RE: The die is cast...

Berger, Dan (
Wed, 10 Dec 1997 13:47:26 -0500

I get ASA-L in digest, but since Chuck was kind enough to forward his reply to

> 1) What is the definition of radical freedom to the universe?

The freedom for the universe to behave in accordance with its nature. To go
back to Sayers' analogy, this does not preclude either determinism or
predestination, since God is considered as the perfect artist and so his
creations are both free (within their own frame of reference) and under his
sovereign control.

However, certain theologian/scientists -- John Polkinghorne, for example --
contend that quantum indeterminacy and chaos (the sensitive dependence of
results on initial conditions -- which may couple with quantum indeterminacy to
produce results which are truly unpredictable-in-principle) result in the
universe being truly free, and not merely free "as a character in a book is
free." This would produce a basic epistemological indeterminacy which would
truly preclude God's total foreknowledge (as opposed to his infinitely
reasonable planning). God's sovereignty is shown by his role as Creator and
Sustainer, and by his active participation in the world (notice all the
biblical imagery of God in the deepest throes of emotional involvement with his
people!) God's love is shown by his kenotic limitation of his own omniscience
in order to give freedom to his beloved creatures.

That, at least, is Polkinghorne's picture, which I find compelling; there are
those who use this epistemological contention to reduce God to a sort of cosmic
cheerleader, impotent to intervene except by persuasion. Divine impotence *is*
a superficial solution of the Problem of Evil...

> 2) Do parts of the universe exhibit freedom? For example, does
> a falling rock exhibit freedom when it follows the predictable
> equations of physics?

See above. The argument is that the equations of physics are not always so
predictable; as I told my General Education science class today, the
combination of chaotic macroscopic systems with quantum indeterminacy means
that Determinism may well be dead. The simpler answer is the answer to "what
did God intend by the Lisbon earthquake?" which was, "God intended that the
Earth's crust should behave in accordance with its nature." By acting in
accordance with their divinely-created nature, even inanimate objects can be

> 3) What is meant by intend? Did God not forsee that destructive
> parasites would happen before His very first creative act?
> If God did not forsee it, then God does not have perfect
> foreknowledge. If God did forsee it but created the universe
> in this manner anyway, then how is this not an intention
> on His part?

An answer to these questions is given at least partly by the epistemological
contention I have cited above: in order for the universe to be free, God had
to limit his own omniscience. His intention is not that e.g. children die in
agony, but that his creation be free. "If you love something, set it free. If
it comes back to you it's yours."

"If it doesn't, hunt it down and kill it." 8^}

I will admit to a prejudice in this matter; I find strict determinism in all
its forms (including the more rigorous doctrinal forms of Predestination)

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