Open Theism Risky Providence is More Blameworthy than Classical Theism Risk-Free Providence

Reading 3
Open theism is the view that God lacks foreknowledge of undetermined future events, such as knowledge of how humans will or would use their libertarian freedom. This has the corollary that God’s providence is risky rather than risk-free. William Hasker, one of the most prominent and philosophically sophisticated proponents of open theism, defines what it would mean for God to take risks: “God takes risks if he makes decisions that depend for their outcomes on the responses of free creatures in which the decisions themselves are not informed by knowledge of the outcomes.” God’s risk-taking just is God’s providential decision-making in the absence of such knowledge…

[In Open Theism, God’s deliberate non-intervention rather than human free will has the final say]
Although open theists reject the view that any particular evil is necessary in God’s providential scheme (as a greater-good enabler or as a worse-evil blocker), it seems they must accept a parallel view: with respect to any particular actual evil, God’s following his general policy of nonintervention in this case was necessary to maximize opportunities for great goods that could only be obtained by God’s following such a non-interventionist policy. That is, given the policy and the essential role it plays in maximizing opportunities for great goods, God’s hands are tied. He must permit the evil, or risk undermining the great goods the policy aims at. Given the policy, which is itself grounded in God’s goodness and is therefore necessarily the best policy God could take toward creation, God had to permit the evil. (Why else wouldn’t he intervene when he is fully able to do so, except for a judgment of this sort on God’s part?) Continue reading “Open Theism Risky Providence is More Blameworthy than Classical Theism Risk-Free Providence”

Critique of Open Theism “Risky Providence.”

Reading 2
Some philosophers [Open Theists] have held that a satisfactory free-will theodicy cannot be developed if we claim God is timeless. Rather, they maintain, God has to be seen as a typical temporal agent, who strives to achieve his objectives within a framework of opportunities defined by the actions of other agents who, like him, are free. He is, of course, immensely powerful and wise, but like us he must await the actions of free beings other than himself in order to know with certainty what they will be, and adjust his own behavior in response. And much that those agents do, most especially their sinful decisions and willings, will not be what God would choose. Not that he is completely in the dark: with experience he may be able to develop probabilistic knowledge of how his creatures will act, and contrive to place them in circumstances designed to elicit if possible whatever behavior will achieve the most good. Moreover, God still has the power to motivate and punish, so his creatures may be guided toward right paths. But on this scenario God’s aims as creator can only be achieved – assuming they will be achieved at all – by taking risks. Inevitably, creaturely free will makes for a setting of uncertainty, and only within that setting can God attempt to bring creation to a happy outcome. Yet he proceeds, and his doing so is a measure of his love for us. [c.f. William Hasker] Continue reading “Critique of Open Theism “Risky Providence.””

Concise Theological Critique of Open Theism

Open Theism asserts that God’s knowledge is limited  knowledge and that he is unable to anticipate free human actions. However, the Bible teaches that God is omniscient and knows the heart, the innermost thoughts, desires and intentions of man.

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether” (Ps. 139:1-4).

“I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds” (Jer. 17:10).

“‘And you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought’” (1 Chron. 28:9a).

“O Lord of hosts, who tests the righteous, who sees the heart and the mind …” (Jer. 20:12).

“And they prayed, and said, ‘You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen” (Acts 1:24).

Reading 1: Critique of Open Theism

Open Theism’s Major Claims
Open theists argue that the Christian doctrine of God was influenced by Greek thought. Theology became philosophical rather than biblical. God was seen to be impassible (incapable of suffering) and immutable. Lost was the dynamic interaction between God and the creature. In the Bible, so the argument runs, God responds to human actions and is even said to repent of what he planned. Continue reading “Concise Theological Critique of Open Theism”

God Stoops to Turn Our Resignation to Restfulness

[Life must be imbued with meaning if it is to be worth living. But how can meaning be sustained when the end of life seems pointless? Even if one diligently gathers wisdom for three score and ten years, life must still go the way of the grasshopper. It is hard to keep faith in a good God who orders providence when misfortune strikes and one loses everything that has been regarded as blessings of God. Faith clings precariously to a thread worn thin as one suffers unbearable pain caused by terminal illness…

The defiance of the hard core skeptic or Stoic in the face of pointless and overwhelming suffering seems heroic when he counsels that the best way to find peace is to renounce any hope of finding meaning in life and to submit to fate. But is not the resignation of oneself to everything without complaint nothing more than a capitulation to inscrutable fate? Is life not reduced to groping in the dark where all things are colorless and grey? Without beauty and meaning, one loses the desire to act and sinks into paralyzing resignation.

The Christian believer may seem to share the same kindred spirit with the Stoic when he prays through his suffering, the immortal words of Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Thy will be done.” But his prayer is a reposeful confession of faith rather than an utterance of despair or resignation. For he knows something that a person without Christ cannot know. He knows that he is entrusting his life into the hands of the heavenly Father rather than capitulating to impersonal and capricious fate.]
Continue reading “God Stoops to Turn Our Resignation to Restfulness”

The Immutable God Who Cares. Part 4 – Can God Suffer?

The doctrine of divine simplicity and immutability sometimes leads us to think that God cannot truly respond to what happens in the world. However, to say that God does respond to human action may suggest that God has become passive and undergoes change when he is acted upon by an external agent. John Frame notes although God’s eternal decree does not change, it does ordain change. God also responds to the unfolding events in human history that flows from the eternal decree. But God’s response does not imply passivity in God because he is bringing to fruition an interaction that he has himself ordained. He is actively bringing to fulfilment what he has eternally ordained, even in bringing about a world that can bring him grief. (Acts 2:23-24)

Does God’s expression of grief means that God suffers? Continue reading “The Immutable God Who Cares. Part 4 – Can God Suffer?”

The Immutable God Who Cares. Part 3 – Divine Simplicity & Immutability of God

Divine Simplicity and Immutability of God
With readings from Stephen Charnock van Mastricht and Herman Bavinck

Simplicity is the perfection of God that excludes any physical or metaphysical composition in the being of God. God is not made up of more basic parts for this would mean that God’s existence is contingent or dependent on something more basic than him. There is nothing in God that is not God. God is maximal perfection and goodness. God has no potentiality so that he can become something more than he is. The simplicity of God entails his immutability. Therefore, God is identical with his existence and essence.

The Reformed theologian Stephen Charnock explains simplicity in terms of God’s supreme existence:

God is the most simple being; for that which is first in nature, having nothing beyond it, cannot by any means be thought to be compounded; for whatsoever is so, depends upon the parts whereof it is compounded, and so is not the first being: now God being infinitely simple, hath nothing in himself which is not himself, and therefore cannot will any change in himself, he being his own essence and existence. [Stephen Charnock, Discourse on the Existence and Attributes of God (Baker, 1996, reprint of Carter & Brother, 1953 edition), p. 333]

Continue reading “The Immutable God Who Cares. Part 3 – Divine Simplicity & Immutability of God”

The Immutable God who Cares. Part 2 – Aseity & Immutability of God

“For as the Father has life in himself.” (John 5:26)

Aseity and Immutability of God

In classical theism, God is the eternal absolute being who is independent of anything outside of himself. God is independent in his existence because he depends on nothing and no one for His existence. God is independent in his activity because all that is actual, apart from himself, exists by his will alone. He has all life, glory, and blessedness, in and of himself. He is self-sufficient. Creation does not add anything to God.

The Self-Existence (Aseity) of God

God is self-existent, that is, He has the ground of His existence in Himself. This idea is sometimes expressed by saying that He is causa sui (His own cause), but this expression is hardly accurate, since God is the uncaused, who exists by the necessity of His own Being, and therefore necessarily…The idea of God’s self-existence was generally expressed by the term aseitas, meaning self-originated… As the self-existent God, He is not only independent in Himself, but also causes everything to depend on Him. [Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Eerdmans, 1938), p. 58.]

Continue reading “The Immutable God who Cares. Part 2 – Aseity & Immutability of God”

The Immutable God Who Cares. Part 1

James 1:17: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” [παρ ᾧ οὐκ ἔνι παραλλαγὴ ἢ τροπῆς ἀποσκίασμα, par hō ouk eni parallagē ē tropēs aposkiasma]

During my younger days, I used to dabble in linguistic philosophy (obviously in an amateurish way) and German historical criticism of the Bible. However, the forays into these avant garde trends left me with a sense of spiritual desiccation. It was in the midst of theological ennui that I stumbled on Abraham Heschel’s seminal work, The Prophets. I was swept by the spiritual and fervent vitality that flows through Heschel’s powerful and passionate prose.

However, Heschel’s exposition of the prophet’s teaching of the pathos of God both excited and troubled me. It is exhilarating to realize that God has a stake in the human situation. This is a stunning contrast to the god of the Greeks. For example, Aristotle taught that God is entirely self-centred. “It would be out of question for men to attempt personal intercourse with Him…those are wrong who think that there can be a friendship towards God. For (a) God could not return our love, and (b) we could not in any case be said to love God…He does not know this world and no Divine plan is fulfilled in this world. [Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy. Vol.1 pt.2 Greece and Rome (Double Day Image Book, 1962), pp. 59-61]

In contrast, the pathos of the God of the biblical prophet assures us that God intimately and passionately cares about human welfare. This assurance will certainly generate hope for believers who find themselves feeling hopeless as they are psychologically crushed in the midst of dire situations. Continue reading “The Immutable God Who Cares. Part 1”