The Problem of Free Will

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For discussions about religion, but not specifically Christianity. Christians and members of any faith or of no faith are welcome, provided they treat others with respect at all times. Remember that detailed discussion about the beliefs of a particular faith will be difficult if no member of that faith is available to take part.

Re: The Problem of Free Will

Postby Bev » February 4th, 2013, 5:36 pm

Vix, I really appreciate your encouragement. I would hope though, if a question comes to mind that you would ask it, mainly because in how it helps me more thoroughly think all this through.

For instance, I personally wondered if certain therapies suggesting a review of, and rejection of, self-condemning thoughts might work well because we would be actively reversing the process that initially placed inside our reservoir the recipe for such thoughts.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized how much easier it would be to swiftly and thoroughly disregard such thoughts if we truly believe they are merely emerging from a reservoir of "self-condemning beliefs" put there outside of our control. How much easier to look at such a thought and disregard it right out of hand as something completely foreign to you. How empowering!

Then, I had this image of the reservoir slowly emptying of the bad influences. This could be especially healing if at the same time we are taking some control over what we allow back in.

For Christians who have believed Satan as the source of evil, it has become habit to "rebuke" or to disregard any evil thought.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1,2)


I believe so strongly that the source of all that is good floods us when we receive the Spirit of God and make Him Lord of our lives and thoughts. Surely the peace that follows comes from the automatic exercise that ensues afterwards, a new habit where we reject all condemning thoughts with great confidence that they have no rightful place in our minds and hearts, while at the same time filling this emptying reservoir with the encouragement found in scripture.
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Re: The Problem of Free Will

Postby Bev » February 4th, 2013, 6:58 pm

GregB wrote:As for Philippians 4:8,9, funnily enough that crossed my mind too at one point in Harris's lecture. We may not be able to control or completely systematise or order all our mental output but we can certainly direct more and more of our thoughts into those things which St. Paul so well describes.
I believe our thoughts come to us (yes without our control) from a reservoir deep within us that is filled throughout our lives by in part what we have been exposed to

Yes, indeed! It's like grooves which are gradually cut into our brains until they 'play back' the stored material like a disc.


Something else that came to mind along these lines was this: the mention of "plants" in the gospels takes on a whole new meaning when we think in terms of the "reservoir." Plants planted (in our reservoir) by God produce the promised fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self control.) Plants planted by "the world," especially if they are planted by a seemingly outwardly Christian source (Pharisees and other legalists Paul later rebukes in the epistles) bear evil fruit that reaps destruction, often self-destruction. We are encouraged to reject them, to turn them away (in other words give them no rightful place in our thoughts.) Even here, I believe Paul describes this kind of Christian in the love chapter in 1 Corinthians. We should not accept anything (as being from God) that does not come from a position of Love, again something we can know by memorizing Galatians 5:22-25.

I believe the two most powerful influences that initially fill our reservoirs of self-destructive, non-loving seeds are our parents (if they are particularly unloving, judgmental, and harsh) and religion (if it is particularly unloving, judgmental, and harsh.) Mainly, because as children we believe so strongly in their authority.

Every counselor Christian or secular knows this!

But, there is a third source, which I do believe we have some control over -- the reseeding of such things. If we reject them we pull such out by the roots, which prevents it from reseeding the reservoir. I believe the function of completely disregarding self-debasing thoughts and casting them aside works the same way as when we uproot weeds from the garden, which we enthusiastically do because we never wanted that seed in the first place. The more we do this, the fewer bad seeds there are to repopulate the soil.

Again, thinking in terms of clearing out this reservoir that is manufacturing every thought that enters our head (and affects our emotions), I'm so encouraged at having a kind of picture of it all that helps me understand more clearly (from a Christian perspective) how empowered we are in rejecting a thought about ourselves that did not initially come from something we manufactured. Someone, or something else, did. How freeing! (I'm almost wanting a negative thought to enter my mind, so I can cast it right back out!! :D ) I'm so thankful to God for opening my mind to this, especially with it having come from such an unlikely source.

By the way, I asked a friend to pass on some thoughts on this subject, but what I got back was a film review. Must have been a bad line because he thought I'd said it was about 'free willy'... :blink:


:lol:
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Re: The Problem of Free Will

Postby Sweet Peace » February 5th, 2013, 12:14 am

Bev, don't forget gentleness in that list of the fruit of the Spirit.
As far as weeding out negative thoughts, if only it were the case that the more we weed, the fewer seeds are there to develop. Unfortunately, as in the parable of the tares, Satan keeps sowing more bad seeds. The life of a Christian is inevitably one of continual struggle against evil till Christ returns or until we die.
Sorry I haven't caught up with the op study - will try to soon. Thanks for the discussion, (which I thought at first was the problem of free wifi :lol2: ).
Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.
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Re: The Problem of Free Will

Postby Bev » February 5th, 2013, 12:23 am

Sweet Peace wrote: Thanks for the discussion, (which I thought at first was the problem of free wifi :lol2: ).


:lol:

You and Greg's "Free Willy" could take us in all sorts of directions. :lol:

Thanks, SP, for the correction. Gentleness should not be left out. xx
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Re: The Problem of Free Will

Postby Bev » February 11th, 2013, 9:02 pm

Recently, I listened to a sermon by Charles Stanley (I record them for later, as I tend to like his preaching style and content.) In this last one I listened to late last night, he had a message that I thought tied so well into this discussion about Free Will, but more importantly the idea that we do not manufacture our own thoughts, that our thoughts are manufactured from experiences we've had in life, some of which create "baggage" that makes life, and even our Christian faith, difficult to hold on to.

In this sermon he talked about Paul using "the race" as a metaphor for our Christian walk, our life as a Christian. He centered his talk around this passage in Hebrews:

...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Heb 12:1 NIV)


He said in Paul's day, men who competed in foot races shed clothing so that nothing impeded their ability to run as fast as they could toward the goal. In the Christian life, Stanley was saying, the things we throw off, those things that "hinder" our walk come from a place deep down inside us, from a collection of experiences we had, especially as children, where we were made to believe less of ourselves. Doubts, fears, unbelief, self-destructive tendencies, procrastination, worry, etc.... All these things, he said, we must first accept as being a part of us (regardless of any blame we might place on say a parent or guardian who so mistreated us, or bullying peers or siblings.) Once we accept them, then we can boldly reject them, he says.

Stanley was saying that even though these thoughts were put there by outside forces, and even though they are now part of us that because of Jesus we don't have to feel powerless against them. We can face them, accept that they are part of us now and with great confidence reject them. In doing so, we are set free from them.

I was personally very encouraged by this sermon and how Stanley used this passage in Hebrews to validate the point that we are not responsible for the manufacture of our thoughts, but we certainly can "reject them" (his phrase exactly) as not having any rightful place in our mind, in our life. How empowering!
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Re: The Problem of Free Will

Postby Sweet Peace » February 11th, 2013, 11:05 pm

I like Luther's saying that he can't stop birds flying over his head but he can stop them nesting in his hair. I apply this to unwanted thoughts (I think he related it to temptations). There is a new form of therapy called ACT which includes developing the observing mind. http://www.actmindfully.com.au/acceptan ... nt_therapy
ACT breaks mindfulness skills down into 3 categories:
1) defusion: distancing from, and letting go of, unhelpful thoughts, beliefs and memories
2) acceptance: making room for painful feelings, urges and sensations, and allowing them to come and go without a struggle
3) contact with the present moment: engaging fully with your here-and-now experience, with an attitude of openness and curiosity

The notion that we don't create our own thoughts is rather scarey - I think therefore I am a thinker?
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Re: The Problem of Free Will

Postby Bev » February 12th, 2013, 12:24 am

Sweet Peace wrote:I like Luther's saying that he can't stop birds flying over his head but he can stop them nesting in his hair. I apply this to unwanted thoughts (I think he related it to temptations). There is a new form of therapy called ACT which includes developing the observing mind. http://www.actmindfully.com.au/acceptan ... nt_therapy
ACT breaks mindfulness skills down into 3 categories:
1) defusion: distancing from, and letting go of, unhelpful thoughts, beliefs and memories
2) acceptance: making room for painful feelings, urges and sensations, and allowing them to come and go without a struggle
3) contact with the present moment: engaging fully with your here-and-now experience, with an attitude of openness and curiosity


Charles Stanley said the "good thoughts" are given to us by God, and the bad thoughts come from bad experiences in life. I agree with that very much!

The notion that we don't create our own thoughts is rather scarey - I think therefore I am a thinker?


:D

To me "the notion that we don't create our own thoughts" is quite freeing. It doesn't mean our thoughts aren't unique to us at all. They are unique in how we process these influences that later become our thoughts. We are, however, ultimately responsible for how we react to the thoughts that result in our consciousness as a result.

It's so challenging to articulate exactly what I'm seeing in this new way of thinking, that to me more clearly illuminates the meaning behind so many Christian, NT scriptures that before had eluded me (specifically the gospel of "grace.") Regardless of the origin that influenced the thought we must reject the self-deprecating thought as something that comes from outside our influence, and by doing so we help set our mind (and spirit) free (by not being in agreement with it.)

For me? I needed to know this is outside my control as I've clung to things like "guilt," or "worry" being convinced I'm the author of it all. I'm not! I'm reacting to what others have said about me (that is not what God says about me.) Same goes for everyone. We're only the author of what we validate and keep as belonging to us. Does that make sense?

Regardless of how we label it, a thought that pops into our head that reminds us we are not worthy (for whatever reason) can be instantly seen as a result of some prior negative, bad conditioning, from a source outside us. And, we can reject it! Especially if we turn to the scriptures that constantly remind us God finds us so worthy that he sent his only begotten son to suffer in so terrible a way to redeem us.

PS, I honestly don't think I'm seeing something new. I'm just seeing the original message in a new way that breaks down all the previous, stilted, lifeless paradigms that for me lost meaning in their repetitive conveyance. If you know what I mean.
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Re: The Problem of Free Will

Postby Sweet Peace » February 12th, 2013, 11:00 am

I'm glad it's turning on light bulbs for you, Bev. Perhaps there needs to be a distinction made between thoughts that pop into our heads and ones that are the result of deliberate thinking.
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Re: The Problem of Free Will

Postby Bev » February 12th, 2013, 2:58 pm

Sweet Peace wrote:I'm glad it's turning on light bulbs for you, Bev. Perhaps there needs to be a distinction made between thoughts that pop into our heads and ones that are the result of deliberate thinking.


I'm not sure a distinction can be made, mainly because our thinking process is the same; that is, our thoughts formulate from deep down inside our subconscious mind (or that reservoir that's been collecting impressions, experience, reactions, etc... to the outside world.) So, even if we're deliberately thinking about something, our thoughts are still informed by subconscious influences we hold on to.

The best example of this is someone who suffers from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder.) Clearly in such cases, traumatic experiences change the mind in a powerful and seemingly uncontrollable way.

Where we have control, I believe (even though Sam Harris will disagree with this) is in how we respond to our thoughts. We all have thought habits. Some remind us we lack in some way, that we're not good enough, not attractive to others, not interesting, not worth anything to others, etc.... When we listen to these thoughts as valid, important, or true, we validate them and give them power over us, and the thoughts recycle back into that reservoir (or plant more seeds to grow.) That's why capturing such thoughts as enemies to us, as lies, as coming from a source outside us (Satan) is so important. By doing so, we destroy the thought's power, and it begins to die.

We also can change what fills this reservoir by taking care in what we read, watch, and other influences. The Christian message edifies us because it constantly reminds us that God loves us, that we are worth a great deal to him, that his son died for us, that his spirit dwells within us. Thinking on these things heals us and gives us greater power to deny any thought or feeling that would try to tell us otherwise. If God does not condemn us, then any condemning thought is clearly not coming from him, and we can reject it with great enthusiasm and confidence.
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Re: The Problem of Free Will

Postby Sweet Peace » February 14th, 2013, 11:31 am

Yes, the Accuser will always get a foot in the door if you let him.

I've probably quoted this on here before.

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.

Charitie Bancroft -from the hymn Before the throne of God above.
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