The lot is cast ...

Berger, Dan (
Mon, 8 Dec 1997 13:57:03 -0500

In relation to Don Page's message claiming that strict determinism is the only
view compatible with God's sovereignty, I would point to Dorothy Sayers' book
"The Mind of the Maker." She uses the mind and process of the creative artist
to speak about God's Creativity.

One thing she points out is that, in a properly-written book, the characters
have free will. They must develop in accordance with their nature, which
includes previous decisions they have made, and this will sometimes make it
impossible for the writer to have an outcome s/he would have liked without
doing violence to the nature of the characters. She gives several examples,
and points out that this is a wonderful analogy for human (and general
creaturely) free will within the context of God's total sovereignty. God is a
Perfect Artist, after all; and so it is not "possible" for God to arbitrarily
("God, please make it didn't happen" or "God, please make so-and-so do
something totally against their nature") interfere with the world. This
doesn't leave out miracle, just excludes miracles which make no artistic sense.

I'm afraid I haven't given Sayers' argument at all well. You may want to read
the book; it's still in print.

Daniel J. Berger | PH: (419) 358-3379
Associate Professor of Chemistry | FAX:(419) 358-3323
Bluffton College |
Bluffton OH 45817-1196 |
Scientists may not believe in God. But they should be taught why
they ought to behave as if they did. -- Max Perutz, Nobel 1962

----- Don's message follows ----

At 05:41 PM 12/5/97 -0600, George Andrews asked:
>Don, why do we need determinism - in a strict "bottom up" sense - in
>the universe? Could you imagine with me a God who would create a universe
>with an innate tendency toward novelty through genuine chance?  I
>think you would agree that THAT would be at least interesting; even to
>an omniscient Being! Would this infringe upon God's omniscience?
><P>Perhaps some of our theologian friends could comment on the notion of
>God self limiting Him/Hersef. Do we see this in the incarnation or in God
>losing the wrestling match to Jacob? Perhaps God has granted a measure
>of genuine freedom to nature in order to interact with - as well as observe.
>Of course, as scripture is a clear record of,&nbsp; He&nbsp; always governs
>and even destroys through judgment, influence, limiting&nbsp; and redeeming
>errant bifurcation's in human history. So one could imagine a&nbsp; "top
>down" causal relationship between God (through natural law?) and with the
>randomly fluctuations presently observed in nature.

I'm not claiming that we "need" determinism, but I am saying that I
believe it is most likely the way things are, whether or not we "need" it or
want it, though of course I can't prove this. From the physics ("bottoms
up") point of view, deterministic unitary evolution of the wavefunction or
quantum state seems to be consistent with all experiments and much simpler
(IMHO) than unitary evolution occasionally interrupted by random collapses
of the wavefunction. From the theological ("top down") point of view, total
determination by one single Creator God also seems simpler (IMHO) than
partial determination by other entities (persons within the universe, random
fluctuations, etc.)

It isn't that ultimate causes other than God would necessarily
infringe upon God's omniscience, but I believe it would infringe upon the
idea that He has created everything (apart from Himself). If God is the
Creator of everything, then no matter how interesting or desirable He might
find "novelty through genuine chance" or "genuine freedom to nature" or
incompatibilist free will in humans, I believe it would be logically
impossible for this to occur, since the only entities outside of God that
could exist would be entities He makes, and He can't make them independent
of how He makes them. He could limit Himself not to create something, but
if nothing exists apart from what He creates, one cannot also coherently
imagine that He limits Himself not to create and thereby totally determine
something that actually exists (e.g., a human decision that is humanly
considered to be free).

We can enjoy interacting with entities (e.g., people and things) we
did not make, and they can have genuine novelty or freedom relative to us,
but God does not have this luxury of finding entities outside Himself that
He did not make; if they are to exist, He must make them, and then they are
not free from His fashioning and determination.

Of course, one could postulate that the entity we traditionally call
"God" is just part of a larger set of entities that are ultimate causes for
everything, and allow genuine chance and/or genuine (incompatibilist) free
will of humans (for example) to be other ultimate causes besides "God."
This view might be logically coherent, but I don't find this view of a more
complicated set of ultimate causes to be either plausible or Biblical. It
smacks too much of dualism or polytheism and says that "God" is not totally
sovereign over everything.

Don Page