Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Sovereignty, Free-Will, and Brexit

I'm probably going to vote to remain in the EU. I haven't fully decided yet, but it seems the reasonable thing for me to do. That's not to say that I am right to do so, nor do I want to encourage people to follow me. I only ask that they follow their consciences. If you believe that the U.K. would be better off out of the European Union, then you follow that belief and vote Leave. That's your choice.

One of the problems with this issue that has much in common with the American Presidential Candidate situation is that facts are being flung at us from left, right, and centre amid venom, accusation of lies, with ridicule, and coercion. These facts are not easily verifiable by the likes of little me who, like most people I assume, have little knowledge of precisely what the facts are in the EU at this time. There are big assumptions being made by supporters of both sides, many of which hold little water really.

So why am I voting to stay in?

I work by the maxim, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." This maxim ultimately landed me in the ACC where we have maintained an unbroken Anglican Catholic faith unlike the Church of England which, in my eyes broke the maxim and thus broke its Catholic orders. However much the "Leave" people say that Europe is broken, they usually try to appeal to the desire for the U.K. to regain its sovereignty which it lost when it joined the E.U. The trouble is that this sovereignty is largely illusory.

If the U.K. leaves the E.U., then it will still be a member of the U.N., of NATO and of other treaties and organisations which require some complicity. The U.K. could, in theory, become isolationist like North Korea, but clearly this is not in the country's best interests at all. We are still part of trading, the laws of which affect our trading at home. In order to be part of the world stage, the U.K. has given up its sovereignty just like practically every other country. That may or may not be a good thing, but it is inescapable. In order to do deals, we have to compromise. We have to sacrifice the way we rule ourselves in order to find common ground with others.

Given this, there seems to be little reason not to continue in the E.U., since although there is a pressing need for reform, there is no sovereignty to be regained by leaving it.

There are issues which may cause me to vote Brexit, but I won't go into them here. This blogling is not a place for political rallying. I have outlined my current thinking but, given the deluge of fact-flinging and mud-slinging, I will simply not entertain any dialogue here. Comments designed to sway me one way or another will be summarily deleted.

So why have I gone through this political spiel if not to make a political statement?

It's the issue of sovereignty. God's sovereignty to be precise and whether ours is an illusion.

The question still bugs me, am I a Christian because God has made me so, or because I want to be so?

There are many who would say that God has made me a Christian, which then begs the question about the people He didn't make to be Christian. Did He therefore make people atheists, or (horrors!) Occultists?

This brings us to the theories of our free-will in the face of determinism. I'm looking into this at the present time, so I expect that I will be blogging more on the topic a bit later. What do I mean by free-will? I answer that I have free will if I can make a choice that is not based on an external constraint or pre-determined course. Can I lift my arm of my own choosing without being forced to do so by the law of physics or because God predestined me to do so?

The question really boils down to whether I am a causal agent in myself. If I am a completely physical being and every part of my person is described by the laws of physics, then my choices and actions will also be described by the laws of physics. This is true if my mind is merely the product of my brain, i.e. the electrochemistry of my brain gives rise to my thoughts and subsequent actions. However, I believe that my mind doesn't arise from my brain but exists in some correlation with my brain. I am convinced by my experience in life that I have a non-physical mind which is somehow conjoined to a physical body. I believe myself to be a causal agent in myself. This means that I am completely morally responsible for my actions.

So did God make me a Christian? This is a difficult question to answer, primarily because of God's Eternity. God is not bound by the sequences of Time, and that means that His Creative power is not limited to temporal sequences either. Considering also that God's knowledge is not limited to the indicative mood but also a complete understanding of possibilities, it makes sense that He knows me in all possible worlds. I am bound to the causal nexus inhabited by other causal agents. I make my decisions based on how the world around me is changing. I believe I am always free to choose between the decision that I do end up making AND the decisions that I don't. Since I believe myself to be the cause, the responsibility for the effects of that decision must lie with me and not with God.

Did God make me a Christian? Well, I believe that God is making me a Christian by shaping the circumstances of my life so that I have the opportunity to respond freely to the decisions with which He presents me. At the moment, I seem to be doing okay on that front since I believe the content of the Catholic Creeds and I have not rejected Our Lord's sovereignty over me. He is the King of my life. I'm just not a very good subject, which is why I need to keep turning back to Him in order for me to become the Christian as fully as I can. It is through the grace of God that He first drew me to Him and that in being drawn, I have been given the choice to allow the seed of faith to grow in me, or to die. Through that faith I am being justified, being saved, being sanctified. I sin, but I am always presented with the space to choose between repentance or to remain in sin. If I choose the latter consistently and habitually, then I am choosing consistent and habitual separation from God. Eternal separation from God is Hell, and I have only myself to blame for that.

The clever thing is, He is doing this with every single person ever in existence. He has sovereignty over the the entire causal nexus. No, I can't possibly begin to understand the sheer complexity of keeping track of all possible decisions that will ever be made and how the Divine mind can shape a coherent universe around that. But I do know that God is Love and that Love doesn't insist on its own way. God doesn't insist on His way, that's why people are free to reject Him. If that is a limitation of His sovereignty, then it is a self-imposed limitation, just as the Incarnation itself was a self-imposed limitation.

I do not believe that I am predestined for heaven at the level of a single person, but I believe that the Church is predestined for Heaven. I believe that the Church is the chosen people of God, but to ask when He makes that decision is meaningless as it is a decision made in Eternity. I choose to be a member of the Church now, and thus I need to act consistently on that choice according to the circumstances of my existence. I pray then, through the grace I received at my Baptism and Confirmation, that I would always turn to Christ, repent of my sins, and renounce Evil, and thus find myself Eternally bound to God. I pray that, not only for myself, but for every single human being, past, present, and future.

I'm voting to remain with God. The alternative doesn't seem that appealing.

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