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Expelled: Why are Americans allowed to care so much about freedom?, and other thoughts

Two nights ago, I finally saw the Expelled film.

I had become almost proprietorial about the widely denounced #5 political documentary.  I had first broken the story of its existence last August. I watched it pitch and roll through accusations of trickery, a threatened lawsuit over plagiarism and a real one over intellectual property, production delays (it was supposed to be released on Darwin’s birthday but was pulled for edit), and, inevitably, street drama.

Security was so tight that – as I learned a couple of weeks ago – not only could I not get a screener, neither could the the screenwriter - fellow Canadian Kevin Miller.

Okay, so there I am, sitting half-frozen in a half-empty theatre in downtown Toronto, and … I had two main reactions:

Freedom … ?

As a Canadian, I felt confused by all the talk of freedom. Americans think so highly of freedom. It seemed so strange to me that the people in the film consider it normal to worry about life, the universe, and all that.

Here today, if you openly care even about your personal freedom to just be a goof somewhere unmolested, you are at war with society. The Government knows what is Good for us. Dissent caused by our dysfunctionally evolved neurons will be punished.

So the film felt strange – it assumed facts about human nature, such as the reality of the mind, that are everywhere under serious assault in the Western world. Canada used to be freer, but we aren’t supposed to know that any more. And people single themselves out if they say too much.

Intelligent design … ?

Second, the film badly needed an explanation of why there is an intelligent design controversy. Most of my friends and neighbours simply do not know. Legacy media retail tales from the bizarre swamplands of the United States where gun-toting cretins and their obliging sisters espouse unapproved doctrines without ever receiving any proper punishment.

When a Canadian writer wanted to publish articles on intelligent design that actually explain the arguments, he wrote to me wanting to know where he could get them published. I essentially replied, “Search me. I can’t imagine any legacy medium breaking free from the Darwinsludge – and if they did, they would be shut down much faster than in the States. The mere fact of independent ideas is itself the offence, as Maclean’s Magazine and Mark Steyn found. So watch your back.”

TV series needed?

Given the many recent discoveries that challenge Darwinism and materialism, a thirteen-part TV series on the real arguments for and against design is needed. But I can’t think who would show the series. That was likely a key reason for the producers’ decision to just make a film, so that at least people willing to buy tickets could find out something.

The God who had better really be there …

The film’s strongest point is that Stein is way too smart to waste a second on “theistic” evolution – the idea that we know that God exists by faith alone. On that view, God’s actions in the world around us are supposedly indistinguishable from chance events, so design is an illusion and faith means taking a leap without evidence.

So if, for example, neuroscientists had really found a “God gene” which explains why some people believe in God but others do not, well, we know by sheer faith that God put the gene there.

Or if evolutionary psychologists could plausibly explain belief in God as naturally selected for – again, we know by sheer faith that God really exists and caused this selection.

Except that he really didn’t, of course. It would be the other way around. The gene or the selection caused God.

Trust a smart fellow like Ben Stein to see through this gunk far more clearly than some of the Bible school biology profs I’ve dealt with: Put simply, if “theistic” evolution is true, religion is bunk.*

If, n the other hand, design is true, materialist atheism is bunk. Materialist atheists know this perfectly well. That is why they persecute the design guys and cozy up to the “theistic” evolutionists.

And why Expelled was made and has no time for “theistic” evolutionism.

Now here is a quick test: If “theistic” evolution meant anything other than what I am describing above, ID theorist Mike Behe and I should be called theistic evolutionists – we accept conventional dating methods and common descent of living things But we think that God’s actions, if they exist, can be detected. They are indeed distinguishable from chance occurrences. This is the position affirmed by Scripture, tradition, and reason and denied by “theistic” evolution. And it is why we are called “creationists.”

Look, if God doesn’t exist, he doesn’t exist. But if he does exist, we’ll know about it.

Finally, seeing the film shed light on two other controversial topics:

1. The Yoko Ono lawsuit: I got a chance to hear the controversial few bars from Lennon’s “Imagine” theme. Imagine so much fuss over so little! It sure helped me see why the Stanford fair use collective got involved on Expelled’s side. Politically, Expelled was not, perhaps, the most obvious choice. However, when I saw how little use was really made of the Lennon opus minimus, I understood why Expelled was a good choice.

Intellectual property laws were designed to bust knockoff Spongebobs, pirated Two Towers, photocopied textbooks, yada yada – in other words, substantial economic and moral losses – NOT some incidental capture of a cultural icon in a documentary. What a waste of court time! And what an opportunity to start reigning in such waste!

2. The claim that the atheists had been “tricked” into taking part. It was quite obvious that these professional atheists enjoy publicity. And why not? The legacy media have lionized them. The Expelled film is one of the few places ever that some of them are just allowed to be their nasty selves. Why that is anyone’s problem other than theirs, I confess I do not know.

*While we are here: The open theism that many “theistic” evolutionists flirt with just means that there isn’t really a God. A god who is “evolving along with creation” isn’t God. One should not describe open theism as a Christian heresy. It is an atheist heresy. The only important question is, can an atheist believe in superior alien beings like the evolving god?

Also: New at the Post–Darwinist:

Open letter to comedian Guy Earle … the latest to be charged by a Canadian “human rights”commission

Birds: What you thought you knew about their evolution is wrong, all wrong

Governor Bobby Jindal passes Louisiana bill to permit critical thinking about Darwin, and such (But is this a good idea?)

If order just somehow emerges from chaos, why aren’t we all young and beautiful?

Intellectual freedom: Is misunderstanding of Internet part of Canada’s “human rights” problem?

Alarm! Alarm! Critical thinking spotted in vicinity of pop science kludge

Intelligent design and the arts – better that way, actually. Much better.

The Right’s war on science? Lot’s of ink spilled there, but how about the Left’s war on science?

Teacher accused of burning cross on student’s arm and (much worse!) of teaching creationism

Write! Canada coverage highlights intellectual freedom risks, troubles of book industry

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105 Responses to Expelled: Why are Americans allowed to care so much about freedom?, and other thoughts

  1. —–Denyse: “The film’s strongest point is that Stein is way too smart to waste a second on “theistic” evolution – the idea that we know that God exists by faith alone. On that view, God’s actions in the world around us are supposedly indistinguishable from chance events, so design is an illusion and faith means taking a leap without evidence.”

    In the spirit of, “You might be a redneck.” (If your family tree doesn’t fork)

    You might be a theistic evolutionist if:

    If you believe that God can do the selecting and, at the same time, nature can do the selecting, you might be a TE.

    If you believe that evolutionary process can be both conscious and intentional and unconscious and unintentional, you might be a TE.

    If you believe that a process can be both guided and unguided, you may be a TE.

    If you believe that design can produce evolution and that evolution can produce design, you might be a TE.

    If you believe that contingency is objective when doing your science and subjective when doing your theology, you might be a TE.

    If you believe that a purposeful, mindful creator would use a purposeless, mindless process, you might be a TE.

    If you believe that any given plan can provide for many possible outcomes and only one possible outcome, you might be a TE.

    If you use the language of teleology while arguing on behalf of non-teleology, you might be a TE.

    If you think God revealed himself in Scripture and hid himself in nature, you might be a TE.

    If you unjustly accuse ID scientists of having religious motives, while, ironically, falling back on the theological objection of “bad design,” you might be a TE.

    If you insist that there is “no conflict between religion and science,” while embracing methodological naturalism, which depends on a conflict between religion and science, you might be a TE.

    If you believe that evolution, which cannot be seen, is empirically detectable, while intelligent design, which can be seen, is empirically undetectable, you might be a TE.

    If, when asked how an empirically based design inference could possibly be a faith based presupposition, you answer, “because Judge Jones said so,” you might be a TE.

    If you appeal to Mr. Design, St.Thomas Aquinas, to argue against intelligent design, you might be a TE.

    If you believe that a proposition can be true and false at the same time and under the same formal circumstances, you might be a TE.

    If your atheist friends insist that you are a “devout” Christian, you might be a TE.

    If you deny that these formulations are fair, or if you claim to have no idea what I am talking about, you are definitely a TE.

  2. Nice post, Denyse, except for the part about open theism.

    Despite what you may have been told or inferred, there are no essential connections between open theism and theistic evolution. Open theism is committed to three things: (1) Theism, of a broadly classical sort; (2) future contingency; and (3) the idea that future contingency is incompatible with the future’s being epistemically settled for God. (For elaboration, I invite you to read my essay “Generic Open Theism and Some Varieties Thereof” recently published in the academic journal Religious Studies 44 (2008): 225–234.) That’s it. Hence, while open theism is compatible with TE, it’s also compatible with YEC and everything in between (including ID).

    Finally, your dismissal of open theism as an “atheist heresy” is simply ridiculous. It reflects considerable ignorance not only of open theism but also of a number of complex and heavily discussed philosophical and theological issues, such as the relation of God and time.

    Keep up your good work promoting ID, Denyse, but please don’t drag in issues like open theism that you are ill-prepared to comment on. Thanks.

  3. Just to throw in something along with Alan Fox’s objection – I believe Vox Day (who wrote the fantastic The Irrational Atheist) also subscribes to a version of open theism, though frankly he’s got very unique views on Christianity and religion in general.

    I’d feel no more comfortable accusing open theists of atheism than I would of accusing mormons of same. I believe in an omniscient, omnipotent God, but I think there is a vast gulf between open theists and atheists.

  4. 4

    Mike Behe and I should be called theistic evolutionists – we accept conventional dating methods and common descent of living things

    Denyse, I am rather surprised by this admission given your tendency to talk about “goo to zoo to you” in a disparaging manner.

  5. —–Alan Rhoda….”while open theism is compatible with TE, it’s also compatible with YEC and everything in between (including ID).”

    The point is that open theism is incompatible with the Bible just as TE is incompatible with the Bible except for different reasons. The Christian God is a perfect being and consequently immutable. To be in need change or to be changing is to be imperfect by definition and, therefore to be something other than God.

    —-”Open theism is committed to three things: (1) Theism, of a broadly classical sort; (2) future contingency; and (3) the idea that future contingency is incompatible with the future’s being epistemically settled for God.”

    That is an unfortunate position to hold. God’s omnipotence and omniscience are not in conflict with man’s free will. God knows if and when the stock market is going to crash, but that does not mean he causes it to happen.

  6. Denyse wrote:

    “Given the many recent discoveries that challenge Darwinism and materialism, a thirteen-part TV series on the real arguments for and against design is needed.”

    I couldn’t agree more. Additionally, there is much that can be gained by informing the public on just what goes on inside the cell. Right now Darwin’s black box is really modern society’s black box.

    A multi-part elucidation on sub cellular mechanics with appropriate commentary of the strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary thinking, side by side with clear instruction on design thinking (absent all the pejoratives and motive mongering that accompanies most other commentary) would go along way toward educating the public. I tend to think there would be interest here, perhaps more than anticipated.

    People tend to respect their teachers, and thus have regard for their opinions and the reasons behind them. If a strong pro-design and pro-science educational multimedia video series were produced, it would do wonders for people’s perception of ID, as well as help inform constructively about what really goes on in that little glob of protoplasm.

    I agree that Expelled fell short of the mark here. It certainly didn’t meet my expectations, although I enjoyed watching it. It was priceless seeing Ruse invoke natural selection as an explanation for the first living organism. It was also enlightening seeing Provine confess that science is “boring” if design is true (after all, the pursuit of many materialists in science is to prove that all this god bother is sheer nonsense, and completely unnecessary). I would have liked to see more material on just what Intelligent Design is (and isn’t) and why there really is a controversy over naturalistic explanations for the origins and diversity of life, and less about the ties between Darwinism and Nazism.

    But I can’t think who would show the series.

    It certainly wouldn’t be a small task to get it onto cable or broadcast television. I wouldn’t expect PBS to show it, but stranger things may have happened. I can say this however. I bought the DVD Unlocking the Mysteries of Life from a Calvary Chapel bookstore when I was investigating material on design versus evolution, and it was a real eye opener. I was (and still am) enamored with the representations of the processes taking place inside the cell, and to see it represented in such a visually rich manner helped immeasurably in providing a peek into systems that are self-evidently a product of surpassingly genius design.

    @StephenB, brilliantly funny list! :o

  7. Why aren’t ID movies, DVDs and videos legally free on the Internet?

  8. For the same reason that Richard Dawkins doesn’t put the entire text of “The God Delusion” on the internet for free.

  9. Google Video would host a “thirteen-part TV series on the real arguments for and against design”.

  10. It’s difficult to understand the allure of TE given the lack of predictive power of current evolutionary theory. For example, a recent study of birds is causing extensive revision to their tree of life.

    Field Museum (2008, June 27). Huge Genome-scale Phylogenetic Study Of Birds Rewrites Evolutionary Tree-of-life. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 28, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2008/06/080626141117.htm

    The authors go as far to say that:
    Shorebirds are not a basal evolutionary group, which refutes the widely held view that shorebirds gave rise to all modern birds.

    Also….
    “With this study, we learned two major things,” said Sushma Reddy, another lead author and Bucksbaum Postdoctoral Fellow at The Field Museum. “First, appearances can be deceiving. Birds that look or act similar are not necessarily related. Second, much of bird classification and conventional wisdom on the evolutionary relationships of birds is wrong.”

    With so many surprises resulting from fundamental research at the genomic level, isn’t it time for a new and more accurate theory and narrative for the origin and evolution of species.

  11. Alan Rhoda: I’m not sure that Denyse is as off the mark as you claim. A god who does not know the future and therefore learns the future (for the first time!) as it unfolds does seem to be an evolving god (we might say “an epistemically evolving god”). Moreover, Augustine says that any being that does not know the future is not God. So, by Augustine’s lights, open theists, in denying the existence of any being that knows the future, deny the existence of God.

  12. “A god who does not know the future and therefore learns the future (for the first time!) as it unfolds does seem to be an evolving god (we might say “an epistemically evolving god”). ”

    This would also be true of any finite time-bound being who does not know the future, including me. But I am not an epistemically evolving human being. I am a human being who remains identical to himself over time while changing. It does not seem accurate to refer to my acquisition of knowledge that happens as I move through time as “evolution.”

    I am certainly no fan of open theism. But it does not seem to entail theistic evolution or vice versa. Certainly, an argument can be made that process theism is congenial to an evolutionary understanding. Perhaps Denyse is confusing process theism with open theism, which is, by the way, not uncommon mistake for those outside of theology.

    Alan is a former of student mine at UNLV, who wrote his honors thesis on the design argument (which I directed). He will be joining me next year at the University of Notre Dame. Alan will be a junior fellow in the Center for Philosophy of Religion while I will be the Mary Ann Remick Senior Visiting Fellow in the Center for Ethics & Culture.

    I do think that Alan is completely wrong about open theism. But he’s a good man and a good philosopher.

  13. Hi Bill,

    You’re right that open theism is committed to an epistemically changing God, a God who “experiences succession”, we might say. But that’s not so clearly a liability as Denyse seems to think. The argument from divine perfection that she alludes to depends on the questionable assumption that all that change must be either for the better or for the worse.

    As for God’s knowledge of the future, the key issue here is the nature of “the future”. According to non-open theists, of the many causally possible futures–complete sequences of events subsequent to the present–there is exactly one that is the “actual” future. According to (most) open theists, on the other hand, there is no such thing as “the future” in that sense for God or anyone to know. Instead, open theists conceive of “the future” as the whole branching array of possible futures. Given these respective understandings of “the future”, both open and non-open theists can affirm that God has exhaustive knowledge of the future; both can affirm that God believes all truths.

    There is parity between the two positions here. If non-open theists are right about the nature of the future, then open theists have to deny that God is strictly omniscient. Conversely, if open theists are right about the nature of the future, then it is the non-open theists who compromise God’s omniscience by imputing to Him false beliefs (i.e., beliefs to the effect that there is an “actual” future, when there isn’t one).

  14. The reason I said open theism is a heresy of atheism is that:

    1. Lots of twentieth century atheists, including Francis Crick and Carl Sagan, believed in the existence of beings in the universe much greater than ourselves. For Sagan it was something of a dogma. He even tried to figure out how many there were. Crick certainly considered the idea that such beings may have kickstarted life on earth. Dawkins was willing to consider it, when prompted by Ben Stein in the Expelled film – a brilliant move on Stein’s part.

    So if the belief is a heresy, it is a heresy of atheism. They invented it. Let them decide what fits and what doesn’t.

    2. If god were really a being who did not know the future, then he would stand in the same relation to the future as we do, or as Crick’s superior aliens would. The future would be beyond god and greater than god. The idea that god is evolving along with the creation, of course, follows naturally. We are all evolving toward the future, so he must be too.

    In that case, the being described is not God in the Western theistic tradition.

    I am not saying these things in order to excoriate the belief system (I’ve heard worse) but simply to explain why one might judge it irrelevant to getting a handle on the ID controversy.

    Even atheists will – it seems – concede the god of open theism, stuck for some way to get the ball rolling that actually makes sense. But like Dawkins, they don’t want the Western theistic God, precisely because of the attributes they reject but (as Bill pointd out) Augustine and others did not.

  15. Bill you say

    Moreover, Augustine says that any being that does not know the future is not God. So, by Augustine’s lights, open theists, in denying the existence of any being that knows the future, deny the existence of God.

    We agree on the main point but wasnt it Maimonides who is credited with the greatest advancement of negative theology?

    To quote from WIKI-

    “Maimonides was led by his admiration for the neo-Platonic commentators to maintain many doctrines which the Scholastics could not accept. For instance, Maimonides was an adherent of “negative theology” (also known as “Apophatic theology”.) In this theology, one attempts to describe God through negative attributes. For instance, one should not say that God exists in the usual sense of the term; all we can safely say is that God is not non-existent. We should not say that “God is wise”; but we can say that “God is not ignorant,” i.e. in some way, God has some properties of knowledge. We should not say that “God is One,” but we can state that “there is no multiplicity in God’s being.” In brief, the attempt is to gain and express knowledge of God by describing what God is not; rather than by describing what God “is.”

    The Scholastics agreed with him that no predicate is adequate to express the nature of God; but they did not go so far as to say that no term can be applied to God in the affirmative sense. They admitted that while “eternal,” “omnipotent,” etc., as we apply them to God, are inadequate, at the same time we may say “God is eternal” etc., and need not stop, as Moses did, with the negative “God is not not-eternal,” etc. In essence what Maimonides wanted to express is that when people give God anthropomorphic qualities they do not do justice to His greatness.”

    For the record St Augistine’s contribution certainly did come before Maimonides’.

    By the way Bill, how do you feel about the negative theological perspective?

  16. Dembski wrote:

    “Moreover, Augustine says that any being that does not know the future is not God. So, by Augustine’s lights, open theists, in denying the existence of any being that knows the future, deny the existence of God.”

    In light of the Christian God as portrayed in the Book of Genesis, shouldn’t “God” (who has the prowess to foresee future events) be responsible for the creation of sin and the elimination of free will?

  17. Also Bill I hate to challenge you logic here but you statement here has a loop hole-

    “Moreover, Augustine says that any being that does not know the future is not God. So, by Augustine’s lights, open theists, in denying the existence of any being that knows the future, deny the existence of God.

    Augustine saying “any being that does not know the future is not God”
    is not a statement about what God “IS” but what God is not, therefore, it seems to me, that God’s relationship to “positive” knowledge of the future, remains to be accurately defined and at least understood –

    Your point seems to maintain that…

    “one in denying the existence of any being that knows the future, denies the existence of God.”

    Yet, one can still logically deny the existence of any being “knowing the future” and simultaneously hold the “negative” perspective that “any being that does not know the future is not God”

    “IF” one takes the position that God cannot be understood “as a being.”

    A position that I myself hold as I am persuaded by transcendentalist intuitions about God.

  18. *Continued from my previous comment.*

    I think “God” in accordance with the ability to “know the future” is averse to a kind and loving God as depicted within biblical doctrine. With that ability, the “evil” (i.e., death and suffering) of this world is the end result of God’s planning and forthought…

    And to advocate such a belief is to hinder the benevolence of God and the logic of Christianity.

  19. ^that is that time may not actually exist-

  20. Hi Denyse,

    Respectfully, I must say that your follow-up response to me betrays profound confusion regarding what open theism is.

    You seem to think that the “god” of open theism is simply “a being much greater than ourselves”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Open theists are first and foremost monotheists. We believe that God is the greatest possible being. He is an eternal, metaphysically necessary, transcendent, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, omnibenevolent, personal being who created the world ex nihilo, sustains it in being, and can unilaterally intervene in it as He pleases. Clearly, no self-consistent atheist could be an open theist.

    Furthermore, it is a misrepresentation of open theism to say that, according to it, God doesn’t know the future or that the future is “beyond [G]od” and “greater than [G]od”. On the contrary, open theists believe that God knows the future exhaustively. Where we differ from non-open theists is on how we think about the nature of the future. The point has sometimes been put by saying that, for open theism, God does not have “exhaustively definite foreknowledge”. This does not mean that He doesn’t have exhaustive foreknowledge. He does. It means, rather, that His exhaustive foreknowledge is of a future that is not, it itself, wholly definite. Rather, the future consists in part of unresolved possibilities or might-and-might-nots.

  21. Frank,

    Thanks for the introduction. I definitely look forward to chatting with you and your wife at Notre Dame.

    I hope we’ll get a chance there to discuss your objections to open theism in detail, as that is the focus of the project I’ll be working on at ND.

    In my view the two biggest challenges to open theism are (1) Biblical prophecy and (2) the fact that its view of God’s foreknowledge is non-traditional. Other popular objections, ones to the effect that God of open theism is a “diminished” or finite “god” are, I think, pretty much worthless straw men.

  22. Open theists confuse God’s actions with God’s attributes. Normal Geisler has taken this kind of flawed thinking apart and has successfully refuted its erroneous conclusions.

  23. Alan Rhoda: I like your points 1 and 2. But from my reading of open theists and their critics (what can I say, I’ve read a few books on the topic; it’s not a huge priority for me), the diminishing of God is a very real issue for me. A God who does not know the future is not sovereign over it and thus can, strictly speaking, offer no guarantees about its unfolding. I know open theism has some “fixes” for this problem, but in my view they don’t work. The doctrine of election, ecclesiology (especially the destiny of the Church), and the very idea of God making and bringing about promises are, in my view, incoherent on open theism.

  24. HI Alan – thanks for the articulate explanation of open theism, especially in regards to the nature of the future and therefore the unfolding of histories of all sorts.

    I’m assuming, although the purpose of this post is to check this understanding, that open theism would accept an evolutionary explanation of the history of life as opposed to rejecting it because of the role contingent events play in such an explanation.

    Would you be willing to comment on this?

  25. Infinite Intelligence asks:

    In light of the Christian God as portrayed in the Book of Genesis, shouldn’t “God” (who has the prowess to foresee future events) be responsible for the creation of sin and the elimination of free will?

    To which Dr. Dembski has written a response to this subject in the past:

    Christian Theodicy in Light of
    Genesis and Modern Science

    http://www.designinference.com.....eodicy.pdf

  26. No one has addressed my point about “the definition of being*” where what is being called into question is the objective* reality of time. If time is ideal like Kurt Gödel thought, then the issue of future anything becomes irrelevant.

    The point is that if God could not know the future then God could not make promises- but if there was in fact no future to know, that is God knows all things yet is not concerned with the illusion of time, then the question becomes vacuous.

    The idea of open theism is about freedom* and man’s and God’s position to allow individuals to fulfill their own destines. So the concern of open and closed theism is a truly significant and real one that has existed ever since religion was first activated- but if there is no objective time in the first place, then the argument is really merely one of semantics and not meaning.

    Take for example the relativistic interpretation of time as “a space”- if individual’s “futures” are merely contained within one phenomenological metric of ” space-distance” as opposed to “time-duration” then the issue of “knowing what is going to happen” becomes meaningless. This is like looking at a static picture hanging on the wall and asking things like “how can the man on the left side of that picture coexist with the boat on the right side!?” The answer is because they occupy different positions within the same “space”- that is there is no unforeseen future anyways, not because the outside observer “can see the whole picture” but because time or duration is NONEXISTENT!-

    We as human beings however have the disposition of believing that “time” exists as an unfolding process- and ideally* it does! But in reality, that is outside of our intuitive understanding I’m not sure time is anything more than distance between things in a 4 dimensional space- that is events are just characters on ate canvass.

    This illuminates one of the foolish mind tricks evolution* loves to exploit agains the design argument- design takes the canvas and sees the picture as it is put together as a design process loaded with intrinsic design all the way through-

    - evolution sees the picture as a process within time* that “just happens” (ridiculous chance worship) to look like Design*-

    Im not big on objective interpretation of time and so the question of whether God truly can know the future is meaningless to me. The world is a canvass and matter is paint- time is more like a particular character style (i.e. impressionistic) by which God chooses to style his painting.

    The last question however is one of ethics, whereby the question about the morality of a God that does not allow man to choose his own destiny- that is if time is merely ideal then what freedom and choice does man really have?

    The answer lies within the question. Often people speak of “free will” but John Locke rejected the idea in his Essay Concerning The Human Understanding-

    Locke saw freedom as our range within space- and the will as “that which we choose to do.” In other words the concept “free will” is really a coloration of two completely separate concepts synthesized into one corollary. The point being that we do indeed have a will, and we do indeed enjoy varying degrees of freedom but that they are two separate and very different reprehensive concepts of the human condition within physical space/time. If so then God would judge us by the virtue of what we wish* to do, that is the quality of our will or desires (good or evil).

    In this interpretation we are spirits floating through a maze of matter- life is a blind test and the holly spirit of God is our guide. The belief that the physical world reflects a place that CAN be benevolent is based upon our faith in the character of God and what he might choose to include in his painting- as best as we can understand God and his abilities and intentions.

    That is the coloration between the will and time- that which we “wish” is really a hope for “the future”- but if time is merely “an illusion” then it may serve the purpose of leading us on in a blind direction to see if we will take that leap of faith “into the unknown and going forward.” This is possibly the only way to know the true spiritual intentions of man- by making him think that he has an objective choice he is tempted to do both what is right and what is wrong and his devotion is measured by how he deals with the illusion of this freedom- whether it goes to his head or he keeps it in check for the purpose of preserving and doing that which is united with the will of the ultimate good. That is to say while time may indeed be an illusion the choice to do good and evil is not- yet time is the gate way whereby God leaves the door open to see if we will run away and chose the proverbial narcissistic illusion. This brings up the question “is man drunk on his own freedom?”

    I think that a lot of “IDists” become confused between the literal interpretation of God via Biblical scripture and the philosophical one via intuitionist and practical reasoning. In this argument that I have laid out above (which I am not fully convinced of myself, though I do at the current time lean towards) I challenge the first by appealing to the latter.

  27. I have been following the foregoing debate on Open Theism with some interest. Rather than take up too much space on this blog, I would simply like to say that I have put together an interesting collection of philosophical papers on Divine Omniscience, which I have found from trawling the Internet. Some of these papers deal with Open Theism, and the major philosophical and theological objections to it. (The papers include a diverse range of viewpoints.) Readers may also be interested in Robert Taylor’s paper, “Is human free will compatible with divine omniscience?” as well as the response by David Misialowski. Anyway, here is the address of my Web page: http://www.angelfire.com/linux.....mniscience

    There’s an introductory preface (which readers are welcome to skip) in which I set forth my own opinions on the subject, but if you scroll down, you will find the collection of essays.

  28. Alan R
    “His exhaustive foreknowledge is of a future that is not, in itself, wholly definite. Rather, the future consists in part of unresolved possibilities or might-and-might-nots.”

    So perhaps my friend you’d rid your description of God of a few “omni-” prefixes, since the universe of matter, dimensions and time that God created operates in a way that He doesn’t fully understand and control. I don’t think I’ve ever read, “Most of the hairs of your head are numbered, rounded off in hundreds.”

    When you make God subservient to events of the future you negate omnipresence, which by definition includes all time and all its dimensions, past, present and future. I agree that “eternal” is not an easy concept to grasp, but it certainly means TIMELESS, i.e. no subservience to time, including anything we limited creatures might call “future.”

    I think StephanB in 22 has it.

    Some 30 years ago I received a silent rebuke that may sufficiently illustrate God’s inscrutable knowledge of the future, and my own “will.”

    One morning about 11:00 am I sat by the large open window next to the front door in my apartment living room, reading intently the passage of the Last Supper. There Christ foretold to His disciples that they would deny and abandon Him. Peter protested his fidelity, but Christ told him that before the rooster crows twice he would deny Him thrice.

    Though I was rather new in faith, having left naturalism for Theism, by this time I’d nevertheless read the NT a number of times and I knew the passage and the poignant outcome. In my misplaced enthusiasm I started to say silently in my heart, “Boy Lord, if I had been there…” (I wouldn’t have denied You like Peter did). But at that very instant, before I could even finish articulating my thought, a friend of my roommate passed the window heading for the front door. I was shocked! Here I was about to be discovered holding a Bible, the book I’d so long dissed as a book of myths, actually reading it. I slammed the Bible shut and shoved it behind a pillow on the sofa! I answered the door and in a few seconds my roommate left with his friend – and I, like Peter, realized exactly what had happened. At the very instant where I’d read the passage of Christ foretelling His denial by His disciples, the very moment I prayed in my heart to Christ about my fidelity, I too was tested and revealed the very same inability to abide faithful as had the disciples, not only to Christ, but to the Bible. I cried a little about my failure, and laughed a little that God would slap my wrist in such a remarkable way to reveal the truth, by inscrutable knowledge and timing of events.

    “All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”

  29. Bill,

    I can appreciate your not finding open theism agreeable with your theological convictions, though your characterization of open theism as holding that God “is not sovereign over [the future] and thus can, strictly speaking, offer no guarantees about its unfolding” is a straw man. Those charges would probably stick against process theism, but not open theism. If the future is indeed open in the way that open theists believe that it is, that is only because God has sovereignly decided for it to be open in precisely those ways.

    Regarding election, ecclesiology, and God’s making and keeping promises, I don’t see the incoherences you claim. God’s ability to keep promises is guaranteed by His omnipotence, which open theists affirm (unlike process theists). Regarding election and ecclesiology, open theists generally take a “corporate” view, but that’s not a strict entailment of open theism. Indeed, one can, though it’s rather awkward to do so, combine open theism with a Calvinist soteriology. (Greg Boyd held that view for a couple years.) The important thing to keep in mind is that, for open theism, it is God who decides exactly how open the future is. He determines the initial state, He determines the boundary conditions, and He can unilaterally intervene however he wants to in order to keep His program for creation and for the Church on track.

  30. 30

    But Alan you have not delt with the power of the argument from the objective nature of time being from the human perspective merely ideal.

    That is that time is merely a frame of reference thing (as is supported by moden physics) and that God, where ever he may be, may not be concerned with time at all. Time for God might just be an allusion usedto keep man’s spirit in check and this life being a test of his fortitude.

    A God like this knows all and is only concerned with the spiritual decisions of our souls. Which dont exist in space and time and therefore are on God’s prime level and not of this mere physical earth.

  31. Jack (#24),

    You asked me about whether open theism is committed to an evolutionary explanation of the history of life. Frankly, I think the answer is no. Some open theists, like Bill Hasker, do find evolutionary explanations congenial to open theism, but even he would admit, I’m sure, that there are no entailments between open theism and any particular view of biological origins.

  32. Frost,

    I haven’t dealt with the time issue because it wasn’t at all necessary for my rebuttal of Denyse’s comments.

    But since you bring it up, I’ll simply say that open theists are committed to a dynamic theory of time, according to which temporal becoming is a fully objective feature of reality and not merely a matter of human perspective. I know of no successful arguments refuting this view of time.

  33. Alan Rhoda writes: “…He determines the boundary conditions, and He can unilaterally intervene however he wants to in order to keep His program for creation and for the Church on track.”

    In that case, I don’t see the payoff for open theism. Certainly open theism is at odds with how Christian orthodoxy views divine omniscience (any patristic, scholastic, or Reformation theologians who accepted open theism?). I thought the great selling point of open theism was its easing of the theodicy problem. But a God who “can unilaterally intervene however he wants” seems as complicit and culpable as any God of traditional Christian theism.

  34. Thanks for the answer, Alan.

    Actually, however, I didn’t ask whether open theism was committed to an evolutionary explanation, but rather merely whether open theism would accept, as oppose to reject, the contingent nature – the role of what at least looks to us like chance and accident – of an evolutionary explanation for the history of life.

    Let me be more specific. Many reject evolutionary theory because they see the role of “random mutations” and other contingent events as in opposition to the manifestation of God’s design. Others, the theistic evolutionists who many here feel are not much better than materialists, believe that God acts through natural causes in ways that are beyond our empirically-based comprehension, so that what looks like chance to us is not chance to God. To such TE’s the randomness and contingency we find when we examine the world empirically is not in opposition to the belief that the course of all histories play out as God desires.

    My question, which may be more of a point, is that it seems to me that open theism, even more than theistic evolution, would accept that the world looks to us like it follows historical and causal paths full of contingency and chance, and that the presence of such contingency is not in conflict with our understanding of the nature of God.

    So my question was not whether you, or open theism in general, accepts an evolutionary explanation. My question was whether open theism accepts or rejects the argument that an evolutionary explanation that includes events which are contingent from our human perspective is somehow irreconciliable with theistic belief.

  35. Wow! How did we go from Ben Stein to Open Theism? Anyway this is a subject that interests me much—though I’m no philosopher (Don’t you agree so readily!). I have to agree with Alan Rhoda and Infinite Intelligence (how could one not!)—they make good points much better than I.

    I’ve always been bothered by the God of the theologians—cast as he was from time and thus experience and agency and learning or ever creating anything new. Whenever we try to define God we limit him. God is so great, we say, that he is outside this paltry thing we call time. I call it “theological reductionism”: did God create logic? Yes, they say. Did he create love? Of course, they assert. Well, then, if everything we can abstract about the world was created at some point in the past, then before that God was minus logic and love and everything we can imagine. Maybe ultimate reality is as simple as the reductionists think.

    Oh, but time had a beginning. Did it? How do we know? I find that I can neither imagine a past eternity (a la the Kalam) nor imagine no past eternity. Here my sympathy lies not with Augustine but King David (Psalm 139:6), “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.” But don’t get me wrong. I don’t know that we cannot know (a la Chesterton), just that I don’t know.

    We can define God however we fancy and then excise all believers who don’t so believe (thankfully not burn them at the stake anymore). But when enough men and women of good will begin to take God and the Scriptures seriously all these questions need to be put back on the table. And it looks like they already are. My best to you, Alan Rhoda!

    I’ve always felt that one must be educated (indoctrinated?) to be a compatibilist—I’ve never met an ordinary person of such a persuasion. Einstein’s “Block Time” and cosmos with no place for the present moment and no place for free will—Einstein’s theories cry out for revision! Einsteinianism, let me suggest, is opposed to both ID and Open Theism but just what the TEs ordered. In the long run I suggest that we’ll find Open Theism most proper for ID.

    WmAD says, “But a God who ‘can unilaterally intervene however he wants’ seems as complicit and culpable as any God of traditional Christian theism.” Well, me thinks it’s not that God can unilaterally intervene however he wants, it’s that God grants us the freedom to unilaterally intervene however we want (within limits he sets) that causes the problem. In the end there is simply no way to get God off the hook—and God doesn’t try to get off either, as he says (Isaiah 45:7), “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”

    Any theodicy must in some way limit God—to pretend otherwise is wrong. God is limited by his ultimate purpose, limited by logic, by his promises and covenants, by granting us free will (where he has to live with the consequences). God cannot have his cake and eat it too, else there would be no suffering.

    On open theism and the nature of time I find that both Gregory Boyd and Nicholas Wolterstorff argue mostly from Scripture whereas their antagonists cite the theologians and reason from prior reasoning. But then, Denyse notwithstanding, one day I stumbled upon this—Boyd is an anti-ID TE! Well, it just goes to show that all wisdom is not invested in one person. In order of priority ID is outranks Open Theism, and thankfully ID offers its Big Tent where theological heretics like yours truly feels right at home.

  36. 36

    Alan wrote,

    “But since you bring it up, I’ll simply say that open theists are committed to a dynamic theory of time, according to which temporal becoming is a fully objective feature of reality and not merely a matter of human perspective. I know of no successful arguments refuting this view of time.”

    I gave you some above. Godel’s appeal to idealistic time takes out of the picture the need for a God which is both commited to all things and yet still allowing evil to happen. The reason is because in a world without time things don’t “happen” they change and they are but cannot be understood as temporal.

    Godel used Einstein’s relativity theories to reduce objective time to merely a manifestation of mind – or idealism of the intuition.

    In this world God is only concerned with the way spirits act and time is not an issue but an illusion. That is ALL events happen in the same metric of space.

  37. 37

    Basically since “time” is the real problem being discussed here it is then an obvious solution to just simply eliminate it. Gödel did this and relativity both scientifically and philosophically supports it. However I do concede that Gödel’s theory could be wrong and there could be an actual objective time-

    In any case I don’t think open theism has anything remotely reasonable to offer here on this point. So my point was that Bill used Augustine’s negative theism to show how one my eliminate open theism- how ever negative theism does not deal with what IS but only with what isn’t-

    Ergo God’s actually relationship with time is not defined that way- so this leaves open the possibility that time is an illusion designed by God to keep man’s spirit in check.

    A theory that I do think is reasonable though I do not openly hold as my own.

    BTW I think that when I bring up Gödel’s views on all of this people think of his insanity and then commit the fallacy by authority throwing out his views based on his personal problems. However he arguably did more for math and philosophy then Einstein, Plato and Kant put together. He found the edge place where ontology and epistemology meet- the limits of mechanical reductionism- by showing the incompleteness of any formal system rich enough to contain arithmetic. Time being a “metric” which is arithmetical, is therefore possibly an incomplete conception.

    One might say to pin time on God is to automatically reduce God to the limits of time- therefore one has already “fixed” the debate before it can even take place! That is limiting God to the terms of an incomplete metric.

  38. “Indeed, one can, though it’s rather awkward to do so, combine open theism with a Calvinist soteriology. (Greg Boyd held that view for a couple years.)”

    Well, that defeats Open Theism’s whole purpose: to protect libertarian free-will.

    There’s another problem: all the names of the elect have been written in the “Book of Life” “from the foundation of the world.” If men have libertarian free-will and God does not know the future, then God would have to over-ride just about everyone’s LFW in order to get us to procreate so that those exact people come into being! [And of course, there are, no doubt, innumerable men and women who will be in the Book of Life who were the result of pre-marital relations. Wouldn't this also make God the author of sin?]

    Another problem: Judas Iscariot. Even Gregory Boyd admits that Judas’ betrayal of Christ was not free in the libertarian sense. Yet, Judas is called the “son of Perdition” (John 17:12). The argument from the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP) says that one must have LFW in order to be held responsible. Would this not refute the PAP? If PAP is refuted, then there is no reason to hold to Open Theism.

    “I call it “theological reductionism”: did God create logic? Yes, they say. Did he create love? Of course, they assert.”

    The answer given by most Christian theologians is “no.” Both logic and love were and are both aspects of God’s immutable essence. This goes for his righteousness. Thus, logic, love, and righteousness are neither below God nor above Him. This solves the Euthyphro Dilemma.

  39. When physicists (Einstein et al) dismiss our perception of the present as “subjective time” I’m leery. The present—this moment—is the aperture within which consciousness obtains and agency acts. Saying this is an illusion smacks of materialist bias! Somebody rescue Gödel for me.

    WmAD says: “A God who does not know the future is not sovereign over it and thus can, strictly speaking, offer no guarantees about its unfolding.” Why not? The businessman, let us say, who controlled all exigencies could be pretty sure his plans would pan out. How much more God! What if God’s sovereignty comes via agency and authority and oversight more than some infinite crystal ball. What if he’s a hands-on God—the Hebrew God of history as opposed to the ontological God of the philosophers. What if God’s free will is paramount, his power to make the future is what makes him God.

    After all, don’t we ID folks focus on agency as opposed to necessity, on design as instantiated by a mind rather than the vision of a clairvoyant?

    But this is Bill’s blog and I hope I’m not being too impertinent. Hope the support of a heretic doesn’t distract from the cause, because the front line in the culture war is ID—not, at the moment, Open Theism. Viva ID! Viva WmAD! Viva todos en las líneas del frente!

  40. 40

    “Saying this is an illusion smacks of materialist bias!”

    No materialism deals with reducing things to “matter”- illusions are non objective perceptions of the mind and in this cause the mind through reasoning is able to see around them from a strickly logical view.

  41. 41

    “But this is Bill’s blog and I hope I’m not being too impertinent.”

    Don’t worry if Bill wants you gone he wont even tell you. Youll be gone before he even posts his favorite statement

    “Rude is no longer with us.”

    LOL.

    You opened up an excellent convo here Rude. Not the best but certainly a B -.

    You also said

    “When physicists (Einstein et al) dismiss our perception of the present as “subjective time” I’m leery.”

    and you should be. I agree that the idea of time being ideal is a hard line to ride since time is a natural intuition. My point is that the argument still stands. It is perfectly logical and I have not heard any refutation of it except those from Biblical literalcy.

    In any event I don’t think time is a problem for God. I do think he knows or does not know what is going to happen because i think God transcends time. That is my position on all of this. Time’s possible ideality is beyond the current reach of science because there is no objective frame of reference where by we can appeal and test from. As I said before though if God has that prime placement in that objective frame of reference then time could objectively exist. But either way, (and I don’t really have a horse in this race) God transcends time. So I don’t think it is an issue for him. However I do not think that if time does objectively exist, that God could not know it. This would be putting limits on God for religious, political or ethical ideological reasons that have no standing within science.

    As a theological interpretation I think open theism is very flawed. From a scientific perspective it is not only a non sequitter but “not even wrong.”

  42. So the mind through reasoning is able to see around the illusion that it is now that I exercise my free will. If now is an illusion, what about free will? Einstein did not believe that there was such a thing and in my book that makes him a materialist of some genre.

  43. 43

    I don’t mean to belittle anyone’s Theology, and do think that correct understanding of God’s nature is important, but in reading all this, I am very glad that I didn’t have to have a perfect understanding of God to have God come into my life, in a real, tangible, undeniable way, when I, finally, called out to Him in the battered Christian faith that I had received as a small child.

  44. 44

    Rude, I adressed free will and Locke above. The point is that every NOW is NOW. And that wich is before and later is only an illusion. When they happen they are nows- and that is all there is- one space- one canvass where all times are one space.

    Im not saying I buy this- im saying its a logical argument that stands as another option to object phenomenological time. I’m not the first person to call into question whether time REALLY exists. Yet, I feel like im the only one non biasly useing facts to support it- and accepting it and the classical interpretation both as possibilities.

    The truth is that out side or faith, since Einstein, no one really knows.

  45. 45

    Bornagain, I agree with you point. We come here to debate and intellectualize- but practicality is the most important thing and I for one agree that man is not judged by the accuracy or quality his knowledge of God by the quality of his spiritual relationship with God.

    If you heart and intent is pure God will reveal to you all that you need to know. This is at least the best that we can hope for- because I for one do not think I anyone will ever come close to a perfect understanding of his grace.

    I raise the issue above because the time issue has always been a tough one for theology. How can God let bad things happen? But I am just trying to point out a cogent, logical, theological, philosophical and scientific argument that says time is not NECESSARILY the culprit here. It was worth mentioning to me.

    I should add that Locke thought time was ideal and not objective as well.

  46. 46

    And I should add that of course time exists in some very real and very significant sense.

  47. Well, here’s the problem: any attempt to describe God through intellect leads to a divide between pure negation (Augustine) or pure action (Aquinas). And this is no less true of Open Theism than of the Calvinism that it resists.

    The capacity of intellect for judgment is a negative power. When any attempt is made to describe God by totalizing this power, the result is pure negation, as seen in Plato. God becomes impassive, devoid of emotion, changeless, utterly transcendent—in short, God becomes the same thing as pure intellect and its capacity to negate the value of existence.

    Now as we know it is possible for the philosophers to overcome this negation by describing God as pure reciprocal action, which is just what Aristotle did. But by negating the negation, the synthetic method always has the net effect of drawing God into being and depriving him of his differential power.

    Which seems to be the case with “dynamic omniscience.” God (out of love) enters into a dance, a reciprocal relation, with the creature he created and allows him to shape the very nature of being even as it is coming into being. But God cannot enter into this dance without forfeiting the difference between himself and the creature.

    “Dynamic” indicates pure action. “Dynamic omniscience” negates the negation of the value of being seen in Augustine and Calvin in order to facilitate a truly intimate relation with God, but this has the unfortunate effect of entangling God to some degree in his creature’s sinfulness and mortal limitations.

    Any effort to restore love to the center of our conversations about God is welcome, but Open Theism only goes half way, continuing to cling to the dividing power of reason and judgment, and thus replaying the same old theological divide.

  48. “What if God’s sovereignty comes via agency and authority and oversight more than some infinite crystal ball. What if he’s a hands-on God—the Hebrew God of history as opposed to the ontological God of the philosophers. What if God’s free will is paramount, his power to make the future is what makes him God.”

    Amen. The God of Scripture is never described as “timeless.” Instead, He is always described as “everlasting.”

    This would, of course, mean that time is a convention instead of having existence.

    Of course, this does not preclude God from knowing every event that will come to pass. That would only be true if man had LFW.

    Instead, God knows the future because He has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.

  49. 49

    allanius wrote,

    “God becomes the same thing as pure intellect and its capacity to negate the value of existence.”

    No by saying that God is greater than the intellect you are not negating anything but expressing positive power that indeed does transcend not only this world, but in refutation of your argument, our intellects as well. IF you say “more” we are pointing as best as we can, away from ourselves. You are negating nthe existence of my argument with your intellect.

    To argue that theology cannot be in part an intellectual debate is to refute everything you just said about theology! In that cause the best refutation you can “not” put forward is to sit in silence and not type anything on this subject any longer.

    I just our Wittgensteind you!

    (teasing BTW)

  50. 50

    out* Wittgensteined

  51. “but this has the unfortunate effect of entangling God to some degree in his creature’s sinfulness”

    Well, that is what the Bible describes:

    Proverbs 16:4
    “The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil.”

    Isaiah 45:7
    “The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.”

    Lamentations 3:37-38
    “Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and ill go forth?”

    Amos 3:6
    “If a trumpet is blown in a city will not the people tremble? If a calamity occurs in a city has not the LORD done it?”

    While it is true that God tempts no one, He is still the ultimate (NOT proximate) cause of all things that come to pass, whether good or evil, and they come to pass because He purposed them (Isaiah 46:9-10).

  52. God directly intervenes in human affairs, and in fact died on the cross for us. He is willing to suffer on our behalf; but the Bible never describes a situation where God allows his power to be limited by the nature of human beings.

    What is perhaps not well known is that the description of God as intellect comes from the Greeks. It is not found anywhere in the Bible. God may condescend to say, “Come, let us reason together,” but God’s word never says, as did Plato and Aristotle, that God is reason; that he is intellect in his essence.

    In fact the clear implication of the Book of Job is that God is not accessible to human intellect. Job found it necessary to get up and walk away from human discourse in order to hear directly from God.

    If God is a transcendent being, if God is “good” and undivided in value, then intellect cannot describe him, because intellect is a dividing power. Solomon and the story of the prostitute’s baby is relevant here.

    There is another way to obtain understanding of God, however, as we all know. The meaning of Eph. 3:17 and 1 John 4:7 should not be ambiguous.

    As to the role of intellect–let her be a handmaiden of the love seen on the cross. Then human vanity will not lead her astray.

  53. Thanks “bornagain77.” I’ll have to check out that essay in its entirety when I get the chance.

  54. Alan:

    It seems to me that it is not up to the classical theist to defend his point of view, since it is the open theist who is offering the innovation.

    This is not to say that the classical theist does not have arguments; he does. Rather, what I am suggesting is that the mere fact that open theism is coherent and fits a particular reading of the Biblel is not enough. Open theism must also show that the classical theism that served as the backdrop of the Athanasian, Nicean, and Chalcedon creeds is beyond rational recovery. But if you say that, then other problems emerge: the biblical canon accepted by open theists was fixed during the formulation of these creeds. So, if the Church couldn’t get God right, then why not be “open” about the Bible as well? After all, the content of the canon was settled AFTER the doctrine of God.

    The biblical problem with open theism is that it treats the text as an ahistorical collection of proof-texts rather than as the book of the Church.

    Frank

  55. 55

    Brooks and Dunn – Believe (music video)

    http://www.godtube.com/view_vi.....206a9e4cfc

  56. Hi Frank,

    Thanks for your engaging reply. In response, I think that you’ve set up a false dichotomy between ‘classical’ theism and ‘open’ theism. In my view, open theism is a version of classical theism (see my second reply to Denyse above (#20)). The issues that divide open and non-open (classical) theists are whether the future is epistemically settled for God and whether God has chosen to exercise general providence in some matters rather than meticulous providence across the board. Those issues, I believe, were not a relevant part of the backdrop for the early ecumenical creeds. They have no bearing on the deity of Jesus, the Trinity, the almightiness of God the Father, Maker of heaven and earth, or any other core doctrine of Christianity, so far as I can see. So I don’t think that appeals to early Church tradition create anything more than a weak presumption against open theism. That presumption would be stronger if the early Church had explicitly and thoroughly considered the specific issues in question. To my knowledge, they didn’t.

    Blessings,
    Alan

  57. —–Alan: “His exhaustive foreknowledge is of a future that is not, in itself, wholly definite. Rather, the future consists in part of unresolved possibilities or might-and-might-nots.”

    So, can God be surprised any any way?

  58. Sorry: Can God be surprised in any way?

  59. Alan writes:

    “That presumption would be stronger if the early Church had explicitly and thoroughly considered the specific issues in question.”

    There is a reason for this: the issues were not controversial. The church never discussed necrophilia. But that does not mean that it is an open question. :-)

  60. Frank writes:

    “The church never discussed necrophilia. But that does not mean that it is an open question.”

    Yeah, but is that really a fair parallel to open theism? With respect to necrophilia, there is no compelling case to be made for it, and there is plenty to be said against it. It is in direct conflict with core moral intuitions, the natural law, and Scriptural teaching. In contrast, there is quite a bit, both Biblically and philosophically, to be said for open theism. Nor, I would argue, is it in conflict with any aspects of ‘mere Christianity’. So, I don’t think that you have a good parallel here.

    The absence of discussion of open theism in the early Church is, I think, explained by (1) the fact that it was not a pressing issue, and (2) the prevailing philosophical zeitgeist, which regarded absolute immutability as a positive ideal.

    Cheers.

  61. StephenB asks:

    “Can God be surprised in any way?”

    That depends on what you mean by “surprised”. If you’re asking whether some event could happen that God had not even anticipated as a possibility, then the answer is no since God is the ground of all possibility and knows Himself quite thoroughly. If, on the other hand, you’re asking whether some event could happen that God had believed to be improbable, then the answer is yes. Passages like Jeremiah 7:31, 19:5, and 32:35 in which God says that the Israelites’ sacrificing their children to Molech did not “enter my mind” are, I think, somewhat hyperbolic. And so I take them to indicate only antecedent improbability.

  62. Alan, your formulation compromises God’s omniscience. If God can be surprised in any way, even in terms of the unfolding of probabilities, then he is no longer God.

  63. StephenB,

    I’m not committed to open theism, but it doesn’t sound as if Alan has said he believes God could be surprised in the way you’re taking. Recognizing the low odds of a given outcome doesn’t equate with surprise at its coming to pass, especially when not just the possibility itself but all proceeding events remain foreseen. Though I can see how there would be a number of views on this.

    I would ask, though – given what Alan and others have offered, does it now stand to reason the open theists could still maintain a commitment to ID, in your view? I’m honestly surprised at the declaration that it can’t, if only because certain faiths (mormons in particular come to mind) have both a very different-from-mainstream concept of God and at the same time have expressed support for ID. I recall a theological journal out of BYU having an article boosting ID.

  64. Nullasalus writes:

    “does it now stand to reason the open theists could still maintain a commitment to ID”

    Absolutely. Yours truly is one such open theist.

  65. 65

    anybody can make a commitment to ID. Open theism is about theism and theism is not a necessary or even sufficient condition for ID. We are talking apples and corvettes. And there is no contradiction between an open theistic belief and the theory of Intelligent Design.

  66. Well said, Frost.

  67. —-nullasalus: “does it now stand to reason the open theists could still maintain a commitment to ID”

    It appears that we are unanimous. The bar for Christianity is much higher than the bar for ID, so, as far as I can tell, there is no conflict between OT and ID.

  68. Alan, I have been reading your online article, “The Case for Open Theism,” which was published in “Philosophia” (2007, 35:301–311). I’d like to offer a few comments, if I may.

    As I see it, the central flaw in your argument is that it tacitly assumes that God is somehow time-bound, rather than timeless. Your argument works perfectly, IF we grant this assumption. For if we allow (as the overwhelming majority of ordinary people, including Christians, believe) that the future is CAUSALLY OPEN (i.e. NOT determined by any PRESENT state of affairs) and if we also grant the highly plausible premise that it is impossible to KNOW (as opposed to correctly GUESS) the future NOW if it is causally open, then indeed it does follow that nobody (not even God) can know the future NOW.

    Actually, I would agree with this conclusion, because I believe that God does not know the future or anything else NOW. Frost argued above that God is outside time, and that is my own position too.

    In my summary of your argument, I highlighted the use of the word “NOW.” However, if you remove the word “NOW,” then your argument no longer works. It is highly plausible to argue that it is impossible to KNOW the future NOW if it is causally open; but I cannot see why it should be impossible to know the future from a TIMELESS perspective, even if it is causally open. This is simply the Boethian doctrine that God sees all – past, present and future. It is THIS doctrine which you must overthrow, in order to establish your case.

    I’ve just been having a look at your forthcoming paper, “Open Theism, Omniscience, and the Nature of the Future,” with Gregory Boyd and Thomas Belt. (I’ve skimmed it, but haven’t finished it yet.) As far as I can see, on a Boethian view, there is no need to regard the future as settled. The Boethian view does not in any way what you refer to as the “Settled Future View,” in my opinion. It is not true NOW that there will be a sea battle tomorrow, to use Aristotle’s example. And even if God knows timelessly that “A sea battle occurs on 3 July 2008,” that does not make it true NOW. Tenseless propositions do not have to be true now. A Boethian would see no reason to grant premise (5) on page 27 of your article, which says that if “S does obtain at t” is (timelessly) true and t is in the future, then “S will obtain at t” is true and “S will not obtain at t” is false.

    If a Boethian can happily acknowledge that the future is open while continuing to uphold God’s foreknowledge, then I believe that you (as an open theist) owe us an account of why you regard the Boethian position as unsustainable. To my mind, the only way you could do this is by discrediting once and for all the notion that God is timeless.

    In your earlier comment on this issue of God’s timelessness (#32), you replied to Frost:

    “But since you bring it up, I’ll simply say that open theists are committed to a dynamic theory of time, according to which temporal becoming is a fully objective feature of reality and not merely a matter of human perspective. I know of no successful arguments refuting this view of time.”

    May I make two points in reply?

    First, classical theists who uphold the doctrine of a timeless Deity do NOT deny the objectivity of becoming. What they deny is the notion that becoming can only be known (or understood) by beings with a time-bound perspective. Classical theists acknowledge the objective reality of one state of affairs being PRIOR TO another; but what they deny is that priority is objectively TEMPORAL. We experience the ontological relation of PRIORITY between two events within the framework of time; God does not.

    The notion of non-temporal priority might sound counter-intuitive, but it need not be. After all, logical priority – as when we say that the notion of “theft” logically presupposes the notion of “property” – is indisputably non-temporal. You would surely acknowledge that. Why, then, do you insist that ONTOLOGICAL priority has to be inherently temporal?

    Second, I respectfully submit that since you are arguing, in your article in “Philosophia,” for the superiority of open theism over its competitors, the onus is on you to discredit the traditional view that God is outside time. I was surprised to find that you did not even discuss the traditional doctrine of God as timeless in your article.

    I would like to make a final observation. I believe that the theological debate over God’s foreknowledge has generated far too much rancor among Christians. The real danger here is that atheists can play each side off against the others, and use their arguments to make Christianity look silly: no matter which alternative you pick, you have to embrace some philosophical absurdity.

    The way I see it, Christians have to stand together, and give the atheists no quarter in the cosmic battle for souls. Too much is at stake for theological bickering, at a time like this. It seems to me (from reading your article in “Philosophia”) that you regard atheism as morally preferable to theological determinism – which is (for most of us) the least palatable way of explaining how God knows our future choices. I would suggest that rather than denouncing theological determinism for making a monster out of God, we should “shore up” this position by arguing that God need not be a monster, even if He does determine our choices. Hugh McCann makes a pretty good argument along these lines in his article, “Divine Providence” in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, at http://plato.stanford.edu/entr.....ce-divine/ . While I don’t agree with McCann, I think he has taken much of the theological sting out of the theological determinist position, which was upheld by the later Augustine and by Aquinas.

    And now, over to you, Alan.

  69. For the record, I would concur with Stephen B’s conclusion that there is no conflict between open theism and intelligent design.

  70. vjtorley: I find your analysis of Alan’s paper compelling and convincing. Thanks for doing the heavy lifting.

  71. vjtorley,

    “The way I see it, Christians have to stand together, and give the atheists no quarter in the cosmic battle for souls.”

    I could not agree with this more. I have theological differences with many faiths, naturally – but I would vastly prefer to keep relations between just about any I could think of respectful and friendly, and have a unified front against atheism. Finding common ground where possible, and finding civility where common ground is lacking, is essential.

  72. “…the theological determinist position, which was upheld by the later Augustine and by Aquinas.”

    I’m jumping in late here, but if you’re saying what I think you’re saying, you’re quite wrong. St. Thomas was not a theological determinist. While it’s true that he affirms the predestination of some men by God, he also affirms a perfectly free will in man. Thus, predestination does not mean for St. Thomas what modern readers assume it means. Man is *predestined* but his acts are not *predetermined.*

    St. Thomas uses the apt analogy of an arrow needing an archer to find its mark. So likewise man, in order to reach his proper end in Heaven, requires the direction of God. Imagine man as a literal arrow being shot from the bow of God. God has directed man toward his end, but man is still able, due to his free will, to squirm out of the path God has set him on and miss the mark. Thus, technically speaking, it is possible for a man to be predestined, yet still fail to attain Heaven. However, due to our limited perspective as creatures, we can never know whether such a man fell short of his proper goal or was simply predestined to Hell.

    For just as God predestines some men to Heaven, he also predestines, or reprobates, some to Hell. Unfortunately, in this latter case, predestination *does* imply predetermination, inasmuch as man is completely incapable of attaining Heaven on his own. God doesn’t take away the reprobated man’s free will and determine his every move. He simply withholds the only means available of attaining Heaven.

    (Note that all of this is an entirely separate question from whether God has foreknowledge of these events or not.)

    “…I believe that God does not know the future or anything else NOW. Frost argued above that God is outside time, and that is my own position too.”

    It depends what you mean by NOW. If the now for temporal creatures is as a point on a line to the line itself, so is the line itself to the eternal now of God. That is to say, our “now” is, as it were, contained within the now of God, which is itself motionless and eternal.

    Somehow, what appears as a long, slow period of motion to us has all occurred instantaneously, outside of time, with God. Hence, while we can’t know the future now, God certainly does.

    “The way I see it, Christians have to stand together, and give the atheists no quarter in the cosmic battle for souls. Too much is at stake for theological bickering, at a time like this.”

    Why so? Whether one gets to Hell by way of atheism or heresy, it’s still an eternity in a lake of fire. Christ established one Church, whether anyone likes that fact or not, and that Church is the One, Universal Church of Rome. Outside of her there is no salvation. These are hard words for modern ears to hear, accustomed as they are to soothing lies, but the truth never changes and never will.

    Now, that being said, there is some wiggle room for ignorance. Most people today are monumentally ignorant about such matters, and easily led. Consequently, there’s some truth in what you say in that limited sense. It’s probably better for them to have some acquaintance with Christ, even if what they believe is mixed with much error, than to have none at all. On the other hand, it is often the extreme on one side that drives men to the extreme on the other, so it’s also true that atheism can act as an instrument of Christian evangelism for many people.

    All in all, I say it’s a wash. One cannot successfully calculate and connive over which errors to embrace. I prefer to stand on infallible, revealed truth and simply point the way to the ark for those few who will listen.

  73. vjtorley,

    Thanks for your comments. I will try to keep my responses brief.

    (1) Regarding my Philosophia paper, I was under tight length and time constraints in writing it. Consequently, the Boethian position didn’t receive the attention that it merits.

    (2) For a bunch of different reasons, I don’t think divine timelessness (DT) is a plausible position. I really can’t elaborate right now so I’ll simply throw a few of these out: (a) DT doesn’t jibe well with Scripture, esp. the Incarnation; (b) DT implies a B-theory of time which, for various metaphysical reasons I believe to be false; (c) I believe DT is incompatible with divine freedom (briefly, exercising freedom necessarily involves making choices, which necessarily involves time).

    (3) It’s incorrect to characterize the view that God experiences succession by saying that God is “in” time or that God is “time-bound”. Such expressions reify time into a kind of container that one could be “in” or “out” of or in some way be “bounded” by. Those of us who deny divine timelessness simply don’t think of time in that way. Instead, we think of time simply as change or process. Things change, there is time, same difference.

    (4) Your idea of non-temporal priority is unclear to me. Frankly, I have no idea how to think about change without invoking temporal categories. For example: Socrates is sitting and then stands up. “Then” implies a temporal sequence. Moreover, “is sitting” is present tense and thus implicitly involves a time reference. We can’t just strip the tense out and say “Socrates (tenselessly) sits and (tenselessly) stands”, for that tells us nothing about which is prior to which. And if we add temporal indices, viz., “Socrates (tenselessly) sits at t1 and (tenselessly) stands at t2″, then it seems that we no longer have a non-temporal kind of priority. Finally, your comparison with logical priority doesn’t seem relevant because the relation here is contingent and not necessary, as it is in logical contexts. In sum, I suspect that notion of non-temporal priority that the Boethian needs to invoke is simply incoherent.

    (5) Finally, regarding the proper Christian response to atheism, this is in fact a large part of what motivates open theism (and Molinism, and Thomism, etc.). We’re all trying to do our best to articulate Christianity in a way that is internally consistent and externally defensible. In this mutual endeavor, there are obviously areas where we can all come together, such as defending versions of the cosmological and teleological arguments or the historicity of the Resurrection. But we can’t set the in-house debates among us aside either. While exercising charity toward each other is essential, the stakes are high. If Jonathan Edwards is right, then Arminianism is logically inconsistent, and therefore necessarily false. If the moral objection against Calvinism is cogent, then we’ve got a fine reason for rejecting Calvinism and, if there is no viable theistic alternative, for rejecting theism. Feeling the force of both these charges, open theists propose a third option, one that preserves the usefulness of the free will defense without slipping into logical inconsistency. Now, maybe open theists have sized up the situation incorrectly, but maybe not. In any case, we can all be on the same side against atheism and naturalism even if we have energetic in-house debates regarding the best strategies to employ in fighting those battles.

    PS: Gentlemen, I’ve greatly enjoyed the discussion here over the past few days, but now duty calls and I must turn my attention elsewhere for awhile. God’s blessings to all of you. I’m sure we’ll have a chance to interact more in the near future.

  74. So let’s give the Open Theists the benefit of the doubt and grant that they are trying to protect the faith from skepticism generated unnecessarily by inherent contradictions in Christian doctrine and its descriptions of God.

    Here is the question: Is it more important to attempt to be friendly to atheists, who are enemies of the faith, or to strive for the “unity of the Spirit” that is said to be the sign of the lordship of Christ?

    It is impossible to obtain a transcendent description of God through intellect and its power of judgment. Intellect is a dividing power, and it always leads to descriptions of being that are divided between pure action and pure negation.

    Hence the church became divided five hundred years ago between Thomists, who characterized the good as Pure Act, and Calvinists (heirs of Augustine), who described it as pure negation, a force of absolute resistance to human existence.

    This divide cannot be overcome by intellect because it is dictated by the nature of intellect itself. As long as the church clings to its vain belief in the power of intellect to describe the nature of God, the church will be divided between natural followers of Plato and natural followers of Aristotle.

    Now I don’t see why we should care if philosophy is divided. I welcome nihilism to the extent that it annihilates the intolerable boasting seen in the whole motley crew of self-appointed philosophers and masters of “the good.”

    Nietzsche was right: philosophy was about the will to dominate and nothing more. Have the philosophers really obtained knowledge of transcendent value through a method of thinking about being, as they claim? Why then are virtually all of their descriptions of transcendent value divided between action and negation, intellect and sense, existence and resistance, being and nothingness?

    But it is painful to see the church divided over “disputable matters”—specifically over its doctrines of the nature of God and man. As far as I’m concerned, Open Theism is not particularly objectionable as a theory of the nature of God. The problem comes in when its proponents claim to have a monopoly on truth; when they attempt to dominate their fellow believers, leading to further division in the church.

    Let’s be honest: Open Theism is trying to do what Thomas already did—only he did it much better. His defense of free will is simply brilliant and probably cannot be improved upon from a Christian perspective. But then is it necessary to aggravate old wounds? What do we hope to gain from fighting such a battle? Friends among the Richard Dawkins of the world? At what cost?

    “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise. The intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”

    The only thing that matters is faith expressing itself through love. Everything else is a waste of time—especially speculation about the nature of God that further divides the church.

    http://jaytrott.com/

  75. Alan:

    Thank you for your kind and thoughtful response. I understand that you are busy, so I shall keep my comments as focused as possible. The key philosophical point dividing us, as I see it, is whether the notion of change – and in particular, the relation of priority between two successive events A and B – can be understood without reference to time.

    We both agree that change is necessarily temporal. However, I maintain that (i) humans have a (limited) ability to understand the concept of change – and of one event’s being prior to another – without explicitly invoking the notion of time, by invoking spatial metaphors; and (ii) that God can understand the concepts of change and priority without using any metaphors in a purely formal manner, which is neither spatial nor temporal.

    Humans can understand time by assimilating it to space, even as we recognize that there are some key differences between these two concepts. We can then employ a spatial metaphor to describe temporal changes, while keeping in mind that the spatial metaphor is NOT to be understood in a literal, spatial manner.

    We often conceive of change as a journey along a line, with a starting and a finishing point. This is a spatial metaphor, which it is convenient for us to employ in disciplines such as history, economics and the sciences. We draw graphs with a time axis, and we plot points along the axis. Using this schema, “A is prior to B” means that there is a path from A to B, but not vice versa. Having invoked this spatial metaphor to understand time, we then explicitly reject one aspect of it as extraneous and unhelpful: time, we say, can (like space) be measured, quantified and divided into smaller and smaller parts, but NOT extended: it is not north, south, east or west of me.

    Because we are by nature spatio-temporal beings, the only way we can imagine God’s eternity is to imagine Him as viewing all times at once – like a security guard with multiple television screens, except that the screens show the world at each and every point in time (past, present and future). That is the best we can do when imagaining eternity.

    However, if you ask me how God understands time, I would answer: in the same way He understands space – mathematically, rather than experientially. God designed the geometry of space-time, and I do not presume to understand the underlying mathematics.

    The philosophical difficulty of an atemporal Being having a concept of temporal succession is no greater than that of an incorporeal Being having a concept of spatial extension. I take it you do not consider God to be corporeal.

    Your objection to an atemporal notion of priority is that it smuggles in the notion of time through the back door: “if we say that ‘Socrates (tenselessly) sits at t1 and (tenselessly) stands at t2′, then it seems that we no longer have a non-temporal kind of priority.” That depends on what sense we attach to t1 and t2. It might be more helpful if we called them p1 and p2 (point 1 and point 2) instead. God’s understanding of these points is purely formal and untainted by corporeal metaphors; ours, on the other hand, is limited by our spatio-temporality.

    Turning to matters theological: let me say that I consider your position to be a Christian one, but I would have to say it is a somewhat scandalous one. Here’s why. If the notion of God’s not knowing the future exhaustively were a novel one, I might regard it as an interesting and possibly legitimate development of Christian doctrine (like the idea, put forward by some ID proponents, that creatures can still be regarded as having been created by God – even though they share a common descent – insofar as they possess certain features that show them to have been designed). However, the record of history clearly shows that the early Church was quite familiar with the notion that human freedom precludes God from knowing the future in exhaustive detail. This was the pagan Cicero’s view, and the Church emphatically rejected it from the start.

    If you are right, then Christians all around the world have for the past 2,000 years believed in a notion (that God foreknows our choices) which is either hideously immoral (if God is conceived as determining our future bad choices) or incoherent (if God is conceived as seeing our future choices) – and hence in either case, irrational. You are thus implying that a Roman living in the 4th century would have been rationally entitled to reject Christ in favor of Cicero. He or she could have justly argued: “Christians believe in the absurd notion of Divine foreknowledge; Cicero’s disciples don’t believe in any metaphysical absurdities; I think I’ll become a Ciceronian.” You might respond that no early Christian creed made God’s foreknowledge an article of faith, but I’d still say you’re skating on thin theological ice. We are, after all, talking about a unanimous teaching that was believed “always, everwhere and by all” (St. Vincent of Lerins), and what’s more, upheld and defended against pagan philosophers who denied it, such as Cicero.

    I don’t wish to condemn your point of view out of hand. It is still a Christian one. Likewise, I am far from certain that my own (Boethian) position on how God knows the future is correct.

    I realize that my efforts to smooth over the differences among Christians as to how God’s foreknowledge can be reconciled with human freedom may make me look like I am wall-papering over the theological cracks. However, I would refer you to a book entitled “Atheism in France, 1650-1729″ by Alan Charles Kors (published by Princeton University Press). In this erudite work, Professor Kors argues that bickering between rival schools of Christian theologians was what ultimately gave rise to atheism among France’s intellectual elite. In what Kors describes as the “great fratricide,” theologians from bitterly competing schools of Aristotelian, Cartesian, and Malebranchist Christian thought attempted to refute each other’s proofs of God, and to depict the ideas of their theological opponents as atheistic. This caught the attention of France’s reading public, causing many intellectuals to doubt the existence of God. France is to this day an atheistic country. Christians living in the 21st century should take heed.

  76. jnewl:

    Here is what St. Thomas had to say on predestination (Summa Theologica, I, q. 23, article 6):

    “I answer that, Predestination most certainly and infallibly takes effect; yet it does not impose any necessity, so that, namely, its effect should take place from necessity….

    “Reply to Objection 2: Although it is possible for one who is predestinated considered in himself to die in mortal sin; yet it is not possible, supposed, as in fact it is supposed, that he is predestinated. Whence it does not follow that predestination can fall short of its effect.”

    Your statement that “technically speaking, it is possible for a man to be predestined, yet still fail to attain Heaven” is therefore at odds with Aquinas’ teaching, which you profess to uphold.

    Given that Aquinas believed that the predestined would infallibly reach Heaven, and those who were not predestined would certainly go to Hell, I think it’s fair to call him a theological determinist. However, he was not a fatalist: for Thomas, there is no “chain of circumstances” necessitating an individual’s salvation or damnation; rather, God’s contingent, arbitrary decree alone is what determines whether an individual will go to Heaven or not.

    I should point out that the Catholic Church allows it members a great deal of latitude on the subject of how God’s foreknowledge is to be reconciled with human free will. A Catholic can be a Banezian, a Molinist or a Boethian, so long as he/she does not dispute any dogma of the Church.

    As a Catholic like yourself, I also believe the Church’s ancient teaching that “outside of her there is no salvation.” However, I interpret this theological principle charitably, following the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Certainly, it means that:

    “they could not be saved who, KNOWING that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would REFUSE either to enter it or to remain in it (para. 846).”

    How many unbelievers do you know who fit this description? I don’t think I’ve met one.

    Moreover:

    “Those who, through NO FAULT of their own, DO NOT KNOW the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a SINCERE heart, and, MOVED BY GRACE, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too MAY ACHIEVE ETERNAL SALVATION (para. 847).”

    Moreover, God “desires ALL men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (para. 74).

    Finally:

    “Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the OBLIGATION and also the sacred right to EVANGELIZE ALL MEN (para. 848).”

    The upshot of all this is that we should be ready to defend our faith in public, but leery of regarding any individual as being on the road to damnation. Many unbelievers whom I know are closer to God than I am. I’m certain of that.

  77. Vjtorley: With respect, I think jnewl has a point. I believe it is a serious mistake to characterize Aquinas as a theological determinist. He was well aware of the paradoxes involved in this difficult subject and I don’t think your description of his position and your interpretation of his quotes fully captures the spirit of his thought. I gathert that, like me, you are Catholic and that you would resist the radical Calvinist notion that our eternal fate has been sealed even before we are born and that if we are not already among the “elect,” we are damned. Still, you seems to come dangerously close to this position. Am I misreading you? Also, see my more detailed comments to nullasalus.

    Nullasalus:

    When we study the bible, understanding that faith and reason cannot be in conflict, we come to understand that God is perfect, meaning, among other things, that God is unchangeable, omnipotent, and omniscient. These attributes simply cannot be negotiated away in order to satisfy some fashionable new way of looking at the world. Even the most reasonable of the open theists, and I feel no hesitancy in elevating Alan to that noble statues, finally must compromise God’s omniscience. That is why I asked the question, “Can God be surprised in any way?” The only answer the open theist can give is “yes,”

    Without a perfectly omniscient God, that is, without a God who knows what we will do, why we will do it, and what all of the consequences of our actions will be, our religion is less about morality and more about luck. If God can be surprised in any way, he is hardly in a position to pass final judgment on us. Imagine God sending someone to hell because he miscalculated the severity of a temptation or the likelihood that it would occur. Imagine God misreading the “probability” that someone might repent or trying to guess about the exact moment of that person’s death. Such a God could not even anticipate the final results of his own interventions.

    If God is limited to a mere 99% capacity for forecasting future events, he certainly could not have known that 459 Old Testament prophesies about Christ would all converge in time-space-history, nor could he have arranged for it to happen. To judge at that level with so much at stake requires absolute perfection in every context, including the capacity to be both timeless and to act in time.

    Equally important, God must be able to know the future without violating our free will, which is another way of saying that God knows what we are going to without causing us to do it. Open theism gets this part wrong as well.
    Ironically, some theologians commit the opposite error of “closed theism” denying free will and proposing a radically deterministic world view. To preserve their malformed notion of God’s sovereignty, they charge him with deciding ahead of time each individual’s fate, meaning of course that some poor souls are damned even before they enter the arena.

    As Aristotle teaches us, “a little error in the beginning” becomes a big error in the end. Open theism may seem like a small error, but it isn’t. Good theology often requires the balancing of two complementary truths. Anytime the analyst de-emphasizes one truth at the expense of another, big problems follow. We are dealing with delicate matters here, and that means that we cannot open the doors too widely or close them too tightly.

  78. As the resident ancient Greek philosopher on UD, I must take exceptions to the aspersions which were indirectly cast upon my masters, Plato and Aristotle, in post 74 above. While the writer, Allanius, intended no malice, his statements surely require some qualification.

    Let me start off with the remark about philosophy made by Nietzsche. After a promising start as a classical philologist, Nietzsche went off the rails. He ended up as a complete fruitcake, needing psychiatric supervision until his death. In between his sane and insane periods, he wrote his philosophical works, which vary in quality, containing flashes of brilliance alternating with extensive blocks of self-indulgence. And in all his writing, a characteristic feature is recklessness. The pedantic scholarly caution that he learned as a good German philologist, he frequently throws caution completely to the winds, in irresponsible statements such as the one referred to by Allanius, i.e., that all philosophy is about the will to dominate. In fact, the will to dominate is characteristic not of all philosophy, but of modern Western philosophy. From Bacon and Descartes through Kant and beyond, philosophy has backstopped and encouraged the limitless pursuit of science and technology in combination with an exaltation of human will and human freedom. We Greeks (like our Indian and Chinese brethren in philosophy) have always been of a different cast of mind. For us, knowledge is not for power, but is an end in itself. Contemplation, which aims at the union of the mind with its object (as opposed to the domination of the object by the human will), has always been our aim. Nietzsche of all people should have known this, but, as I say, he was given to irresponsible statements.

    Regarding the philosophical speculations that have divided the church, and the way that Greek philosophy has been employed in those speculations: Is that our fault? Did Plato and Aristotle ask for their ideas to be endorsed or employed by the Church? Considering that they lived long before Christ, that is unlikely. Who first brought Greek philosophy into theology, anyway? It was the Church Fathers. And to what use did they put the philosophy? To define dogmas that had to be accepted, upon pain of exclusion from the Church. We Greeks would never have wanted our ideas used in that way. Philosophy requires the free assent of the mind to conclusions arrived at by reason. Philosophical conceptions, arguments, etc., must never be made binding upon people, with threats of worldly and otherworldly punishments attached for holding the wrong dogma, or for accepting a flawed argument. The Greek correction for wrong views is further dialogue and analysis, leading to the correct view; the approach of the Church to wrong views, on the other hand, has been to threaten the holders of wrong views with social ostracism, seizure of property, death at the stake, and eternal damnation. The spirit in which our ideas were taken up by the Church was un-Greek, and, if I may be so bold as to say so, un-Christian. We Greeks find it hard to believe that the Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount would have burned Servetus at the stake, or hanged the witches at Salem, or started the Spanish Inquisition, or launched the Crusades.

    Theological division goes back to the earliest days of the Church, as the New Testament shows. The first part of the book of Revelation, and the letters of Paul, show that Jesus was barely gone from the scene before partisan factions had arisen, each striving to control doctrine. At this point in time, no one in the Church knew the texts of Plato or Aristotle, so the Greeks can hardly be blamed for the theological disputes. And even such half-baked uses of Greek philosophical concepts as are present in, say, the letters of Paul, show that insofar as Greek notions were present in the early Church, they were grossly misunderstood and misapplied.

    Further, to the extent that Greek philosophy was really allowed to be itself within Christianity, its influence was always wholesome. Allanius has alluded to Augustine’s baleful influence upon the Calvinists, but it was precisely his un-Greek side that the Calvinists appealed to. On his Greek side, Augustine wrote marvellous passages of a Platonic character about the nature of love and the nature of being, passages which have deeply enriched Western thought and literature. Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae, filled with the calm spirit of Aristotelian learning, was a vastly constructive force in the history of Western education. The Platonists More and Erasmus were the great educators of Renaissance Europe. Platonism influenced Kepler, the great astronomer who worked out the first planetary laws. And then there was C. S. Lewis, the great Christian apologist, who employed Greek philosophical thinking in the constructive way that it ought to be employed, i.e., to tear down the pretensions of modern philosophers, and to illuminate Christian doctrine in delightful fictional works filled with Greek motifs and imagery.

    We Greeks are not the problem with philosophy. We did not make man so infinitely important that the cosmos – what Christians refer to as “Creation” – was of no importance in comparison. It was Bacon, Descartes and Kant who did that. And we Greeks are not the problem with Christian theology. We did not create Christian factionalism, intolerance, intellectual pride, disputatiousness, or theological vindictiveness. Christians had better look inside themselves for the sources of those things.

    T.

  79. Timaeus,

    Socrates wasn’t killed by Christian factionalists, you know – the greeks were entirely capable of censoring, sentencing, and executing those among them whose ‘pursuit of knowledge’ took them down the wrong roads. Nor did the greek philosophers speak in utter unison, as your text seems to imply – they had divisions and differing views among themselves, and the idea that Christians would absorb their concepts without continuing to study and expand upon them betrays an interesting view of the pursuit of knowledge.

    Further, your understanding of the history of Christian thought is what one would expect for someone who died in the centuries BC. The Spanish Inquisition wasn’t started by ‘The Church’, but by the monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand – and they had to pressure the pope to agree with it to begin with. The Crusades were ‘launched’ insofar as they were a reaction to a long-standing, growing military threat of foreign nations (with a somewhat foreign faith). Nor did the Church (or any churches) react to any and every display of unorthodoxy with arms and threats – in fact, from the cathars to natives to otherwise, instances of dialogue, debate, and peaceful overtures were by far more commonly employed. Naturally, the history is imperfect – there are sins upon sins done by those acting in the name of God, certainly the Church. But then, no one – certainly not Christ – expected Christians to be sinless or faultless. In fact, He rather warned that there’d be plenty of failures, even hypocrites, among their number.

    Now, I admire the greek philosophers, just as I admire the Church. But let’s not pretend those ancient greeks spoke with one voice, or had no concerns other than knowledge itself – they had flaws, plenty of them. Flaws that involved intellectual disagreements, conflict, division, and even war.

  80. StephenB,

    “Without a perfectly omniscient God, that is, without a God who knows what we will do, why we will do it, and what all of the consequences of our actions will be, our religion is less about morality and more about luck.”

    But Alan, oddly enough, seems to be accepting exactly this God. As in, unless I misunderstand him, Alan pictures a God who knows that there is a 99.9% chance of A happening, and a .1% chance of B happening. He knows everything that will come to pass both before and after A or B occurs in the smallest detail, regardless of which actualizes. But as to whether A or B will occur, what He knows are the odds. No ‘surprise’ occurs in the sense that God didn’t anticipate B, no event can come to pass that God is not prepared for, no matter how unbelievably unlikely.

    And I want to stress this: I believe that when it comes to theology, these matters are important. I’m not an open theist myself, even if I do respect some of the arguments. Just as I am not a subscriber to any number of faiths, though I respect a lot of the philosophical, and even theological thought of many who I disagree with. But I would view a division between ID proponents and open theists the same way I view the division between ID proponents and many TEs – as something regrettable, that weakens the goal of providing a formidable intellectual opposition to atheistic philosophy and ideological materialism.

    There are differences between Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans, Eastern Orthodox, the SSPX, and otherwise, yet all these groups are entirely capable of cooperating on many philosophical and social endeavors. Open theists should be cooperated with on an appropriate issue such as ID, even while differences are recognized.

  81. —–jnewl: “For just as God predestines some men to Heaven, he also predestines, or reprobates, some to Hell. Unfortunately, in this latter case, predestination *does* imply predetermination, inasmuch as man is completely incapable of attaining Heaven on his own. God doesn’t take away the reprobated man’s free will and determine his every move. He simply withholds the only means available of attaining Heaven.”

    Here is Aquinas on free will:

    —–”I answer that, Man has free-will: otherwise counsels, exhortations, commands, prohibitions, rewards, and punishments would be in vain. In order to make this evident, we must observe that some things act without judgment; as a stone moves downwards; and in like manner all things which lack knowledge. And some act from judgment, but not a free judgment; as brute animals. For the sheep, seeing the wolf, judges it a thing to be shunned, from a natural and not a free judgment, because it judges, not from reason, but from natural instinct. And the same thing is to be said of any judgment of brute animals. But man acts from judgment, because by his apprehensive power he judges that something should be avoided or sought. But because this judgment, in the case of some particular act, is not from a natural instinct, but from some act of comparison in the reason, therefore he acts from free judgment and retains the power of being inclined to various things. For reason in contingent matters may follow opposite courses, as we see in dialectic syllogisms and rhetorical arguments. Now particular operations are contingent, and therefore in such matters the judgment of reason may follow opposite courses, and is not determinate to one. And forasmuch as man is rational is it necessary that man have a free-will.”

    If we integrate this with the Scriptural teaching that God “wills that all men” should be saved, it follow that God will not withhold the means of salvation from anyone. What good is free will if its exercsie if futile? What sense does it make for God say that he “wills all men to be saved” and then to turn around and withhold the means of salvation from those who do not qualify as the “elect.”

  82. —–nullasalus: “But Alan, oddly enough, seems to be accepting exactly this God (perfect foreknowledge). As in, unless I misunderstand him, Alan pictures a God who knows that there is a 99.9% chance of A happening, and a .1% chance of B happening. He knows everything that will come to pass both before and after A or B occurs in the smallest detail, regardless of which actualizes. But as to whether A or B will occur, what He knows are the odds. No ’surprise’ occurs in the sense that God didn’t anticipate B, no event can come to pass that God is not prepared for, no matter how unbelievably unlikely.”

    But Alan doesn’t use the word “knowledge,” he uses the word “belief.”

    Here is the question that I asked: “Can God be surprised in any way?”

    Here was his response:

    That depends on what you mean by “surprised”. If you’re asking whether some event could happen that God had not even anticipated as a possibility, then the answer is no since God is the ground of all possibility and knows Himself quite thoroughly. If, on the other hand, you’re asking whether some event could happen that God had believed to be improbable, then the answer is yes. Passages like Jeremiah 7:31, 19:5, and 32:35 in which God says that the Israelites’ sacrificing their children to Molech did not “enter my mind” are, I think, somewhat hyperbolic. And so I take them to indicate only antecedent improbability.”

    He acknowledges that we shouldn’t take the words “didn’t enter my mind” literally, but he does allude to the passage for some reason. Why? Is it not to suggest that there is some aspect of God’s foreknowledge that has been compromised in some way?

    How can God know something is going to happen and yet be confused about the probability that it will happen? This seems like a contradiction to me. Put another way, how can an omniscient God be mistaken about the odds of an event taking place? If God really does know what the odds are, what is the point of saying that God “believes” the odds to be a certain way?

    More to the point, why would an omniscient God even be considering the possibilities that something will play out when he already knows that it will play out? What is with all this twisting and turning? Why not just say that God knows what we will do but his foreknowledge does not cause us to do it? Is it not the case that Alan questions some aspect of God’s omniscient power in spite of his erudite and thoughtful account of probability?

  83. StephenB,

    “How can God know something is going to happen and yet be confused about the probability that it will happen? This seems like a contradiction to me. Put another way, how can an omniscient God be mistaken about the odds of an event taking place? If God really does know what the odds are, what is the point of saying that God “believes” the odds to be a certain way? ”

    I think this is central. Let me add that I believe there are some people who hold more limited views of God’s knowledge. I believe Vox Day (whose work on The Irrational Atheist I greatly admire) falls into this category.

    But back to the quoted portion. Again, if A has a 99.9% chance of happening, and B has a .1% chance of happening – and if those odds are, of course, accurate – God can still be omniscient with respect to everything that will happen, full stop. No conditions. Even if God can’t be certain that A will definitely come to pass, God will not be surprised if B comes to pass – He already sees the possibility, sees everything it would entail onward unto infinity (and so on for any number of situations where there are given possibilities between A, B… and so on.)

    So, God is at once aware of all things regardless of just how they come to pass, while at the same time unaware of which specific foreseen course will be navigated through. This is my understanding of the position Alan is taking.

    And again, I have questions about this. Is it possible for the open theist to believe that what some aspects of the future are indeterminate from God’s point of view, that there nevertheless are some given certainties? Should we take God to be permitting this uncertainty of definite unfolding-of-events?

  84. On the contrary, nullasalus (#79). We Greek philosophers never went to war with one another. Unless you count rational argument as a kind of verbal war. And there is no case on record where one Greek philosopher asked the State to use its power over life and death to silence another Greek philosopher, as the State silenced many Christians from the time of Constantine forward. Further, there is no case on record where one Greek philosopher threatened another Greek philosopher with eternal torture for honestly assenting to apparently reasonable intellectual propositions. Unlike Christian theologians, we have never believed that making an intellectual error should be treated as criminally punishable.

    Yes, Socrates was killed by other Greek citizens, but not by other Greek philosophers, which is a rather important difference. Michael Servetus, on the other hand, was in essence killed by other Christian theologians, since he was put to death by the authorities of Geneva who were themselves either Calvinist theologians or held office only on the sufferance of Calvinist theologians.

    Far from saying that the Greek philosophers spoke in unison, I implied that they disagreed with each other frequently. They could in fact be very contentious. They disputed sharply whether the Ideas were transcendent or immanent, for example. They argued about whether the universe was governed by necessity or chance. They disputed the best form of government and the highest good for man. But if you read those ancient Greek disputes, and compare the tone and attitude of the participants in them to the tone and attitude of the participants in the disputes over the Arian heresy, the Pelagian heresy, the 16th-century doctrine of justification, and so on, you can’t help but notice a spirit of animosity in the Christian disputes that’s absent from the Greek ones. Underlying the sharp intellectual conflict of the Greek disputes is a basic moral serenity, whereas underlying the sharp intellectual conflict of the Christian disputes is suspicion, distrust, anger, pride, and the political motivation of achieving institutional control over Christian doctrine. A Stoic and Epicurean could walk away from a long debate about chance and necessity as friends; an Arian and an Orthodox bishop, or a Luther and an Eck, walked away not only as theological but also as political and personal enemies. And this in a religion that proclaims that God is Love, and that the greatest virtue is humility. This has always left us Greek philosophers scratching our heads.

    Thus, I agree with Allanius’s criticism of the misuse of theological debate among Christians. My only disagreement was over his indirect suggestion that we Greeks are partly to blame.

  85. Timaeus,

    Nonsense. First, no Christian can threaten anyone with eternal torture – they can assert that a given act may result in hell by their beliefs, but Christians can do no sentencing of that type. If it happens, it’s not because one of them clamors for it.

    Second, your defense against the death of Socrates is that – well, those were citizens. Not philosophers. The philosophers were only concerned with knowledge! That would be news to the sophists, who Plato regarded as being rather interested in payment for their services and the power that came with it. Of course, Plato himself believed the ideal kings would be philosophers. Amazing how the pursuit of pure knowledge leads to such conclusions, eh? It’s almost as if any claims to peace were the result of perceived low stakes among the philosophers, as the moment stakes appeared, rules changed.

    Also suspect is your condemnation of Christians as ‘walking away political and personal enemies’ over matters of theological dispute. The unfortunate mix of theological issues with secular interests likely has quite a lot of reason for that – as we all know, nothing makes a man reach for a weapon faster than having a secular interest threatened, or too good of an opportunity presented. Mind you, your summary also overlooks instances of ecumenical cooperation and dialogue both in past and present – and glosses over the looming point that paganism alone wasn’t enough to have the Church regard the greek philosophers as heretics not worthy of listening to. In fact they were more than happy to learn, study, and even defend their reasoning on many subjects.

    In other words, you find fault in the one religion that out and out expects its adherents to have faults, and ignore the obvious humanity of the greek philosophers – and all that implies. Timaeus, a message to the past on behalf of the many centuries that followed your time: You greek philosophers were humans, and while you had many wise things to say, vice and support of such was not unknown to you. If the revelation makes you scratch your head, don’t let it trouble you. Socrates of all people realized just how little he really knew.

  86. 86

    Stephen B: “How can God know something is going to happen and yet be confused about the probability that it will happen? This seems like a contradiction to me. Put another way, how can an omniscient God be mistaken about the odds of an event taking place? If God really does know what the odds are, what is the point of saying that God “believes” the odds to be a certain way? ”

    I’ve been reading the comments here for a while, and Stephen, you are really misunderstanding what Alan has been saying.

    God is not confused or mistaken about probabilities. That was neither said nor implied.

    Think of it this way: for all future events, there are some that WILL happen, some that MIGHT AND MIGHT NOT happen, and some that WILL NOT happen. *These three categories don’t overlap.* As events happen, what is in the M/MN category settle into DID and DID NOT happen. The WILL automatically settles into the DID; the WILL NOT into the DID NOT (the W and WN probabilities never change – they CAN’T change, otherwise they’d have been in the M/MN category)

    If something “is going to happen” (WILL), the probability of that happening is, of course 100% and God knows it. If something else MIGHT AND MIGHT NOT happen, then the probability of it happening is less than 100% and greater than 0%.

    If the FUTURE does indeed entail these three categories as I’ve attempted to describe them, then since God is omniscient, God knows the future as such. If the FUTURE is only made up of WILLS and WILL NOTS, then since God is omniscient, God knows the future as such (but then, is there such thing as libertarian (genuine) free will? I’ve read attempts at trying to prove that we can have (compatibalist) free will while everything is really determined, but that makes no sense to me).

    Regarding “believes” vs. “knows”: replace “believes” with “knows” if that is what is preventing you from understanding Alan.

  87. Nullasalus (#85): In words that both the Greek philosophers and the Bible could agree on, “Come, let us reason together”.

    Of course I did not mean that a Christian can condemn another Christian to eternal torture. That power, in Christianity, belongs only to God. But a Christian can alarm, frighten, and bully another Christian into believing that he will damned for holding to a particular “heretical” doctrine, and thus try to frighten him out of holding it, rather than reason him out of holding it. And Christians and Christian Church leaders have at various times availed themselves of this kind of bullying. They have even turned it into a virtue. After all, if you scare the life out of a heretic, so that he “repents” of his doctrine, you’re saving his eternal soul, which is much more important than his body. This was the justification for extreme bodily torture, often leading to death, which eased the consciences of many inquisitors throughout history (as they went about performing acts of cruelty that any decent human being, uncorrupted by theological learning, would know instinctively and immediately to be wicked.) But even aside from the extreme misuse of threats by inquisitors, threats in theological argumentation are indefensible. If you have a good theological argument, you won’t need the threats, because you will be able to persuade the other person through reason. And if you can’t, maybe it’s because you’re the heretic and the other guy is orthodox. Thus, “You’ll go to hell unless you change your doctrine” is the last refuge of the theologically incompetent (or in some cases, the first refuge). To a Greek philosopher, it would be beneath intellectual dignity to employ such arguments, as they appeal to passion (the passion of fear) rather than reason.

    I’m afraid you need to read your Plato more closely. The sophists were not philosophers. They were the very opposite of philosophers. Plato’s dialogues were written in part to expose the fraudulent character of their wisdom and the unphilosophical intellectual procedures that they employed. And Plato never said that philosophers should try to be kings, though in one dialogue he makes Socrates suggest that only philosophers are fit to be kings. But a philosopher no more wants to be king than an excellent scholar or teacher wants to be promoted to Dean or University President. Why would you want to stop doing the highest of activities – teaching and learning — to take up the mundane life of administration? It’s true that only a really good scholar and teacher is fit be a Dean or University President, but it doesn’t follow that such a person would seek the job. (Which is why so many fools and power-mongers in fact become deans and university presidents – the best people don’t want the job.)

    I never said that Greek philosophers were without human faults. I said that they were not responsible for the misuse of reason in theology. Nor was I attacking Christians as such, but only Christian theologians who misuse the Greek arts of reasoning in theology, and Christian commentators who then blame “the Greek influence” for all of Christianity’s problems.

    We Greeks continue to wish Christianity all the best, and we will continue to fight side-by-side with it against materialism and atheism, and for intelligent design; we were doing these things long before Christianity was heard of, and there’s no reason we should stop now. We’re especially happy that there’s currently a respected Pope articulating the need for reason in religion, and that even the Protestants are occasionally speaking nicely of us again. A refreshing change from Karl Barth, the SCM “Biblical” theologians, and all those other Greek-despising Teutons and Anglo-Americans, whom history will hopefully consign to oblivion.

    Extra rationem nulla salus.

    T.

  88. —-Heather Rhoda: “If the FUTURE does indeed entail these three categories as I’ve attempted to describe them, then since God is omniscient, God knows the future as such. If the FUTURE is only made up of WILLS and WILL NOTS, then since God is omniscient, God knows the future as such (but then, is there such thing as libertarian (genuine) free will? I’ve read attempts at trying to prove that we can have (compatibalist) free will while everything is really determined, but that makes no sense to me).”

    Obviously, radical determinism and free will cannot be reconciled. That means that radical determinism is misguided and ought not to be taken seriously. In any case, the term “will not happen” would not apply to God unless he must be in time to act in time. Inasmuch as God can, in my judgment, act in time without being in time, his foreknowledge does not interfere with our free will. In other words, God’s capacity to know the future is not at all the same thing as God’s capacity to cause the future.

    God can know that the stock market is going to crash without causing it to happen. In the same way, God can know what we are going to do without causing us to do it. That is because God doesn’t really FOREKNOW at all; he simply KNOWS. It is one of the advantages of existing outside of time while being able to act or not act in time. God’s omniscience is not unrelated to his omnipotence, a central point of classical theism.

    Either way, let’s explore these points in a little more depth. It appears that you, like Alan, do not share the views of most open theists, inasmuch as you don’t deny that God’s knowledge of the future is complete. Obviously, you are aware that many if not most open theists say otherwise, so, in that sense, your position is anomalous and more in tune with classical theism than open theism.

    Still, you argue on behalf of open theism, so it would help me to know where you are on a few pivotal issues:

    [A] Can an infinite God act in time without being in time?

    [B] Can an infinite God prophesy from the perspective of being outside of time?

    [C] If an infinite God cannot act outside of time, then how do you explain the big bang?

    [D] If an infinite God can act outside of time, then what is all the fuss about? Why not just drop the whole thing and revert back to classical theism?

    [E] Does God know the future in the same way that we do? In other words, does God think in terms of “before” and “after?”

  89. Stephen B.:

    I am aware that some Aquinas scholars would deny that St. Thomas was a theological determinist. Passages can be adduced which make him sound like a libertarian; other passages make him sound like a strict predestinationist. (See especially his “Summa Theologica,” I q. 23, articles 4, 5 and 6.)

    It has been said that on the subject of free will and Divine foreknowledge, Banez (who was a theological determinist and a Thomist) put a full stop, where Aquinas left a comma.

    The notion that “that our eternal fate has been sealed even before we are born and that if we are not already among the ‘elect,’ we are damned” is not a uniquely Calvinist one. It is permissible for Catholics to hold such an opinion, although it is very much a minority theological opinion. You might like to read J. Pohle’s article, “Predestination” in “The Catholic Encyclopedia” (1911) at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12378a.htm .

    Finally, I do not espouse Aquinas’ position; I merely mentioned it above as a permissible point of view for a Catholic. My own view is that the predestination of the saints to glory is logically posterior to, rather than prior to, the meritorious acts of faith and love which they perform with the help of God’s supernatural grace. This was the view of the overwhelming majority of Greek and Latin Fathers, as Pohle points out in his article:

    “This explanation is splendidly confirmed by the Greek Fathers. Generally speaking, the Greeks are the chief authorities for conditional predestination dependent on foreseen merits. The Latins, too, are so unanimous on this question that St. Augustine is practically the only adversary in the Occident. St. Hilary (In Ps. lxiv, n. 5) expressly describes eternal election as proceeding from ‘the choice of merit’ (ex meriti delectu), and St. Ambrose teaches in his paraphrase of Rom., viii, 29 (De fide, V, vi, 83): ‘Non enim ante praedestinavit quam praescivit, sed quorum merita praescivit, eorum praemia praedestinavit’ (He did not predestine before He foreknew, but for those whose merits He foresaw, He predestined the reward). To conclude: no one can accuse us of boldness if we assert that the theory here presented has a firmer basis in Scripture and Tradition than the opposite opinion.”

  90. For those who are still interested in following up the free will vs. foreknowledge issue, I would like to highly recommend Professor Norman Swartz’s Lecture notes on Free Will and Determinism at http://www.sfu.ca/philosophy/swartz/freewill1.htm , as well as David Misialowski’s (2006) article at http://www.galilean-library.or.....stid=43827 . Misialowski describes himself elsewhere as “an agnostic atheist” yet he writes:

    “Strictly, though, in my judgment, there is no need to invoke the atemporal solution, or any other solution, to the foreknowledge/free will problem, because the problem has been solved, and no theist need fear the argument, heard so often from atheists intent on discrediting religious belief, that an omniscient God cancels human free will and moral responsibility. God’s omniscience does neither, and the argument to theological fatalism is, I believe, a dead duck.”

    Misialowski resolves the problem of foreknowledge not by invoking an atemporal Deity, but by denying the transfer of necessity principle and the accidental necessity of the past. Upon re-reading his article, I have to say it sounds very sensible – probably the best contribution to the debate so far.

  91. vjtorley: All of your points granted except for one.

    I hold that the official Catholic position is that one can be lost only through “voluntary fault.” If the word voluntary has any meaning at all it is that we all have some say about our final destiny. Now I realize that this teaching is specifically designed to obviate the need for roster-like membership in the institutional Church, but I think we can safely extend its meaning to apply to membership in the “elect,” as conceived by the radical determinists. If our fate is in doubt until the time of our death, which is the official Catholic position, then, clearly, our fate is in doubt from the get go.

    Also, Aquinas acknowledges free will in unequivocal terms, as I am sure you know. Again, if free will means anything at all, it means that we have the capacity to act morally and embrace all the means necessary for salvation. If we don’t have that option, we can hardly be free in any meaningful sense.

    Most important, we have the unmistakable Biblical teaching that “God wills that all men be saved.” It is inconceivable that God can, at the same time, set aside some to be damned while willing that all men be saved. For my part, this teaching alone seals the seal.

    I realize that the term “predestination” carries difficult and confusing connotations, some of which seem at variance with the others. I think that is because we have two truths (predestination and free will) that appear to contradict each other but, in fact, do not. That is another way of saying that we confronted with a paradox and a mystery that does not admit of any final explanation that will close all the loops. This is all the more reason to emphasize the point that the door of salvation is open to all men even though many choose not to cross that threshold.

    With regard to the so called tension between God’s foreknowledge and man’s free will, I don’t think there is any problem. To reiterate, God knows when the stock market is going to crash, but that doesn’t mean that he causes it. For this one problem, at least, extended analysis seems unnecessary and redundant.

  92. Stephen B: “With regard to the so called tension between God’s foreknowledge and man’s free will, I don’t think there is any problem. To reiterate, God knows when the stock market is going to crash, but that doesn’t mean that he causes it. For this one problem, at least, extended analysis seems unnecessary and redundant.”

    Extended analysis may seem unnecessary and redundant to some but not to all. The argument is over the nature of reality—of time—a subject of interest to philosophers and physicists and theologians. The debate diverges broadly between eternalism (where the future exists “somewhere”) and presentism (where the future does not yet exist anywhere). Augustine and Calvin, one would assume, were eternalists, as also Einstein. But there is an argument for the other side, as in Craig Bourne’s A Future for Presentism (Oxford University Press, 2007), which according to the blurb “makes an original contribution to a fast growing and exciting debate.” Here’s the first sentence of the book as quoted at Amazon: “Time plays a central role in our lives and our world-view; it is fundamental to the idea of what it is to be the very beings that we are; it is indispensable to the way we structure our experiences; it is central to our understanding of the world.”

    Stephen B suggests that whereas God does not necessarily cause all future events he nevertheless has an exhaustive view of the future. Thus he does not believe that God possesses exhaustive foreknowledge because everything has been determined, rather he assumes the eternalist position—that a complete knowledge of the future is possible because the future actually exists “somewhere” and can be viewed from outside our time frame.

    The Open Theism debate is not about knocking God off his pedestal, it is not a concession to materialism (just the opposite I should think), rather it is an effort to understand the nature of reality and of time. There are honest voices on all sides and the debate is not necessarily an unimportant one.

  93. —–”Stephen B suggests that whereas God does not necessarily cause all future events he nevertheless has an exhaustive view of the future. Thus he does not believe that God possesses exhaustive foreknowledge because everything has been determined, rather he assumes the eternalist position—that a complete knowledge of the future is possible because the future actually exists “somewhere” and can be viewed from outside our time frame.”

    Rude, that is exactly what I did not say. Let me reiterate: God DOES possess exhaustive view of the future and God DOES NOT cause all future events to happen. God EXISTS outside of time, but God can either enter into time or not enter into time. God can ACT in time but God does not EXIST in time. In that sense, God does not foreknow the way we do, in the sense of anticipating the “before” and reacting to the “after” because God simply KNOWS as a result of existing outside of time.

    Open theism challenges the very nature of God by trying to negate this truth. If you want to disagree with me, then fine, but please do not put words in my mouth and attribute to me very heresy that I am challanging. God is omniscient in every way. It is the open theists who deny this, either explicitly or implicitly, depending on the author. To repeat again, God knows the future in every way and the future is NOT DETERMINED.

  94. Stephen B, let me apologize for putting words in your mouth—I should have asked whether this was what you were saying.

    But now I’m curious. When you say what you said you said you seem to be saying exactly what I suggested you said.

    Thus what I thought you said before and think you are still saying now is that, 1) God does not cause all future events, and 2) God exhaustively knows the future. This implies that you are not a determinist (like Einstein) and that you are an eternalist (like Augustine). If I’m right then we can agree on the first and disagree (though my mind could change) on the second.

    As for whether God can be outside of time depends upon whether the nature of time is such that it is possible to be outside of it. This is a hot debate in philosophy and I’m not sure whether one side or the other is heretical or blasphemous within any particular religious tradition.

  95. Rude, OK, fair enough. After rereading my response to you, I find that I may have been a little snippy. Sorry about that.

    I don’t care too much how folks resolve these problems as long as they don’t compromise on any of the non-negotiables, such as God’s omnipotence, God’s omniscience, and our free will. It seems to me that open theists do indeed make these kinds of compromises without realizing that they are doing it. To characterize God as existing in time is to compromise his nature, which is the one thing that must be preserved above all else.

    It seems to me that open theists, and other types who challenge the classical model, strain at gnats (laboring over the less difficult problem of reconciling God’s foreknowledge and our free will) and swallow camels (downplaying the truly difficult problem of reconciling predestination [not determinsm]) and free will. Peter Kreeft, for example, takes up the really hard problem yet he compromises nothing of God’s nature. We can say the same of Craig and Geisler. They don’t negotiate away the non-negotiables.
    To be more precise, my objection has to do with those who anthropomorphize God in order to make things work. That would include anyone who insists that God must EXIST in time in order to ACT in time. Since God created time, God exists outside of time. There is no reason to believe that he must exist in time as we do in order to make sense of it. We know that the big bang is a fact and we also know that this harmonizes with the Biblical idea that God created time along with those things that time measures.

  96. Stephen B, you’re a decent man. I’m sure we agree on more than we disagree—on morality, society, politics. We agree on the importance of Intelligent Design.

    There may be certain “non-negotiables”, however, where we can respectfully disagree. For some folks these may be the omnis of transcendance and associated theodicies, for me these are not so important as that God is Creator and hence our Father.

    Take, for example, the Star Trek character Q. He and his “Continuum” possess all the omnis (omniscience, omnipotence …) yet it seems natural that humans not bow in obeisance—why? I think it instructive that Q was never pictured as creator. For the writers of the series, let me suggest, that would have made Q God.

    I would agree that God is God, not just because he exists outside of time (or however else we might exhalt him beyond our realm)—God is God because he is our Creator. And it’s not just his power either, it’s not just that might makes right. It is also that God is good.

    The emphasis of Scripture is the agency and goodness of God—for me these are the non-negotiables and any philosophical constructs that might diminish them are negotiable.

    We can disagree on this, can we not?

  97. Rude

    “God is Creator and hence our Father.”

    In my experience mothers have more to do with the creating of life than fathers. Except when it comes to creating religious screeds of course which handily explains why God, angels, messiahs, disciples, etc. are all men. You don’t find that the least bit suspicious?

  98. —–Rude: “The emphasis of Scripture is the agency and goodness of God—for me these are the non-negotiables and any philosophical constructs that might diminish them are negotiable. We can agree on this, can we not?”

    Well, sure. Far be it from me to arrogate unto myself the sole right to frame an issue. On the other hand, your characterization of what scripture emphasizes is, in itself, simply one individual’s interpretation, is it not? Does it not imply that one of God’s attributes, namely, God’s goodness, can be separated from all of the others? That is precisely what all the fuss is about, that is, traditional theists, who insist on God’s unity, and open theists, who don’t burden themselves with such things.

    In any case, the problem about judgment persists. If our eternal fate rests in the hands of our Creator God, we are in big trouble if the “omni’s” (I like that formulation of yours by the way) aren’t there.

    Unless God understands and factors in all of our thoughts, words, deed, and intentions, in conjunction with everyone else’s thoughts, words, deeds, and intentions, unless he considers all mitigating factors, including biological, psychodynamic, environmental, and self made influences, and unless he ties them all together with a full awareness of every possible combination of consequences, we are not going to get a fair hearing.

    Think of it this way. If God is not perfect in every way, then he cannot even know what is best for us in our present condition, much less can he temper justice with mercy in the right proportions at the moment of our final judgment. Take away the omni’s and God is not God—he is simply a superhuman with a lot of power that may or may not be used in the right way.

    It is all well and good to say that the agency and the goodness of God are the only non-negotiables, but how can God be all good without all of those other attributes? Unity, goodness, truth, beauty, and being are all tied together in God. Even as a practical matter, God’s goodness must be inseparable from his omniscience and his omnipotence. How can God be good and at the same time be compromised with limited knowledge about what constitutes a fair moral test, with limited power to administer that test in a fair way, and with limited capacity to judge the final results?

  99. Dave: “You don’t find that the least bit suspicious?” I don’t but Freud did. Tikva Frymer-Kensky had another take on this that I found interesting.

    Good points, Stephen B. Anyway it’s not that I should want to convince anyone that I’m right, just that I’m not crazy—or at least completely crazy. I’d like it that those who supported Open Theism in this thread not be dismissed as total kooks and that we keep the ID tent big enough for us all, that whereas Judeo-Christians can disagree on the nature of God (and ultimate reality), we disagree most fundamentally with the hard core atheists and Darwin’s sycophants.

  100. Rude, you make a good point. Opportunities abound for theists of various stripes to come together in a spirit of solidarity and register their disagreements with the core atheists and Darwinist sycophants.

    We know that most theistic evolutionists, as opposed to open theists, do qualify as Darwinist sycopants, and as such, are invested in militating against ID. Under the circumstances, they have chosen to be our adversaries rather than the other way around.

    Open theists, however, may well be willing to renounce materialism/Darwinism and thereby distinguish themselves from the TEs. I have no way of knowing about this one way or the other. I am ready to drop the matter of open theism vs. classical theism and join with open theists to renounce the ideological pretenses of Darwinism.

    What do you think? Are there any open theists who are explicitly anti-Darwin and will say so. Or do they simply visit this website to challenge classical theism and promote open theism, while keeping a safe distance from the ID/Darwin conflict? Are they OK with Theistic evolutionists and their futule attept to make Christianity and Darwinism compatible, or do they opt out of that controversy as well?

  101. Stephen in 100 asks,

    “What do you think? Are there any open theists who are explicitly anti-Darwin and will say so.”

    Google the website of the young scholar who argued for Open Theism in this thread and you’ll find that he supports ID.

    Gregory Boyd, who writes persuasively on Open Theism, is quite naive before the likes of Ken Miller. The truly big issue facing the nation and the world is the threat of materialism—not the various takes on ultimate reality and the nature of God—and so we owe it to our fellow theists who are simply naive (not perverse) on ID to welcome them into the Big Tent if and when they are ready.

  102. Rude, again, fair enough. I am on board with establishing a spirit of solidarity with pro-ID open theists, and if Alan is in that camp, then I am with him in that context. I understand that open theists, unlike most TEs, are not necessarily anti-ID, though I have no idea of the proportions involved. Alan is a bit of an anomaly among open theists, any way, so, as an ID supporter, he may well be the exception rather than the rule. Again, I have no idea.

    Remember how this whole thing got started. Denyse introduced open theism as a peripheral issue to theistic evolution and voiced her disapproval of it, even though her main objections were about TE. As an open theist, Alan entered into the fray, insisting that Denyse was misinformed about the subject. He proceeded to provide an eloquent defense of open theism, but his defense was on behalf of his own unique brand of open theism. In large part, he doesn’t explicitly identify with the broader claims of open theists in general. Therefore, he didn’t really refute Denyse’s charges about open theism except to say that they didn’t apply to his version of it, which seems true in most ways, but not all.

    So, it was left to me to critique both open theism, in general, and Alan’s differences with his open theist colleagues in particular. I argued that open theism, is indeed consistent with intelligent design, but, in my judgment, it compromises the Christian teaching on God’s nature. In a more narrow sense, I also argued that Alan’s strategy is much better than mainstream OT, but that it still falls short. I continue to hold that position. So, this raises a question: Am I not permitted to [A] join with Alan as an ID supporter and as a mutual adversary to Darwinism while [B] disagreeing with him about open theism and arguing on behalf of classical theism? Does [A] rule out [B]? If not, then I am not sure I get your point. As I said earlier, I have had my say about open theism, so I am ready to join with OTs who support ID, however many or few there are, and challenge the tenets of materialism. I don’t think Alan will abandon ID simply because one of its advocates, namely me, disagrees with him about open theism. He impresses me as one whose shoulders are a lot broader than that.

    In any case, ID doesn’t disinvite anyone to the big tent. The only ones who are not in it are those who don’t want to be here, as is the case for most TEs. We tell them that they ought to consider ID, and they respond by saying, “no thanks.” We do have one or two here who don’t want to hang out with YEC’s, but that is decidedly minority position. So the tent door is opened by those on the outside not by those on the inside.

  103. Do I think that you, Stephen B, are permitted to enter the Big Tent of ID yet differ with those in the Big Tent who support OT? Surely you’re kidding! Why would I want—even if I could—to infringe on your liberty? Don’t we have the freedom to pursue the truth each in our own way? Organized religion may restrict us, but our nation (USA) should not.

    And that’s the common enemy we face—state sponsored ideology, forceably financed by us.

    As for OTs who might side with the TEs—the sad truth is that way too many theologians of all stripes, as well as all too many ministers and priests and rabbis, are on the wrong side of this the greatest dispute of the age. Many who are not outright hostle to ID are still fearful and silenced by the approbrium associated with it. I know a woman who gave her supposedly conservative Christian pastor a flier for Expelled!—he was not interested.

    So it’s an uphill battle, and whereas we disagree on all kinds of biblical and theological matters, we are wise to join forces against this statist materialism that threatens us all.

    Enough said, no?

  104. Rude: “Enough said, no?”

    One last point, I promise.

    Here is why I asked the question about freedom to criticize

    Earlier you wrote, “I’d like it that those who supported Open Theism in this thread not be dismissed as total kooks and that we keep the ID tent big enough for us all, that whereas Judeo-Christians can disagree on the nature of God (and ultimate reality), we disagree most fundamentally with the hard core atheists and Darwin’s sycophants.”

    I took that to mean that you thought my spirited challenge to OTs (I seemed to be the most vociferous critic maybe even the lone critic) was an indication that I didn’t want them in the big tent or that I thought that they were kooks. Can you see how I might have interpreted it that way?

  105. Stephen, no problem. Y’all have a good one now.

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