Saturday, October 6, 2012

Theology on the Hill: Does Free Will Still Exist?

Last night Mount Angel Seminary hosted the first session of Theology on the Hill for the 2012-2013 school year.  Dr. Andrew Cummings and Dr. Katy Leamy, both faculty members of Mount Angel Seminary, held a discussion entitled "Does Free Will Still Exist?"  Deacon Brian Bergeron, a seminarian for the Diocese of Helena, served as the moderator.

Dr. Cummings and Dr. Leamy began the discussion by outlining the more extreme positions regarding free will from the perspectives of philosophy and theology.  Within philosophy, explained Dr. Cummings, the extreme positions are represented by Jean Paul Sartre and B.F. Skinner.  Sartre argued people are 100% free; Skinner argued that science will eventually be able to predict every aspect of human behavior.

Dr. Katy Leamy is offered hospitality by Beth Wells, the manger of the Store at the Press.

Fr. Theo Lange, a formation director for Mount Angel Seminary, and Br. Nicolaus Wilson, a seminarian from St. Martin's Abbey, visited with the guests who arrived for Theology on the Hill.

Dr. Andrew Cummings, Deacon Brian Bergeron, and Dr. Katy Leamy take their places as Theology on the Hill begins.

According to Dr. Cummings, most philosophers today are looking for the middle ground between these two positions.

Dr. Leamy explained two extremes positions regarding free will from a theological perspective.  The first extreme, she said, states that if there is a God, people aren't free because God is in control.  If God is not in control, the unlimited power of God is limited.

The second extreme position states that since people experience freedom, God sacrificed some of his freedom in order to establish freedom for humanity.

Finding a more workable approach to free will in theology, explained Dr. Leamy, requires defining freedom in terms of relationship rather than in terms of control.  This approach enables both God and humanity to be free and in relationship with each other.

After their brief presentations, the seminarians, faculty and staff, and off-hill guests offered questions and discussion in response to Dr. Cummings and Dr. Leamy.  Deacon Brian encouraged vigorous discussion when he said, "I am not a cheerleader, and this is not a pep rally."  He explained that different points of view and questions were welcome.

The next Theology on the Hill will take place on Friday, November 16th, at 6:15 p.m. at the Store at the Press.  The topic will be journalism and will feature Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB, the editor of this blog, and two of her journalism students, Raul Barriga and Peter Lawongkerd.

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