Re: divine action/creaturely action

From: Howard J. Van Till (
Date: Mon Jun 11 2001 - 20:37:03 EDT

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    Terry quotes Charles Hodge:

    > "All we know, and all we need to know, is, (1.) That God does govern
    > all his creatures; and (2.) That his control over them is consistent
    > with their nature, and with his own infinite purity and excellence."
    > (p. 605)

    In _The Fourth Day_ I made frequent reference to the concept of divine
    governance. However, I have stopped doing that because of the way in which
    terms like 'governance' and 'sovereignty' are taken to imply 'control.' As I
    have suggested before on this list, I do not see these as terms implying
    'control' at all. Rather, I think they serve better as reminders of human

    These terms are drawn from the royal metaphor; God is pictured as being
    something like a king. But a king does not 'control' each action of his
    subjects. No, the king makes known what actions are expected, and the
    subjects are then accountable for acting in accord with those expressed
    wishes. The king does not micro-manage the action of subjects. The king's
    subjects are treated as persons with their own integrity of being and with a
    sufficient measure of the requisite capabilities needed for appropriate
    action. That being the case, it is fitting that they be held accountable for
    their actions. Control is neither desirable (the king wants obedience, not a
    puppet-like coerced response) nor necessary (obedient behavior -- perhaps in
    response to persuasion??? -- is possible).

    > We may not be satisfied with an "all we need to know" type answer,
    > but what is interesting about Hodge's conclusion is that it affirms
    > God's absolute control and at the same time affirms the creature's
    > authentic creaturely activity (even the action of free agents). He
    > also escapes the problem of evil. What an economy of words!

    Sorry, I do find this combination to be contradictory. Hodge's affirmation
    is not at all convincing, and his economy of words simply leaves numerous
    questions unanswered.

    > Those of us who think this statement contains a contradiction or want
    > to peer in more detail into the how's of God interactions with the
    > universe will indeed be dissatisfied, but, as I have said before,
    > this antinomy is just an extension of the sovereignty/responsibility
    > antinomy. Christianity is no stranger to such formulations. We see
    > the same sort of tensions in our discussions of the human/divine
    > natures of Christ and the nature of the Trinity.

    When 'sovereignty' is distinguished from 'control' as I noted above, the
    sovereignty/responsibility antinomy disappears.
    > So in answer to Howard's concern about "coercion", I simply say,
    > "No!" God's control does not violate the real agency of the creature.
    > One of the interesting things about Hodge's evaluation of the various
    > solutions posed is that they each introduce new problems. Howard's
    > formulation, I believe, does just that. It compromises the governance
    > of God over the details of creation because he desires to preserve
    > authentic creaturely agency (and perhaps in the interest of solving
    > the problem of evil). But, this only appears to be the case because
    > he cannot see how both can be true. He cannot see how God can control
    > without coercion.


    > (I'm not sure I can either, but I affirm that it is
    > possible since both scripture and experience tell us so.)

    Sorry, but I see no need to affirm such contradictions.

    Howard Van Till

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