without strongly identifying with the story of Jesus (i.e., adopting it as your life narrative and moral compass)? Answer: It appears you can (think about people of virtue in other world religions). But as a Christian I say that Jesus provides the norm, the template. World religions produce joy insofar as they converge on the Incarnation (e.g., Gandhi was a human exemplar in that he resembled Christ). This analysis converges with the point of this post: Christianity is less about Choice and Orthodoxy and more about Character and Orthopraxy.

  21. Hey Pecs,

    I'm a theology student, so there is a high likelihood that my philosophical musings will show just how clueless I am! :-)

    What I was trying to say is that I think there is a sort of paradoxical interplay between God's sovereignty and free will... not that one exists at the expense of the other, but both exist in order to make the other complete for/in "salvation." I think I can use that word, because I'm defining salvation as something that affects the whole of existence, not just in a "personal" sense. I think Christianity has done a great disservice by equating faith in Christ primarily with personal salvation from a future hell.

    How this plays out I'm not able to adequately articulate at present. But I do like Richard's statement that freedom "is to see all those choices before you and be equipped to move toward joy."

    However, what I would add is that in the end, if God is God, there is only one choice that leads to true joy, and God is that choice. God is involved in equipping us, leading us to that choice, because if not, given the world in which we live, I see very little reason to suggest that human beings will, through our own faculties, come to the place where we make the choice for God on our own. Alongside of this is the idea of "surrender." Rather than seeing the free choice as a decision to "accept Christ", I see the free choice as a decision to end my resistance. And this is a process, we are all in the process of surrendering to God.

    So my use of the word "impossible" is perhaps problematic, but I think that is where the paradox exists: We surrender to God when we reach a point where it is "impossible" for us not to choose God. But that surrender is a free choice, a decision to stop resisting. I don't know if that's a satisfactory answer but that's where I am right now...


  22. Yikes! You know, I really should be working on my dissertation, but I'm not sure that will be as instructive for my moral training and virtue learning (and thus my ultimate happiness) as this discussion :)

    Or as fun. Maybe I'm in the wrong prefession.

    I have been thinking a lot about what Richard has been saying, and my thoughts led me to the question: What Christian group is currently modeling having this emphasis on aquiring virtue best, and what does it look like, in a pragmatic sense?

    It occured to me that the Catholics might actually be following this model most closely. They emphasize obedience, and have structures in place to help people come to a higher level of obedience (spiritual formation)e.g. confession. They also have Pergatory: a remedial place for people who died before completing this transformation of character.

    This got me to thinking that, from a historical perspective, perhaps Protestantism is as it is, suffering from many of Richard's criticisms (emphasis on right belief and relationship over Orothopraxy), because of the knee-jerk reaction of the Reformation. No doubt the Reformers had some valid complaints, but perhaps, looking back on things, we swung a bit too far to the opposite extreme.

    Richard, I feel like I need to clarify that last post. It was mainly an expression of frustration over the fact that Jesus didn't leave us a user manual for this character changing process. I guess I just wish things would have been spelled out a little clearer, (and our happiness more easily attainable as a result, perhaps) in terms of how to accomplish this character change and joy achieving most efficiently. As it stands, Christians have a hard time agreeing on whether that is even a legitimate emphasis. Perhaps the example of his life, and the observation of others on it preserved down through the ages, is actually the best thing. I guess I just want "How to achieve perfection in virue acquisition, and thus, ultimate joy" by Jesus.

  23. Pecs,
    If I had to guess, I'd say that the NT "training model" is very much like what you are probably doing with your dissertation: Master/Apprentice. With both Jesus and Paul the model seems to be: Imitation.

    Hey, what's the working title of your dissertation? I know I won't understand it but the title has got to sound sexy.

  24. "Why I hate synthetic chemistry: A brief introduction"

    Then it changed to: "Want cancer? Try synthetic chemistry!"

    Followed by: "Why just shorten your life? Why not waste 5 of the best years of it? Graduate school in Chemistry!"

    Finally settled on "Photochromic Azobenzene Macrocycles: An Avenue to Nanoporous Materials with Photo-tunable Porosity"

    Just ignore the first part. That was my other personality I created to cope with writing.

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